Archive for March, 2019

The best train layouts have a backstory. They model a point in time and space. They convey a history.

When developing the content for The Mines of Xenon science fiction model railroad, I wanted to do a little bonus feature on its in-universe story. Since it is a little out of the mainstream to begin with, it needs a some explaining of the events that lead up to what you are seeing.

My original idea was to have a comic book style or short graphic novel set the scene. I had a few images in my mind and was wondering the best plan of execution.

Test 01

The Mines of Xenon comic book style

I contemplated and even started on drawing some images myself, but the learning curve was too great for the amount of time I had. I also thought about having a friend do the work. I would have to do a story board treatment and block out some images, but there still would not be a guarantee that I would get what I wanted. There was also the issue of time and money.

I had some photographs I was using as reference images and started looking for concept art filters to apply and eventually send to an artist. Then I came across a set of filters that could be used straight away for a comic book effect.

Problem solved with Deep Art Effects. It is quick, cheap, the results are more than adequate, and I can keep control of the creative process.

So, off I went. Here are the first proof of concept images on some reference photos. At the moment, some of the styles are intentionally mixed, and I did not shoot any thing specific for this format. The filters are really forgiving and even the Matchbox car on my workbench taken with an average smartphone meets the standard.

Test 06

Turbo train hauling workers back and forth to the mines

I transferred all the photos I thought had potential to my smart phone and used the Deep Art Effects app. Mostly I’ve settled on Epoch, Eye, and Wolf as the top choices. I’ll gladly spend the more than reasonable $3.50 to upgrade to pro and remove the watermark.

Below you can see the results of the first pass.

Test 02

Heavy mining equipment on Xenon

Test 09

Crash of a crew transport on the Mines of Xenon

I hope you can enjoy my initial efforts and don’t forget to be on the lookout for the final product!




It’s not what you are thinking …

What is a science fiction model railroad with some spaceships? After a crash and burn and a little backtracking, I’ve finally got a small fleet together. This has taken the longest of any of the projects so far.

Model train spaceship

I tried to junk bash a ship from bits found around the house. There are some quite clever bashes on the Internet and I was inspired. Unfortunately, it didn’t come off. My creation ended up looking like some home made NASA space shuttle toy. But not to worry. Onward and upward.

First try at junk bashing a spaceship

If I want to add some extra details or scenery quickly to a layout like this, I would need to start with a proper kit, at least until these specific modelling skills improve. The trick is to find something not immediately recognizable like the starship Enterprise or Millennium Falcon.

Ebay to the rescue again with an obscure Star Trek auxiliary crew transport. It is an easy, cheap kit with some really nice texture. A paint job matching the Xenon theme, some decals, quick weathering and we were off.

Its just the right size to get the point across but does not dominate a train layout. It will make a nice crash scene and not take up too much room.

Next, it was to make some secondary ships I could place around the layout wherever they might be needed. They could be adjusted for photography, moved to fill in a scene, or removed all together. A craft store clearance airplane fit the bill nicely. Its a modern Testors F-117A stealth fighter, so it works well with a stock from-the-box build and a matching Xenon livery. It still needs some decals and maybe some weathering.

Mines of Xenon escort fighter protects the space around the interplanetary cargo shipments

Finally, I took the best part of the failed freighter kitbash to see if I could salvage something. I think it could possible be used as a background ship for photography. I might try to add a few greebles and bits to see if I can improve the experience. It might not look too bad in context.

Mines of Xenon mid-sized cargo hauler

Eventually, taking what I learned from the kitbash, I would like to make another attempt and build something like a barge and tug combo. The tug would be a small control ship that could attach to one or multiple freight units. The freight units could stack or change out as the situation called for. But that is a project for a different time.

Spaceship model text placement. The ship on the left carries processed Xenon mineral to planets close by and the ship on the right will be a crashed escort patrol.

Now that people and product can come and go to Xenon, it’s time to populate the planet!

Maiden Voyage

First try at roughing up a vehicle suitable for the terrain of Xeon III that involved drilling out the rivet posts

I drilled out my first die cast car today.

The idea is to build my ground fleet for the workers and rogues that populate my layout world. I’ll build a junk town style fuel depot that doubles as a local watering hole where all the interesting characters gather while waiting for their cargo to unload or to scrounge up a new contract.

I started with a vintage Matchbox car. I ended up choosing a deep green 1969 Group G, whatever that is. The procedure was a straightforward and simple matter of using a 5/32 bit in a power drill to drill out the rivet posts on the bottom. You could go a little bigger, probably. The metal was soft and required no special bit.

I took the component pieces and lay them out to see what I had. The body will be an auto primer red. Insides will be a contrasting color. I might add a driver. I’ll definitely give it a dirty wash and weathering. I’m still debating on the window glazing, because it is a nice all-in-one piece and I could see it being useful for a flying machine cockpit.

I’ll gather a collection of work and war vehicles as well as speeders and place them around a ramshackle shack to create a scene. Think Star Wars cantina. I’ve found a new inspiration in the tabletop game Gaslands and have been growing some ideas from the Mad Max series of films. You can find some good military style trucks from Matchbox that need very little enhancement to fit the style. I normally don’t like using Hot Wheels cars with their suped-up engines and fantasy designs, but they give some good stock as well, especially for the sci-fi speeder genre.

So now to get to work popping blister packs and drilling out posts so my Xenon inhabitants are not stranded.

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.