Christopher Brimley updated November 17, 2011


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  • Red Fox Lumber Company



    The passenger/freight depot at Red Fox is the main tourist attraction for photographers.
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    Well folks, this is my very last HO model railroad. I have now gone into On30. I made this decision a few months ago when I bought a superb On30 Bachmann Shay. I took it home and, because it could run on HO track, ran it around the trackwork. I fell in love with this scale immediately and decided to start over once again. Okay, I know, I am way ahead of myself, so lets step back in time to what was the HO Red Fox Lumber Company. Since the demise of the Badger Creek Lumber Company (October 2002 MRG), I decided to call it quits as far as building yet another railroad since I was told to take it easy after being hospitalized with bronchial pneumonia and asthma. But the thought of doing nothing was tearing me apart so I started planning a new layout once again. The name Red Fox Lumber Company was dreamt up literally overnight. I asked my wife for suitable names and after a few my wife came up with Red Fox to which I added "Lumber Company" - and thats how it came about.


    As with all my layouts, the trackwork was laid using Peco code 100 track and points (turnouts) with Peco PL10 point motors underneath and out of sight. I had thought about using code 75 finescale, but on reflection once the track is ballasted and painted it is very hard to tell the difference. I feel the code 100 is a little bit more reliable also.

    Once the track and points were installed, I made my control panel and wired the layout. Seeing as I dont use DCC, I needed quite a few blocks to be able to control two locos at once. On the control panel these blocks are represented by DPDT switches, which can power the tracks from one controller to another, thereby enabling me to run two trains on a single straight line if necessary.

    Ballasting in the past has always been done with fine grayish/brown flocks and wallpaper paste. This time I used the tried and tested method of heaping out the dry ballast into the tracks, spraying with wet water (1 tsp. dishwashing liquid to 1/2 cup of water) then applying diluted white wood glue (50/50 mix with water) with an eyedropper to put it onto the ballast. This is the first time I have ever used this method, and I was very pleased with the results.

    After the ballast had dried, and any excess ballast had been cleaned off the ties, I set about painting the rails a rusty brown color and drybrushing the ties with a dark gray paint. All my paints are acrylics and are waterproof when dry.


    The frame was build using 1x3s with 1/2" chipboard and 1/2" insulation (sound board) placed on top. This insulation allows easy placement of track pins as it is very soft (and breakable). I always paint the insulation board an earth color before adding any trackwork. It is also very easy to use a craft knife to cut holes for the PL10 point motors. All that is needed when the hole is cut is to drill through the 1/2" chipboard in the corners and saw out the rest.


    A couple of the bridges were salvaged from the old BCLC layout, but some were scratchbuilt, including the cribbed log trestle. The bridge took longer to make than any normal trestle, as each part was tailor made to fit the area. The bridge is about 2' long.


    Every structure has been scratchbuilt, some taking as long as a couple of months to make. To me, scratchbuilding all my own structures gives me much satisfaction with the end result. I have tried to get as much detail as possible into each structure so when the camera is up close they wont look too bad. I have to admit that I nearly always build a layout with the camera in mind. Since I was a professional photographer many years ago, I tend to plan my scenery with potential camera positions in mind. Maybe its a bad idea, but for me it has always worked out.

    Starting out with a plan of the layout, and even before any trackwork has been laid, I am thinking of future photos. I try to picture in my minds eye what sort of scenery effects would look good, and then I try to recreate them in model form. The placement of trees in certain positions around structures and trackwork creates some illusions of depth. I am always trying to make my layouts better from the cameras perspective, and will continue with what works for me.


    Scratchbuilt Climax #6 heads into the loading area. The large tree stumps are castings.
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    Most of my Shays were made from MDC kits. These kits are not the easiest to build up, but with patience and a lot of spare time, they can be very good runners indeed. One of the most time-consuming tasks was filing each tooth on the gears and getting the timing right with all gears in mesh.

    I made two Climax bodies to fit the MDC Climax chassis from cardboard and stripwood for the side with a little brass strip here and there. The roofs for both were made from plasticard with brass for the edges.

    Nearly all of the skeleton log cars were made from MDC Old Time tank car chassis, but they really do make nice skeleton log cars.

    For all the rest of the flat/freight cars, these were scratchbuilt using whatever was at hand that looked good. For instance, the housing in the center of the wheel car started out as a housing for a Peco PL10 motor unit. Since it was originally oblong in shape, I had to cut it square, replace the side with stripwood, then make a new roof. The two rods on either side are airplane-threaded rod, so making it look like a long nut & bolt was easy. The remainder is Plastruct.


    My scenery shell has always been made using rolled-up newspaper with parcel tape over it or cardboard strips interlaced, stapled and covered with parcel tape. In some places I had to make hardboard formers shaped to form the hillside before adding the paper and parcel tape. Rockwork was made by adding undercoat-plaster and shaping/carving it with a small knife. It takes quite a long time to carve the desired effect but is well worth the effort.

    Trees were made using 1/2" balsa dowel and carving and rasping the trunk to create a bark effect. Next the trunk was stained, then drybrushed. Pieces of fern were applied by drilling tiny holes and inserting the fern into each hole with a dab of glue. I made nearly 200 of these tall timbers, which range from 14" to 20" in height, so an assembly line process was used where I would cut around 20 dowels at a time then rasp and paint these and wait for them to dry. Then I would do another 20 and while these were drying I would start putting the fern into the first lot of dowels. It was quite a task, but I found I could make around 30 per day without losing my mind.


    As some of you already know, I have a speaker system around my railroad room that allows me to switch from speaker to speaker to follow the movement of a loco around the tracks (see page 40, September 1998 MRG). I have since slightly refined this by adding another set of speakers between the existing ones, thereby creating a better field of sound.

    I have on CD a rather large collection of Shay and sawmill sounds so I decided it was time I did something with it. As I tend to run locos to a sort of a timetable I thought about

    The Red Fox sawmill is under pressure to get the backlog of wood cut so they are on a 24-hour work schedule.
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    making up a cassette (from the CD) which would mimic the movements of the Shay and Climax as they departed from the shed, then took on water and made their way around to pickup either skeleton cars, boxcars or whatever. I know, I could buy one of those expensive modules that sit inside a loco and voil, instant timing of the loco sound to the loco itself. But finances dictated that I stay with my simple and cheap, yet effective, sound system.

    I also have a very nice Tech II Sound Generator 8000 that is tied into my speaker system and is controlled by the loco speed controller. So as the loco picks up speed, the Tech II sound stays in sync with the loco. I also have a separate stereo system hooked up underneath my layout with the speakers placed 8' apart with one small speaker inside the sawmill. As I stated I have a large collection of various sounds (waterfall, running water, birds, circular saw, sheep, dogs, people talking, etc.) on CD along with a few pieces of bluegrass music plus overlaid sawmill and bird sounds. So when the music is playing, the birds are singing and the sawmill is in full swing, I can start off a Shay around the layout and since both systems have independent volume controls, it is easy to adjust for a reasonable balance of sounds. What I need to do now is make up another CD mixing up various sounds to create even more magic for later on.


    I have always enjoyed scratchbuilding, but making these heel booms and high leads was a work headache in itself. As I had never ever seen one in person, I had to work from photographs. However, searching the web brought me some drawings of these wonderful works of art, and I was able to construct as near as possible the way in which logs were brought from the forests and to the heel boom for loading onto skeleton cars. It took hours to rig these two high leads, and the heel booms were a real treat to rig up. They dont work they only look like they do. To actually make them work would have been masochistic to say the least, but somebody has probably done it. One day I may get around to doing something on this line of work, but for now I am happy.


    The main structure of the sawmill was scratchbuilt, but the interior is all Keystone Locomotive Works kits, with the exception of the lathe. These kits are very easy to assemble and look very nice when painted and weathered. I did make the saw table and another set of live rolls so I could carry the wood to the cut-off saw. As for the log lift, which carries logs out of the log pond, I have to admit that I liked a similar version of this on the Red Stag Lumber Co. On3 layout so went ahead and designed mine around that. Credit to Geoff Knott for that superb layout.

    As I stated earlier, I have now switched to On30 and looking forward to many years of enjoyment in this scale.

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