I am at the point now where I can start to install scenery on the layout, at least on small parts of it. I can start with the staging and a few other select areas. There are no switches or electrical shorts in the staging areas, so I am reasonably comfortable with painting the track and adding scenery to them. It will also give me finished looking areas for posing models on for photos, and to help me feel like I’m continuing to make progress. It’s also giving me a chance to work on improving my technique at scenery and ballasting track.
The first part of scenery, laying sculptamold to create some ground texture along the track instead of the flat of the pink foam.
The first step is to paint a base coat onto the track and ties, so I brought my airbrush upstairs from its normal home in a room with an opening window to vent, and prepared to paint the track. For large volume painting, the booth is an absolute must, painting the track by hand would take eons, so its a case of very little paint and very fine control to minimize over-spray, and the obvious of wearing the mask to catch any particles of paint in the air. Safety first, every time!!
For my scenery, there is not a lot of terrain, everything is basically flat. When I get to the roads, the pavement is basically level with the tracks, so my scenery will consist of building up some rough scrubby terrain between the pink foam and the level of the tracks/building foundations, no hills, rivers, mountains or anything else for me, nice and levelish urban industrial terrain. That does not however mean, that everything is washboard flat. I am applying a thin layer of Sculptamold where there is open scenery, it provides a rough surface for applying scenic materials to, and gives me the ability to create something that isn’t sunk below the tracks and washboard flat like the pink foam is.
Stages of Scenery, Sculptamold, painted with a beigey brown, then covered with a mix of soil and grass textures, a wash of glue, then laying the ballast, and it glued down as well.
I have found that I don’t like the mixing ratios on the bag of Sculptamold. They are either too runny, or too thick. I think I’m closer to 1 Cup of Sculptamold and 3/4 of a cup of water. This generally seems to be giving me a reasonably thick paste that I can work with and that doesn’t dry out in the bowl before an area is covered. I’m trying to do it in small chunks, so that I don’t mix up big bowls of the Sculptamold and find myself rushing to get it down before it dries out in the bowl. You can get some more life by adding more water and re-working, but my experience is that its less than desirable in terms of consistency, and adds to the drying time.
Once the Sculptamold has dried, the rest of my technique is one I learned from my friend Trevor. I can’t claim ownership to the technique, but it certainly has worked better for me than my past attempts at scenery. The next step is a coating of latex house paint (any brownish ground colour will do, I’m cheap and get $5.00 sample pots at Home Depot). Once this is down, I’m sprinkling a mix of Woodland Scenics and Scenic Express ground cover and screened soil to create dirt areas and scrubby grass, just sort-of generic scenery for alongside staging. This is then wetted down with water from an olive oil mister, and thinned Weldbond Paint (1/1 Paint to Water mix) is laid down, and more water sprayed if the paint isn’t flowing across the scenery. Once this has dried, I carefully applied ballast to the track, and glued it down with the same water mist followed by thinned Weldbond. For the first time in my life, so far I am actually happy with how ballasting went for me, that’s a new feeling.
Trains in Scenery, starting to feel more like a layout with a bit of scenery in place and somewhere that looks a bit more real than a world of pink insulation foam.
There is some touchups to do, some spots where removing ballast stuck to the tracks has taken off the paint, and spots where I will probably want some more ground cover to blend things in and fill some gaps, but for staging especially, where this was mostly to hide the foam and make it look like more than just blank space, I’m supremely happy with the results.
I can’t do this base scenery on a lot of the layout until I get the building foundations cut and in place. so I can work the scenery up to them, but there are places where I can get started with the scenery, and I will do that.
Showing the staging traverser in and pulled out with scenery now in place.
So, on we go, but this is by far the happiest I have been with the results of doing scenery and ballasting before, which bodes well as I get more practice in the coming months as I get ballasting across the layout.