When you are designing a freelance layout like mine information is key.
What Information is needed?
Where is Information from?
Magazines - Unlike the books most of these are about model railways (railroads) but because I model HO narrow gauge I tend to buy Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette (USA), Continental Modeller (UK) and, on occasion, Model Railroader (USA) . Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette has neat articles about (mainly) US lines and rolling stock (industrial and logging). From time-to-time Continental Modeller has some great scale drawings of Narrow Gauge locomotives (including some of the really big ones). Model Railroader has general information.
Newspapers & Supplements: As the scenery of my layout is important to me I like collecting interesting pictures from newspapers and colour supplements. I use a book with clear pockets to store these safely.
The Internet - when I started my model rail project this did not exist but now I use it extensively to research the project both textually and pictorially. However, I have found that it can be necessary to delve deep into Google for more obtuse information. One site that I discovered serendipitously on the web is the "Goods & Not So Goods" site. This site is brilliant as it provides information about industry and how to model it. Another problem with the Internet is that many of the images are small. Well designed sites have a thumb nail (small picture) that you can then enlarge by clicking on it. Where this feature is not available and if you have a wheel mouse, you can enlarge the picture by pressing the control key and turning the mouse wheel. Although this looses definition it can help.
Drawing: Rather than using a CAD package I use my word processor and the standard shapes for rough layouts of the modules. With Microsoft Word (tm) it is reasonably simple to build up plan views of buildings (for complex shapes assemble and group Basic Autoshapes). For rectangular buildings I find it better to use a rectangular Autoshape and insert a text box (to label the building) rather than a Text Box - this is because I can then rotatethe shape (Text Boxes cannot be rotated). Because of the size of my modules I draw my layout plans using 1 centimetre to 1 inch and this allows me to draw a full plan of a module on landscape A4 (or Letter) sized paper.
Scaling Photographs: Commonly, I download photographs from the web and use these as a basis for a freelance model. I import these into MS Word and this allows me to change size. I use 6 point lines to to help judge the size of picture features> Once I know the size of the picture (relative to the model I am going top make) I can increase or decrease the size of the picture so that I can print the picture and measure directly from the print.
Signage: I like the idea of shop and business signage, street names, direction signs and posters. I find that a word processor and clip art ideal for this task. However an important consideration is the font size used on the signage (ranging from 14 point down). (Note: If you are using MS Word (as I do) the normal range of font sizes is down to 8 point. But by typing in a smaller size in the font size box you can get a smaller size. Also, you can consider using sub and super scripts.)
Generally I enclose the text in a textbox and where appropriate fill it with a colour or a texture. For Road Signs I use an arrow shape to enclose the text. Also, I usually use the Arial Font but occasionally use other fonts like Handscript SF for handwritten placards and notices.
Printing: When it comes to printing you have a choice of whether this is going to be on paper (glossy or normal), card, self adhesive labels, adhesive clear film or even on decal paper. And, depending on availability, using an Ink Jet or Laser printer. (If using an Ink Jet I suggest you seal with clear varnish.)
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Copyright 2011 Jeremy Hall