Wednesday, June 11, 2014

34 Ascape

When Echo Canyon was mostly complete the folks in Ascape turned their attention to finishing the yard and some industries in Ascape.  Other posts will feature individual structures and their construction.  The purpose of this post is to provide an overall view of Ascape, particularly the Engine Terminal, Yard and associated industries.  
Figure 1 View of Ascape Engine Terminal.
Figure 1 shows the Ascape Engine Terminal (center), Ascape Station (left), and Ascape Power Plant (right).  The main line and Ascape siding are along the back of the terminal.  The caboose track is seen at the end of the Ascape siding.  There is another passing siding in front of the station next to the main platform. The other tracks from left to right include the engine ready track serviced by the coal tipple, the sand house, and the oil terminal.  This track connects to the turntable in the background.  The roundhouse is under construction and is not present in this photograph.  The track to the right of the engine ready track also leads to the turntable and is track for locomotives entering the terminal.  The track to the right is the lead track for the Ascape yard.  The yard ladder is switched from this track.  The gondolas sit on the Power House stub.  

The station is a Fine Scale Miniatures kit, the coal tipple is a Campbell kit, the turn table is a Diamond turntable kit. The water tower is Walthers.  The power house is scratch built from card stock with hand carved brick detail.  The sand house (hidden by the oil depot) and the oil depot are Campbell kits.  There is a old box car shed under the water tower.  Saulina's Tavern and Harley's Cycle Shop are hidden behind the trees behind the station.

Figure 2 View of Ascape Yard

 Figure 2 is a view of the Ascape yard. The yard lead shown in Figure 1 feeds the ladder to these tracks.  The track to the right is the main line with the turnout to the Ascape siding shown.  Burgess Beef packing plant and Mauzy Ice are at the end of the yard tracks.  Farmer's Cooperative elevator and feedstore are to the right of the main line in the upper right of the photograph.  Craig's Camp is in the far background.

Burgess Beef is a Fine Scale Miniatures kit, Mauzy Ice is scratch built, the grain elevator and feed store are Walthers structures.  The turnouts in the yard are powered by Tortoise machines from switches and indicator lights on the fascia.

Figure 3 View of Ascape Station, Water Tower, and Power Plant
Figure 3 is a view of the station, water tower, and power plant. Echo Canyon tunnels 2 and 3 are in the background.  This photograph was an earlier photograph that did not use Helicon Focus or the settings indicated below.

Figure 4 Ascape Coal Tipple from between Harley's Cycle Shop and Saulena's Tavern
Figure 4 was the photographer's first attempt to use Helicon focus with multiple exposures using manual focus (see photographic details below).  Note that the cliffs are about 30 inches from the camera. The coal tipple is about 20 inches from the camera.  The figures and gas pumps are about 8 inches from the camera. Enlarge the photograph by clicking on it to see the clear detail at every distance. 

Figure 5 Burgess Beef and Cattle Yard
Figure 5 is Burgess Beef packing plant.  Bruce Burgess is a cattle man and close friend of the president.  This structure and corral are a Fine Scale Miniatures Kit. The Cattle yard is small and can handle only one or two cattle cars in any one shipment.  Reefers call at the platform to ship processed beef and pork to the market. 

Figure 6 Mauzy Ice and Burgess Beef
Figure 6 is Mauzy Ice.  This small structure is perfect for the very small operation of Burgess Beef packing plant.  Reefers are iced one at a time and it is rare for more than two reefers to visit the plant on any given day. The ice house was named for Chris Mauzy, who is a frequent operator on the ATSG.  This structure is scratch built from polystyrene siding and strip wood.  The builder drew plans from photographs of an On3 model of this ice house designed and constructed by Troels Kirk of Sweden.

Figure 7  Farmer's Cooperative 
Farmer's Cooperative and Feedstore are Walthers kits weathered by the author.   Craig's Camp is on the hill behind this scene. The main line is behind these structures and again behind Craig's Camp on the upper level.

All of the photographs except Figure 3 were processed via Helicon Software and involve multiple exposures focused at different distances. The focus was set manually.  The photographer measures the distance from the furthest object and closest object in the picture using a metric measuring tape.  This distance is then divided into 5 or 6 equal lengths and an exposure taken at each distance. The camera indicates the distance when using manual focus:   Sony 35 mm 8 mp digital camera, F8.0, color real, no zoom.  Lighting is from overhead compact florescent spot lights enhanced by two photo lamps also with compact florescent bulbs.  Exposure time is automatically determined by the camera.  All photographs were taken on a tripod via the camera timer to avoid any camera shake.  You should be able to enlarge the photographs by clicking on them.

33 Echo Canyon

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the ATSG Railroad was how to provide creditable scenery when there is a high line behind and above the main line?  Figures 1 and 2 show the problem.  

Figure 1 High Line above Ascape Yard

Figure 2 High Line above Ascape 

Several solutions were tried. The first was to try to hide the high line with buildings but this required either hiding the high line completely or trying to provide a rational why the high line was above the buildings.  Not an acceptable solution.  A second solution was to hide the high line completely as it returned to the helix.  But this eliminated more than 20 feet of railroad that could provide additional running and scenery.  A ride through Echo Canyon Utah provided a possible solution.  See Figures 3 and 4.  Why not a series of tunnels through the cliffs forming a backdrop for Ascape Engine Terminal and Yard?

Figure 3 Echo Canyon Utah  the Prototype

Figure 4  Echo Canyon Utah the Prototype

Figures 5 and 6 show the construction of  Echo Canyon.  The high line is partially hidden by the eventual cliffs and a series of tunnels carries this main line through the cliffs.

Figure 5 Armature and Cheese Cloth Echo Canyon

Figure 6  Plaster covering Echo Canyon

Figures 7 - 13 show the details of the resulting canyon with carved rocks, sprayed paint with chalk weathering with foliage proved by Woodland Scenics.  Portals were modified to appear to be partially built into the cliffs, the roadbed was hidden by a rock wall support between tunnels 2 and 3 and a bridge between Tunnels 1 and 2.  Rock was hand carved, spray painted with diluted house paint, and weathered by raw pigments and colored chalk.  The scenery was sealed with dull coat.  The plan is to place photograph backdrops between the cliffs in Echo Canyon.  There is lots of red rock to choose from in St. George and Snow Canyon.  We will illustrate these photograph backdrops in a future post to this blog.  The cliffs of Echo Canyon make a very nice backdrop for Ascape.  A future blog will illustrate Ascape with these cliffs in the background.  The illusion of height used forced perspective by using small shrubs and trees high on the cliffs and larger shrubs and trees in the foreground at the base of the cliffs.  Interest was created at the base of the cliffs by including a retaining wall in some placed, a rock fall in other places. 

Figure 7 West Portals Tunnels,  No. 1,  No. 2 and No. 3.

Figure 8 East Portal Tunnel No. 1

Figure 9  West Portal Tunnel No. 1

Figure 10 East Portal Tunnel No. 3

Figure 11 West Portal Tunnel No. 3

Figure 12  East Portal Tunnel No. 1 Echo Canyon

Figure  13 West Portal Tunnel No. 2 Echo Canyon

32 Craig's Camp

The high line curves around the back corner of the layout above Burgess Beef and Farmers Cooperative.  A short stub was installed here to serve a small logging camp.  The challenge was how to fill in the corner and create a plausible scene.

Figure 1  Future Site of Craig's Camp

Small mountains were created to fill in the corner.  Even though they are 3-dimensional the attempt was to make them appear to be further away than they are. We are still debating how to make them appear pine covered without causing them to appear closer.  The scenery in front of the camp is behind Farmer's Cooperative and Burgess Beef.  A freight train is passing on the upper main line behind the camp.

Figure 2  Craig's Camp with upper main behind.

Craig Harding, a model railroad club member spent many hours helping construct the return loop in the staging yard under the location of the logging camp.  In honor of this arduous task the lumber camp was named in his honor.  The camp consists of a small shed, a logging crane, and a log pond.  Figure 3 shows a set of scratch built log buggies behind a Bachmann three truck Shay locomotive.  To the far left is a Barnhart log loader that rides on the top of rails on the log buggies.  This small crane can then crawl from car to car as it loads the logs.  How can you have a log camp without any trees in the vicinity.  Hopefully some trees will spring up in this location in the near future.  

Figure 3  Craig's Camp 

Figure 3 is a Helicon photograph of Craig's Camp as described in other posts (See Post 30).

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

31 Professor Plunge and Hardly Falls

I'm finally back to posting to this neglected blog about the Ascape Tennsion & Sulphur Gulch Railroad.  I will not try to include these posts in order but will merely date them as I post them rather than when they were constructed.  I will try to give some details about the back story.

In 2009, installment #23, this blog described the construction of Whetstone Ridge, Sulphur Gulch, and the trestle at Sulphur Gulch.  This bit of scenery served as the focal point for the railroad since that time and is sure to get a “Wow!” from visitors as they enter the railroad room.  However the back side of Whetstone Ridge maintained its “under construction” status for the next several years.  As the president was about to undertake a whole new construction project on the peninsula of the railroad the Chairperson of The Board subtly made the following observation: “Don’t you think it might be well to finish a bit more of the railroad before you undertake a whole new construction project?”  Good observation.  A wise president always listens to the Board Chairperson and thus construction on the back side of Whetstone Ridge was begun.  This installment will describe the construction of Professor’s Plunge, Hardly Falls, the East Tunnel Portal, and the Park City East Tunnel Portal. This section featured in this post was finished for the 2012 November Open House.

Figure 1 Helix
 Figure 1 shows the helix with its cardboard safety wrap prior to the construction of Whetstone Ridge.  The backside of Whetstone Ridge including Professor’s Plunge with Hardly Falls will hide the helix in this area.   The track at the lower left is the mainline as it comes from the trestle at Sulphur Gulch and enters Ascape.  The roadbed at the upper right is the mainline as it enters the helix at what will become East Portal and the branch line as it crosses through Whetstone Ridge through       what will become the East Portal of the Park City Tunnel.
Figure 2 Armature, cheese cloth, and plaster
Figure 2 shows the initial construction of the side and back of Whetstone Ridge.  The cardboard armature in in place over this section of the helix and the cheese cloth has been glued to the armature.
Figure 3  Scenery Demonstration
Figure 3 shows this same view of Whetstone Ridge.  This section was the first scenery on the ATSGRR.  It was deliberately left in this partially finished state to show the construction technique used on the ATSTRR.  The near section shows the cardboard armature and cheese cloth prior to the application of a plaster coating.  The next section shows the cheese cloth coated with a thin plaster shell and some rock castings have been placed over the shell.  The third section is the first part of Whetstone Ridge that was completed to show the scenery technique.  The Sulphur Gulch section of Whetstone Ridge was then completed as shown in an earlier post (#23).  This section of the railroad stayed in this condition from 2009 until the construction described in this post was completed in early 2013.

Figure 4 Armature for Professor Plunge and Hardly Falls
Figure 4 shows the area that is to become Professor Plunge and Hardly Falls with the cardboard armature constructed but not yet covered with cheese cloth.     The armature has indentations where the canyon will be and a notch in the summit of Whetstone Ridge which is the head of Hardly Falls.  The roadbed leading into the helix can be seen cutting across the front of the scene. East Portal will be constructed where this track enters the cliff to join the helix.  The roadbed leading to Park City can be seen in to the right of the picture.   The Park City Tunnel East Portal will be constructed where this track enters the cliff to cross to the rear of the helix.

Figure 5 Main Line around Whetstone Ridge

 Figure 5 shows the aisle side of Whetstone Ridge after the scenery has been completed over the armature and cheese cloth that had occupied this location for several years.  After experimenting with rock molds it was finally decided that hand carved cliffs were not only more efficient but could include a far greater variation of rock formations than is easily accomplished with rock molds.

Figure 6 East Portal of  Main Line Tunnel and West Portal of Park City Tunnel with Professor Plunge and Hardly Falls
Figure 6 shows the East Portal of the Park City tunnel and the bridge leading to the East Portal of the Main Line Tunnel.

Figure 7  Ascape Engine Terminal with Professor Plunge in the background.

Figure 7 is a view of the Ascape Engine Terminal with Professor Plunge and Hardly Falls in the background.  The train is entering The westbound  main line from the East tunnel.  The caboose is entering the East Portal of the Park City Tunnel. Saulena's Tavern and Harley's Cycle Shop are in the foreground.  The Ascape Engine Terminal Coal tipple and Sand House are to the left behind Saulena's Tavern.

You will observe that the edge of the railroad has been protected with Plexiglas to prevent accidents during open houses.  Ironically the only serious accidents so far on the railroad have been caused by the president when on one else was in the room :-(

Thursday, July 4, 2013

30 Mauzy Ice

The ATSG Railroad blog has been seriously neglected.  There have been many developments on the railroad since the last post.  Fortunately the railroad itself has not been as neglected as the blog.  The author kept waiting to catch up before posting the most recent material but then ended up posting nothing.  So, with this post, the blog will try to at least stay current and then, as time allows, go back to post information on previous developments.

For the past several months the author has  been trying to finish the Ascape section of the railroad.  It started with the creation of (to be named canyon) which completes the mountain over the helix.  This was followed by the development of Echo Canyon which is behind Ascape. The next goal was to finish the landscape, ballast, and details of the Ascape engine terminal and yard.   This is all by way of background information for the current post.  Later posts will describe these developments.

Mauzy Ice

The Albuquerque NMRA Rocky Mountain Regional Convention included some inspiring model work by some outstanding modelers.  It inspired the president of the ATSG Railroad to revisit and improve his skills in model building.

Mauzy Ice

At far end of the Ascape yard is a vacant lot where Burgess Beef Packing Plant will be located. Behind the packing plant is an ice track where refers can be iced before being loaded with processed beef from the packing plant. Ascape is a very small town in the 1930's. The buildings are old and somewhat rundown. Somehow the modern ice platform that had been previously constructed did not fit the location.  A search of the Internet revealed a wonderful model of a small old ice house that seemed just right for the location.  The On3 model was designed and constructed by Troels Kirk (  You can see some wonderful pictures of this model at

Mauzy Ice
Our model of Mauzy Ice is shown in the photographs.  The building and sheds were constructed from board-and-batten polystyrene. The loading docks and ice platform were constructed from strip wood.  The doors and windows are from Tichy.  The structure was named for Chris Mauzy, a member of the Color Country Model Railroad Club, who is a frequent operator on the ATSG Railroad.

The photographs were taken using an 8 mb Sharp digital camera.  Lighting was from compact fluorescent spotlights both in the track above the railroad and in two auxiliary spot lights lighting the model. Settings were aperture = f8, color = real, white balance = fluorescent.  I took  4 or 5 exposures of each view each with a different focal length from just in front of the model to just behind the model. These different focal length exposures are then combined using Helicon Focus software. The photograph was color corrected using Adobe Photoshop Elements.   A clinic at the Albuquerque Conference introduced the Helicon Focus product.  It really solves the depth-of-field problem so common in model photography.  (See,

Saturday, April 13, 2013

29 Sage Junction

The roadbed against the back wall is very narrow.   This junction will eventually connect to the branch line to Tennsion (a story yet to come). We needed a way to extend the depth and create some activity at Sage Junction.  I had a photograph mural created for a former version of the ATSG Railroad.  I felt that it might work in this location.  There is only 3 inches between the track and the backdrop.

Sage Junction with only backdrop photograph in place

A small station and a water tank were installed behind the track.  There is a small parking lot behind at the left of the station.  The road from the parking lot goes behind the station and seems to extend into the backdrop.  The scenery in front of the photograph was constructed to match the backdrop photo.
Sage Junction 
The water tank is a Campbell kit and the station was another kit from an unremembered manufacturer.  Figures, a woody station wagon, and other platform details were added to complete the scene.  The terrain in the foreground fills the space between the lower main line and the upper line at Sage.  Can you tell that our engineer is fascinated by rock retaining walls and roadbed support?

The photographer for the ATSG is getting better.  He discovered Helicon focus.  Several photographs are taken at different focal lengths focusing from the furthest element of the picture to just in front of the nearest element. The photographs are then combined via Helicon focus to produce a picture that is in sharp focus at every distance.  The scene was lit by two lights plus the overhead light.  The color is by setting the camera on real.  The aperture is set to the smallest opening, only F8 on my camera.  The focal length is 50 mm without any zoom.

Updated June 10, 2014

Saturday, October 8, 2011

28 Hidden Meadows

Articulated #49 Crossing the Trestle at Hidden Meadows
The Trestle at Hidden Meadows

In the back corner of the layout the main line curves around the front edge of the corner of the layout.  After negotiating the peninsula in the center of the room the main line returns to this corner  as a high line in the rear of the area.  The terrain on most of the railroad is mountainous and above the track.  In this corner the high line crosses a wide valley.  This necessitated that the engineers build a trestle across the valley.  Unfortunately the photographer neglected to photograph this valley before the construction of the trestle.  The  photograph shows the trestle after it was installed across the valley before the scenery was completed.  The feed store in the foreground was merely an experiment to see if it would work in this
MayBell Mill 
location.  It seemed to dwarf the trestle so it was not installed at this location.

The next three photographs show Hidden Meadows with the scenery more complete.  Behind the trestle is an N-scale barn in an attempt to force perspective and make the meadow appear larger than it is.    The MayBell flower mill is a better size and because of its size appears closer to the viewer and helps the trestle seem to be further away.

Plans call for a painted backdrop behind the trestle to extend the meadow into the distance with mountains beyond.
Siding at Hidden Meadows

Construction Details
Bent Construction
Rock Work on Trestle Approach
The Farmer at Hidden Meadow 
To construct the trestle I first drew a plan for the bents.  Using double stick tape I laid the dowels on the plan and then glued the cross braces and top beam to the bents.  Since I wanted the valley to slope on either end to match the mountainous scenery on either side of the valley, I varied the length of the bents.   The top beams between bents were laid out on a full scale drawing of the track representing the curvature of the track.  I actually used the spline roadbed which I cut out to made room for the trestle as a guide.  Before I cut this roadbed I constructed a support for the roadbed on either side of the cut so that the roadbed would not shift when I made the cut.  The trestle is on a grade as well as a curve so I propped up one end of the board on which I laid out the beams to match the grade.  I then mounted the bents on the beams using a level to get them vertical in spite of the grade.  I then cut blocks of wood to place under each of the bents and which would later be mounted on the floor of the valley to support the trestle.  While on the workbench, as shown in the photographs below
,  I added the cross braces between the bents.  I used a very small dab of hot glue and a small glue gun to attach these braces.  When the trestle was constructed I placed it between the two cut ends of the roadbed using the wood blocks to support the bents.  By careful measurement the trestle dropped into place without too much adjustment and the blocks were glued in place.

Installing braces to bents
The trestle was then removed and using cheese cloth and plaster the valley was formed under the trestle.  The plaster was painted and scenery material put in place before the trestle was placed.  After the trestle was secured I relaid individual rails on the ties of the trestle using goo on the bottom of the rails and heating the rails to secure them to the ties.

On the right end of the trestle I used vertical plaster to represent a rock wall supporting the track as it enters the trestle.  The rocks were carved by hand using a pen knife.  Scenic details were added including the barbed wire fence constructed from round tooth picks.  The cows were placed in the field and the farmer was on his way to milk the cows.  His old tractor sits in the field as well. (The out of focus photograph needs to be replaced by a better photo but we thought you might enjoy this detail even with the poor photograph.)  The road was constructed with the wooden grade crossing with cross bucks.  The flower mill was placed and trucks and figures completed the scene.

Building the fence:  I cut the toothpicks to length often cutting at an angle for the top of the post.  I plant them in very small holes in the scenery pointed end down.  To make the posts more realistic I scrape each post on a rough file.  I then paint them a brown color using diluted model paint more as a stain rather than a solid color.  I have found that gap filling ACC glue works best to hold the posts in place.  Stringing barbed wire is tedious but not difficult. I use rust colored thread for wire.   I form a slip knot for the first post and hold it in place with a tiny drop of ACC glue.  I use an accelerator spray to get the glue to set instantly.  I then wrap each post in turn with the thread.  When I get to the last post I again tie a knot around the post and hold it in place with a drop of ACC.  Then I carefully position the wire at the correct level on each post and secure it with a drop of glue.  I used three strands of wire on my fence. [Don't strain your vision.  I realize that the wire is not yet in place in this photograph.  But it will be for the replacement photograph.]

Carving plaster of  Paris:  If you have not tried to carve plaster the following directions may be helpful.  I use a cardboard armature for land forms.  I cover the armature with cheese cloth held in place by diluted white glue.  When it is dry I paint the cheesecloth with a soupy mix of plaster-of-Paris (1 cup water 2 cups plaster).  I add a small amount of powdered stucco color to give the plaster a light tan color rather than stark white.  This helps prevent white spots if the plaster chips.  The result is a thin shell for the terrain. I formed the wall under the roadbed at the end of the trestle with cardboard covered with cheesecloth.  If you let the plaster mixture stand for a few minutes (about 10 or 15) it achieves a consistency like tooth paste and can then be formed into a thick layer over the shell.  (Hint if you wait until the shell is completely dry it is important to spray it with wet water (water with a drop of detergent in it) so the thicker plaster will stick.  In another few minutes it assumes the consistency of modeling clay and is easily carved.  This condition lasts for about 20 minutes so it is important to work with small areas at a time.  To carve the rock wall I used a small level to scribe parallel (almost) lines in the setting plaster and then carved the vertical lines between the lines to form the quarried rock. I also roughed up the surface of my rock wall by pricking it with a small piece of wire brush.  After it was dry I colored the wall with the same technique I use for most of my scenery.  Ordinary water-based flat house paint (mine is a sandy color) is diluted 12:1.  To get a more gray color for my rock wall I added a small bit of acrylic blue paint to my base color. This diluted paint is then sprayed onto the rock wall.  After the paint is dry (usually only 20 or 30 minutes) I use various earth toned pastel chalks to add a bit of color to each individual rock in the wall.  I complete the whole process by spraying the wall with flat matte medium.