Building A Model Railroad

More Progress On The Train Set, Parties and Paintings!

by Rachelle Siegrist

Picnic in the Cove with rachelle and wes siegrist
Cades Cove picnic ~ Barb, Tom, Wes, me and Paula

While Wes and I have spent most of our time at the easels this past week, we’ve also enjoyed some fun times with friends!  We met dear friends, Tom and Paula visiting from Florida, in Cades Cove for lunch one day this past week.  Slightly overcast, the air was a bit on the chilly side for me, feeling more like a fall day rather than summer!  It was a lovely one though, and we all enjoyed catching up, while doing a lot of laughing as well! Afterwards we took a relaxing drive with Fred and Barb, around part of the Cades Cove loop road, crossing at Sparks Lane.  The expansive fields were full of purple and yellow blossoms creating a beautiful scene which surrounded us as we drove along the dirt road, cutting through the middle of the cove.

cades cove photo
Our beloved Cades Cove filled with Iron Weed blossoms

Last evening after meeting for supper, several friends came over for a game of Mexican Train Dominoes and dessert.  We managed to really surprise friend Barb, with a birthday cake, while celebrating her birthday a wee bit early, since we will be leaving to attend the upcoming Birds in Art opening weekend festivities in Wausau, WI, this week!  Since we all love chocolate, I made a chocolate cake with caramel buttercream frosting, and topped it with dark chocolate sculptures, which I call my Jackson Pollock chocolates.

chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream frosting

It turned out wonderfully, and upon Barb blowing out the candles, the air was filled with “Mmmmmmm’s” as we tantalized our taste buds with the scrumptious cake.  It was a delightful evening enjoyed by all, and happily Barb was very surprised indeed!

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Barb waits in anticipation while Wes lights candles and Darlene looks on

A very dear friend recently bought me a bunch of roasted unsalted peanuts for my critter friends, and I don’t know who is enjoying them more . . . them or me!  Friendly, a young squirrel which I’m quite sure grew up in a nest located close to the back porch, has been pretty tame from the onset of our friendship. She sits mere inches from my feet during breakfast each morning, eating her little pile of peanuts whilst I enjoy my breakfast.  I talk to her and she looks up at me, appearing to be listening intently to everything I say, but of course deep down I know she’s just there for the peanuts!  When mid-afternoon rolls around, I love sitting on the back porch in the sun, while shelling peanuts and feeding them to visiting friends, and myself!  Funny thing is, many times the birds and Blue-tailed Skink lizards join me in my basking in the sun ritual for a few minutes, so I’m hardly ever alone in my warming ritual, especially as long as I’m tossing out edible treats!

Friendly enjoying her peanut snack ~ Tinymouse basks in the sun with me

Our Model Railroad update ~

We’re continuing to make more progress on the model train set.  In this next step you can see we pretty much finished the water including the cascading falls and the ocean below.  Layers of glue and Modge Podge were added, letting each layer completely dry before another was added.  Wes used a acrylic paint with it, to make the water more opaque in spots, creating the whitewater effect and waves.  As you can see in the photo below, there is an old sunken boat and a Hammerhead Shark which Wes sculpted out of clay for me.  They were placed underneath the Plexiglas creating a wonderful illusion of depth.

building a model railroad

In other areas we continued to add in more trees, both those made of wire and others created from small twigs with the colored sawdust added for leaves.  The lake was created by painting the bottom of it, starting with dark blue in the deepest spot, and lightening to a nice pale turquoise in the more shallow areas.  After placing a fallen tree and large rock in the lake, the top was covered with a piece of Plexiglas, which Wes carefully drilled a small hole in, to accommodate the standing dead tree.  The end result was fantastic and quite real looking!  If only it were life-sized and in our back woods, that would be awesome!


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Gravel colored sawdust used for roads and parking lots in the city was added, as well as the grass and gravel near the train tracks.  More trees, shrubs and pieces of dried lichen helped create the forest and woodland areas . . . More to come soon!

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~ Fresh off the Easels ~

While I finished my two latest commissions, which are both surprises, Wes finished a couple of miniature paintings this past week.  The first features my precious little Carolina Wren, named Peedeepeeps.  He loves sitting on this moss covered flower pot during the winter months in direct sunlight on our front porch, as is quite warm and toasty!

carolina wren painting
Wes’ “Mr. Spunky”

The other is a miniature of a little Red-eared Slider, which while being perched atop the clump, looks like it’s waiting for the water to raise and unstick him.  In reality he is just enjoying the delightful warmth of the sun as much as I do!

turtle painting
Wes’ “Enjoying the Duckweed Spa”

~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle


The Solar Eclipse And Hot Air Balloons!

The Solar Eclipse and Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival!

by Rachelle Siegrist

solar eclipse 2017
Watching in WOW . . . Helen, me, Cindy, Kit and Neal

It was quite hot and toasty as we excitedly started walking down the hill to meet up with friend Kit, and his visiting family, at our chosen viewing area for the solar eclipse. Minutes after arriving we could already see the moon inching its way in front of the sun, causing atmospheric and lighting conditions to take on a strange appearance, and the temperature to begin slowly dropping. We then noticed the shadows from trees were crescent shaped, and that our own shadows too became short and very crisp.  At that point, two kids walked up and were selling the appropriate eclipse glasses for $1 each! Wes and I couldn’t believe it, after the fiasco we had gone through with our friend Fred last week trying to find our own eclipse glasses!

solar eclipse 2017 rachelle siegrist shadow
My eclipse shadow
solar eclipse crescent shadows
The interesting crescent-shaped shadows

Kit’s family took advantage of the cheap glasses being offered to watch with us, as the moon covered more of the sun making it darker and causing the street lights on sensors to come on. At that point the sun looked like a big sparkling diamond ring!

solar eclipse photo of the diamond ring effect
The “Diamond Ring” effect (Many thanks to Kit for the 3 awesome photos of the eclipse)
diamond ring effect photo of sun in solar eclipse 2017
With a solar flare (The sky was a very dark blue not black which is due to the camera exposure)

Seconds later just before totality, a weird wavy pattern shimmered on the ground all around us, and as darkness descended, the temperature fell about 20 degrees as well, until it was quite cool and comfortable! Thinking night had fallen, the crickets started singing loudly, and a beautiful sunset appeared over the mountains, surrounding us 360 degrees!

solar eclipse 2017 smokies
A 360 degree sunset behind the surrounding mountains

I was covered in chill bumps from sheer delight at being able to witness such an incredible celestial  phenomenon!  Cheers and applause could be heard all over the hills as we watched in darkness, and I’m quite sure I heard the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey playing on someone’s phone or radio nearby!

photo of sun during totality
During totality!

It all happened so fast, and before long it was all over, with shimmering waves appearing on the ground below once again and the diamond ring effect coming back on the opposite side!  Our shadows remained crisp as a paper cutout for quite sometime, and the patterns for the trees stayed crescent-shaped.  As the moon slowly passed, the light came back and the temperature started rising. We had witnessed a great event, which we’ll remember forever! 

Another fun event this past week took place in the sky as well!  The Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Ballon Festival and Solar Eclipse event took place last Saturday here in Townsend.  Massive amounts of people poured into our tiny little town, most driving in traffic that took two hours to drive roughly two miles!!!  Cars were parking everywhere as our quiet town swelled past capacity!

great smoky mountain hot air ballon festival

We had never seen so many people here, but I decided to brave the swollen crowds to go watch the lighting of the balloons that evening.  I walked down with friends and convinced them to push our way through the crowd to be able to get up close to the massive balloons.  Close enough in fact, to talk to one of the pilots about how they operate them and even getting to peer into the big basket containing two massive gas tanks.

Having seen a ballon lighting once before in Florida many years ago, I knew we were in for a real treat once the sun began setting and the huge balloons lit up against the dark sky.  Of course the beauty of the mountains and fields behind them made for a stunning scene, as each pilot filled them with hot air, causing the flames to shoot up illuminating the large floating balloons!



I must say that although we greatly enjoyed watching it, we were even more delighted when it ended and Townsend returned to a quiet, sleepy little town!

Our Model Railroad update ~

We’re continuing to make more progress on the model train set.  In this next step you can see we finished painting the dirt and stone work with different values of tans and darker browns to give it dimension.  Then we painted dark blue where the water is going to be.  Once dry, various lighter shades of blue were painted to create depth differences in the cascading stream and waterfall, as well as the more shallow areas of the deep water below.

building a model train set 1

A piece of plexiglas cut to the desired shape was put into place atop the deep water.  Next while Wes painted glue water on what was to be lawn and fields, I sprinkled on the grass mixture, made from tinted sawdust.  By this point it was really starting to look real!

building a model train setNext, buildings were glued into place and it was time to start adding the trees and shrubs, sticks and more rocks.building a model train set

~ Fresh off the Easels ~

While I’m continuing to paint on surprise commissions, Wes finished a couple of landscape paintings this past week, that feature our beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The first painting is of what’s been called both the Avent and Artist’s Cabin, located inside the historic Elkmont area.  We’ve enjoyed hiking to this lovely little cabin several times and look forward to going there again sometime!

Wes’ “The Avent Cabin”

The other landscape miniature painting is of beautiful Abrams Falls, a waterfall which is reached via a 2 1/2 mile hike form inside Cades Cove.  Another favorite of ours, we’ve hiked to this falls many times, and I personally look forward to hiking there again many times!

Wes’ “Abrams Falls”

~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle