Sunday, March 7, 2010

Being able to dive into small projects.

Yesterday's entry mentioned that I still needed to install the semaphore signals at the far end of the Alma siding. The existing signals are LEDs covered with hot glue - not the most prototypical, but cheap and easy to build. My only problem was that there wasn't really room for both semaphores; although I'd cut a notch into the hill for the downhill signal, there really wasn't enough space for the signal and assorted signal machinery details. That spot also happened to be right under one of the joists, and didn't have room for the real machinery under the layout to move the semaphore.

So instead, I took a utility knife to that nice hillside I made last weekend, and cut out addtional space. Here's the photo of the area right after I finished. I'll admit I worried this was going to be one of those model projects that took a reasonable accomplishment and messed it up. But I wanted those signals, and I wanted the signals in each direction to be across the tracks from each other as they were on the prototype.

Here's the after shot. Now, the key detail is that this photo was taken about 6 hours after the previous one; in fact, the little mound of ballast for the signal didn't really bond this time, so I dripped more matte medium on it right after I took the photo.

Rebuilding the scene went quickly because I had all the supplies still out - the sifted dirt for the base layer, the pinkish sand for the gritty sides of the cut, the box full of oak-like trees I made last winter. More importantly, I've been keeping a jar full of diluted matte medium around with an eyedropper always included, so it was really easy for me to take the rough Sculptamold scenery, cover it with brown paint, then sift on the various dirts and install the trees. The matte medium was particularly handy because I saw later in the afternoon that some of the track wasn't fully buried in the ballast or dirt, and so could quickly dump a bit of dirt on the tracks, spray it with the water sprayer, then soak it with matte medium for bonding. That's half the work of getting scenes built - having some of the supplies on-hand so that making little bits of touch-up like this can be done in ten minute in between other jobs (or in between household chores) rather than requiring an afternoon to get all the tools out.

The other cool project for the scene were the telephone poles. These are the Rix telegraph pole kits; I pulled out the kit package last night, glued on the crossarms, then sprayed them with dullcoat and gray paint this morning. The metal arm supports got a touch of color with a Floquil rust paint marker I've been using for the tracks, and the insulators got whichever color of green was handy in the paint box. I cut down a few of the poles for that short-pole look often seen in period photos.

Anyway, hopefully I can get to the signals in the next week or two; I'll need to install the servos for controlling the semaphore arms and set up the electronics for controlling them; the only hard part is where to stash the electronics so the wire runs aren't too long. The servos are temperamental, and long wires can cause them to not work at all.

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