Starting Scenery on Canyon Road Diorama

One of the reasons among the many that I have started on a side project diorama of Canyon Road was that I have learned so much in the nearly two years of building my Liberty Village Layout, that I wanted to re-enforce and build upon the scenery techniques I have either had to learn, or refresh my past experiences and build upon them. Liberty Village is pancake flat urban industrial area, which while the how of creating that can be used elsewhere, there are lots of other skills in scenery that don’t get used on it, so the diorama offers a chance to expand on my scenery skill set, in an achievable sized space.

The start of scenery, plaster sheet on the carved foam landforms, paint, and soil cover.

With the foam carved and to what I thought was the right shape and landing point for the wooden bridge at the left of the diorama, I wanted to experiment with creating the final ground form in a different way. In the past, I have either done nothing on my first layouts, or used sculptamold. For this, I wanted to try something different, so I bought a roll of Woodland Scenics plaster cloth. It comes in different widths, I bought a 3″ wide roll given the narrow areas I am covering. You cut it to length, quickly dip it in water to get it wet and activate the plaster, then apply it and smooth it out. You can create shapes and texture. It hardens to a hard cover, which protects the foam, and provides a good surface for paint and texture.

For the first coat of colour, I used another Woodland Scenics product, but one that I’ve had for nearly 20 years, a bottle of Burnt Umber Pigment. I don’t know why I bought this, I think I was using it and a green product they had to stain wooden baseboards before applying ground foam… I’ve come a long way in doing scenery! This was actually a more correct application for the pigment. I think, being honest I should have applied it while the plaster was still “wet” so it would soak in, but it worked. At the end of the day, this is all going to be hidden beneath soil, grass, shrubs, trees and the like. Its really a backstop against unsightly white poking through the upper levels of scenery.

Once that was dried, as you can see I’ve had the track protected with painters tape as it was already painted and weathered, it will probably need some more, but no point in destroying the work already don. As with the layout, I am using Scenic Express fine soil for the dirt cover to give any open patches of ground some earth like texture. I am really happy with this product and how it looks on the layout, and I was able to be more, delicate with the application here. On the layout it is being used a bit as filler to bring ground level to the level of tracks and curbs and such, here, it is more a fine coating on the hill slopes. To do this, I found that applying a fine sprayed coating of my thinned glue of choice, Weldbond (at least 50/50 with water), then sprinkling on a light coat of the soil gave it some bite to apply a slightly thicker cover to make sure everything was covered with soil and then wet it and spray on a top coat of glue to soak through with the wet having broken the surface tension.

Jumping ahead and around other things since this is about first scenery, getting the track ballasted. Those with sharp eyes will notice the landform on the left has changed. I’ve got another post to write about the bridge where I’ll tackle that.

With the first bit of ground cover down, the next step was to ballast the track so it starts to nicely blend together with ballast over soil. Pretty standard ballasting, lay it down, wet it, and dribble in thinned glue, the water breaks the surface tension and lets the glue work its way in. Then go and add ballast once the first coat has tried for anywhere that there is thin spots showing through and to build it up along the verges and between the two tracks.

With the ballast, I also installed the signals. The two signals are going to be permanently mounted, so I wanted them in and the wiring buried beneath the ballast so they would blend into the ground as the real ones do. I have a signal electrical cabinet to install now that the ballast is down, I just realized I never got around to finishing painting is so I will be getting some aluminum on it in the paint booth this weekend.

Lots to do still, static grasses, long grasses, telegraph/power poles, making trees, finishing the bridge and so forth, but as always with my projects, forward progress is the goal.

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