Piedmont Division Blog

Dream big, start small and plan for the future


Painted Eastern Mountains on the Backdrop

December 11th, 2008 · No Comments

Painting Backdrops for your model railroad

After reading most of the "How-To Guide" Painting Backdrops For Your Model Railroad by Mike Danneman and published by Model Railroader Books I decided it was time to tackle the next step on my blue backdrop. I took notes and also made a list of paints and brushes I needed to ensure I was up to speed on creating my mountain scenery. So with the list in hand I went to Michael's Arts and Crafts supply store Sunday afternoon and returned home with a mission, about two hours later I had my first layer of mountains chalked in and painted for the west and south sections of the lower deck.

Earlier in the week I had also printed out some images of Eastern mountain ranges including the Appellation and Blue Ridge mountains and applied them to the back of a large piece of foam board for reference material. Driving back from our Thanksgiving vacation through I-40 through the mountain ranges just east of the Smoky Mountains got me fired up and inspired to get the ball rolling with the backdrop. While I did not get to capture some images of the rock outcroppings I did get some ideas from one section of mountain where the outcroppings were at 45 degree angles and layered with sections of soil and rock. This reminded me of the technique some folks use with ceiling tiles, this will be the focus of another section of the layout scenery that I will used to help blend in the backdrop in a future project. All the reason more to get the backdrop started and finished sooner than later. I had already set up the backdrop months ago and painted an initial layer of sky blue and even put in a few clouds, now it was time to put in the mountains.

Following guidelines from chapter four in the book on painting Eastern mountain backdrops I first took some chalk and marked up a general outline of where I wanted the mountains to fit in. Starting from the bottom and working from the closest mountains I chalked in lines for each range, finishing with the distant and smaller appearing mountains. Then using some of the original latex blue sky paint I added a small bit of Payne's gray acrylic paint to darken and town down the blue slightly. Starting with the most-distant-mountains I used a number 8 round brush and stroked in the four or five distant mountains.

Then with the same paint I added more Payne's gray acrylic paint with the addition of some Hooker's green and a touch of Cadmium blue and hint of black, all the added tints are acrylic paints. Then I started painting in the next closest mountain ranges on the backdrop. Once these were done I went onto the next range of mountains and colors.

At this point I added more Hooker's Green some more black and some Cadmium blue and stirred it up really well then painted in the next-closest range. I ran out of paint on this range and had to start up a whole batch of sky blue and then finished the foreground hills with a deep green color that consisted mostly of the latex sky blue some Hooker's green acrylic, some Cadmium blue and a hint of black.

The finished results were captured the next day after all was dried in the images below, click on images for a larger view.

Background Image 1
Background Image 2
Background Image 3

The next step will be to add more detail on the foreground ranges with trees and scenery. Incorporate some scenery/backdrop transitions and then some work on the clouds should round out the backdrop project for this section of the layout.

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Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

November 30th, 2008 · No Comments

Last year I donated a dollar a day to the local PBS television station WUNC-TV here in the Raleigh/Durham area and as a part of the drive I got some free gifts from the Scenic Railroads television show as well as 4 free tickets to ride on the excursion train at the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (GSMRR) in Bryson City, NC. So in September we planned a trip to the Smoky's for the Thanksgiving Holidays. We arrived at the GSMRR Friday morning around 8:45am in preparation for our 10:30am departure. Check-in was at 9:15am, so this gave us some time to walk around and capture some images, once we checked in and got our tickets at the depot counter we enjoyed a visit at the train museum and shop. Here are photos from the GSMRR trip. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.
GSMRR Bryson City Depot GP9 #1755 GP9 #1755

GSMRR Bryson City Depot

GP9 #1755

GP9 #1755

Ryan posing with GP9 #1755 GP9 #1755 wheel set At the Natahala Outdoor Center

Ryan posing with GP9 #1755

GP9 #1755 wheel set

At the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)

Caboose Generator Car GP9 #711 Ben and GP9 #711

Caboose Generator Car

GP9 #711

Ben and GP9 #711

GP9 #711 GP9 #711 Polar Express Ticket Display

GP9 #711

GP9 #711

Polar Express Ticket Display

Since we had about an hour to burn before the departure we toured the GSMRR train shop and museum and we really had a great time visiting both. The shop sells a lot of t-shirts, fleece pull-over's, hats, signs, Thomas The Tank Engine stuff, cards and collectibles. But it also has a large inventory of Lionel, HO and N scale equipment in addition to a large balsa wood collection. Behind the Bryson City Depot is the Smoky Mountain Trains museum and gift shop. This place has over 7,000 pieces of Lionel™ engines, cars, and track side accessories lining the walls full of display cases filled to the gills, and also has two complete layout displays. Admission to the museum is free with paid tickets to a GSMRR excursion. Here are some photos from inside the museum. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.
Ben & Ryan at Museum Entrance Southern Passenger on Layout Cute Billboard

Ben & Ryan at Museum Entrance

Southern Passenger on Layout

Benchwork Billboard

Buddy L Outdoor Railway Loco Southern Woodside Boxcar Southern Square Window Caboose

Buddy L Outdoor Railway Loco

Southern Woodside Boxcar

Southern Square Window Caboose

Container Yard Layout and Southern Passenger Passenger Station

Container Yard

Layout and Southern Passenger

Passenger Station

Southern Passenger on Curve Southern Passenger on Curve One of Many Display Cases

Southern Passenger on Curve

Southern Passenger on Curve

One of Many Display Cases

Smaller Layout Action Monique and Ben at the Museum Southern Tank Car

Smaller Layout Action

Monique and Ben at the Museum

Southern Tank Car

Penn RR Flat Car with Load Sante Fe De-Construction Burlington Route GP-7

Penn RR Flat Car with Load

Sante Fe De-Construction

Burlington Route GP-7

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3rd PlanIt Tutorial Part II Submitted

October 15th, 2008 · No Comments

Finally! It's finished! The submitted 3rd PlanIt Tutorial Part II has been put to the Model Railroad Hobbyist (MRH) editors task of parsing and pasting together the next segment of the series on track planning software. Actually, Joe Fugate will most likely be the one to review the 34 page double-spaced article and put all the avi screen captures and audio mp3 files together for the 9 multi-media segments, including 31 images. This segment will not appear until the April 2009 issue, and the original part I segment was completed over a year ago and it will appear in the premier issue of the Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine in January of 2009. See banner link for more on the FREE MRH online magazine.

Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine - Totally electronic, totally interactive, totally free - Premier issue: January 2009

I am already working in the third segment which may leave room for one more piece or a fourth segment as I have started processing some ideas for a wrap-up segment. Some of the topics for the 3rd segment highlight advanced features such as modifying track segment properties once they are placed onto the layout plan including elevations and grades. We will also add buildings and structures to our layout plan with track placement considerations. We will also learn how to add terrain and contour features as well as water and backdrop features to the track plan and review them in 3-D view, and we will also add foliage and trees to the track plan.

→ No Comments || Posted in Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine ||

Great Train Expo

September 17th, 2008 · No Comments

We went to the Great Train Expo on Sunday here in Raleigh and they had a good many booths this time around, but one thing that really got me was the number of vendors who seem to price their items at twice the amount most people can afford to pay. Now my LTS Train Buddy had a section too, and I spent $140.00 on stuff from him because he is always 20% to 25% below MSRP for most items. This is a photo of Kim Parker at TB explaining something of importance to Monique, but I cannot remember what he was talking about.  And yes, that's my better half holding two items that SHE picked out! One of the two items is the Clayton County Lumber kit since her dads name is Clayton and the other is the Proto 2000 PS2-CD Cargill Covered Hoppers, because she wanted me to put some grain in my coal hoppers and I told her there are special cars for grain. Kim P said that would be great if everyone bought their kits because they were named after family members....  
Here are a few more photos of Kim and some customers at the booth...  
Kim Parker and me
Kim Parker at the throttle
N layout with JMRI and Digitrax station

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Dream Big, Start Small and Plan for the future

September 4th, 2008 · No Comments

I was inspired by the MRH forum discussion thread "Is there a right way to model railroad?" started by Irv (aka feldman718 ), and this thread got me to formulating and rethinking the herald slogan catch phrase for my Piedmont Division site and I came up with:

"Dream Big, Start Small and Plan for the Future"

I like the sound of it and I especially like what it represents for all aspiring model railroaders, particularly those who are just starting out with building a layout or who are new to the hobby. So, let me break it down for you here in the three sections of the slogan! There are a few things you want to do first when starting out and here are a few of them to keep your focus without being overwhelmed. There are no tried and true formulas to starting out in the hobby or starting over with a new layout, but this slogan will provide you with some focus in the early stages or even when reworking your plan or layout.  

  • Dream Big ~ Shoot for the stars when you dream of the final layout or Railroad Empire and you want to have your end goal in mind. Then break the goal down into parts and pieces and start to think of the entire layout as a puzzle. Once you figure out the pieces you can identify one area to start and make this your first area to build on, remember to start small. Everyone has their dream layout, and making it a reality will take some considerations, so dream big and start small and plan for the future. 


  • Start Small ~ In the early stages of getting started with a new layout or even in the beginning of joining this hobby it can become overwhelming with the amount of information overload to absorb and it gets hard to maintain a clear focus.  Start by concentrating on one aspect of the hobby since there are so many areas that you can choose from just focus on the general aspects of the model railroad you want to have.

1.      Scale- On of the first things to consider is the scale you want to build on, and while HO is the most popular, it is not for everyone. I choose HO because my grandfather was into it back in the 1950's to 1960's and that was what I was most exposed to as a child growing up. But for some folks N scale is a great choice because you can model twice the real estate in the same given space for an HO layout. If you are new to model railroading give all the scales a preview, heck, even G garden scale might be your cup of tea, even if you don't have a green thumb there are many G scalers out there who started small too!

2.      Road name and era- Then think about what railroad or railroads you want to model. Are you interested in the B&O, or is our heart set on modeling the Union Pacific? Heck, maybe you really like the steam engines that the Southern Railway used until the 1950's. Whatever your railroad or railroads you pick you also want to consider the time frame somewhat, but there are also many folks who don't worry about this so you can decide later on about that one. Some folks like the steam era only and this would include any railroads that ran until the mid 1950's to early 1960's. For the steam to diesel transition era you can model the time-frame from the 1940's to the 1970's. And for any modern modeling it would be anywhere from the 1970's to today. This is a general guideline and some folks would argue about the time frames, but these are just guidelines.

3.      Build one piece of the puzzle - You don't have to build the empire all at once. In fact, it is better to start with a small area of the layout first and concentrate on that small area and then branch out as you build your skills and techniques. Maybe start out with a 2' X 4' area that will be the switching yard or staging track area. Build the bench-work, add the sub-roadbed and roadbed and then put in the track and turnouts. Then hook up your wiring and start testing out a loco or two with a half dozen rolling stock cars. After that practice with ballasting the track and then adding some scenery base here and there and then a structure or two and some trees.  

4.      Expand as you grow - Once you get the hang of the basics you can start expanding your empire from one edge of the module to create a branch or main line along one wall. 


  •  Plan for the future ~ Remember to keep the future in mind when starting out. Will you be moving a lot, will you have more room to build the layout, and will you have less space later on? These are some of the considerations when starting out with a new layout plan and by thinking through all the factors involved it will be smoother later on down the path to building your dream layout.

This is my plan so I'm stickin' to it, and if you can dream it you can believe it!


I believe I'll go tweak my plan again so I can be ready for the future!


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