Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sippin' Swamp Diorama - Part 8 - Piles and Piles of Pilings

The Hebard Cypress Company laid 200 miles of track in the 500,000 square acre Okefenokee Swamp.  Since only a small fraction of the swamp is island, the majority of it was laid on pilings in the swamp. 

Tonight's guest photographer is Taylor Perry, my daughter, who is five and a half and better at it than I am.  Go figure!

 Here is the Hebard Number Two Spot locomotive on just such pilings.  They were driven as much as 40 feet into the muck at the bottom with a crosstie to hold them together.  This is what we are building.
 So the construction goes like this.  We'll need a two pilings per crosstie.  The tie is spiked on top without any kind of flashing for the top of the piling.  Yes, I'm going to lay rail on that!!!  By hand!

 I'll be using 3/8" hardwood dowel stock.  These I keep in the wood box, so I grabbed a couple.

 Using my handy Harbor Freight Mini Chop Saw, I'll cut the pilings to a prototypical four feet above the water and half a foot in the water for a 4.5 foot piling.  I've enlisted the help of an aluminum stop block to keep the cuts the same length.

 First, we'll distress the wood using an old Atlas track saw that I keep for just such work.

Photo by Taylor Perry

Using my leg as a rest for the dowel I drag the saw blade down the dowel to ruff it up a bit.

Photo by Taylor Perry

You want to vary the grazing a bit as if you make it perfect the wood (in photos) will look like it has stripes.  That is why I use this 20 year old blade as it has teeth missing.  Be sure to go all the way to the end with each stroke as you rotate the dowel.

Photo by Taylor Perry 

 I take my time with each cut to get it as precise as I can get it.  I've used this saw a lot and really should upgrade to something more substantial, but it does the work.

Photo by Taylor Perry 

 I cut 100 pilings, as I use them quite frequently. 

Taylor was kind enough to actually count how many I needed, which was only 64 considering that there is dry land on both ends.  Should have counted before I started!

Now we need to stain the wood.  We'll stain both the pilings and a double hand full of crossties.  I use S scale crossties from Mount Albert.  For staining you'll need black leather dye, isopropyl alcohol, tweezers, gloves, syringe (not pictured), paper towels and a small dish.  I use a glass ashtray as it is very heavy and doesn't tip over.

 We'll need to mix the stain solution.

 Since there is only a small amount to be stained, we'll use this small ashtray (finally a GOOD use for one) and fill it half full of alcohol.

 Taking the syringe we take 5 cc's of black dye.

Photo by Taylor Perry 
 You must be careful not to knock over the dye bottle as it ruins EVERYTHING it touches.  I cover the area in paper and have ample paper towels and a trash can on hand.  Gloves are another mandatory unless you want to explain to your coworkers tomorrow that you play with trains.
Photo by Taylor Perry 
 Using the large tweezers I grab 1/3 of the pilings and put them in the dark solution.  Ok, this is TOO DARK.  I used to much!  No matter.  The next batch we'll thin out and make later.  What I usually do is go from light to dark stain in three stages.  That way the pilings and crossties all look different.

Photo by Taylor Perry 

I take the wood and stir it around and then take them out and lay them on a paper towel to dry.

 Photo by Taylor Perry

Next we dump in some crossties in the same dark stain and swirl them around for about a minute or two.  The longer they stay, the darker they get.

Photo by Taylor Perry  

 Each stage of the process takes time, but you don't want to get sloppy because you'll dye your workspace and yourself black.

Photo by Taylor Perry 
 I thinned out the stain by removing half of the liquid in the ashtray and replacing it with clear alcohol.  The stain, as you can see in the photo, is much lighter.

Photo by Taylor Perry 

 Um, Taylor...shoot a little more to the right, please.

Photo by Taylor Perry 
 The third batch of stain I removed even more of the stain and replaced with clear alcohol.  This would give me the lightest color.

Photo by Taylor Perry 

 The crossties are lighter but still very weathered.  As they dry the blackness becomes a more blue color.
Photo by Taylor Perry 

Here is a pile of pilings.  As they dry they will lighten up.  They also will be different colors from the ties as they are hardwood materials and the crossties are sugar pine and much more apt to take the stain.

Photo by Taylor Perry 

Once they dry, I'll take all the pilings and pile them into one pile.  Then I'll mix them up so that there is a good assortment.

Here we have a bin with pilings and a bin with crossties.  I've put a raw tie and piling in either of the bins to show the color change.

 Using Glad Zipper Snack Bags (about a 1/2 quart bag) I'll clearly label it for what is inside.  This is CRITICAL to scratchbuilding as it prevents you from having to re-cut wood later.

 There!  Two bags of parts.

Oops!  Still not quite dry.  I'll open the bags and leave them for 24 hours or more to thoroughly dry out.

Next...installing the pilings and crossties.

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