Keith Hansen

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As with many interests, in the model rail hobby we make many friends and acquaintances over the years.  Keith Hansen was a gentleman whom I’d only had the pleasure of meeting a few times.  We first met when I’d shared some photos and info with him for his first book, Last Trains From Lindsay.  Published 1997, this tome runs to almost five hundred pages and covers the railways of the Lindsay, Ontario area VERY extensively.  Demand was such that Keith had it re-printed.

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Keith’s work was superb.  Here’s just one example from his book.

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Keith went on to write a volume of comparable size on the northern Alberta Railways; I understand that this book was equally well received.  While he was doing research, I’d fixed him up with a cab ride on a BC Rail assignment via a train crew friend in Fort St. John, BC–Keith thanked me profusely for that and remarked what a great night he’d had.

Keith shared much information that he’d gleaned over the years with others. Much of what I know about the railways of the area is due in no small part due to Keith’s generosity.  Growing up in Lindsay and elsewhere in eastern Ontario, his father was a Bridge and Building foreman with CN.  I expressed an interest in modelling CN in Lindsay and the CN Campbellford Sub.  Keith responded by sending me every CN Bridge and Building document for the structures and bridges on this line, such as these two pages out of over fifty that he’d sent—

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Keith was an accomplished O scale modeller as well; I got to see his layout during a visit to his place in the bush near Campbellford back in 2000 or so.

I was to find out that Keith was not the only person that he’d shared his research with; many were the beneficiaries of his generosity.

Last Friday I read that Keith had passed away that day after a short illness.  To Keith’s family, my condolences and sorrow for your great loss.

To Keith, for your research that you’ve generously shared with me–

Thank you.

Der Gras-Master

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First time with the Noch Gras-Master.  It’s definitely a learning experience!  The alligator clip from the applicator to the pin pushed into the scenery base completes the electrical circuit to make this work. 

Over the years, I’ve used dyed sawdust and ground foam to model grass on previous layouts.  I never was terribly impressed with the realism of either or both together.

Ground foam “grass” looks like–ground foam!

To me, dyed sawdust doesn’t look very real, either.  

Perusing UK magazine Model Rail almost a decade ago, I noticed that a large number of the layouts presented used a technique for modelling grass that I had read about briefly but never seen the results of.  Static grass has been used “across the pond” for some time now.  We North Americans are just catching onto this technique.  The military modelling community uses static grass as well.  I’m building a new layout, so I feel that it’s time to try some more advanced scenery techniques.

One of UK modeller Chris Nevard’s small OO scale layouts.  Here’s an example of how static grass looks a lot more realistic than dyed sawdust or ground foam.  What’s not to like?

The scenery base is covered with a thinned coat of PVA, or what we North Americans call white glue.  A static applicator is used to impart an electrostatic charge to flocking while it is being shaken from the applicator to the scenery base. The applicator has a reservoir at its base to hold the flocking which is shaken out of a screen.  The static applicator is grounded to the scenery base via a wire from the applicator clipped to a pin in the scenery base.  This causes the flocking to be attracted to the applicator, but the white glue/water mixture holds the flocking to the scenery base.  Thus the flocking winds up standing vertically on the scenery base as the glue sets.

One of the most popular and effective applicators is made by Noch GmbH in Germany.  A pricey little thing, but as it says on the box “we im original” or “as in the original” to we English speaking/reading types.  I’ve seen jury-rigged applicators for flocking, but I know that my luck building one would consist of fighting with the machine if I made mistakes assembling it.  Not to mention that the static charge generated by the electronics in the applicator is in the neighbourhood of 20,000 volts.   The Gras-Master is NOT a cheap device, but my time fussing with copying it and getting it to work is worth something, too.

Here’s what I use to apply electrostatic grass–

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White glue, a dollar store paintbrush, flocking and the applicator.  The base is Styrofoam insulation and obviously does not conduct electricity.  But wetting the base with water and white glue makes it conductive enough for us to apply the flocking.  I painted the base with Home Hardware chocolate brown outdoor latex paint to avoid having the viewer presented with obvious blue foam under the “grass”. 

A few years passed, and my dear wife asked me, “What would you like for Christmas?”  Well, then…

On Christmas morning, I unwrapped a Noch Grasmaster 2.0.  A few days later, I got to try it out.  Here’s the result.

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First time using the Gras-Master!  The static grass in this image is that supplied by Noch with the Gras-Master.  The yard office will eventually wind up at the Midland’s Belleville Yard.  I don’t care for the grass colour, but I made this small project to learn how the applicator works.   I’ll try applying other grass on top of this to see if things improve colour wise. 

More experimentation is called for.  I’ve some different colours of Woodland Scenics flocking on hand to play with as I explore the possibilities using this new tool.

An excellent tutorial on using static grass by Kathy Millatt is on YouTube—

A Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for reading my blog!