Too much for me

The last few years has seen a plethora of travel blogs rise from the dust of social media and excessive use of mobile devices. It's a bit like a bubble and I wonder if it's about to burst, if that hasn't begun already. With TV channels spending inordinate amounts of money on travel programs, coupled with everyone and their mother running off to Venice, which is totally fed up with you people by the way, or the like. It seems mostly everyone is enamored with the box's latest place to head for, so off they go like Pavlov's dogs, tails wagging and dragging their wheely suitcases.

Over 25 million global travelers on the go out there! Saturation point on the horizon? Countries and towns grabbing at strings in hopes of filling their pockets. Too much for me.

My title says travel blog and more, so it looks like the "more" is going to be given a bit of a run, but what? I did the MacGyver Tutorials, but something else is needed which retains my interest. It also must have room for creativity and be somewhat out of the ordinary.
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3 years written off

It was 1981 and the doctor showed us the results of our blood test and dropped his prognosis on me like a bomb! I was ordered not to work for three years due to some strange form of Hepatitis, which had been plaguing my family for over 2 months. What would I do with myself for the next 36 months, I needed something which could be treated like a job during that time.
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A painting by John Constable.

I had visited the National Gallery in London and was looking at some of Constable's paintings. The one thing I noticed about some of them was that they were scenes with a number of things in. A snip here and a cut there resulted in little portions that could stand alone as a picture in their own right.
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See what I mean? Then came the crunch—I was not a painter. Like 40% of the male population I have a partial red-green color problem (when I had my design business, I used CMYK/RGB numbers and Pantone Swatches for color). So instead of painting, what could I do?

Go 3D

Suppose I do a scene as a model, not a painting, how could that be achieved? Also, when a painting or model is finished, it's done and that's all there is to it. I needed something more than that—to maintain my interest.

I grew up with a father who, when not doing strange things in other countries, was a pioneer in model aircraft. He designed the Pan-Am Martin Clipper for Cleveland Models. It was over 13 foot wingspan, powered by rubber bands (balanced between the engines no less) and the kit cost thousands of dollars in the 1930's. The old model may still be around (it was at an Air Museum in San Francisco for many years) the new one he designed in the 1970s for radio control and is smaller. For me, the original model was so exquisite that I felt I could never do anything that good and, as a result, did not make any kind of model—until I was 16.

A Lt. Col. colleague of my Dad, at Fairchild AFB, was a model railroader and belonged to a club in Spokane, which met in the basement of the Oddfellows Hall. I ended up building a model for them. An HO Scale meat packing plant and it's stockyard that was super detailed (including smell).

As I sat at home, suffering from Hepatitis and wondering what I could do, I remembered that. Why not create: super detailed, very realistic scenes and have a track or two in them. I decided to do it in a scale virtually no one used, 5.5mm to the foot (so I could use HO gauge rails and equipment then upscale stuff). That meant the thing was never "finished" and I wouldn't die of boredom.

I felt well enough one day to attend the International Model Railway Exhibition in London. There I saw this exquisite locomotive in English O Gauge, which was entirely built from scratch, mainly on a lathe. The only thing purchased whole, was the electric motor and wiring. It was running on a layout with shiny plastic grass and trees. I felt sick. Here was this beautiful model engine totally ruined by the layout. I walked out on IMREX in total disgust and determined to never do scenery like that.

One of the things I made was a photographic diorama measuring about 3 by 2 feet. With the exception of the leaves on a couple of trees and bushes, everything was natural. So much so that people have accused me of lying, saying that some it's photo's were of a real place (which means I achieved what I set out to do). I had to point out to them that, if they looked closely, the leaves were specially colored ground foam glued onto the 'branches'. 100 sheets of instructions were printed and the diorama exhibited at the first Greenwich Narrow Gauge Exhibition (ExpoNG) back in 1983.

55n3 or 1/55th scale narrow gauge
The first few years I scratchbuilt using HO scale track as 3 feet narrow gauge. Today it's called 55n3. These photos are all I have left of the models built in the early-mid 1980's.

The top 2 images are on the photographic diorama mentioned earlier in this post. The bottom two are on a winter scene layout (without snow).
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Following that I did some 1/4 inch to foot stuff and one 3/8 inch to the foot model.
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A 1/4 inch scale Climax, geared, locomotive, mounted on an HO diesel drive (well hidden inside)

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The 3/8 inch scale model on a special photographic diorama in the same scale.

What's next then?

Having remembered all that, the thought of now creating a 9 foot scenic model has come to mind. For the railroad side of things, just a little bit of American style narrow gauge. This gives me a lot of room to freelance and invent—because that is what really happened in places like Michigan and Colorado.

In 1877 a logging entrepreneur in Michigan, named Ephriam Shay, was hauling logs by mule. It was expensive and slow. He decided (with no engineering training) to build a locomotive which sat on a flat car, was geared and could pull a string of cars loaded with tree trunks. A little while later, Lima Locomotive Works began building the Shay loco's and they were shipped all over the world. Other loco manufacturers also started producing geared engines, which were used in a variety of industries. Shay thought outside the box from necessity. Today: all modern railroad locomotives, around the globe, are based on his idea.
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Top, Shay's original. A Baldwin little one and at the bottom a rather large, later unit.

You're gonna do a train?

Well, sort of—more a three dimensional, semi-caricature, kinetic arty thing. I want to think away from the usual on this. Normally model railroaders do the track plan first, then build scenery around that. I would rather do the entire scene first, then add the track (the Denver and Rio Grand Western Railroad was NOT constructed first and the entire Rocky Mountains added afterwards). Something to keep me busy when not on the road and also has absolutely nothing to do with computers or other digital stuff. No idea what it will look like—I haven't got that far yet. If you want, you can check it out at Li'l Lines.
Dec 16, 2017




Hi, I'm Ted Hawkins, I like to get out as much as possible to various places. more...

Some countries in some years.
Numbers don't impress me.
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