This BLOG will chronicle the design and construction of a proto-freelance HO scale model railroad. I've based this layout on the area that I grew up in. This line is no longer in use but I will try to keep it alive in my own way. The purpose of the layout is to enjoy running trains. PERIOD. It will not be prototypical to any era or road. I just want to run trains that have or could have run on the line through Starkville, MS. plus a few extras.

Questions or Comments????

Email me at Drail14me@gmail.com

Friday, May 29, 2015

I'm Back!!!!!!!

WOW!!!! I can't believe it's been over a year since my last post! Life has been so busy, I've not had time to work on the layout. Well, yesterday and today, I found some time!!!

As I started working on scenery on the lower deck, I realized how messy it was. The thought of working on scenery on the upper deck over a finished scene on the lower deck concerned me. So, I stopped work on the lower and am concentrating on the upper deck! My main focus for now is Ackerman.
First up, I started working on a photo backdrop for the Georgia Pacific Chip Mill near Ackerman.I've got it held in place with some spray adhesive. I'll blend the edges with backdrop color paint next then add foreground structures and vegetation to hide the edges.

Next, I wanted to continue the pavement along Downtown Ackerman. I started with strips of Komatex for my road. I painted with some Ralph Lauren latex paint called Rock Chasm. It has a gritty texture to it. Here you can see a section of completed road next to newly painted road. After the paint dries, I'll lightly sand the road then paint on the stripping. After that, it gets an India Ink airbrush wash and that's it!
This next pic is of the scene with the old and new section of road in place. Turned out pretty good! As you can see, there is another new section of road temporarily in place awaiting stripes and weathering.
My roads have reached the end of the business row so before I can move much further with roads, I needed to complete my next business, a Gulf Service Station. This is a model originally built by Rich Cobb for me. I wanted to have more parking and side walks so I've added those. I don't have any paint to match the concrete Rich used so I'm waiting on the Postman to deliver it.
While waiting on the Postman, I decided to continue around the upper deck and get some more foam scenery base in. I've been needing to do this for a WHILE in case of a derailment on the upper deck. Long tumble to the floor!!!!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

 Some motivation and free time led me to the train room this past week. I had a local historical group come for a visit so the room got a deep cleaning and the layout got some much needed maintenance and repair. Afterwards, I decided to take some updated photographs of the layout and room.

 Here's a shot of the family area of the room. During planning, i wanted to fill this area with a helix for more main line run but I'm glad I didn't. We're really enjoying this shared space.
 I turned around after taking the photo above and got a shot of the rest of the room. I'm holding off on carpet for this part of the room until scenery is done. You can see the Port of Greenville above the stairwell and the Artesia yard on the right lower deck.
 A GP10 creeps out of the interchange at Ackerman, MS. This is a proto-freelanced scene. There is an old IC/GM&O interchange at Ackerman but no street running. I borrowed the street running scene from the town of New Albany, MS just up the old GM&O line.
A North bound empty grain train passes TXI cement as it enters the yard at Artesia, MS.


Now that I have some motivation, I hope to get some work done on the layout soon.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Back in the train room again!!!!

Over the weekend, I made the time to get back to work in the train room. This time, it was work on the room itself making it more comfortable to be in. Like most modelers need to do, I spent several hours CLEANING out the room. I've got tons of boxes of stuff I know I'll never use so it's got to go. After a little cleaning, I hung the rest of the underlayout curtains and started installing carpet squares. The better half has been on me to get the room usable by the rest of the family so that was my weekend project. Here's a before and after pic of the carpet work.







Sunday, April 14, 2013

GP10s on the way!!!!

It's been WAY to long since I've posted an update. Things here have been busy so I've had little time to work on the layout. Hope to change that soon.

In the mean time, I wanted to share some of my new excitement in the hobby. After decades of wishing, HO scale GP10s are on the way from a factory!!! Intermountain Railway Co has announced the release and are now taking pre-orders for their GP10. They're releasing them in eight different roadnames but I'm only going to focus on the three I've preordered: Illinois Central, Illinois Central Gulf and MidSouth.

I've been curious about the correctness of the upcoming models and have seen others ask the same question. So, I thought I'd post a photo here of Intermountain's drawings along with photos of the prototype for comparison. I'll let you be the judge.




Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Street running 2: Paving

I'm making some progress on the street running scene. Here, the main street is painted and mostly weathered as is the side street with the rail down the middle. The styrene streets were painted with several layers of a Ralph Lauren textured paint then lightly sanded. The stripping was added with some white and yellow paint pens. Next followed another light sanding then an over spray and lane spraying with a alcohol-india ink wash through the air brush. More to come!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Street running.....


While waiting on some parts for the Georgia Pacific plant, I decided to start working on the downtown area of Ackerman. I strayed from the prototype slightly here as I wanted to have some street running somewhere on the layout. There wasn't any along the line I'm modeling but there was along one of the branches off of it. So, I used the scene on the branch as inspiration for the street running part of downtown Ackerman.

The scene I'm modeling is an interchange between the ICG and the Frisco where the interchange track diverges between two buildings along Main Street to where it connects with the other railroad that runs down a side street. Unfortunately, it won't be a functioning track as the benchwork was too shallow to create a working interchange. So, I've got the interchange track modeled running between the buildings as in this photo.

The second photo shows the Frisco line running down the side street.  The interchange track would connect in just beyond the tan building on the left.

This was one of those scenes where the scenery intimidated me. I wasn't sure how I was going to actually build the roads. I wanted to use styrene because I liked how it looked once painted. However, I wasn't sure how I was going to cut the styrene to match the curve of the rails. I put off and put off attempting this scene until today when I just decided to give it a try with the plan to start over when I messed it up.

To make the cuts on the styrene, I first put some paint on the rails then pressed the styrene to it. That left the mark of the rails on the styrene. I think just used a sharp X-Acto knife and hand cut the styrene. I normally can't draw a straight line but I got lucky and the cuts turned out well. So, I'm happy with what I have so far. The foam base beneath the styrene is just a hair too tall. So next comes a light sanding then some paint on the roads!

Monday, June 4, 2012

More backdrop work....

Lessons learned on my first couple of photo backdrops. First off, I wasn't happy with the look of the backdrop behind the Southern main because of the dull coat I'd sprayed on it as you can see from my previous post. So, I had the photo reprinted and I re-hung it without any dull coat. I also was more careful with the airbrush in feathering in my backdrop sky color. I like how it turned out!

Next, I made a change in direction. I'd been working hard on the scenery and structures for the lower deck between Meridian and South Artesia such as old town Meridian, Crawford Grain and TXI Cement. I then realized that I'd be doing some messy scenery base work on the upper deck above. So, I figured I better stop on the lower deck and get to working on the messy part of the upper deck. One part I've really started working on is the Georgia Pacific Particle Board plant in Louisville. I started with a photo backdrop of the plant then added a 3D warehouse, some tank car loading platforms and some stand in tanks. So far, I like how the scene is coming together. However, it is hard to photograph because of the contrast in colors. I think once I get the white foam covered with dirt and ground cover then it'll be easier to shoot.

Friday, May 11, 2012

More photo backdrops

 I've done some more work with photo backdrops. My practice one is this first image that's behind the Southern main approaching Meridian. I took the photos of the tree line behind my house and merged them in PhotoShop then had it printed 11" by 48" at my local art shop. Before I applied the image to the backdrop, I coated it with two layers of Dullcoat thinking that it would seal the paper for when I feathered in my backdrop sky color. The Dullcoat caused the image to fade thus giving it a more distant appearance and was not my intent. The original print was much more vibrant and blended better with the model trees. To feather in the sky color onto the photo, I used an airbrush with thinned latex interior paint. I put the paint on too think the first time and the moisture in the paint caused the paper to wrinkle. Lessons learned. Click on the photo for a larger view.

My second print was for the TXI cement plant. This time, I left off the Dullcoat and when I feathered on the latex paint, I did it in VERY thin applications allowing each to dry before the next. I got a much better result. Learning through experience! After looking at this photo of the scene, I think I need to rearrange my models as they are blocking the view of the structures on the backdrop photo. I think more of them need to show through at least between the spaces of the models. Click on the photo for a larger view.
 

Monday, April 30, 2012

TXI photo backdrop

 I'm continuing work on the TXI cement plant. The scene with just a blue backdrop made the plant look small and shallow. I really wanted to give the impression of the massive plant that it is. So, I thought of adding a photo backdrop behind the plant to hopefully give the illusion of depth. The backdrop photo is a quick mural with no adjustments I made in Photoshop combining about a dozen photos of the conveyor system to the bulk Clinker storage area. I like the idea and look of photo backdrops but I think this one needs some work.

First off, I think I need to lighten the image as it appears too dark with the layout lighting. Plus, I'd like the blue sky to be a closer match to the painted blue backdrop I already have.

Also, you can see that I have a photo backdrop behind only half of the cement plant. I feel that I need to have a photo behind the whole plant but I'm not sure what would look good behind the kiln. I've got some more photos of the plant that I'm going to try to work into those area.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back to work on the layout!

The weather has been too nice lately to be working inside so I started landscaping the yard in earnest a few weeks ago. So far, I've planted over 225 plants and more on the way. This is a project I've been putting off for almost 5 years and it's almost done.

While waiting on the next shipment of plants to reach the local Co-Op, I decided to do a little work on the layout. I've done a bit here and there over the past month or so but just hadn't posted and hadn't spent more than an hour working on it. Today, I spent most of the day up there. The focus of the work has been centered on the TXI cement plant and getting all the roads in place. Those are all done and painted so I started adding a scenery base and getting buildings into their final resting place. I've got LOTS of glue drying right now so it seemed like a good time to post.

Also, one other development. Take a look at pp. 54-55 of the latest (June 2012) issue of Model Railroader. I've got my first article published in a major magazine on how I built the car loading platforms for Crawford Grain and TXI. More to come!



Friday, March 2, 2012

Hidden stagging under control!!!!


Controls for the hidden staging tracks are done!!!

I spent the last three days working on and trouble shooting a Diode Matrix Control for the hidden yard ladder. I say trouble shooting because after I wired it all up on Wednesday, I couldn't get it to work. I spent the last two days checking everything and scratching my head. I finally noticed that I'd put a diode in backwards. DHOOOO!!!

I'm happy to say that this morning I got it working like a top and love it. I found the schematic on David K. Smith's site here: http://whiteriverandnorthern.net/clinics.htm   David was super helpful in helping me out with my questions. I'm glad I did the controls this way.

Here you can see the hidden staging entrance/exit at Meridian. In the bottom right of the photo is a red knob that is the rotary switch for the diode matrix. I'm working on a label for the switch and am also going to put a small dry erase board above it so that I can write consist numbers for the locos in staging. You can also see the video monitor that I use to watch trains in the staging yard.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Switching Crawford Grain

Today, I played with photographing the layout. I tried different lighting techniques and did my first ever photo stack to get good depth of field. This photo is the result. I'm not 100% happy with the white balance in the shot but it's much improved over other shots I've taken lately. I hope to get to experiment more with the camera soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bridge in and slow order removed.....

 Crawford overpass is in and trains can run again!!! The track was ballasted and secured with white glue mix. Once dry, I brushed on layers of different colors of Bragdon's weathering powder. The rails were painted with a Floquil "Rust" paint pen. After it dried, I used a stiff brush to take most of the paint back off of the rail and the ties that it got onto. Plus, the brush helped work in the powder. Spring is almost here so green stuff should start sprouting soon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Paving roads

I've gotten my first two roads in and about done. This first photo is the main street coming out of Crawford. You can see the glue drying on the gravel drive that goes to Crawford Grain. This road T's into HWY 45 as you can see in the distance. If you take a left on HWY 45, it will take you to the bridge below. This road was poured with Woodland Scenic's paving plaster. I then brushed on a thick coat of white glue and added a layer for fine ballast. After it dried, I sanded it then painted with Ralph Lauren "River Rock" series paint finishes then sanded again, appliedvstripping, sanded again followed by a dusting of India Ink wash.
This is the HWY 45 underpass at Crawford. I've got the bridge temporarily set while adding the finishing touches to the road. The road that turns off to the left just beyond the bridge leads to the TXI cement plant. This road was done with drywall spackling then painted with Ralph Lauren and finished like the other road.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's been almost a month since my last update. I've actually gotten quite a bit done but just haven't posted. Right now, I'm kind of held up waiting on some parts to come from Walthers before continuing on. What you're seeing here is the start of my "Bad side of the tracks" in Meridian. This is a freelanced scene but is based on the ICG/Southern crossing in Meridian so the tracks are pretty close to the prototype. I'm waiting on some more curbing to come from Walthers to finish assembling the street. I hope to have them next week or so.

Here's a shot from the other side of the bridge. I've added the green stagnant summer water to the ditch and started on the ground cover. The double track in the background is the Southern and the single track in the foreground is the ICG as the two converge to cross in Meridian.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Grain, Bridges and Passenger Platforms

I've made some more progress on Crawford Grain. Piping on the grain legs are in along with the safety wire along the loading tracks. Also a little more scenery.


I've also started some work in the Meridian yard. Today, I poured one of the passenger platforms Meridian Union Station.I'm modeling Meridian from the North looking South so the passenger station will be off the layout to the left. In other words, when looking at the layout, you would be looking from the station out across the yard.
I've also begun work on the 18th Ave bridge over the North end of the yard at Meridian.

Friday, January 13, 2012



I was able to get some more work done on Crawford Grain today. First, I got a photo mosaic backdrop printed off and pasted up. I then blended the backdrop sky color onto the photo sky color. At first, I tried to do this with an airbrush but I got too much over-spray on the photo and on some scenery so I went to a brush and feathered it in. I like how it turned out.

Next, I started adding the structures that I'd been building on for a while. I've gotten most of the main structures in place. Next comes the details.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Water pour

 It's been a layout blitz today. I just made my first ever "water" pour at the ICG/Southern crossing. I used Magic Water and really like it so far. I had to mix it in two batches because of the size of the pouring cup I had. My plan was to make the first pour a darker color and make the second pour clear to give depth. I mixed up the first pour to what I I thought was dark enough. However, once poured, it was not dark enough an the whole bottom could be seen.

So, I did my second mix and made it much darker but then realized that I'd have to find a way to mix it with the clearer first pour. I then poured and swirled the second pour as I poured it. Then I took a long piece of styrene and SLOWLY stirred the swamp. I actually got a good mix. There are a few places where you can see some swirls but as soon as I saw them, I through "that looks just like the algae we get in late summer." so it worked out fine!!!

I did get a LOT of creeping especially in the vegitation next to the water. The Magic Water creeped all the way up the ground foam along the rip rap. Guess I'll have to reapply when the water dries.

I've got to order some more Magic Water to finish the pour. Still got the other side of the ICG tracks in the foreground of the photo.

Now, my scenery blitz comes to an end for the day. It's time for some FOOTBALL!!!!!  Mississippi State faces Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl today at 5:40 on ESPN. GO BULLDOGS!!!!!!!

Crawford turn around

 I've done some more work on the Crawford Grain parking area. Here's a pic of what I have so far. Basically, I sanded the turn around area and lightly sanded the rest of the graveled area. Then sprinkled on two different tones of fine turf and a different tone of fine clumps and then glued down all the ground cover. Of course, the area that I had sanded and lightened, darkened back up with the glue.
Here are two pics of the prototype so you can see the area I'm modeling.  The telephone pole in this picture is in the middle of the turn around area.

Adding depth to the backdrop....

When I first started the layout, I decided that the backdrop would simply be a solid sky blue backdrop. I decided this for two reasons. First, I wanted people to focus on the trains and second I had enough work on the rest of the layout that I wanted to avoid having to do much with the backdrop.

I've stuck with that plan until now. I've found some scenes needing some depth to them so I've been looking for ways to add that depth.

While discussing modeling trees, I had a friend email me a photo of some trees that he said would make a great backdrop. So, I printed out the picture to do a test on the layout.

I printed the trees on an 8 1/2 X 11 piece of plain copy paper. The photo was composed well in that the bottom half of the photo was trees and the top, sky. I cut most of the sky portion off. Then, I just scotch taped the paper to my backdrop and feathered my backdrop sky blue paint over the sky in the photo. You can see where I dribbled a little paint on one tree. This is just a test photo to see if the technique would work. I'm happy with it. For this scene, I think I need to scale the trees up a bit so that they are at lease as high as the hole in the wall. I'll try another test like that and see how it looks before proceeding.