#39 January Status Report

January 2, 2010

As promised last time, this month we’ll look at some of the smaller details that add character, life, and realism to the layout.  Many of these and similar details require good eyesight and a careful look to find them.

The first example is the thirsty soldier sitting on a barrel in a gondola adjacent to the station by the Union Army supply depot (Figure 1).


Figure 1.  Thirsty Soldier


An interesting addition to the town of Riverbend, by the lake in the Early Period, is an early version of a train control signal (Figure 2).  The challenge with it now is how to mechanize it so that it actually works in conjunction with the computer controlled trains.


Figure 2.  Early Train Signal


One of the most endearing details of the Middle Period city is the rooftop garden (Figure 3).  It is not readily visible from the aisle through the layout and can only be seen in detail from the mezzanine, and you’ll need binoculars or a powerful telephoto on your camera to be able to see and appreciate all the details.


Figure 3.  Rooftop Garden


Another detail in the Middle Period city, next to the drive-in theater, is the interior of the Kitterman Construction shop (Figure 4).  I included some exterior views in a previous article.  It is homage to John Kitterman, who built most of the tall buildings in this city.  The shop includes machine tools, products (models), a Flying-A (oil company) calendar complete with its pin-up picture, and a host of other details.  It’s worthy of a few minutes of attention and close scrutiny to see and appreciate the efforts of the modeler to make it both interesting and realistic.

Figure 4  Machine Shop


A detail which provides a bit of an operational challenge is the road surface between the rails at grade crossings (Figure 5).  As with full-scale trains, the crossing, under no circumstances, can be allowed to interfere with the passing trains, neither to contact the trains nor to shed parts which could cause derails.  For our models, we used a single piece of plywood whose contour was shaped to fit between the spikes on the ties, and whose surface was carved to look like wood beams.  Finally, to keep them in place, both ends were solidly screwed into the layout table.


Figure 5.  Grade Crossings


In the Middle Period engine servicing facility, we redid the lighting in the larger buildings, using the LED strips from Superbrightleds.com.  These new lights made the interior of the roundhouse so bright, that they begged for more details to make the formerly empty interior spaces look busier and more realistic.  We took care of that by building and installing 20 work benches and two dozen cabinets and then adding a lot of engine parts, including wheels, connecting rods, brakes, bells, whistles, etc. (Figure 6).  We made it too neat, and need to put more of the parts on the roundhouse floor.

Figure 6.   Roundhouse Interior


Although the subway line in the Modern City still requires a lot of work to make it an active subway, the work has begun with the addition of the “third rail” and its cover simulating the source of electric power for the subway cars which are still the process of being built (Figure 7).

Figure 7.  Third Rail


A small scene in the Modern City park, near the lake, is a park visitor who didn’t pay attention to the sign on the bench (Figure 8).  It’s hard to tell whether the dog is sympathetic or tsk-tsking.


Figure 8.  Green Bottom


These are just a small selection of the large number of such details which are continuing to be added to make the layout ever better and ever changing.  Next time you visit the layout, take some time to look not only at the big features but also for those little subtleties that add special interest and realism.


© 2009 Tom Bartsch

MVGRS Big Train Project Coordinator