When things don’t go right

I have set myself here in February on a path to get done what I am calling my “base scenery”. Basically, I don’t want to see any more of the foam layer beneath the layout. I don’t necessarily mean having the scenery done, but I mean a layer of dirt material, or pavement as appropriate so everything is semi-presentable. I’m not expecting visitors soon, but I’ve decided that it’s time to advance some things that are easy and probably should have been done a while ago were it not for my being easily distracted by shiny side projects or my health issues through the back half of 2021.

Using crafting foam to create an impression of the track to cut interlocking brick styrene to pave the Toronto Carpet Factory courtyard.

First up, finishing some sidewalks and paved areas. This is pretty straightforward for the most part. Cut styrene to shape, install risers to get to the correct height, and install. The more complicated part was I decided to provide some visual interest by paving the Toronto Carpet Factory with interlocking brick styrene sheet rather than plain pavement. To do this, I used cheap craft foam to create a press impression of the track, so I could cut that out of the foam, and transfer it to the styrene to then trim that to get a good fit to the track. A similar technique was used for the plain white styrene sidewalks to make cutting templates for any areas where the curb wasn’t straight, and to mark locations for hydro poles sticking through the pavement. They are not fully installed yet as I need to paint them before they go down, but the work of creating the pieces is complete.

Moving on, I have started to put down Scenic Express fine sifted soil, my base dirt of choice. I have had great success with this so far on the layout and on the Canyon Road diorama, but I have run into a problem with my latest applications, and I’m not 100% sure of the cause. I was having issues with my sprayer that I use to wet groundcover after it is down to break the surface tension so my thinned glue flows to hold it in place, so I am not entirely sure that glue flowed properly. It is also winter, and the area I am working on is directly beneath an Hvac vent (the ducts in the layout room are in the ceiling). As you can see from the picture below, the soil did not glue all the way through, and it glued and cracked on the surface, easily pulling apart to reveal completely unglued soil. I am not entirely sure what the bigger factor was, other areas I laid last night that were not directly below the vent don’t seem to have cracked the same way, so I think its probably the hot air drying things out too fast, but I’m not sure. This weekend will be used to pull up bad laid ground to work on trying again, and hopefully pull out the airbrush to paint styrene pavement to install.

Toronto Carpet before soil, and the cracked and unglued soil the next day.

This is hardly a terminal setback, and probably one that if I hadn’t pulled apart the worst cracked area I could have left alone, but for my own piece of mind and future projects, I want to try and understand what happened so I can prevent it from happening again.

7 thoughts on “When things don’t go right

  1. We are our own worst critics. I am less than an amateur when it comes to this kind of thing. In fact at this point I know nothing about landscaping (that will change in time). All I do know is that from here it just looks like there was a drought and the soil cracked, something that could happen in real life. But I know how it is. It’s not the look you intended. Bottom line, it looks great and is amazing to watch and read. 🙂

    • Thanks Steve, yes, it has that effect, but the problem is because it wasn’t intentional and the under layer isn’t properly adhered, it won’t have long term stability and could continue to crack and fail over time, as the layout progresses, it becomes harder to access and fix problems, so it is best to try and figure out what went wrong and address it now rather than down the line.


      • Yeah. You’re right, of course. It may look ok to others and you may even convince yourself, but if it eventually falls apart… You can’t get really good at landscaping unless you have the humility to accept mistakes and problems and the patience to redo them until they’re right.

  2. Hi Stephen
    I’ve seen this before…I think it just didn’t get a good soaking right through, needs more wetting from the sprayer. I tend to apply this kind of cover in at least two thinner layers or more. Looking real good though.
    Good Luck

    • Thanks Rick, yeah, these are deep areas, and will need another layer to match paved areas and such. So far the early returns on today’s re-do is that the job of wetting the soil was much more successful and the kind of cracking that occurred isn’t re-occurring. Fingers crossed it still looks like that in the morning!


  3. I’ve done this before too. Like Rick suggested probably just the glue stayed near the surface and never soaked in enough.

    Lately I’ve been trying to slow this part of the process down because I was thinking that I was moving too quickly: I’d spray my heavy mist of water onto the ballast, dirt, whatever combination of whatever I was trying to bond this way and then, almost immediately, I’d chase it with my thinned white glue. Then I started thinking that if the reason I’m using the plain water in the first place is to help the glue soak in I should slow that part down. Now I’m spraying on the water and then waiting a little to let it soak in (theoretically deeper). At this point I can also look at the material and see how saturated it appears. At that point when it looks like it about can’t hold much more water I start in with the white glue and water mix.

    That craft foam idea you use is brilliant. I love it. Talk about a crazy good way to predict a shape.


    • Thanks Chris, yes, I think there is a speed issue at work too. I have it in my mind that I need to apply the glue before the water starts to evaporate or dry out. Just finishing a follow up post where it appears my Saturday efforts have worked better than my Friday ones!


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