Uptown Floors - Diorama Trains
In the last week of December 2019, a time of the year period when phones go quiet, an idea came to me. I thought let’s get back into trains and show the story of how Uptown Floors are manufactured. If you haven’t noticed by now, I have a sincere passion for the business I enjoy.
Problem. I ran out of room for all my grandiose ideas on a 4’ x 8’ platform layout I made from 2 by 4’s and plywood. Leave it to my detailed view, it has to be right!
Yes, there are plans for an enlarged version, but as it stands the following criteria are being met. Bread, beer and Coca Cola trucks with have to wait..LOL. Perhaps I should have gone with N scale. I bought many small HO scale vehicles before thinking.
No. N scale does not have the following or number of products offered.
I've Always Dug Trains! Who hasn't?
Thirty years ago I played with a smaller layout made mostly of gathered materials. I was unemployed and still searching for my passion. It was crude, but my 5 year old son loved it. I even had a lit baseball field.
Early January 2020.
Quite frankly I do not know where to begin, but here’s a start...
For those that have visited my small showroom in Bonita Springs, Florida you can imagine space limitations. No worry for others, just give me some notice and we can look at flooring samples too.
The Planned Space
The Planned Layout
I am still using gathered materials as some bought stuff looks too fake or unrealistic. From sifting dirt and small rocks behind the shop to using leftover flooring material. However, I cannot produce a 30 ton truck.
On The Way To The Mill
An Idea From grandson Zacahry (water tower)
April 18, 2020
Bushes and Colors!
A few comments in a train forum solved the problem with colors and nature. When it came to bushes, shrubs and the like.
Dyed sawdust! Plenty of sawdust around here. No shortage. Yepper. No pics currently as the shop is hard to navigate.
I also had a box of sample dyes laying around used in some fashion for creating my hardwood colors. 24 colors to play with unimaginable color mixes.
House with bushes
A few starter colors. Red may work great for rose bushes.
April 23, 2020
Meadow grass and other varieties. Cool technique that allows for a realistic view and texture of grasses. I think I have a half dozen so far to work with. The rose bushes came out okay, from a distance view.
Miniatures are made and hand painted in Germany by Preiser. Each one runs about $ 2.00 each packaged in themes; this one being woman doing laundry that includes a clothesline. Total characters, five.
The model built house that took approximately five hours to put together is also weatherized. Showing dirt from passing trains.
View of texture and colors.
April 25, 2020
The past two days has seen work on the forest floor. Yup, the brownish, mulch colored area. This was simply done by using an old blender with southern live oak leaves around my Florida home. Worked great. I had my doubts the blender could chop so small, but I did have to put it through a screen. The rejected ones may work great for the de-barking mill area.
Meet the Uptown Family!
Oh! Meet the lumberman too. In the forest eventually. I had to get them out to look at the scale of things. One can get off track if he doesn’t keep his HO scale ruler handy.
The theme to Uptown Floors is based largely on my partnership with the Ohio Amish. Unfortunately I can’t find high quality Amish HO scale figurines. Check that, I cannot find any. I have a feeling Preiser can do some custom stuff. Price not much of an issue.
May 2, 2020
I would be watching the Kentucky Derby on this day. Unfortunately the Panpanic has turned the tables on every aspect of life. Well, not so in my showroom and shop. I have cool stuff to do!
Our lumbermen are plain bushed..laying down. Tough dang work folks!
The forest floor is almost done. Wandering through a vast amount of backwoods growing up helps I could add much more if I had the space. A lovers lane comes to mind. I'm sure that memory touches many.
Lumber Guys Worn Out
Great Texture View. Twilight
The photo above shows a phenomenal view of the grass textures in low lit conditions. Also some changes in elevation if you look for it. In normal light below it can't be picked up too well.
Looking around the backside of one (of two eventually) near completed house scene, it looks like Monday wash day. I toyed with ideas in how to create low lying flowering shrubs. They sell this stuff on Internet hobby sites but I've managed to do it on my own.
Wash Day. "blue Monday"
Naturally the actual characters are not of my creation.
May 10, 2020
I have a few trees up to see how they fit and look, but they haven’t been glued into place yet.
Trees up, not glued
Logs ready to go to the mill
Big tree. Based on the size of the guy with the chainsaw
Logs headed to partially built mill
May 31, 2020
I lost interest for a few weeks. The flu only slowed the business in the last two weeks of March. I was surprised but looked at a down year for 2020 before the PanPanic.
I now have a self built barn and not from a kit. The framing (not seen) was done with 1/2” x 1/2" pine material from Home Depot ripped in half. Other materials include poly styrene (0.6mm) that also comes corrugated. Roofing was a black styrene about half the thickness of the corrugated.
The roof was hit or miss. I like it. Modge Podge matte, matte, matte glue lightly covered and fine grit applied over. Spyaed gray and brushed a bit, it almost looks like many years of a patching a roof.
The finishing touch required a Rustoleum matte clear, also used on other structures. Still a bit glossy however, from certain angles.
The second image shows completion of another grazing area in the background. Likely will be used by different breeds of horses. Dude. Tell me where to put all the itty bitty pigs I bought!
My first barn. Moo moo looking for grass.
New grazing area in background
I got a bit carried away with the latest pasture (backgound again) as it looks too perfect. Using HO scale, the horses will be up the their kneecaps in lush grass. I will be loved when they arrive!
Finally. A pasture rock wall. Seperating the horses from an unknown element. Still working on where the pre-built fencing from three months ago will go.
Pasture grass different
Fencing near creek
June 20, 2020
First company accident as our second short log haul truck went (I stepped on it) over the rickety wooden bridge to the mill, blowing out the railings with it. Time for a rebuild in that area. A minor setback.
The following pictures looks at bigger improvements the last three weeks. There is a delay as two property owners haggle over what fences should go up. The new three rail clean look or the rustic two rail.
Three rail is far easier to create! Polystyrene again cut with an Exacto knife and glued easily over wax paper, while drying overnight. A lot of patience on this particular project.
Banged up truck
Two fence styles
Getting ready for the water project.. My colors are off..I think. I also do not have a steady hand when it comes to painting the deep water parts of the creek. Rocks, and grasses can improve it.
Finally, a first hand, clean look at the remaining 40% of real-estate to cover. If one looks close enough, there's a custom made pig barn/corral. The piggy’s now have a home. Bless their little hearts! Two out of five adults have piglets nursing with four other little ones roaming about. Looks like the these homeowners have a honey pot of pork!
Ground cover 60% complete
The horses have arrived. Now I can finalize the fence height. My H2O ..check that, HOscale worked perfectly considering I didn’t have the actual horses to gauge. However, Preisser always satisfies! Except for the manure wagon with two ox I bought. It has no place! More European even if I painted it. Picture not available.
I did get a value pack of horses, totaling 32 with Preisser. Four of each version from a young colt to white and black stallions. I need to mix up some colors. A few Paliminoes etc or the popular breed of Ohio Amish country where Uptown floors are made.
Not much else to report except the creek or water area is a nightmare. I use local dirt and stones, but it's all sand. Not representative of the soil in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
May 17, 2022
It's been nearly two years away from this project. I did go through a period of back pain which prevented me from moving forward. Add to that, Uptown had to move up to a larger facility last July which offers enough room for 2 to 3 times the currect train layout size.
May 24, 2022
Time to get my grandsons involved (aged 7 & 11). Two years is a long time for kids and now they have far more patience and understanding in how things get built with planning. They've seen it around my office and showroom that includes 650 square feet of engineered flooring.
I’ll let them decide what to do with a new area, but I’ll work on the expansion area base that almost doubles the old size. All items have been sourced from other businesses nearby tossing out valuable 2 x 4 lumber. Rather than spend close to $ 60.00 on another ¾” sheet of plywood, I’ll use left over or discontinued flooring.
I should have covered the current layout with shrink wrap. It’s loaded with dust.
I hired in for the first showroom floor seven years ago and wasn’t happy with it. Too much whining about the adhesive, a few missed cuts and failure to keep the installation tight. I figured this time around I’ll try it on my own at a VERY slow pace. At 65 years I hadn’t done this kind of work since 2007. The project took me six weeks working 50 square feet at a time and a few days rest in between. Talk about worn out, especially troweling the adhesive. Whoaaa.
Remodeled Office - Almost complete. Floor style: Casual Elegance Morning Sunrise
Part of Showroom. Almost complete. Floor style: White Oak Reserve
Update July 11, 2022
Near eight year old Zachary has asked about the Thomas train set I bought three years ago. He accidentally destroyed part of the track two years ago.
Yesterday he mentioned "we need to buy a new one." Grrr. I scoffed at him and explained we don’t buy new things if the old can be fixed. He understood.
Thomas has been repaired and runs smoothly, but won’t be a part of the main HO tracks. Something I’ll put on a firm piece of plywood he can slide in and out under an office coffee table.
Thomas is back!
Update July 26, 2022
Finally water for the stream. I had to do it in several stages as I could not find my small level. Comes out blue when it’s poured, but turns clear when cured showing the different silt colors. Next I need to work in some small rapids
Stream with water.
Update October 27, 2022
A new sample customer in Ohio mentioned the train layout today. Oddly enough I began the track layout set I purchased two weeks ago this morning. I few items are back ordered, but enough to get an idea of what’s involved. This is a two level area of track connecting to the original layout. The latter will be interesting as the track, cork roadbed and ballast areas are glued.
Plenty of HO scale CAT equipment (made strong, metal) standing by for the tie in. Photos soon.
The planning stage
Update November 20, 2022
Finally the back ordered items from Atlas plus some misc track ordered. Atlas is slow and not like your typical online merchant. I’m also surprised they do not provide more detail or actual photos of what their many layouts look like. Naturally this one is adapted due to the tie-in. So I don’t run into the same problem if I expand again, I’ve made arrangements so no major work will be involved. Seen in the turnout upper left.
This will be an interesting tie-in to the existing. Most likely some areas will be bumpy, but not enough to fall off the track. Afterall train rides are often bumpy or jerky here in the US. My first trip on the Auto Train from Florida to Virginia two months ago is a recent testimonial. Northbound was jerky here and there (a few biggies). Southbound far smoother.
Not crazy about the bridge abutments so I gave them some color from the standard gray supplied. Most will be covered with hills, trees, other vegetation and whatever else I can dream up. The track itself doesn’t look realistic either. Looks like it needs more support on the bottom. However it will be weatherized like the original section. I'll have to run a test on some pieces with options. Likely simple.
The layout area is the back warehouse where I keep sample inventory in full boxes before they are cut. I need better lighting. Something that hangs on the wall and spreads out good light. The existing standard fluorescents are 14 feet overhead.
"Update November 26, 2022
New section powered up with the NCE Power Cab control at the headquarters station. Runs well, but has a bug in it. Too whiney as I can’t hear the diesel engine when it runs the layout. Has all the sound including what’s seen in the second image below. This is what fascinated me about the system when some old timer (now I'm almost his age) showed me with a working test station at a local shop.
There are numerous other buttons. What they do is unknown. The time has never been programmed. I have received one turnout for the tie in, waiting on two more lefts to connect to the old and one under near trestle.
Once that is complete it’s time to hot melt glue the abutments into place. Then weatherize the track. Perhaps I should also think about the mill on the original section and finish that...finally.
I’m thinking water again on the new layout. In the center. I’ll need to build it up with Styrofoam. Add some sail boats along with those geese I bought a few years ago. And some fish!
Update December 3, 2022
Photos improved with lighting as needed by way of Photoshop.
I keep a journal on the train notes along with this webpage. I may repeat myself from time to time. Lot’s of additions considering I haven’t worked on the mill in…two years? I’ll have to wing it as far as setting up the Uptown production facilities. Quite difficult to find modern HO scale items. Most are based on the golden age of railroading in the fifties.
Anyway. Follow the production facilities with the Uptown name and American flag. The latter done with photoshop, while using card stock on the printer. An exacto knife to cut out, spray glue the backside and it sticks big time. A few missing parts too. I wonder where they went?
The Mill area
I had troubles finding my lumber bunks with many more missing. Initial stage of stick drying lumber outdoors is shown. It seems the youngest grandson took a real liking to playing with a lot of stuff when I had no interest or too busy the last two years. Note the Freightliner flatbed. Missing the rear axle and wheels too.
No bother. I’ll just get better ones and have him repair the older ones for himself. The parts are there, somewhere.
Maybe this is the body shop?
Update December 14, 2022
Flex track came in early! Oh I failed to mention I need it for two tie-ins. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me but the flex (36 inch lengths, cut to fit) would have simplified matters as it’s used extensively on the original layout. I’m not fond of it due to connection issues or cutting to fit.
I actually know how to solder rails! Finally. Without an abor….mess. This will also simplify matters and create a consistant powered connection with the larger layout.
Passenger stations came in too! Now I need passengers once I figure out the new layout that will include a recreation area, waterfall, lake and beach. Have canoes and a row boat.
I wander from one project to another and thought the other day. I DON’T have any roads. Below the construction guys are clearing for a two lane highway that will run parallel to the original section of track.
I gave up on my self made fences (for now) I spent countless hours making. Instead, I purchased some fence sections from Noch. Swiss company I believe, but made in Vietnam. I changed the color from dark brown.
I have far too many ideas and wonder if I'll finish everything in 1-2 years. I can get detailed. The roads will be 1/8” cork thickness and covered by some very fine asphalt colored ballast. It has to look like a road! Not freaking tape they sell on some websites.
The planned road area
The CATS are doing their job. I need to photoshop this showing exhaust...hehe
Some day labor guys. Knowing some of those guys, he may not be drinking water.
Always need guys leaning on shovels!
Update December 25, 2022
I became immersed into finishing off one corner of the original layout that includes asphalt roads on 1/8” cork. Color looks good. May have to dirty them up a bit. I haven’t mentioned the new bridge over the creek. I built it to last with all the available lumber here at the shop. 3/8” ply and some maple supports.
I could use a cleanup guy. I’m not good with organizing tools all the time. That’s why I have something like six tape measures, about the same quantity of utlility knives and hammers etc. Easier to find amongst a monthly mess build up.
I’ve wanted to do a video but did not want it to conflict with others. YouTube has changed since my first Uptown product videos were created. The upload area, look and steps have changed radically. It’s all about them wanting me to get ads in there which I always declined until I was forced to a few years back.
I created another YouTube channel today. Who knows what you’ll see at the end. In earlier days it would default to the “thumbnail.” But as greedy as all companies are today, they want you to click a related video that takes you directly to the YouTube domain. It’s all about their ad click income.
Zachary Fisher, my grandson, aged eight, narrates some of the scenery and progress.
Update January 21, 2022
Nasty flu I picked up right after Christmas is finally over. Not much done until this past week.
The BIG TIE IN to the existing area. The flex track worked well in two major areas, but they aren’t secured as yet. Running the cork roadbed to line up with the flex proved to be time consuming. My rail cutting skills are really bad as well. Apparently I have the specialized tool for it, but not enough light out there. Mind you I have great vision (replaced lenses) but picked up some ‘floaters’ the past few years.
Soldering? I had to get that project rolling. Real hatchet jobs on close-up pics. Yet a test push along the track doesn’t show any wobble. The conductor of this line will have to follow the handbook, even if his name is Gomez Addams.
Huh, no pictures. Grrr. Must be a missing div or something. I'll work on it.
Hatchet job. Easy to cover up...hehe
Corkbed has been glued and stapled.
It’s been a long time with any update. I had serious power problems connecting the new to old. I’m not good at that part of the project. A real hack. A ten month lull in any activity, I had to get back into it. Somehow.
It’s been nearly FOUR years since I started this! I still don’t have the connection resolved so I hope to work on the newer area. Not an easy task getting the track ‘square’ with the two levels.