Awkward corner…

February 14, 2011

It’s an awkward corner indeed. My mainline HAS to curve at this point to reach the Top Deck layout fiddle yard and avoid a direct run through the wall into my neighbours field. In the back ground is the access to four staging yard roads representing the ‘Dover’ end of the run, which should not be seen under normal viewing distances. I have made progress in this area in recent weeks as my desire to deal with this awkward corner has grown (hence the lack of updates here). The picture above was taken last year after track laying of the main line was completed. It’s a large area to fill with scenery and the proper Folkestone East location has a short platform for staff to use at this location, which must be included. On the real location, it is straight. Mine has to be on the  curve…

Progress as of a few weeks ago (above), as reported in my blog. Conductor rail remains to be installed.

The corner as of this morning after application of more Woodland Scenics fine leaf foliage, static grass and bushes made up of coarse turf applied to sea foam stems. All glued in with a mixture of scenic cement and ‘extra firm’ hold hair spray. It’s go to sit for a few days to completely settle before tidying up and installation of the conductor rail, turnout motor boxes and some weathering of the ballast. There’s some brick work around the platform ramp to complete too, and note the bare wall behind the scene. There’s a form of a ‘wooded’ back scene to fit which has texture applied to try and show continuation of line side foliage. This should disguise the entrance to the ‘Dover’ fiddle yard. It’s removable to allow access to the turnouts for repairs and in case of derailments, yet will not be too obvious when this end of the layout is photographed. In reality, the tall trees and shrubbery is more of a modern feature of the line side as tree growth has only been allowed to grow relatively unchecked in recent years. Back dating to my planned early 1980s running theme, which represents the transition era between refurbished and unrefurbished 4-Ceps, means the tree growth is too high. I have to change a few details on the layout for that running theme, but the trees have to stay. They are more appropriate to my 1993 and 2003 running themes (the stock is changed over between running evenings running evening depending on the choice of era for the session).  Those trees, despite what purists might think, are the best scenic break for that end of the layout! I can live with that compromise.

With so much ground to cover to produce, I use a mixture of Woodland Scenics fine leaf foliage and sea foam. The latter is shown above during another session yesterday where I was using the odds and ends left over from tree-making to produce material for shrubs and weedy sapling trees. As much as I would love some specimen trees from The Model Tree Co., line side trees at Folkestone East are all weed trees…

The sea foam pieces are dunked in diluted (5:1) matte medium (A) using a deep plastic jug (B) first to strengthen them before painting. Normally, when making trees like this, they would be hung out to dry with a weight on the end to straighten them whilst the matte medium dries. These pieces, especially the larger but poor pieces (C) are destined to be snipped up into smaller pieces for shrubs or to be piled on top of each other to create banks of close growing weed trees, using cocktail sticks as support. After drying, they will be painted dark brown and then dunked in matte medium once again so coarse turf in medium green can be applied. Smaller pieces can be clumped together to make a thicker bush material (D) instead of being wasted. The remaining diluted matte medium is not returned to the original bottle but is stored in a separate container (E). At the time of writing, the treated pieces are sitting by my paint booth after painting dark brown.

Scenery work like this can take a great deal of time, especially allowing for the modelling of the staff halt platform and I am glad to be finishing off this end of the layout so I can move onto the Folkestone East signal box area.


New staging yard

February 2, 2011

A simple reorganisation of the layout cabin made space available for a new ‘east end’ staging yard for my N scale (1:160 scale) Montana Rail Link 4th Sub layout – on a narrow shelf. A sofa for visitors was swung round to go against a different wall and a different entrance door (the cabin has two) put into use. The sofa now crosses over the original door and the resulting change in space usage has made it possible to run a long staging yard down that particular wall, over my work bench, the back of the sofa and across the original but now sealed up door. Previously, the use of the door made that wall useless for a staging yard as it would not be long enough for 10-12ft.long trains without crossing the door and making access impossible. The picture below shows the connection from the new yard to the reverse loop at the east end of the layout. Note the small gap between the wall, window and the inner fascia allowing the window blind to drop neatly behind it.

The new shelf means I could look at removing five partially hidden (but accessible) but unsatisfactory storage and staging tracks from behind what would be Missoula Yard’s back scene. They are reorientated so east bound trains headed for the 3rd Sub can run straight down the main through the modelled portion of Missoula yard and straight into the staging. This removes the need for managing the original staging with a camera to help operators see what they were doing and has simplified the track work too.

The new yard is a narrow shelf, 6 inches wide, accommodating five staging tracks which will hold 12ft. long trains. It is stub ended and had to be long enough to put locos on both ends of the train to simplify re-staging for the next operating session. It shows that a rethink of how to use layout room space can open up new opportunities in layout design. In this case, it solved an awkward part of my layout design which would have worked but something I was not comfortable with. Also, layouts do not need to be wide and I like narrow shelf layout concepts where there is full operational potential, yet minimal impact on the room. It shows that a bedroom can be used for a layout if baseboards are placed high up the wall away from furniture and consists of narrow shelves. When working at the workbench or relaxing on the sofa, the new staging yard shelf has no impact on room use at all. But what a difference it has made to the layout’s operations!

Ballast drop

February 1, 2011

Ballasting ops have started on the Top Deck layout after completing a run of cable trough. I looked at several colours before deciding on Woodland Scenics buff as the base ballast colour. I place it with a small brush and a tea spoon, a few pieces at a time, tamping it in place with a finger and working it off sleepers and other equipment with the brush.

Some colours were not going to work! I rejected the grey and brown colours (foreground) after a quick check. Before ballasting, I paint the track sleepers and rail edges: Plain track concrete sleepers were painted with Phoenix Precision paints P989 New Concrete and the rail edges with P977 Rusty Rails colour. This will not be the end of the story because the track and ballast will be further weathered with some washes of track dirt. Not too much, though, I do not wish to loose the light colour.

Ballast is well under way. Several points to note include: 1. Make sure the layout runs well before starting this work. 2. Consider completing basic line side scenery as seen here before ballasting. 3. On a high level shelf layout such as this one, work from the back to the front. In other words, the down line will be completed first. The foreground line will be tackled later once work on the staff halt platform and scenery is completed to the front. 4. Install and paint signalling bases, equipment bases and cable troughs before ballasting. Doing this retrospectively will ruin a lot of hard work.  5. I will fit the conductor rail after ballasting. Conductor rails (and other track details such as turnout machines) get in the way, otherwise!

The ballast drop is finished for now (wagons are empty!). I complete about 12 inches at a time before applying Scenic Cement with a pipette dropper. Even though I find the process enjoyable and therapeutic, it’s best done in short but regular bursts! Nonetheless, the main line is starting to look like a main line as the irregularities and joins in the ‘plastazote’ foam underlay are concealed by a layer of ballast.