December 2006


This is taking longer than I would like. I’ll talk about this more later but I’m now seeing that building up a layout out of foam may be a good technique but quite time consuming. 

I’m staring to think that building up out of foam has its place but not as the way to build your entire layout.

One area it makes sense is around Crazy Horse Canyon since I have a pretty detailed idea how the terrain will be contoured and it will be nearly all rock castings.

First, I really don’t think building up layer cake style works as well as making vertical slices. I see in the December 2006 Model Railroader that Pelle Søeborg also builds this way.

I started by drawing pencil lines on my planning model that I would turn into profile cut pieces of Styrofoam. Next I used a profile gauge to transfer the profile onto a scaled piece of graph paper that matches a 2” square grid.

Then I marked my 2” thick 2 ‘ x 4’ pieces of Styrofoam with a 2” grid.

Transfer the contour to the big board.

Cut with either a hot-wire cutter or my hot knife. If I can reach far enough I use the wire cutter since it does finer work but if not I use my hot knife which can reach anywhere. Then I place the piece in place.

The “back” side of the hill behind the canyon I measured by pressing the contour gauge straight down.

The “front” side of the canyon is mostly vertical and even has an overhang

so I pulled off the bit of modeling clay opposite the cliff and measured it by pressing the contour gauge straight into the cliff face.

As I add the pieces I place them unglued in position and then go back with a hot wire cutter and trim each piece to more nearly fair into its neighboring slice.

This makes a big mess even when you use hot cutting (although nothing like the mess you make sawing bead-board):

I figure nearly half of the styrofoam you buy ends up as unusable small scraps you have to throw away.

Okay, I admit it; I paid in when Model Railroader sent me an unsolicited copy of the first issue of their “Dream Plan Build” video series. Hey they included “collectible” coins too!

I saw this series as Model Railroader (MR) working really hard to remain relevant in a web age and changing modeler demographics that they do not seem to have a clue how to handle. I liked the first one enough to cough up the $24.90 and see how they go.

What I liked:

There is a fair amount of content on each disk, something like an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five minutes each sectioned into 12-16 articles.

I liked the modeling clinics. However, like the magazine, the emphasis remains on the beginner.

I liked the layout tours. I always like to see what other people have built. As long as it’s scale.

What I did not like:

Uck. The modeling clinics where the work ended up looking bad. Come on guys, do it over until it looks good! Video is really kind to most model work so it has to be really shoddy to look bad on video.

Argh. The layout tours of Lionel sets with scenery. I dare you: find one where they do not say “reliving a childhood dream…”  Scale railroading is a rejection of the “let’s see how fast the train can go” world of Lionel based layouts.

Snooze. The prototype tours. I model the 1920’s. I am not really interested diesel engines trundling around.

Recycled. The production values, style, and the sections look a WHOLE LOT like the “Tracks Ahead” series seen occasionally on PBS stations. Can you say “leftovers”?


I wish Model Railroader luck but after a bit over a year and seven DVDs I’m not going to buy any more.

Yes, I did wait until I filled the little coin holder before I quit.

Yes, I’m weak.

Sketching is a really important part of model building and design. Some of my best ideas come to me while killing time in meetings or classes that are not keeping or needing my attention. Sad but true.

This is a boat I sketched for a modeling idea about a small river steamer. I have a 16” hull under construction and this is definitely my favorite superstructure outline yet. I’ll use 1:35 scale and take advantage of all the military miniatures details available.

This design is somewhat inspired by the MARIN.

A very long seminar was a good place to do some drawings of my waterfront town of Tiburbon. Here is a rough idea about the ferryboat loading trestle.

This drawing is hard to read but if you compare to the real location on the layout:

An early drawing of Crazy Horse Canyon bridge.

This bridge and canyon has been worrying me but this initial sketch let me establish how things would look. I made a more detailed drawing in this post and determined I would only need three full towers instead of the four shown above.

I changed the shape of the mountain significantly to be more like the planning model.

Sometimes I do a full-on high quality drawing like this one of an NWP picnic car based on a photo.

The final drawing ends up a composite of the pencil drawing and digital drawing since I continue the finer detailing on my computer using a Wacom stylus pad.

This is an idea of a typical building in Tiburbon. Since there is almost no dry land beyond the roadway the buildings will all be built over the water.

Or is it Hi Rail? Seen in Point Richmond, Ca. See also this previous post.