New Boston and Donnels Creek:
June, 2003 Photos
In years past, the Big Trains mailing list and several other organizations with which I've been affiliated tried to schedule a bunch of open houses and other train events on the Saturday and Sunday closest to the first day of spring. It was called "G Day." I haven't seen as much of that lately, but for a while it was fun.
In June 2003, I had an open house on "G Day," as did several other members of the the Miami Valley Garden Railway Society.
Having learned my lesson about lack of shade in 2002, I borrowed a canopy from my neighbor. The weather was warm but not unbearable. Several members of the MVGRS came to visit, including my friend Wil Davis, who took the nice photos on this page. Wil is a few years ahead of us in the hobby, and his railroad and hard work have been an encouragement for us over the years.
In fact, if it wasn't for Wil, this particular page wouldn't exist. He sent me these photos on a disk soon after that date, but the disk got misfiled with some of my music disks (Wil had labeled it "Paul Race, 6/22/03" which made perfect sense to him but didn't mean all that much at my house). I just dug it out a few weeks ago. Sorry about that, Wil. Nevertheless you'll notice that Wil's photos show my railroad's chronological "turning point" between "photos that suck but which give you the general idea" and "photos that are fun to look at period." Another friend, Drake Dingeman took the great photo at the bottom of the New Boston and Donnels Creek home page. Between the two, I was inspired to start shopping for a digital camera, although I didn't purchase one for another year and a half (kids in college, you know the drill).
To get a better sense of how these photos relate to each other, please refer to our "Layout So Far" page, which includes maps. If you see a photo you'd like to see in more detail, click on it and a bigger version should open in a new window. You should be able to get back here just by closing that window.
The first photograph shows an AristoCraft 0-6-0 dragging some full-sized freights past the New Boston Station, a Walthers kit that AristoCraft has since reworked as their "built-up" station. In the lower left is a Woolly Yarrow, which was later overcrowed and killed off by the plant shown on the right - a kind of Cranesbill called "Finger Geranium." I have since taken it out of this location since it grew in three years from a charming little pincusion to a basketball-sized monster that crowed out other plants and made the station invisible. I still use it other places, though not on my railroad.
Woolly Thyme is overgrowing the track in the foreground. The Creeping Thyme meadow behind the station is bordered by various kinds of hostas. The hosta "behind" the station has since been removed and replaced by dwarf conifers.
Pickerel rushes are visible sticking out of the pond and still more hostas form the back border of the photo.
For the next photograph, Wil stood precariously on the ties at the western "back" edge of the railroad and pointed his camera almost straight down. To give you some idea of where this is, the back of the station from the previous photo is visible in the upper left corner of this one.
The Rocky River Station on the right started out as an LGB "Toy Train" station (based in Piko's Red River station). It was repainted, mostly white, then had small red blotches sponged on it to give it a "white paint peeling from red brick" look. (Closeups and details of the paint job are provided in our Painting Plastic Structures article). I added custom graphics (which you can download for free from our Business and Station Signs page). Past the Rocky River station is a bird feeder that was shaped like a grain elevator - since most folks only see it from 14 feet away, it survives the "ten foot rule." The plant encroaching on the little siding is ordinary "vulgaris" thyme, from which I get two to four "harvests" a year. The trees in the meadow to the left are Mugo pines that have been trimmed to expose the trunk.
Still balancing in the same position, Wil turned slightly toward the north and took this shot. The barn is a North States bird feeder, and the farmhouse is a Fisher Price Cape Cod house, with windowframes and shutters added. (Both are featured in our article on trashbashing, that is, taking products which were not models at all and adapting them for use on a model railroad). As of 2006, I still haven't gotten around to painting the barn a more realistic color, and the Cape Cod house is in need of repair, so it hasn't been used since 2005. In the background, you can see the thriving metropolis of New Boston, of which more will be said later. The passenger cars are AristoCraft heavyweights.
One more shot, due north, shows more of New Boston and the rest of the railroad. From this angle, you should be able to see the railroad ties holding up the western (left in this photo) edge of the garden, the loosely-stacked stone wall holding up the eastern (right) edge, and the post-and-stringer woodworking that holds up much of the north loop.
Hopefully you can see that when I write about various construction topics like Retaining Walls or Simple, Raised Railroads, it's based on stuff I've actually tried (and more often-than-not, screwed up the first time and tried again).
In the next photo, Wil has descended from his precarious perch and "gone to ground," providing a ground-level shot of New Boston. The gazebo is an Artline bird feeder that I cut down to an appropriate height and put a floor in. The buildings are Fisher Price and PlaySkool buildings (from Sesame Street sets) that I disassembled, repainted, and reassembled in a slightly different configuration. (More on that transformation is on our trashbashing, article.) I like these because they represent many storefronts found in rural Ohio towns of a century ago. And at the time I did them up, there were no alternatives, since the Pola and Piko kits in the early 1980s, when I started this project all represented European buildings. I also added custom graphics that I've made available for free on our Business and Station Signs page. As of 2006, the plastic components, protected by layers of paint, are holding up as well as any model building. However, the chip-board walls have swollen so much I will have to replace them soon.
Welcome to Donnels Creek - The Donnels Creek station was originally a kit built by Pola, and marketed under the Model Power brand name. In spite of its tiny footprint, the doors on this station are almost 4" tall, making it more suitable for a narrow gauge railroad (1:20.3-1:22.5) than for standard gauge (1:29-1:32). But I usually run trains that are closer to 1:24 on the ground-level loop, so it doesn't look funny. I printed up the signs for the station with an old ALPS printer on 10-mil plastic stock. The source files for those signs are also available for download on the Business and Station Signs page. (The "No Spitting" sign alone is worth a visit.) The water tower is a Piko kit that I bought fully assembled as part of a collection I purchased from another hobbyist years ago. The yellow blooms behind the station are the not-so-attractive flowers of Blue Spruce Sedum, which need to be deadheaded a couple weeks after they bloom. The pink flowers in the rear are coral bells.
Fence Issues - If you click on the photo to see the bigger version, you may notice a crunched-up wire fence in the upper left. Tht's the one that two of my neighbor's trees smashed up in an ice storm a year earlier, only a few months before the national convention and associated open houses. The neighbor, who kept insisting he had a "plan" for the fence didn't want to talk with me about replacing it, so it stood in its battered condition for three years, exposing trash piles, dented-up vehicles and a house that is painted several different colors. Finally, after I ripped down the fence and planted a row of Emerald Green Aborvitae to shield the view, my neighbor bought four inexpensive privacy fence panels and put them up in a row, with no connection to anything else. They looked fine from his house, I suppose, but pretty wierd from ours. I bought several additional panels, and after additional discussion, convinced him that it would be in both of our best interests to finish the job. So there is now a privacy fence where the wrecked wire fence once stood. I don't have much confidence in the fence's long-term survival, as it was made cheaply in the first place, and he used landscaping timbers instead of pressure-treated posts to mount it. But maybe by the time it comes down, my arborvitae will be big enough to camouflage the view.
Where Did I Get the Goofy Place Names? - Donnels Creek is a real creek, named after an early pioneer who used to live near a Shawnee village on the Mad River (the same place where the great Native American leader Tecumseh was born). Some time after George Rogers Clark drove out the Shawnee during the Revolutionary War, a "white" town called New Boston was set up nearby.
Local lore has it that Donnels went a few miles west and built a pickle factory on the banks of the creek. In 1829 or so, the West National Road reached Clark County, and the tiny settlement of Donnelsville was chosen for a toll house because it "guarded" the only place you could ford the creek for a ways. Today, all that remains of the real New Boston is a graveyard, and an annual historical reenactment that happens every Labor Day weekend at the George Rogers Clark park where New Boston used to stand (down the hill from my house). Let me know if you head over for it and I'll try to have the railroad operating for you.
Okay, so now you know why I chose some of the place names I did. Still the idea of having a pickle factory was with me from the start. At the East Coast Large Scale Train Show, I picked up a few Hartland Locomotive Works tank cars cheap. They were labeled "Happy Birthday." I painted them yellow and green, and made decals on my ALPS printer, so they could serve my yet-to-be built pickle factory as vinegar cars. The "cedillia" (the little tail on the "c" in Picande gives it an "s" sound in case you wondered.
At the very right edge of this photo is the small settlement of Fort Tecumseh, named after a "general store" that a friend ran on the corner of Tecumseh Road and West National Road (Route 40), just east of the real Donnelsville, Ohio. For decades Shirley sold penny candy, Native American crafts, dairy products, and "home decorations" with a country theme. No, it wasn't "Cracker Barrel," but was a real business that dated back at least to the founding of our National Highway system in 1926.
At the East Coast Large Scale Train Show (ECLSTS) in 2002 I also picked up several AristoCraft 4-wheel gondolas very cheap, with the plan of relabeling them for my railroad. I had an old ALPS printer for which you could buy white ribbons, and I printed my own decals using Papa Tango decal sheets. This turned out to be a very time-consuming process, as was getting them to look right on the cars. I realized later than I should have used a glossy coat where the decals were going to go - they didn't want to stick to the flat primer I was using for my base color. After I got them on, I sprayed a little more primer over them to make them look like they were fading. To see a closeup of just the gondolas, click on the little photo to the right. Instructions for building a raised railroad such as you see in these photos are contained in the article How to Build a Simple Raised Roadbed.
For this photo, Wil went to the western edge of the railroad again. To give you an idea of where we are, you can see the back of the Donnels Creek station in the foreground. I don't have many photos of visitors from this open house (on my 35mm I caught a couple shots of a crowd of club members standing under the canopy watching the trains, but those shots aren't really all that inspiring.
This photo shows one visitor, a friend of a friend, who brought over an LGB double-ender that he thought would be fun to run on the NB&DC. He was right.
The next photo shows it running on the ground-level loop, a little too fast for Wil's camera to quite catch the detail.
The New Boston & Donnels Creek welcomes a foreigner. However it must be an express, because at the speed it is traveling it will not be stopping for the folks trying to wave it down. Near the middle is a Hetz Midget Aborvita that I cut down to one trunk (they tend to sell them with many trunks in one pot so they "thicken up" fast.) As of 2006, it has filled out nicely as a "shade tree" that looks great summer and winter.
I hope I've given you lots of things to think about. To some extent, by telling you the shortcuts I took and the mistakes I made, I run the same risk that magicians run when they explain their tricks - will you still respect me when you know the "whole truth"? But the point of this article isn't to "show off" what I've accomplished. Rather it's to encourage you to get out there with a shovel and start making your own mistakes and creating your own successes..
Also, if you think you might be coming through southwest Ohio and you want to stop by, or if you want to be put on our mailing list for future open houses, please contact us and let us know.
Here's hoping you have many great days outdoors in your near future,
Next - Proceed to our article "Motive Power, which was written in 2003, and updated in 2008. It describes the locomotive we were using most of the time to pull trains on the New Boston and Donnels Creek.
Previous - Return to our article "Layout So Far," which describes the track plan, plants, etc. of our garden railroad as of the early spring of 2003.
Return to our "January, 2003" article, which includes photo of our railroad caught in a 6"-8" snow right after running trains at Christmas.
Return to our "June, 2002 Photos article, which contains photos of our garden railroad as it was set up for the 2002 National Garden Railway Convention in Cincinnati.
Return to "What to Do When a Tree Eats Your Railroad."
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