Monday, March 27, 2023

A Tale of Two Sundays: Old Deep River Road

With the backdrop done in Essex, along with some (very) basic ground cover, and grade crossings, I wanted to get some terraforming done north of Essex - between Essex and Deep River - around the Old Deep River Road grade crossing.

This is the first public crossing north of the Essex station area and notable in that it provides a great photo opportunity of the northbound steam trains. There's not a cut there per se, but the track curves around a hill with some rock outcroppings, then crosses the road and goes alongside a tributary of the Falls River (which, due to its being dammed upstream to power mills of yore, is little more than a large creek).

Old Deep River Road itself is notable as the original alignment of the old Middlesex Turnpike. But the ol' Turnpike crossed the railroad twice in short succession here - and both times on curves - so an early (c.1907?) realignment of the road resulted in Old Deep River Road being truncated to a dead end, an reduced to just providing access to a couple of homes on the east side of the tracks.

Given the topography and the history, I definitely wanted to include the scene on my layout - and the turnback curve at the end of the peninsula between Essex and Deep River would be the perfect place.  So, as BillS and I were brainstorming last Sunday on how to go about modeling the scene and trying to figure out just the right topography, it suddenly occurred to us: Why not just take a quick field trip and get some photos of the area?

Now, not everybody is lucky enough to live near their chosen prototype, but I certainly am - so I definitely took advantage of the opportunity. Into Bill's truck we jumped and north we headed. And I'm really glad we did, as you'll see . . .

This is the view from the road looking south back toward Essex - and the first thing that occurred to us was that the "cut" wasn't really a cut after all - and the hill wasn't as tall, or as steep, as we'd thought. While the track looks straight here, we're actually on the outside of a curve.

After walking a bit south, I turned to get this shot looking north toward the crossing itself. I took special note of all the rocks, which I never notice (or really see) during the rest of the year when all the trees are filled in with leaves.

Perspective looking east - note not only the rocks, but also the difference in elevation between the road, the land leading up to the track, and - of course - the hill.

Another shot, southeast, showing the road and track (and hill, and rocks)

Last of all is a shot looking due north along the road. It dead-ends in the far distance, with the track continuing to curve until it parallels the road. The track continues to curve and used to cross the road again, but the Rt. 9 highway (just out of sight in the far distance) has obliterated all evidence of that. And incidentally, while you can't really see it here, there's a brook to the left of the track and road that flows into the Falls River.

Having photo-documented this area, we figured since we were out anyway, we might as well head up to Deep River proper to get some additional detail shots of Tate's Cut (a signature scene north of the station) and the station area itself - especially since that'll be the next place where we'll tackle terraforming.  I'll save those reference photos for when we get around to that - but I definitely wanted to share a bit of serendipity . . .

We went for the cut and the station, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a steam locomotive doing some switching! We had no idea they'd be there - the VRR seldom uses the steamers for switching - but there was the #40, switching cars on the old house track. Incidentally, I got some shots of another "faux cut" south (off the back) of where the engine is here - which I'll also try to model.

After allowing ourselves to be thoroughly distracted by #40 for a bit, we figured we'd walk north to the other end of the station area to get what we came for: Shots of Tate's Cut. And just as we did, we heard a whistle - but it wasn't coming from the steam loco . . .

It just so happened that a special train was coming into town from the north - through Tate's Cut -  powered by this 80-ton centercab diesel and blowing its Hancock air whistle for the crossing!

Talk about lucky! Two trains, diesel and steam, meeting in town, which we got to see only by chance since we were doing some prototype research. Pretty cool!

But time was ticking by, so it was time to do something with that research. So we headed back to the basement . . .

Unlike me, Bill is a true aficionado of the foam scenery technique. In fact, it's really his fault he's the reason I even bothered departing from my tried-and-true cardboard lattice/plaster cloth to try foam on the Essex-Deep River-East Haddam section (and it really didn't start well - click here for that story. I can't believe it's been over 7 years already!). I'll admit, it goes pretty fast - at least if you're Bill . . .

And it makes a heck of a mess! This view doesn't even show all the static-charged foam "dust" that seems to get everywhere during process. But pick your poison - it's either this or plaster cloth...

But you can just start to see the Old Deep River Road scene starting to take shape - from the hill in the first photo, to the brook and road on this side of the hill in the pic above.

Other than the mess, another common "downside" I've discovered with this technique (or maybe it's just how fast Bill works) is that it sometimes goes TOO fast! Case in point: We were motoring along and cut the foam and fascia(!) way too low (IMO) for the little brook:

Yeah - that's a bit too deep . . .

Other than the ravine brook, if you compare this view to the prototype photos, you might agree that the scene is coming along nicely..

And just to orient you a bit, this is looking "north" from Middlesex Tpke at the north end of Essex showing the curve around the big hill.

The hill needs rocks though, so after Bill left I decided to cast some out of hydrocal. I often mention that the main reason I continue with the blog despite how easy FaceBook is by comparison is so that I have a (b)log of my past efforts. So I looked back through the archive to see how I'd done rocks before...

Turns out, as I suspected there's an app a blogpost for that! Click here for the details, which I followed again this time around . . .

. . . to great effect. I now have a BUNCH of rock castings I can use in the Old Deep River road scene. Now, I just have to color them . . . Thankfully, I have TWO posts on how to do that - here, and here - which I'll follow when the time comes.

So that was the first of two Sundays. Here's what I did yesterday (well, it took the whole weekend, but was essentially finished yesterday...)

I fixed that "ravine" that was bugging me... One of the many important lessons you learn as you advance in this hobby is that you really can fix just about ANYthing. And that's super important to know since, if you know how to UNdo something, you're much more likely to DO something. Analysis paralysis is real and if you never DO, you'll never ACCOMPLISH. And if you're afraid to even try, you'll seldom DO. I - and many others - have discovered that if you know you can UNdo, your fear of trying diminishes greatly. Ergo - more "DO" happens.

At least that's what I think %^)

In the pic above, you can see that I "backfilled' the fascia and foam with the cut-off fascia and more scrap foam. I covered over the seams/joints in the fascia with drywall mesh tape and then coated it all with a few coats of drywall topping. Mesh tape has helped me fix a number of things - click here for a detailed how-to.

It may not be obvious in the pic above, but the topography here is MUCH better and will be much more in line with the prototype. I really like how it's all shaping up - literally. I just have to be patient and keep working (an be willing to REwork) it until it looks the way I want.

While I still have to do some sanding on the topping, I didn't have time since friend ChrisZ was on his way over with a few friends to see the layout. Thankfully, I got everything cleaned up in time and enjoyed the remaining hours of Sunday afternoon having a great visit with Chris, Andre, Mike, and Stu. Unfortunately, there's no pic to document the visit - but at least I got them to sign the guestbook! (and I may have converted at least one of them to the ProtoThrottle... we'll see!)

So, all in all, a pretty productive couple of Sundays. And - bonus! - the layout is cleaned up in time for my next op session which is coming up later this week. But a post on that will need to wait...


  1. Chris, Thanks for posting the lengthy update with the curve & hill near Essex on your blog. It's looking good.

    1. Bill Gill posted the above comment