Sunday, August 1, 2010

New DVD - Easy Scenery

EASY SCENERY from start to finish

My latest DVD is 103 minutes and 23 chapters long. The price is $29.95 plus $4.95 shipping. Available now from my web site.

Learn how to build great looking scenery from start to finish. Using simple tools and materials I show you how to start with cardboard strips, plaster cloth and carved foam to build your base; add rocks and paint them; build a realistic waterway; make trees and finish with scenic details to create scenery for your layout. Doug Foscale and Hal Reynolds add their expertise to demonstrate carving plaster rocks and making bottle-brush trees. This DVD is packed with tips and ideas to help you build better looking scenery. Great for beginners and experts alike.

The 23 chapters include:

Building Mountains

Making rocks - two ways

Ballasting track - the easy way

Coloring rail

Cutting an shaping foam scenery

Painting rocks - two different ways

Modeling water

Adding scenic texture

Building a dirt road

Making weed trees

Making twisted wire trees

And, putting it all together

As a disclaimer I must say that some of the topics included in Building Landforms part 1 & 2 are also included in this DVD. Only in Easy Scenery I use different products, colors and methods to achieve similar results. Easy Scenery takes you to the end of the scenery building process - finished scenery.

Most of the tools and materials used in Easy Scenery can be obtained from Micro Mark.

Monday, June 7, 2010

More competition BBQ

It was a good weekend.

Our iQue BBQ team this weekend consisted of Chris Hart and myself. We cooked competition BBQ at the Massachusetts State Championship held at the Peter's Pond Campground in Sandwich, Mass. This was a sanctioned Kansas City BBQ Society event. There were 33 teams from the USA and Canada.

Tornado watches and squalls were all around New England but Cape Cod was warm, dry, and about 75 Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday.

We went "old school" cooking on a Backwoods Fat Boy (24 hours on a bag and a half of lump charcoal and a few lumps of apple wood.) We cooked this contest "light" - a table, several chairs, an EZ-Up, two coolers, and the cooker. This was the way we started cooking 15 years ago when we didn't have any money.

Chris's great cooking won the contest. iQue received a large check plus cash, trophies, a pallet of Wicked Good lump charcoal, and 200 pounds of cooking wood. We scored 6th in chicken, 2nd in Ribs, 1st in pork shoulder, and 10th in brisket and beat the second closest team by 21 points. A great weekend!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bottle Brush Trees and Weeds

Hal Reynolds and I have been experimenting making trees using the Micro Mark twister pliers. These are easy to use and make nice looking trees and weeds.

Micro Mark sells what you need to get started - the pliers, wire and 2.5" strands of fur-like fibers. The pine tree with foliage is made using the Micro Mark products.

It took a little practice and we experimented with other materials. In the photo at the top of the page you see the pliers, a length of sisal rope and some wire from the craft store. The tree I made from sisal rope is the one without the foliage. It needs to be painted and then have dark green scenic foam sprinkled on.

The weed experiment is shown in the bottom two photos. This is just short lengths of rope fiber twisted into the wire. The strand was painted and placed in the scene - bottom photo.

If you're looking for a train-related activity while you're watching TV, making trees is the way to go. I never watch a ballgame unless I make a few trees!

My next video

It doesn't look like much but this is where I'm shooting my next how-to-do-it video. As you may have seen in other posts I painted the backdrop but found it too distracting for the early parts of the video. Later when there's some scenery on the model railroad I'll pull off the black cloth so the greenery of the foreground scenes will blend with the background.

Doug Foscale of Fos Scale Limited is carving rocks from plaster. He did a great demo.

These pictures were taken as a test of the video lighting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rock Molds

I like using molds to model rocks. For many years I made and sold a line of over 20 molds. All were made from real rocks that looked good in miniature.

I still get requests from modelers who can't find the molds on my web site. I stopped making them over five years ago because they were very labor intensive and demand dwindled.

Nowadays when modelers ask about molds I send them to Sterling Models. They have a growing line of molds that are very realistic. Each mold is hand made using latex rubber and they're packaged to stay flat.

The larger molds are set in a cardboard "tray" for shipping. The tray is a handy holder when pouring plaster into the mold.

Check them out.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Franklin & South Manchester model railroad

I just uploaded another video. This one is about George Sellios' F&SM railroad.

Here's the official blurb:
In this rare video I show George Sellios' Franklin & South Manchester model railroad as it looked in 1987 and again in 2001 and 2002.

I start by showing the early construction of the F&SM and George running the trains, next we jump to 2001 and see George presenting his kits and the layout on a Boston morning news show.

Next in 2002, we follow several trains as they circle the layout as part of a monthly open house, and I finish by showing and explaining many of George's scenery building secrets.

This video is 23 minutes long, a high quality 140MB download and is priced at $5.95.

This video was assembled from video I'd shot over the years. The presentation was made for the 2002 NMRA Sunshine Region Convention. That was it's only showing until until this week when I discovered I still had a copy of the tape.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lobster Pot Pie

This is not a recipe blog although sometimes I wish it were. I have hundreds that are mine and they're good! But today I'm posting a link to a YouTube video of the IQUE BBQ team preparing lobster pot pie for their Chef's Choice entry at the Jack Daniels BBQ Championship in 2005.

Here's the link -

I put together this video to show the team in action. Andy Husbands brought his video camera and everybody took a turn at recording the events of the day. I assembled this 5-year old video into this short presentation to show one of our typical non-BBQ entries.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Garden time

Spring has sprung here in New England. We've had almost a week of pleasant weather after two weeks of heavy rains.

At the beginning of March I started my seeds in my cellar. I have an old 25 gallon aquarium that's perfect for seed cultivation. I added a cheap heating pad from Walmart, several blocks of one inch thick Styrofoam and two 4' fluorescent light fixtures. I also put a remote thermometer inside next to the plants to make sure it's warm enough.

The foam blocks are stacked to hold the trays of seeding close to the lights and the heating pad is placed under the starter tray to keep the soil warm for fast germination. The lights just fit on top of the aquarium and are connected to a timer to turn them on and off on a 12 hour cycle. Most of the seeds are up and doing well.

I took time outside yesterday to survey my vegetable garden. The soil is now dry enough to work it a little. It was a real chore to turn sand into garden soil. I've turned truck loads of manure, compost and seaweed into the garden to help make the soil rich and productive. It's working. Last year even after six weeks of rain and colder than normal conditions everything grew as planned.

It's time expand the garden. I've decided to make the flat, rectangular area into four 16' long raised beds about 4' wide. I plan on adding two foot wide walkways between the beds. I bought the lumber yesterday. I'll post photos after I start the process.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Two new videos are ready for download

Two years ago this month I went to the Netherlands and to Germany with Jim Elster, the owner of Scenic Express. We visited the farm where all the SuperTrees are grown (along with a lot of the potatoes that Frito Lay uses for their "crisps.") and then headed south to Munich, Germany to visit Albert Rademacher, the man who invented Silflor and owns Mini Natur. We also went to the Noch factory to see how their scenery products are produced.

During our visit with Albert he demonstrated his techniques for building dioramas using Styrofoam, craft paints and his Silflor products. I recorded a lot of what happened on video tape. It's been sitting on my hard drive just waiting to be edited.

Well this week I taught myself Final Cut Express HD for the Mac. This is video editing software that treats video like Photoshop handles still images. You can do about anything to video, do it fast, and produce professional looking video.

I started by assembling my European video and before I knew it I had three programs with more video still on the drive. I've uploaded two of the videos and the third is still being edited. The two videos are ready for download through the downloads page on my web site.

The first video is called Building a Foam Diorama Base. It's an eight an a half minute video that features Albert demonstrating his techniques for building a diorama base using Styrofoam. He show how he plans the diorama, cuts the pieces, and then disassemblies it, so each piece can be shaped separately. A good teaching tool for any scenery builder, beginner or expert. Price $5.95, 48.6MB download.

The second video is Carving & Painting Foam Rocks. It's a 14-minute video where Albert shows his techniques for carving rock faces in Styrofoam blocks and then painting them to get realistic results. He also shows how he "carves" stonework in flat foam surfaces. This video will help anyone who is building scenery on their model railroad, military display or structure diorama. For beginners or experts. Price is $5.95 - 14-minutes, a 77MB download.

Check them out.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Painting a background

I have a 30' cycloramic backdrop around the area of my workshop I use for building models. It makes photographing models a lot easier because I can just point and shoot.

The backdrop is painted with a sky-blue color in the top half graduating to white at the bottom. It was really a quick and dirty paint job done when I installed the backdrop.

In the next few months I'll be building a sugar train railroad based in the Caribbean. It'll be on some fictional island surrounded by lush jungle with evidence of past volcanic activity. The display will only be about 8' long so I built a frame in front of the backdrop to set it on. My plan is to make the train display 2-sided, with equal amounts of detail on both sides. It can be turned on the frame so both sides can be viewed and photographed.

I wanted a "south seas" backdrop behind the display. Something simple, showing high clouds and steep volcanic peaks. I started by repainting the sky blue areas at the top of the backdrop and worked down to white at the bottom.

1 - I added the distant hills using the sky blue color mixed with a lot of white and a little hookers green.

2 - For the second and subsequent layers I added more hookers green to the palette.

3 - Between each background hill layer I sprayed flat white auto primer to dull the colors and add a haze effect.

4 - For the closer hills I used black, hookers green, unbleached titanium white, and green gold - as you can see on my palette.

5 - My brush is a 1.5" China bristle, sold for $.49 at paint stores. The older the better because the bristles soften after repeated washings and are perfect for painting trees.

6 - My technique is really nothing special. I mix the colors on the palette and apply them to the backdrop in a stabbing motion. I try to get a mixture of all the colors on the brush to get an interesting light and shadow effect.

7 - For the closest trees I put medium green, burnt sienna and the titanium white on the palette and applied them with a fan brush.

8 - The last step was to mist-on more flat white spray paint to bring everything together and to dull the colors slightly for the illusion of distance.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Turbo Tree Demo

At the Amherst Railway Society train show in Springfield, Mass. Hal Reynolds of Atlantic Scale Modelers was at the table next to me. All day he would demonstrate making trees with his new tree-making devise, the Turbo Tree. Here's a video of his demo. Check it out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

When we delivered the Nantucket Railroad Display to the Whaling Museum on the island of Nantucket, Mass. Hal Reynolds set-up his Canon digital camera to record the assembly process.

The camera is sold with software that allowed us to take over 14,000 still pictures at 12 second intervals. These were loaded into iMovie. I edited the stop motion video to almost 6-minutes, added titles and music, and saved it in Quicktime format.

Here it is, enjoy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The new Elk River Ry. & T.I. too!

Many years ago Bob Hayden and I built the HOn30 Elk River Ry. It was featured in eight articles in Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. The little railroad was a test bed for the new (at the time) Mini Trix trains. These were HO scale trains that ran on N scale tracks making them "narrow gauge."

The layout was very popular and got us thinking about what other HOn30 projects we could build. I like the waterfront and Bob likes the 2-foot narrow gauge railroads that ran in the state of Maine. So we combined our interests and created Thatcher's Inlet, an HOn30 waterfront railroad, with a Maine 2-foot theme. It was also featured in a series of articles in RMC.

These two little railroads launched us into bigger and better HOn30 model railroads. But times changed...

Jump ahead 30 years. Bob decides it's time for an O-gauge version of the Elk River with a waterfront section similar to Thatcher's Inlet. I travel to his workshop to help build the frame and to paint the backdrop. The next year, while in Bob's workshop to make a video, help him build and paint the waterfront. Bob rebuilt many pieces of Bachmann rolling stock to look more like the Maine 2-foot trains.

So here we are today. A new model railroad based upon the old.

Photo by Bob Hayden with his new 12mm lens.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Parker Grain Company

When I was a kid I was always on the lookout for interesting structures. I always carried a camera and took the time to photograph the buildings that caught my eye.

The structures didn't have to have a run-down appearance just different roof lines, additions and shapes. I also favored structures that served a railroad or were on the water.

This building was the Parker Grain Company and located on a river in Danversport, Massachusetts. It was way past it's prime when I photographed it in 1963.

I've built three models of the Parker Grain Company, all in HO scale. The first model was built from Strathmore card stock using the Jack Work techniques that were described in Model Railroader magazine. The second was from basswood sheets and strips using plastic windows and doors.

My last model was this one, shown in the photo. It's made from Evergreen styrene sheets and trim, Grandt Line doors and windows, and roof details from several plastic kits.

All the models are gone, either sold or destroyed, so it might be time to build it again.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My new DVD

My latest DVD Building Landform parts 1 & 2 arrived via UPS last evening. Just in time for Springfield. This is a full length, 80-minute version showing all my tips and tricks to build a realistic base for your scenery. It'll be on my web site soon.

I demonstrate installing tunnel portals, using cardboard strips, applying plaster wrap, cutting, stacking and shaping urethane foam, using hot wire tools, using both Gypsolite and Sculptamold, adding both foam and plaster rocks castings, carving rocks directly into foam using a kitchen knife, and then I finish with a rock painting tutorial, the colors you need, and how to dry brush the rocks for best effect. This is two videos in one. Price is $29.95.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Creating peeling paint on wood structures.

Here's a close-up showing peeling paint on an HO waterfront structure. Sorry about the photo quality.

I use art masking fluid to mask the wall where the peeling paint will be. Art masking fluid is like rubber cement only thinner. It's mostly sold in art stores, but I've seen it in craft stores also. Art masking fluid is used by water color painters to mask areas they whant to remain white. You'll also need a soft rubber erasure like the one in the photo.

Here's what to do:

• On a wood structure paint the raw wood a weathered wood color. I like a thinned gray color.

• Where you want the peeling paint apply art masking fluid with a toothpick - a little is better than a lot.

• Allow the art masking fluid to dry.

• Then paint the whole structure another color - white, barn red, gray, light green, whatever you like.

• Allow the paint to dry for several days

• Then with the soft rubber art eraser gently rub it over the structure surface. The eraser will lift the paint and the art masking fluid under it to reveal the weathered wood.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Planning models

In my scenery book I devote a good deal of space to planning your scenery. This is an important first step if you have a large or complicated track plan.

With some track plans it's very hard to visualize if there's enough clearance between the tracks, especially when one track is above another, or how steep or flat the scenery has to be in another part of the plan, or where you need a rock face or retaining wall.

This is where a 3-D model of the trackplan comes in handy. The scale of the 3-D model is not important. It has to be large enough so you can build the grades to scale. I like one-inch equals one-foot scale. This means drawing a track plan on a grid that's 1"=1' scale.

I make several copies of the plan and glue these copies to cardboard or poster board. I cut out the track outline with a sharp knife, leaving about 1/8" on either side of the line. You'll need several copies of some areas on the plan especially where one track crosses over another.

Square pieces of scrap wood make the risers. These are glued under the cut-out track plan. It's important to estimate the grades so you can determine if there's clearance when one track passes over another.

I like to add scenery using Sculptamold, bit of colored texture, and small buildings made from blocks of wood. It brings the planning model to life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Did you ever wonder how lobsters are caught?

In 1997 I was filmed hauling my lobster traps on Massachusetts’ North Shore. The video shows a typical day at sea.

You’ll learn about lobster’s habits, how the trap works, the differences between “old” and “new” lobsters, and other interesting facts.

This video was shot as part of a presentation for the Gloucester Seafood Festival. The purpose was to feature lobstermen (and fishermen), those small, one-man operations were threatened by changing Federal and State laws and the economics of scale.

The law changes worked. They forced myself and most of the other small fishermen I knew out of business. Nowadays, it’s mostly the large, heavily capitalized, corporation-owned, fishing businesses that remain.

Download this video to get a close-up look at my typical day at sea. This is a 23-minute, 131MB, mp4 file. The cost is only $8.95. You’ll enjoy it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Cactus Valley

Many years ago I was asked by the staff at Model Railroader magazine to build a 4' by 8' HO project railroad. The purpose of a project railroad is to document the building process. This helps a newcomer, or seasoned veteran, to build the railroad.

I documented the process in 2 how-to-do-it articles. These were published about 15 years ago in Model Railroader. The story has all the information you'll need to build this small layout or a larger railroad, based on a Southwest theme. Check it out, it's a free PDF download at

I also put up a link to a 9:31 mp4 video about building landforms using cardboard strips and plaster wrap. This is basic scenery building information. The download costs $5.95.