Wheeler – Osgood Pt. 3

I needed gravel parking lots for W – O and for the Cheney property across the slough, and tried painting and texturing sandpaper. I had some 1200-grit sandpaper I’d bought for roofing material, and used it for the basis of the parking lot. I needed to use it up, and figured the grit would texture the ground and prevent a ‘flat’ appearance. I tried a couple of colors for the ground and mixed Cinders with Ballast for the gravel.

NPP Cheney parking lot test

I went with the Khaki on the right, and brush-painted the sandpaper. After the paint dried, I hit the surface with spray glue, then sifted the Ballast/Cinder mixture on, followed by another shot of glue.


I wasn’t concerned with an even appearance; the more random, the better.

NPP W-O parking lot foundation mockup 6

Mocking up the scene. It looks promising.


The plan was to have chain-link fences separating the parking lots from the slough. I considered having a fence running along the inside of the track curve to signify a property line, but decided that would constrict the scene. I built the fences using soldered piano wire and tulle, but didn’t paint the frame. I wanted a more neglected look, so used Grey and Black Pan pastels over the unpainted wire.

NPP W-O slough pour 1

Prior to adding water, I sprinkled the banks with static grass. Casting resin for the slough was poured in two layers, but as with the previous effort, the first layer was cloudy. I barely tinted the top layer with a bit of craft paint Black and oil Sap Green, and the cloudy first layer actually helps the illusion of a muddy bottom. While the top layer was wet I added clumps of weeds and grass along the banks.

NPP W-O overview 1

I had some logs left over from Cheney Lumber, but not nearly enough, so made some more. The foundation is an effort to fill a problematic space, and was made from a piece of 0.30″ styrene covered with Concrete texture and detailed with whatever was to hand. I’m not completely sold on it and haven’t glued it down.

NPP W-O overview 2

The slough doesn’t actually appear this blue in reality. It has more of a muddy appearance. The grass in the W – O parking lot is a bit out of hand, and there really are two tracks on the property. The card stock roof on the warehouse warped a bit, so I moistened the underside and placed a weight on the roof as it dried. This worked pretty well.

NPP Operation Nutshell 2

NPP mill side 0718

There are trucks to build for the parking lots and a log unloader to find for Wheeler – Osgood, but Basic Scenery on the NPP is finished.



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Happy Independence Day!

Image from Bob Skillman collection.

BNSF units 1876 and 1776 power the American Freedom Train.

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Wheeler – Osgood Pt. 2

When last we left the W – O scene, elements were still being pieced together. After I figured out where the Plexiglass sheets were going for basic landform, I laid and wired the spur. The 0.093″ sheet is on the left and the 0.050″ sheet is on the right. I attached feeder wires to existing wiring and ran them under the Plexiglass. Attachment to the rails was through drilled holes. After everything checked out I gooped on a layer of water putty.

NPP W-O water putty layer 2

Then spray-painted everything Rustoleum Camouflage Brown:

NPP W-O painting earth

Added a layer of Woodland Scenics Earth:

NPP W-O earth layer

Then threw on some WS Grass and Weeds with a liberal sprinkling of Cinders:

NPP W-O grass layer

I wanted the added spur to represent track no longer serving industry, so I pretty well buried it.

About this time I obtained some 5 mm and 6 mm static grass. Local shops don’t stock anything larger than 3 – 4 mm. 6 mm is about 3 N-scale feet, and wild grass that high in the Summer around here is common. I also bought some of these:

NPP scenery supplies WWS

Clumps of static grass on self-adhesive bases from WWS out of the UK. The company has a variety of model scenery supplies and even with shipping are very reasonably priced. I’ve been looking for a simple, efficient, convincing method of modeling weeds and this appears to fit the bill. Each package contains 100 examples, and they can be cut up to make smaller clumps.

I toyed with the idea of putting a culvert at the end of the slough, and tried aluminum foil around a machine screw, but nothing looked better than a Helicoil insert from the garage:

NPP Helicoil as culvert

I decided not to put drainage out of the slough because the putative edge of Commencement Bay is close by and the difference in water levels would be noticeable. The idea of a slough is to drain water away from the land. What I ended up with is more of a catchment basin, but there are plenty of those around, too.

Reefer on the NPP


I’ve been thinking about the next layout project, and it appears there will be a significant reefer requirement. I wanted to see what a current N-scale model looked like, so bought this Atlas Master Line example.


Near Kalama, WA:

WA BNSF ballast cars


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NPP Milestone

NPP layout basic scenery complete

Much work to be done (and in progress) on the Wheeler-Osgood scene at left front, but the Northern Pacific Project has reached a basic level of completion. There’s scenery everywhere!

41 months and about that many hundreds of dollars after beginning, it’s starting to approach the original vision. Reaching the desired level of completion by year’s end looks reasonable. Progress has been slow, but the layout’s been operable for a good long time, and been very enjoyable.

Immediate projects are to finish Wheeler-Osgood (posts anon), complete the buildings on the city side, and add some people. Intermediate projects are to detail the cabeese and NW2, and experiment with cut bars on the rolling stock. The only other project planned for the layout is building a Northern Pacific S-4 Ten Wheeler, but I expect that to take most of next year.

I’ve enjoyed the layout and the hobby, and am looking forward to many years more.

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Doing the Research

monthly rr mags 180329

As my modeling focus has concentrated on prototype modeling, I’ve joined several railroad historical societies. For the past couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of membership in the societies for the Milwaukee Road and Northern Pacific, and joined the Great Northern society last year. Apparently Northwest railroading is my thing.

The photo is this quarter’s collection of magazines.

NZ Model Railway Journal

The top-left magazine is the Journal of the New Zealand Railway Guild. The Guild appears to be similar to the NMRA in the US but I don’t believe the Guild does standards. Sort of like a national model railroad club. They focus exclusively on New Zealand prototypes, and the modeling is superb. Trains are trains. Kiwis tend to work in larger scales than US modelers, and while 3D printing has made life considerably easier for the NZR modeler, it still takes a level of ability to faithfully replicate that prototype. Manufacturers aren’t falling over themselves to produce models.

I joined the Guild when I was looking at modeling a New Zealand prototype for a change of pace, and New Zealand offers some excellent model railroad scenes. After looking at the reality, I decided against an entire NZR layout. I model in 1:160, and while Z-gauge track is very nearly scale for NZ’s meter-gauge, such New Zealand equipment as exists in N-scale is 1:150. I didn’t want to spend years working on something that wouldn’t be interchangeable on US layouts.

However, New Zealand Rail did/does have some cool stuff. I’m toying with the idea of building a model (NZ prototype, of course!) for one of their contests, but you really have to have an ‘A’ game to compete with those guys.

The Milwaukee Railroader

The organ for the Milwaukee Road Historical Association, and the railroad that got me interested in the transcontinental railroads of the Northwest. The magazine tends to focus on Lines East, and that’s not real handy for someone who’s never even been to Wisconsin. My interest in the railroad is in the electrified territory, and that operation is not as well covered. There is good information on equipment and structures used across the line. The magazine is photo-rich, mostly in color, including somewhat unusual (and valuable) color photos of steam. The Hiawathagram newsletter is also included.

The Association’s website is, um, a little sparse. On-line resources could use improvement, and there’s not much for the modeler. The magazine is a good resource, but on-line is something of a prairie.

The Mainstreeter

Published by the Northern Pacific Historical Association. My current layout is ‘inspired’ by the NP, in that the Northern Pacific is the home road and I run NP equipment. The track plan is convenient to the layout and not the prototype. I chose the Northern Pacific because it had operations of the type and in the area I wanted to model.

The Mainstreeter content tends to run to scholarly articles on NP operations. There’s a fair amount of modeling information, and the always fun Mystery Photo. I never have a clue about the photo, but it’s interesting to read about it in the next issue.

Where the Association shines is on-line. The website has scads of information useful for modeling the railroad. If they don’t have something, they can tell you where it is. I’m fairly convinced you could build a nice Northern Pacific layout just with the information available at the Association’s site. If management decided to put their resources into the digital library rather than the paper one, I’m on board with it.

The Great Northern Goat

Courtesy of the Great Northern Historical Society. I joined this society last year because I’m looking at the Great Northern for my next layout. The magazine proper is something of a glorified newsletter, but that’s not what you’re looking for. Every issue includes a Modelers Pages and at least one Reference Sheet. The arrival of the Goat is a bit of an event. More than the other two, GNHS caters to modelers.

The Modelers Pages have GN-specific new product news, books, and model photos. There’s a modeling article and a Q & A. Available for back-order.

The Reference Sheets are detailed looks at some aspect of the Great Northern railroad. There are hundreds of them. Fortunately also available for back-order, and for members, many in the $2 – $3 range.

The Society’s on-line resources are good, if not perhaps on par with NPHA. There is a fair amount of NP information on the GNHS site, along with BNSF. The official site is well-supplemented by several individual efforts that fill big gaps in the Society’s on-line library.

I need to stop reading and get back to the railroad.


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Wheeler – Osgood Pt. 1.5

Which was going to be Part 2: Laying Track, until I started mocking-up the scene.

I pretty much know what I want to do with the space between the spur and the backdrop, but the space between the spur and what-passes-for main needs something. I’d hit upon the idea of putting a steam plant in the space, and had bought a turnout for the additional spur.

It’s a down-to-the-foam remodel. The ditch on the left is the slough.

Craft store brown acrylic paint to hide the white.

The really dry season in Tacoma. Or Mars. It seems that for modeling a dry wash this wouldn’t be a bad start.

View of construction from the parking lot.

“What’s goin’ on at the mill, Jim?”

“Dunno, Vern. Ain’t been a train in over a week.”

To make ground transitions for Cheney Lumber I’d used 1/8″ mat board. I’d cut the pieces for the W-O scene and glued them in place, but they’d been compromised when I soaked the track for removal. I needed something flat, thin, and impervious. That describes a lot of things, but I wanted cheap if possible. I cruised the usual suspects in craft and art supply stores, as well as home improvement and hardware. I found this at a large orange big-box:

Sheets of replacement glass and Lexan in various sizes and thicknesses.

Lexan 8 x 10 sheets: one of 0.093 on the left and two of 0.050 on the right. They were less than $5 each and depending on where you shop, cheaper than sheet styrene.

Trying out placement. The thick Lexan is to ease the transition to table level, and the 0.050 will go on the right.

I played around with the track and warehouse until I got an arrangement I liked. I’d made a floor plan for the steam plant, and had used it for the footprint. I wanted to mock-up the building, and it just so happened that the current (March 2018) issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist has a downloadable power plant drawing by Nick Muff. After getting the file and adjusting the size to fit the footprint and height, I printed it out on 110# card stock. A quick tape job and I had a crude but serviceable mock-up. I grafted on a print of the type of front doors I had in mind.

That is just not going to work. At all. As much as I was looking forward to building the steam plant (and I was), it’s not going to happen.

So what to do with the space? I had a brand-new turnout, and didn’t want to waste it. I toyed with the idea of modeling the space where the steam plant used to be as an over-grown concrete pad with the spur used for storage. Sort of an homage to an idea not realized. After looking at it, even the footprint of the plant crowds the scene. I’m probably going to go back to a variation of Plan A and install the spur, with a gantry crane spanning both tracks to unload log flats. If I go this route, I’ll likely get a kit for the crane, as I don’t think I’m really up for scratch building another crane. And this treatment will maintain the low, open look of this side of the layout.


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Wheeler – Osgood Pt.1

In which I dive into the Wheeler – Osgood scene.

Now that I had an idea what I wanted to do with this corner of the layout, I went ahead with it. I want to get this area done because 1) I’m curious to see how it comes out, and 2) the layout isn’t operable until I’m fairly far along with this. I can shuffle cars around if I want, but I can’t operate while this scene is under construction.

So I needed a warehouse for wood products based only on a plan from a fire insurance company map. Some room for interpretation. I went with a clapboard-sided frame building with a timber deck for the dock. Because of the way the scene was developing I decided on a piling foundation. The layout is set in and around the Tacoma tide flats and I’ve seen many buildings in similar areas on this foundation.

The foundation parts. The drawing is the foundation plan. The parts are dimensional balsa wood, and the bracing on the right side of the plate are cut scale (hah!) 2 x 4’s for bracing.

The foundation jig. I tried building the jig in such a way that the joints were unencumbered, and this worked well. The wood is weathered with Pan pastels using Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Grey and Black.

I wanted to use printed textures for the building. I’ve tried this a couple of times with indifferent results. I had Light Tarpaper and Grey Dock Boards from Clever Models, and bought the Dirty White Clapboard texture for this project. I’ve found that the N-scale textures are often not correctly scaled, so I adjust the density until I get what I’m looking for. I printed the textures on 110# white card stock.

The building base is 0.040″ styrene sheet while the walls are 0.030″ styrene. After cutting the parts and painting the interior surfaces Flat Black I glued the texture to them.

This is what happens if you use a water-based glue like PVA. The water-based ink discolors. I could live with the floor because nearly all of it will be inside, but the walls had to be redone. I had to find a way to glue the textures, and tried spray glue. A large can of the good stuff isn’t cheap, but it does work very well. Perhaps a bit too well, as you really have one chance at it. Once the paper is down, it’s down. I put alignment marks on the reverse side so I’d have a guide and the textures wouldn’t be crooked.

I have a number of small balsa blocks left over from Cheney Lumber, so I used some to act as alignment blocks for the walls. I figured they’d act to hold the walls straight and level, and this worked pretty well.

Testing different doors. I drew the doors and tried various textures to see what looked best. The door tracks and trim are 0.030″ x 0.040″ styrene strip weathered with Black powdered pastel.

The warehouse serves a door and sash plant, so I figured I’d better have some doors and sashes. I got pictures of both from the internet, and scaled the images to N-scale. The doors came out OK, but the sashes are too small for me to cut reliably, so on this day only doors will be shipped out.

I found that a standard manila folder is about the right color to represent new wood, and the thickness is nearly scale for a door, so I cut a bunch of door-sized pieces and glued them together with the door texture on top. I cut some lengths of small strip wood left over from a lumber load kit for the stacks of doors to rest on. It occurred to me that I’ve spent a lot of time modeling stacks of wood products for this layout.

Building interior with view blocks and door stacks in place.

I was going to use shingles for the roof, but when I put the roof in place it seemed a pretty fancy roof for an auxiliary warehouse on the back lot of a large plant. Tar paper seemed the more appropriate choice.

 The various roof samples. Top and bottom center is Clever Models Light Tar Paper, on the left is the same texture at 1.15 gamma, and on the right is the texture at 1.3 gamma. The center pieces are a felt roof texture I downloaded as an image and tiled and adjusted.

I printed a complete roof on regular paper for each of the textures and mounted them on manila folder. I didn’t spend a lot of time trimming the pieces; I just needed a mock-up to see how it looked. It was a couple of hours to do this, but the building is going to be on the layout for a while, so maybe worthwhile to get things right. The pieces are on my glue press, which is a couple of shelves from the computer desk on which the NPP is built. They feature smooth, finished surfaces, weigh about five pounds each, and are very good at pressing flat stuff together.

I attached one half of the roof to the center view block/ridgepole, and the other half is taped to the first half. This held the roof in place so I could draw reference marks for trimming.

Tar paper at 1.3 gamma.

Felt roof texture.

I decided that the Light Tar Paper texture at 1.15 gamma looked most like aged tar paper, so went with that. The rejected roofs served as test articles for trimming and fitting, and it turned out that having several pieces was a good idea.

The roof is printed in two parts: one piece of card has the roof texture, and a second piece is printed in an off-white color sampled from the clapboard texture. I glued the pieces together back-to-back and after trimming dusted the edges with Black pastel. The top seam is hidden with a piece of  0.030 x 0.040 styrene strip painted Flat Black and dusted with Grey pastel to simulate the ridge vent. I considered adding structural detail under the truck dock roof, but decided against it as scale 2 x 4’s are very small, and that would be a lot of fiddly work for something not really viewable from normal angles. I did add some nominal bracing to the rail dock roof because the building looked a little off without it.

I also considered adding gutters and downspouts, but I have seen a number of this type of building without any rain control at all. There are a lot of rainy days in the Northwest, but those looking for gutters on a structure of this type overestimate management’s zeal for spending money.

For the rail side dock roof I used CA to glue a styrene strip across the wall so the roof would have something to attach to. The corner boards are 1.5 mm styrene angle.

With the roof sorted it was time to attach the foundation. Unlike every other building I’ve done the floor on this one was above grade, so I had to paint it Flat Black. I used a correction pen to make the alignment lines for the timbers. After attaching the pilings I added the bracing.

After the glue dried, I used a pair of Xuron scissors (PL4440) to trim the braces. I recently acquired this tool, and like it. A light dusting of pastels to cover blemishes on the pilings and dock, and done.

One nice thing about printed texture is the ability to print the weathering right on the texture. Other than trim pieces, there is almost no physical weathering required. This building did take about 30 hours to build, which is a bit long in my opinion. Fortunately the scene only requires two buildings, but I expect the steam plant will take half again as long as this one.

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