Archive for the ‘History’ Category

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!





The early sunrise casts long shadows down the alleys and between buildings from a bygone era. It is going to be another hot summer day on the Southside Industrial District.

 “The District”, as it is known, has seen better days, but somehow it has managed to survive into the 21st Century. Born in the hey day of railroading, The District was one of the first industrial parks in the country – a collection of industries sharing the costs and benefits of common rail service along a crowded right of way.

 Some of the original buildings remain despite the encroachment of the more modern and spacious facilities from its southern boundary. The track work has stayed unchanged going on 70 years and accounts for the close clearances and seemingly unnecessary switchbacks. No one would design trackage like that today and the younger engineers dread an assignment to switch The District for any length of time.

 CSX serves the District, but the privately owned co-op keeps a couple of small engines for dedicated switching and a small stable of freight cars. It is not uncommon to see smaller 40 and 50 foot cars mixed in with modern center beams, bulk heads, and well cars. Customers special order the smaller cars by way of habit, giving the place a feeling from the days of coal burning steam engines.

 The District is anchored by a couple of industries that have learned to adapt and survive hard economic times. National Transfer and Storage is a 5th generation warehouse facility that will store just about anything for a price and actually serves as somewhat of a transloading facility for other businesses in the district.

 Silvan Food Co. has gone through many incarnations but has remained a food processing plant since the beginning. In the mold of Con Agra, you’ll recognize the brands like Lipton, Knorr, and Dove chocolate that are transformed from car loads of flour, corn syrup, and sugar into finished products bound for the super market. Silvan Foods is still one of two companies that periodically receives coal loads, the other being the DuPont complex.

 It seems Ames has been making shovels and rakes for ages, but their production has been down the last few years. Recent sell offs have resulted in a smaller footprint, but they still have a modest factory and even use NTS across the parking lot for storing raw materials when a big order comes in.

 The 600-pound gorilla in the region is the DuPont Washington Works polymers and plastics plant. Technically they are not part of the District, but since their arrival in the late 60’s they have continued to expand until the lines between what lies inside and what lies outside the District have blurred. The constant flow of chemicals and polymer products makes the DuPont plant the largest customer in the District in terms of area, traffic and revenue.

 A collection of smaller companies like Industrial Plumbing Supply discontinued rail traffic over a decade ago, but still manage to do a brisk walk-in business, primarily among their neighbors within the District. The shops on Commerce Street cater to mainly the daily train crews that frequent the area. Like its own eco system, the Southside Industrial District has thrived when the members cooperate through good times and bad.

 Whether you’re in the market for dried food goods, garden tools, or the newest space age plastic, The Southside Industrial District has a variety of industries that make what you need. Stop by the Third Street Deli for lunch and you just might catch some street running or a refurbished SW1500 shoving a hotbox down to the RIP track. It doesn’t get much better than that on a hot summer day in the District.