N-Scale Statuary Helps Tell a Layout’s History

A few weeks ago I wrote about Lts. Benjamin and Henry who discovered Many Lost Ways and founded Salvation Point, the fictional National Park and town upon which the freelanced FCFL is based.

The story inspired a little urban revitalization project near the Salvation Point depot, including a monument to the explorers.

IMG_3124I started with a pair of figures from a set of Woodland Scenics HO scale people. I cut a small oval of thin styrene sheet, beveled the edges with a sanding block, and mounted the figures to it with plasic cement. I sprayed the statue with a bronze “hammered metal finish” spray paint and set it aside to dry.

I made the rest of the monument from a thicker square of styrene and again beveled the edges with a sanding block. I drilled a pair of 1/16 holes in two corners. For the plaque, I cut the top from one of the surplus old-timey gas pumps from the Walther’s “Al’s Victory Service” kit I recently completed and glued it centered between the holes. I painted this assembly with Pollyscale Aged Concrete, and filled in the plaque with Pollyscale Rail Brown.

When the pedestal was dry, I glued the statue to it with plastic cement. I gave the entire piece a wash of India ink diluted in rubbing alcohol. Finally, I “planted” Woodland Scenics field grass in the two holes and mounted the entire piece on the layout.

I’m not breaking new ground with statuary from figures of a different scale. Model railroaders have been doing that for years. But I think the little monument is a unique lineside structure and helps tell the story of the FCFL.

Plus, it’s the only way I can get those two to stand still.

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ModelStory: A River Deep and Wide

At first the thing that bothered him most about the whole idea was that they might fall.

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“At first the thing that bothered him most about the whole idea was that they might fall.”

As a dad, falls are a major concern. Traffic and roadway hazards are a close second, followed by choking and other ingestion-related dangers. Dads tend to worry about the things that cause immediate trauma.

Moms fret over the hazards of repeated exposure like dressing properly for the weather and adequate nutrition.

Dads worry about falls.

So the notion that his daughter and her cousin would embark – unchaperoned – on a three-hour river raft trip caused him some heartburn.

(It had to be a three-hour tour? The universal code for nautical tragedy?)

“They’re fourteen years old, Ted,” said Marcia. “As long as you’re there to pick them up on time, how much trouble can they get into? Frankly I was looking forward to some time alone during this vacation. Just me and the Discover Card and those cute shops in Salvation Point.”

That didn’t make him feel any better, but he realized he was licked and agreed to drop them at the dock.

And now he stands here all alone experiencing one of those unforgettable moments of immense transition:

She WON’T fall.

She’s fourteen and a pretty good swimmer and smart enough to stay seated.

She’s not the little girl who couldn’t help but skip everywhere she went, the one who fell out of bed and fell off the jungle gym and fell off her bike and needed him to fix her up and remind her to pay attention.

She hasn’t needed any of that in a long time. She’s done some growing up, and he wishes he’d been paying closer attention.

Because there’s this boy, sitting right across from her, and they’re not fifty feet from the dock and already talking to each other.

She’s going to have different kinds of falls now, harder ones to recover from.

He’s not sure he’s ready.

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At first the thing that bothered her most about the whole idea was that she might fall.

As a kid, falls were a major concern. Falls out of bed and falls off the jungle gym and falls off her bike – and Dad was always there to fix her up and remind her to pay attention.

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“At first the thing that bothered her most about the whole idea was that she might fall.”

So the notion that she would embark with her cousin on a three-hour river raft trip without him had her freaking out a little.

(Dad kept singing some stupid song about a three-hour-tour, a THREE-HOUR TOUR, like that meant something.)

“We’re fourteen years old,” said Brittney. “As long as he’s there to pick us up on time, how much trouble can we get into? Besides, it’s better than hanging out with your mom in town.”

She didn’t entirely agree with that, but she realized she was licked and agreed to be dropped at the dock.

And now she sits here experiencing one of those unforgettable moments of immense transition:

She WON’T fall.

She’s fourteen and a pretty good swimmer and smart enough to stay seated.

She hasn’t needed to worry about falling or choking or getting hit by a car in a long time. She wishes she’d paid more attention to the growing up she was doing.

Because instead of Dad – well, hello cute boy across from me!

The falls are about to get harder.

She’s not sure she’s ready.

(Scratchbuilt river raft, factory-painted Preiser and custom-painted Model Power figures, EnviroTex Lite water with clear silicone caulk effects.)

ModelStory: Post-Holiday Buzzkill

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” Jason drew the short straw and had to pick her up at the train station before sunrise the next morning.”

She comes every quarter from Corporate and spends a week rummaging through everybody’s desk and at the end there’s a department meeting where she lists “goal enhancement opportunities” and somebody usually leaves in tears.

It would be fine if she actually understood what they do, but as the Senior VP of Management-Employee Disconnect – or whatever – her visits are unchecked power trips dripping with nonsense.

This quarter she arrived on January 2 which meant an early end to Christmas vacation for everybody.

They all spent the week making colorful graphs and charts from meaningless spreadsheets – someone figured out a long time ago that content isn’t important to her, but if you know how to click “format data series>fill>gradient fill” she’ll pant like a dog.

On New Year’s Day most of the department stayed at the office until past 10 then went out together and got solidly blitzed. Jason drew the short straw and had to pick her up at the train station before sunrise the next morning.

It became apparent early on that her focus this time was something called an “enterprise-wide desiloization initiative.”

“Process compartmentalization challenges our core imperatives,” she announced. “We’re evolving our platform to facilitate cross-mission force integration.”

(She’s enthusiastic about corporate jargon.)

She was armed with stacks of inaccurate, outdated reports and sat at everyone’s desk and asked how they drove internal-external partner engagement with their centers of influence. Frustrating conversations that only served to reveal her utter lack of operational understanding.

She actually said to Michael:

“I see that for December your ratio of source optimization in the departmental space decreased sharply on the 25th. Explain that to me.”

Of course he couldn’t, so the entire department got the assignment to identify the internal and external partners most impacted by process compartmentalization and develop a plan of action for transitioning the paradigm toward desiloed competency achievement. She wanted a spreadsheet with backup data. And graphs.

“And wouldn’t it be cool if we could track which day of the week we are most likely to properly flow-out unit implemenation?” she added. “Let’s build that into the matrix.”

Sixty hours of horse-apple work, due tomorrow.

No one was willing to remind her that a year ago, she declared cross-mission force integration inefficient and formed a committee to proactively mitigate the trans-pollination outreach realm.

Vivian was on that committee. She pulled up the spreadsheet they built for that project and with some deft “find and replace” work had the new document complete. She’ll hold on to it for a little while, change the colors on the graphs.

Meanwhile, they’ll all update their resumes and come to grips with the unhappy realization:

The Holidays are over.

(Custom-painted Model Power figure, Play-Doh luggage (read more), Walther’s Cornerstone Pella Depot, Kato Superliner.)

Grand Opening at the Dentist’s Office

The fine folks at the Milwaukee ‘N Southeastern railroad club have been hard at work readying the display layout for Trainfest, November 9-10.

My contribution this year is a dentist’s office in the beautifully modeled downtown section.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a collection of miniature household items like dishes and toothbrushes from a playset my boys outgrew. During a recent work session I glued two little toothbrushes to one of the downtown buildings, flanking the door on both sides like a whimsical sign for a dental clinic.

Back home, I set to work on this little scene for the sidewalk out front:

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Mascot:

I made the guy dressed up as a giant tooth by applying a glob of Squadron white putty to a Model Power figure. After it dried, I filed and sanded it to tooth shape, then painted it white. I painted the arms and legs and added a small circle of gray for a screen so the guy could see out.

Balloons:

I made the balloons by stripping speaker wire and separating the strands, leaving several very fine pieces of wire. I used a tweezers to make tiny loops at one end of each piece, then dipped them in Testor’s enamel. I hung them upside down from masking tape on the edge of the workbench overnight, then dipped and dried them twice more to build up the teardrops of paint. When they were dry once and for all, I painted the wire silver to mimic ribbon. I used CA to secure them to the hands of the mascot and the poor lad arriving with his mother for a cleaning.

Sign:

The sign was made in Word and printed it on my inkjet printer. I cut it out and sprayed the back with Elmer’s spray adhesive, and pressed it to a thin scrap of styrene. I then cut it out with a sharp utility knife and painted the edges black.

The display layout is currently at the home of a club member 45 minutes away, so I will need to find time to install the figures and sign before Trainfest. I will try to post updated pictures of the completed scene.

I hope to see you at Trainfest, and you better floss!

What’s in the bag?

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A solitary backpacker waits for the train at Herbst Junction after a few days of wilderness hiking. His bedroll and backpack – crafted from bits of Play-Doh – complete the scene.

Very few of the N-scale figures I’ve encountered seem to be carrying anything. That’s a problem when your layout is focused on a National Park and a tourist-heavy town on the edge of the desert. Visit your favorite rail depot, outdoor destination or vacation spot and you’ll see people hauling all kinds of gear – backpacks, roll-aboard suitcases, duffel bags, sleeping bags, and more backpacks. The factory options for this kind of luggage are limited, and what is available is spendy.

What’s a modeler to do?

Get out the Play-Doh.

I got playing with some bits of the stuff during a recent sculpting session with The Superintendent. After a few minutes with a toothpick, a steady hand and a scale rule I had crafted fashionable bags for passengers and shoppers, as well as rugged gear for backpackers.

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A scale rule helps keep the size of the sculpted luggage in check. These Play-Doh pieces were dry after about 24 hours.

It takes about 24 hours for Play-Doh sculptures this size to dry. I brush a coat of Tamiya acrylic paint over each piece, then highlight pockets and edges with a contrasting color. I glue backpacks to the backs of a figures with CA and paint straps on with a fine brush.

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Highlights with contrasting colors along the edges and pockets give the luggage dimension.

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This tourist looks much more authentic carrying a backpack.

Pieces stacked on the ground add nice detail to any scene, from station platforms to the beach.

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A rested tourist watches the luggage while his

wife does some last minute shopping. They’ll board the next train east, toward home.

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The cool water of the Benjamin-Henry Reservoir were so inviting, this bather didn’t bother to unroll his beach blanket before wading in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have people on your layout, are they traveling a little too light?