Sunday, 10 September 2017

Making your own photo backdrop

As promised, this post is all about how I achieved the photo backdrop on Rozelle Street.

On my previous layout I'd used Haskell Backscenes' adhesive backdrops to depict a country NSW theme, however that wasn't going to cut it for an urban-themed, inner-city layout. A look through available commercial options from overseas backdrop manufacturers provided options that were too representative of their European or US origins. Sometimes you can cut corners and hide out-of-place details. Unfortunately there isn't much room for that on such a small layout.

While stumbling over a railway-related video from the National Film and Sound and Archive on Youtube (search for NFSA), I noticed a lot of their films featured large, panning shots of urban scenery. I figured that I could take a screenshot of this, edit it in very basically in paint, and print it out at Officeworks in colour.

After a week of sifting through the NFSA's Youtube archives, I found a film titled 'Rooftopics' which had just the right scene. Being from 1971 it was as close to my era as I was going to get.



So I grabbed this scene above, and after a few minutes using the rectangular 'select' tool in Microsoft Paint, had this:

 

One shot wasn't going to be long enough, so I needed to duplicate the scene without making it too obvious, like this:


I played around a little more with the select tool and came up with this:


Ultimately this one was better because it spread out the distance between the trees. Some of these and other features which stick out on the skyline, like the church bell tower or chimneys, were ultimately cut out as I went along to further break up the skyline. I made another scene which has the noticeable white apartment block in the last picture below. This is a key detail bringing the scene into a more modern era.

Once I had the scenes printed, I cut a few out and tried them for size and fit. The first one came out with too much of a blue hue, so after loading the picture into a Word document and playing around with the picture colour and contrast in Microsoft Word, I had the below, final outcome:


On the day of the exhibition, I marked the scenery heights on the back board lightly in pencil, and coated the back of the backscene printouts with a gluestick. After lining them up with the scenery markings, I applied them and gently smoothed out any wrinkles or air bubbles by hand.

I still need a fence either side of the factory to help with the transition from front to rear, but it's mostly done now.

So there you go, really easy and something anyone with basic computer skills, a glue stick and the internet can achieve!

Cheers,
Ben

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Small details - trackside

I did promise some additional information on the new photo backdrop for this post, and that is still forthcoming, but for the time being I thought I'd focus on two of the smaller jobs I wanted to complete before the Malkara exhibition; Uneek whitemetal lineside details.

I undercoated each of these with a Tamiya self-etch primer, then spray-painted them with Krylon ultra-flat brown to get a good undercoat colour. Then I brushed on various crushed Conte pastel crayons (the same as used for wagon weathering), highlighting areas such as the raised parts of the sole plates with Faber Castell pastel pencils. To finish off, all were coated in 100% isopropyl to seal the weathering. In some cases, I would iso' then add another layer of powdered Conte crayon, then iso' again to seal.

The first of these are some sleepers. These had a few layers of light and medium greys after the Krylon layer, finished with a layer of black powders to tie everything together. I've laid them here to denote where the inlaid un-couplers are on the main.


Next up were the sole plates, finished off with a layer of mixed maroon red and light brown, and dusted with orange in places. A few years ago I helped out at the Zig Zag Railway with the clean up following the 2013 State Mine bush fire. One job was to move fire-damaged sole plates into a skip for sale as scrap metal. Each plate weighed between 12-17kg. After an afternoon of heaving a few barrels' worth of these plates into a skip atop a truck, I can attest that a long-discarded pile of sole plates looks every bit as brown and rusty as this. If anything, I've gone too easy on the orange colour of the rust to adjust for my era, but I'm happy with the result. They're pictured here next to the LCL container-come-ganger's shed.


Finally, an unrelated detail. I've mentioned before the different wagon sizes I keep on the layout at any given time to mix up the challenge of shunting the inglenook. After nearly a year in operation it was time to up the difficulty setting on the layout to "75-foot goods wagon." Voila - the Australian National Railways' VFX by Auscision. The ANR signage on the wagon sets it neatly in the latter part of the 1970s (Australian National Railways was formed in 1978) but before the Railways of Australia four-letter code was introduced in the early 1980s. The era narrows! Combined with the yard signal installed a little closer in from the edge to limit the available shunting neck, this has added a little more planning into each puzzle.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm tossing around ideas for the next layout. So far I want a main west Sydney location in the same era, but under the wires so that I can run a number of the electric trains I've started to accumulate. The VFX will be a neat addition to general freight consists heading over the mountains, and these wagons stick out in the photos I've seen of trains from this era.

The next step now is how to build such a layout in the confines of a small apartment, and how to make it a continuous run without taking over much more space than it already has. I'll be honest - progress on that front isn't going to happen anytime soon, but that's where the designs are heading.

Next time, the Backdrop. Really this time.

Cheers,
Ben