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The Carrabassett and Atlantic Lines: US modelling in HOn30

Keith Addenbrooke

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Prototype Context

Maine, New England.  The Easternmost State in the US, with a longer land border with Canadian New Brunswick than the neighboring US State of New Hampshire.  A State of dense pine forests, quaint coastal inlet ports and cold, snowy winters, where the State Capital is less than 250 miles from Montreal yet 400 miles from New York City, nearly a thousand miles from Chicago, and as close to Reykjavik in Iceland as it is to Los Angeles in California.  A State that was once home to a dozen or more 2' gauge railroads, common carriers and logging lines with a nod of inspiration to the Ffestiniog Rly in North Wales.


Modelling the Maine two-footers in HO Scale

Modelling the Maine two-footers in HO Scale using N-Scale 9mm track was perhaps popularized for many by Bob Hayden and Dave Frary's 'Carabasset and Dead River Ry' in the 1970s and 1980s.  Hayden's November 1981 Model Railroader article on designing a new version of the Railroad remains one of the most inspirational layout design articles I've ever read: a double page artistic rendering of his proposed proto-inspired Kennebecport waterfront (based partly on Wicasset) still gives me a "Wow!" every time I think of it.  They took the idea of the Maine two-footers and imagined they'd survived longer than they did, into the 1940s and the early days of the transition to diesel power.  When I wanted to activate my dormant interest in Narrow Gauge modelling a couple of years back, HOn30 (formerly HOn2 1/2) was the natural place for someone with my long-standing interest in American Railroading to look, which I did in a thread here.


The Idea: Part 1 (Background)

Having been more of a collector than a modeller for many years, I needed an easy point of entry into practical narrow gauge modelling, which was covered in my previous thread: Narrow Gauge Beginnings - getting started in HOn30 and H0e.  While my initial layout design turned out to be more than I had capacity for at the start, I nevertheless managed to achieve my objectives despite my rather random approach to modelling, and by the time I completed the thread I had a successful working mini-layout, a couple of weathered resin kit locomotives and some kit and scratchbuilt rolling stock:










But what am I going to do next?


At some point in the new year we're hoping to move house.  We need a more accessible property, and there are some issues with our current home which make it more difficult to use as the working property it also needs to be.  As our home is provided for my work, moving is a bit complicated, though a potential property has been identified.  It meets all our family needs but has very little storage space, and if the move happens I will lose the room I've had for modelling this past year.


With that in mind, this is what I'm currently thinking:


The Idea: Part 2 (Next Steps)

At various points in my previous thread I shared proof of concept photos framing my thinking for next steps, such as here:




This is the direction I'd like to go in.  At this point, I can't say if I'm aiming to build a layout, dioramas or just some individual models whenever it takes my fancy, but the freelance theme of the Carabassett* and Atlantic Lines (named to use some old 'CAL' decals my Dad gave me) provides me with a framework within which to model.


I already have some structure kits I'm keeping - starting with a Craftsman Church kit that I need to complete:




I'm not a big fan of complex roof modelling, so this has been on pause for a while - the long curled strip is/are the roof tiles:




I then have a couple of Branchline Laser Kits for rail-served industries (the prototype store had a loading dock at the back):










In terms of rolling stock, I'd like to scratch or kitbuild some more scale-like items at some point.  The MinitrainS Fiddletown and Copperopolis range are excellent, very well made and nicely proportioned, but they scale out at a bit less than 1:87 HO.


Taking passenger Sam (who is a full 6' or 21mm tall) shows the issue:







To be fair, showing Sam on the balcony of a Liliput scale H0e carriage shows how narrow those doors are, but they are taller:




I've traded on the F&C rolling stock I had for CAL1 and slimmed down my H0e collection to free up space.


So that's where I'm at: no specific plans, targets or design objectives I'd fail to meet, but a story I'd like to tell - of a Maine two-foot common carrier that (like Hayden and Frary's C&DR) has somehow survived into the 1940s and maybe beyond, a line with big ambitions, no money, and no real idea other than that life is for living, and who's in a rush?  It'll be fun, Keith.




(* Spelling seems to vary between Carabassett and Carabasset, though I think the former is officially correct)


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Hi Keith and happy New Year. 


Always good to hear where your thinking is taking you.


The Carrabasset & Dead River track plan is some considerable size but has a lot of operational and scenic potential. 


Obviously until you get into the new property it's impossible for you to make any definite plans. But perhaps you'll indulge a bit of speculation? 


Would a shelf-type layout give you some possibility to incorporate various scenes from one of these lines? Without too much intrusion into a room?


So following this idle speculation shelf layouts are discussed here which has a link to some US outline designs which may be of interest. 




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Time to get started.  I’ve already built a small Faller H0 laser cut kit to get started this year (for my parallel German modelling project).  First out of the box here is the rail-served store kit I have in stock - alsoshown in the opening post above:




It’s a model of a prototype that used to exist in New York State, but in a lot of ways could be typical of many Main Street Stores across America.  The original was rail-served - with a loading dock round the back, and while I understand that faced a standard gauge team track, I think it could be an ideal candidate for a switching feature on a common carrier narrow gauge line.


It’s certainly not a background kit - the footprint is quite large (note how the base comes as two jigsaw pieces, to be held together with a pair of  ‘peel and stick’ splicers):




The walls are lightweight balsa by the look and feel of them, so I was keen to get all the outer walls assembled in my first modelling session, before leaving them for the glue to dry:




Always feels good to get started, Keith.

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Progress has been both forwards and backwards since my last post.  First thing I noticed were some extra floor pieces in the box - presumably for use if the separate shop interior kit was also being modelled (which I don’t have).  Nevertheless, it made sense to swap the plain floor I’d used for the planked one before proceeding further:




Next job was to add some interior walls for the shop fronts and then roof edge trim, handily supplied in ‘peel and stick’ strips:






All seemed good so far (roof added for photos only - not fixed in place):






Anticipating that the building could soak up a lot of paint, I decided to spray it.  I’m very new to spray painting and just have a couple of rattle cans, but with plastic kits I’m finding they can bring out the relief in mouldings very effectively:




Unfortunately, with this wooden kit it showed up the places where the gaps between pieces were just too large, plus one end had curled quite noticeably, despite my trying to spray both the insides and outsides of the kit to minimise this effect:








After pondering my options, I decided the only course of action was to gently prise it apart and rebuild.  Fortunately the glue I’d used meant that was possible, and I was soon back to a pile of pieces:




One perk of my job is that it comes with a lot of heavy books, so the springy base pieces spent a few days in the Study being flattened before reassembly:




I then proceeded more slowly than the first time round:






And built the interior strengthening walls before adding the exterior:




Finally, the outside walls were put back in place, and the exterior brush painted with Humbrol #34:






This side wall / base joint isn’t perfect, but much improved, and it all seems to be staying in shape ready for the next stage.  I may pick out the roof trim in a different colour to match the original, then it’ll be the windows.  Until next time, Keith.


Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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I only set myself the limited objective this week of adding the lining to the roof trim - mainly so as not to rush!






I didn’t try lining the inside edges of the trim - but settled instead for a result I can be happy with by just doing the outward facing side of each piece and concentrating on getting it as good as I could.  For someone as bad at painting as I am, this is better than I could have hoped for.  Have a good week, Keith.


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Posted (edited)

Further delays - I’m also trying to clear a small backlog of part-finished kits before we move house, so I don’t have to shift largely empty boxes.  I say small, this particular one isn’t, standing over a foot tall (and long):




The Wathers HO Grain Elevator - very much a not-narrow Gauge model, but one I’ve been wanting to tackle for some years.  The start of this build appeared in an American HO modelling thread that has now ended.


I built it largely per the instructions, just adding some extra styrene reinforcing pieces in the elevator head building (including one to cover the gap where the cylindrical silos meant there was no floor at all):




A prototype would almost certainly be more heavily weathered than mine, even allowing for the low sun today making it harder to take photos.  This shot shows a bit more - it was easier to weather the head house and unloading sheds before assembly:




It was actually the thought of carrying structures like this up and down our steep attic stairs when I’d need to move my modelling stuff out of the attic room for guests that persuaded me to switch to narrow gauge modelling in the first place, so I suppose (in a roundabout way) it has a place in this thread too.  Have a good week, Keith.







Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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Getting back to the craftsman kit store build, the next job was to tackle the windows:a large job best done in batches, but aided by having the frets backed with a pre-glued peel and stick coating, and with the window panes scribed on the glazing sheet:








The sash windows have a separate lower part.  When both parts are glazed they’re fitted to the outer frame.  Once glued in place (fitted from the outside), shutters are added, so each complete sash window has seven parts in total:






The inner roof panels have just been loosely fitted here for the photos:






The loading dock is perfectly sized for my HOn30 boxcars, although I think the prototype was served by a standard gauge line:






Next job will be the storefront - I’ll have to decide what level of interior detailing I want to show first.  Hopefully the biggest part of this build is now done, Keith.

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Posted (edited)

I treated the store front installation as a separate modelling task.  Having previously made some Walthers’ Merchants’ Row kits without any interior detailing, I knew I would need to include something inside the stores in this build (it would be stretching things even for me to have regular boxcar deliveries to perpetually empty rail-served stores!):




First part of this build were the doorway entrances, which came from the same ‘peel and stick’ sheets as the window frames:




The fake shop interiors were from some unused 4mm scale Metcalfe shop interiors that were included as alternatives in their low relief departmental shop kits.  I’d built them some years ago, and kept the spares ‘just in case’:




Noticeable in the photo above is a gap between the centre access door and the ceiling.  This was caused by some springiness in the base I’d not spotted earlier, and was (unsurprisingly) able to resist all attempts at gluing the pieces together.  It would only be much later on, after several failed attempts to line up the store front section with this out-of-position door, that I realised I could solve the problem by detaching the door and glueing it in place in the store front before fitting.  I could have saved a lot of time (and quite a bit of glue) if I’d thought of this sooner!


What would cause my biggest problem was the Metcalfe interiors were designed to be set back inside the shops, not pasted to the windows:




The first bits I’d done were set back in the doorways of the new build and looked OK, but when I proceeded with the picture windows they ended up looking horribly flat




Painting the window frame a darker blue didn’t improve things much at all:




Nor did adding paper coverings to the other windows, cut to size using the surround left after removing pieces of the kit as templates:






Although I toyed with trying to set the interior back a bit inside the shop, the L-shaped end window would have made that more difficult to pull off (again, I only thought later about using diagonal card inserts, which might also have worked).  Completing the front confirmed my suspicions - not the effect I was after with this build at all:




Research prompted by a question on the NGRM Online Forum had revealed that the team track was actually on the other side of the store, and not flush with the loading dock (confirmed by checking the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for the prototype).  This meant the side picture window would be trackside, so even though the main frontage would be side on in any layout / diorama setting, the flat interiors might still be too readily visible:


A sizing photo taken earlier:




And the store from a similar viewing angle:




Eventually the lightbulb came on and I realised I had another option - build outwards instead.  I painted the frets from which the window and door frames had been cut, then cut sections to fit the windows: perfect (already formed into grid shapes, and with ‘peel and stick’ backings so no glue needed):








I’m happy that breaks up the picture interiors enough, and at an angle the frames are all I now see when looking along the sidewalk.  As I’m not trying to model the original exactly, this modification is no problem (even the oldest photos I’ve found online of the original show the large sheet glass windows).  I breathed several deep sighs of relief at this point!  Job saved!!


I considered turning the building round and building a loading dock out from the car level doorway, but as a left-handler, uncoupling is easier for me when locos are on my right - so this way round is easier.  I can now proceed to the roof, lessons learned.  Have a good weekend, Keith. 



Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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I just had the roof to do now.  There is a base layer of laser cut balsa wood pieces to glue in place first.  For the flat roof section, this is overlaid with strips of tar paper cut to size and laid in an overlapping fashion:






It pays to read the instructions carefully before adding the outer layer of the main roofing sections:








(I added additional strips of spare tar paper to the joins between the roof sections meet).


Photos showed up two issues: firstly it showed that I’d omitted to paint the underside of the eaves, and secondly, after painting the roof with my usual Matt dark grey and adding a little bit of lighter grey for weathering it was far too shiny (I’m not quite sure what the peel and stick overlays were made of, to be honest):






A conventional plastic church kit for another project had been painted in exactly the same way - but looked quite different:




I address the eaves first - much easier to before a building is placed onto a layout:




I then added a layer of light grey wash over the whole roof (with a few darker brown patches) - it dampened the glossiness, but made the roof much lighter:




As my models have a lot of handling (and will soon be packed up for moving house), I’ve steered away from trying weathering powders, at least for now, so I simply used a graphite pencil to darken the roof again.  This seems to have worked.  Finished:








What have I learned, and how does this compare with the more modern laser cut (mdf) Faller kits I’ve made?  


On the plus side, I’d say the peel and stick sash window frames and pre-scribed glazing panels in this kit were a real plus, and a feature of this particular kit:


On the other hand, working with wood pieces that have been in the box for many years does require more care - with hindsight it would have been wise to open the box to check the key pieces were really flat a couple of weeks before starting the build (time to flatten any pieces needing attention).  They absorb a lot of paint, but there’s no beating wood when modelling a building like this one!  I have assumed the proprietors keep their store well painted - essential for weather-proofing too.


My shop ‘interiors’ are a compromise.  If I wasn’t thinking about moving house and needing to pack everything away soon, would probably have added some awnings - test showed they would hide the interiors well (photos of the prototype show them).


Overall, bearing in mind I paid only a fraction of the price this kit should have cost when new, it’s been well worth it.  The only problem now is the finished building has quite a large footprint: at approximately 8” square it’s the size of a complete cake box diorama on it’s own, but it’s an interesting and slightly different rail-served industry for boxcar deliveries.


Until next time, thank you for reading, Keith. 


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