Milan Branch of the Iowa Interstate RR

Category: Scenery (page 3 of 3)

Lattice truss bridge spans

Below is a picture of two scale cardboard mockups showing the lattice truss bridges which will span the Rock River.

Lattice truss bridges are not modeled very often, even though there are many examples of that type of bridge throughout the country.

The photo also shows the location of a speaker which will be embedded into a small river island and will play moving water and bird sounds. Attached is a small snippet of the sound which will loop once installed.


A friend, Clark C., is helping me create the custom bridge spans with his expertise using lasers. He first mocked up a schematic for each of the different lattice configurations based on an Illustrator file I sent him (below). The spans have several distinct horizontal lattice designs which include angle iron and I-beams in two different crisscrossing reinforcing lattice patterns. In addition, those designs alternate between the inside and outside of the main truss. This creates a very interesting and somewhat complex fabrication challenge.

We will be developing the depth of each side span in “layers” similar to 3D printing. This will allow the unique open areas (see image below) between the main lattice members to be rendered accurately. At least, that’s the idea. 🙂

Clark mocked up a test section to see how the laser would render a portion of the truss and supporting lattice.

Below is what the computer rendering looks like. Each tone represents a different depth of cut, and the laser can be sped up (more intense ablation) or slowed down (multiple passes for better detail) to achieve different quality levels.

By their design nature, turn-of-the-century lattice truss bridges are delicate looking which makes them unique but also challenging to construct. We’re hopeful that the “layered” approach will allow those delicate cross members to be modeled faithfully without the potential for bending or warping along their length.

Clark discovered that the laser cuts did warp the material as shown below. But by applying oven heat to slightly ease the material and then applying weights as it cooled resulted in flat, uniform pieces.

Below you can see some of the cross members attached to the main truss and weathered for effect.

Clark will be creating some additional cuts to see if the material can be thinned down even more. So far, it looks very promising for these unique spans. Stay tuned!


Backdrop heaven

I finally have my backdrop installed although I still need to seal the seams and do some extra work around the river.

My friend, Bill Brillinger, took care of the print output and I’m very pleased with the color and quality results. The layout room has come alive!

Scroll over the image to zoom in.

Backdrop stylization

I have a good friend, Tara, who is a talented digital illustrator who works exclusively in Photoshop. She graciously offered to digitally paint my 42-foot long backdrop. What a nice friend!

She just completed five different sections to complete the digital work. Every artist has a particular technique and look that they prefer, and Tara’s brushwork is bolder and tends to look a little too digital for my taste. I want the backdrop to have a painterly look that is more representational of the Rock Island and Milan environments rather than a hyper-realistic view.

This goes against the predominant approach that most prototype modelers use, but I’ve always admired more painterly, impressionistic art and wanted to incorporate that same look into the backdrop. Plus, I believe most modelers view backdrops as secondary to the modeled portion of the layout, so taking liberties with the visual style seems perfectly appropriate.

Below are two images showing a detailed portion of the Rock Island section. The first is a straight-up view of Tara’s original artwork while the second image shows how I altered the art to look more fluid or impressionistic. When viewed from even a short distance the overall backdrop looks very realistic, but up close one can see the painterly effect. This is exactly what I’m trying to achieve.

Original digital artwork.

Impressionistic filter applied to the same scene.

I’ll be sending the artwork off to be output and hopefully within the month will have a full backdrop to share.

Below is the full backdrop in five sections.
Move the cursor over each section to see details.


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