Getting some Scenery on Canyon Road

I’ve been working slowly but surely on a lot of projects, on the layout and on the Canyon Road Diorama. I have made a bunch of small projects on the diorama turn into visible progress in the past couple of days, and I’m writing this on Saturday morning with a day and a half to go on my weekend.

First up, adding some colour and grime and texture to the ballast. It was just too grey looking. To achieve this, I did two things, washed thinned Hunterline Brown stain over the ballast randomly in varied amounts to tint it down. Then, using PanPastels, a rub of black down the centre of the track to look like goop and grime coming off rolling stock. You can see it better in some of the overview photos later than the first test area below, but I find it to be satisfyingly effective and simple to apply.

First bit of weathering on the ballast. Using a brown weathering mix from Hunterline.

Next up, is some cleanup work. The open end of the diorama was very unfinished looking, with semi stained foam and roadbed. This was conceived as a “quick” project to give me something I can photograph models on and display equipment on that didn’t otherwise have a home. The end that would potentially be seen in low angle photos looked bad, and I’d been lazy about doing anything to fix it. I took care of that yesterday, with some painful trimming of the pink foam (lesson learned, do this kind of stuff first!), I was able to trim down a piece of 0.020″ styrene sheet to make a finish wall. I applied this using Silicone caulk to fill the gaps created and adhere the styrene. Once it was in place, I was able to bring the scenery into place and tidy up the scenery. In due course, the white styrene will be painted black to make it vanish in photographs.

Trimming the end, before (left) and after (right), even unpainted the styrene added looks much cleaner.

To provide a base on the hillsides along the line, I had previously applied dirt material. Next up, is a variety of fall static grass to base out the ground before adding trees, shrubs and scrubby growth as exists along the line. I used a variety of 2mm, 4mm and 6mm long WW Scenics static grass to create a variety of lengths and colours in the grasses. In the area at the top of the bridge where it enters the field, I used a brighter greener colour as this area appears very different when reviewing photos vs. the unkempt hillsides. Applying static grass is fairly straightforward. I made a conscious effort to not apply glue across the whole hillside as I wanted to have patchy areas, and be able to fill these in with other growth.

Mixing up a batch of mixed lengths and colours of Static Grass, and applying it as a base to the hillsides. Last shot shows the photo backdrop on the curved end glued in place.

Moving on to more dimensional scenery, I finally glued on the photo backdrop section along the curved backdrop that wraps the tracks on one end. This will be blended into the hill using 3D trees made using a variety of materials and techniques. The first is using Scenic Express Supertrees as the bases of the trees. This is a natural material, that can be painted and have scenery materials added to to create the look of trees. The material however, comes as a bit of a tangled mess. Once I found pieces that were the right shape/size, I needed to figure out how to straighten them out some. After a lot of reading online, the recommended technique seems to be soak them in boiling water for 5 minutes, then hang them with weights at the bottom to hold them straight. While they are hung, spray with isopropyl alcohol and scenic cement to effectively glue them straight. This seems to have worked, maybe not as well as I would have liked, but they are definitely straighter and I think I can work with them.

Home made hanging rack for Scenic Express Supertrees and soaked super trees hanging while getting glued to straighten them.

Last but not least, more messy foam work. Digging a hole in the back of the hillside for the Iowa Scaled Engineering Soundbyte. It will live behind the scenery under the bridge, and create a sound of the crossing gates just to the west of the area on the diorama. Next up for this is to tidy up the wiring and run the switch to an accessible point. This is another project that would have been much easier had it been a part of the plan when I started, but I didn’t even know these existed when I started the diorama!

Soundbyte in its little cave. Ready to shorten the wiring leads and fully install it.

Next up, making the trees and getting them installed along the backdrop, then filling in the lower parts of the hillside, and some wiring work to get the Soundbyte installed, and the electrical power for the signals fully installed. It had felt for a while like I wasn’t making any progress, at least not visibly, but as with so many of my projects, I find sometimes great lengths of time spent looking and thinking, lead to great bursts of visible progress in a short period of time.

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