Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Well knock me over with a feather..."

I'm not sure what was more surprising a couple of birthdays ago. The fact that my wife and daughter didn't update my wardrobe with stylish fashion that I would never buy myself, or the fact that they ventured into the realm of model railroading. Model Builder software caught their eye, and although my architectural schooling came pre-computer age, this apparently looked like something I might be able to handle.

Fortunately, the software does provide the user an immediate level of mediocrity with some fairly easy commands. Part Power Point, part Photo-Shop, it's a combination of photographic images and drawn ones in three basic categories: 1) siding and roofing materials; 2) doors and windows; 3) miscellaneous details.

The examples shown below are just some things I played around with during the learning process. They are actually photos taken of board-mounted print-outs and are slightly distorted, but they will suffice for our purposes here.

The very first attempt at designing a structure yielded a generic  office building one might find in any present-day corporate park. My practice taught me how to layer siding materials, stretch, shrink and duplicate windows, and most importantly, add shadows to give the structure depth and definition.
I switched gears and thought back to the old AHM farmhouse kit. Using appropriate materials for the siding and roofing, I 'sketched out' something like it, again emphasizing shadows to bring the façade into 3D territory. The electric meters are one of many add-on photos that can be layered in.
I combined Model Builder stone, brick and clapboard siding options to visualize a New England-type structure, like those produced by South River Modelworks. Details that can be pulled from the library include the scuppers, patched roofing using two different versions of corrugated panels and the black 'paint' for holes in the garage door. The upper windows were created by cutting the lower windows in half and adding a sill.
My city warehouse utilized the prompt to duplicate rows and columns, while two different, but similar brick patterns were used to differentiate between the body and pilasters of the building's facade. Again, shadows play a large role in defining the different surfaces, while the black and white band was put in place awaiting signage that was unfortunately not part of this software package.

Each design I conjured up built upon an earlier one. My trackside building uses contrasting brick to suggest patched areas, while the windows emphasize their disrepair or complete abandonment. I could actually see blending this in with some Kings Mill products for a customized backdrop.

I'm not sure if I'll ultimately end up using any of this software capability on the layout. Although Model Builder markets the product for the creation of paper buildings, I'm more inclined to use it in backdrop applications and as study models before scratch building.

The paint program does offer modelers a quick check to see how various color schemes may work and users can also mass-produce their own roof and siding textures. I will be experimenting with this by printing out on textured paper and on various shades of light gray to gauge the different effects. For info on Model Builder go to their website here.

Tuesday we'll look at some alternative 'final' track plans and then move into some more construction in the days after. But I need some feedback on track plans, people! Please, don't be shy.
True or false? The author typically receives gifts of stylish jeans that are too low on the hips and fitted shirts that are too tight in the armpits for some strange reason.

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