Quick General Scenery Update

Haven’t been working much on the layout the past few weeks as May has rolled into June. I’ve been “working” on a batch of seven box cars, six are now painted and ready for decals, but other than a post when they are done as a point of pride in completing a bunch of resin kits, they haven’t made for interesting projects to write above. The weather has gotten nice outside as Spring has finally arrived in Toronto (and summers Humidity has not), work has been busy, and staying in the layout room to work on it after the day job work ends has been less attractive. That said, a couple of weeks ago we had a rainy weekend day where I wasn’t feeling like watching TV, and I wanted to both move the scenery on one side of the layout that is nearing completion forward, and make some steps on the other end where I have recently been working on buildings and paving/scenery to keep it moving forward.

The first fence I wanted to do was a wood board fence, I’ve built plenty before, but in doing this one, I used up pretty much all the scale lumber in the right sizes I had. Time for an order of supplies to start being put together. To build the fence, after I cut everything, I dyed it a variety of stain colours to create the appearance of different ages of boards. Once they were all dry, I pre-built the sections on the desk, drilled holes in the layout, and test fitted as you can see below. I am quite happy with the look of the fence. I need to paint and finish the gate you can see in the pictures, but that’s an easy task. Now that I’ve finally got a fence here, I can sort out finishing scenery in the Brunswick Balke Collender yard.

A “quick” wooden fence in progress, counting out if enough boards have been cut, and the finished project.

The second area, I wanted a chain link fence with a big gate across the siding as this is an industry that received tank cars, so that seemed like it would be appropriate detail for it to be fenced off. I have written in the past about my home made chain link fence, so I won’t go into all the details here. I have only half finished it, I haven’t gotten out the tulle to add the mesh, but I have the gates and pieces I need to finish it, which I need to do sometime even though gluing the tulle to the brass frame inevitably means gluing my fingers to it with the CA! Once I get this bit of fence done though, a quick trip to the paint booth, and the gate for the wood fence above and this fence will be done, and I can blend the scenery around the fence.

Making some short sections of chain link and the gates for an area where tank cars are unloaded.

It is as always, nice to see things go from my minds eye to reality, every time I do this, and I know I’ve said it before, seeing things come to life helps me to get/stay motivated to work on other parts of the layout. Always keep making progress, even when its small!

Constant Steady Progress on Buildings

Slow and steady wins the race as they say. I haven’t done anything crazy or particularly revolutionary, just slowly making progress when time permits on scenery and buildings. It is however, immensely satisfying to see things come together, every bit of scenery or layer of paint or pan pastel moves the layout forward, and brings it ever closer to a state where it looks decent in photographs.

Slowly but surely a building emerges. From no paint and no paving, to paint, windows and then the windows fogged from behind. Now to blend the scenery and build a fence and gate!

My latest progress has been on a curved portion of a building on the west end near Mowat. I used this building as my test mule for the Cricut in cutting wall cores and making vinyl window transfers, so I was motivated to actually get it along to the point of being ready to assemble and start to see how it looks as the different parts come together. It is now together and on the layout. I think it will need some more work with pan pastels to build layers of grime and colour on the bricks, but over the course of the weekend its gone from primer to a nearly complete building. I need to spend some time blending scenery around the edges of the styrene pavement, but once that is done, this end of the layout will really start to come alive. I have also decided that the spur where the tank car is parked should be fenced off and have a gate, so I’ll need to break out my fence making jigs again and make some more home brewed chain link.

What a difference some paint makes. Threw a mix of a bunch of brown-ish paints together and threw some paint at the parts of Hinde & Dauch that were ready for it. Let that cure for a while, the mask and paint the window frames.

On the other end of the layout, I am slowly making progress on Hinde & Dauch. I haven’t cut out any more windows in the largest part of the building lately, but I did throw some paint at the other two portions, just for the motivation of seeing the building start to come alive, instead of being grey primer. It is a hugely satisfying and motivating result of half an hours work mixing up a brown paint from 3 or 4 shades and spraying, to then see it look like a building. I will need to let this cure for a bit, then mask and paint the windows and doors, but it is a relatively low effort high reward task to have gotten some paint on it.

Finally Hiding the last of the Foam

A milestone of sorts is basically upon me, the last of the layer of pink insulation foam my layout scenery is built out of is almost gone. I have laid the last base coat of ground cover dirt, and the last bits of hard cover paved area that I am making out of styrene are cut and ready to paint. I have been focusing on the large Hinde and Dauch Paper building and box car kits in terms of layout work the past few weeks, but this past few days the mood struck me to finish something else that I have been working towards, hiding the foam.

Working my way through the last large area of soil to be laid. Between the buildings along the wall will be paved, and a building hides the two tracks.

This is one of those things that could have been done months ago, if I’d wanted to just get on with it, but as with so many of my projects, I have a lot of things on the go as my attention wanders.

The last corner of dirt goes down, and preparing the final styrene concrete and sidewalk parts for painting and installation.

Hopefully in the next few days I can get the paved areas painted and installed, and start working on touch-ups to the base scenery and start thinking about the first passes with some detail scenery using static grass and other soils/dirt’s as appropriate to build texture and colour. As with everything, the end of one project brings others in building a layout, and as my own worst critic sometimes, far too often I see the areas where I need to do work or fix things vs. appreciating what I have done, but for now, I’m just going to sit back (well, stand up given the height of my benchwork), and appreciate the fact that wherever I look on the layout, the last vestiges of unsceniced foam have all vanished!

Recovering from a Scenery Fail

Well, another day, another shot at my scenery. After my Friday failure with the glue not soaking through and creating a crust surface, I ripped out the worst affected areas where I could get a finger in and pull away the soil base scenic material, and tried again.

Three areas where the glue did not work, I was able to literally pull the scenery up in chunks with my fingers once I got into the cracks, not good.

I spent a half hour on Saturday looking at the places I had put down scenery on Friday, about 1/3 of it I was able to peel right away with just my fingers once it started to come up, revealing unglued soil below. These were admittedly thick layers, but not the thickest I’ve done. There were a couple of differences in my technique looking back. In the past, when I’ve applied large layers, they were often on top of a coat of latex house paint to give some ground colour to the foam beneath. This also helped adhere the bottom layer of soil to the ground, and when wetted from above, the paint thins and eventually wicks up while the glue wicks down.

Attempt number two, a good clean and service on my sprayer bottle for water to pre-wet the soil for the thinned glue to be applied, and immediately more obvious that the glue was soaking in rather than sitting on the surface.

I have to admit, I am also guilty of recently having used my water spray bottle with some super thinned glue in it as well. On inspection, I was not getting a good spray as the nozzle was definitely a little bit gooped up. It looked like I was getting a good spray, but I think I was almost certainly only wetting the top of the soil, and it wasn’t soaking all the way through to help the thinned glue flow in when it is applied.

My second go around on Saturday, a lot more water was used to get the area wet, and the glue discernibly soaked in immediately rather than pooling on the surface.

Sunday morning, looking much better. A couple of very small cracks, but it is holding unlike Saturday morning where it pulled right up. I can work with this.

All these areas will need a second top coat. As you can see from the pictures, there are areas paved with styrene that are still sitting proud of the ground level. Another thin level of dirt that hopefully adheres better to blend the ground together once the styrene pavement is actually glued down, and hopefully these areas will be ready for more “finish” scenery with some static grass and weeds and such. Live an learn, I probably should have recognized that the glue wasn’t seeping in properly, but at least it’s a recoverable mistake.

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.

Making Trees for Canyon Road

I wrote in November about starting the scenery for Canyon Road. Back then, I was working to straighten Scenic Express SuperTrees material and getting ready to make trees. Yesterday, I took those armatures and started adding SuperLeaf material and actually turning them into trees. On the diorama, the trees form the majority of the background to transition between the ground and the backdrop, so I needed to get them done sometime so I can fill in the scenery around them and finish the scene.

Supplies for making trees, and tress drying before they are installed.

I wanted these trees to be as simple as possible, in part because the Super Trees tree material is quite fragile, so I didn’t want to mess around trying to add any polyfibre bulk to them. I used a tried and true method of spraying with a heavy hold hair spray, and dropping down leaf material onto the armatures. For my trees, I mixed a variety of colours to create different shades of green and orange trees as this is a fall scene I am modelling. There are four or five different tonal varieties of mix across the dozen or so trees and large shrubs I made. After the leaf scatter is on, another shot of hairspray over top, and then set them aside to dry.

While they were drying, I ran the “electrical wire” on the telegraph poles that remains to provide power to the signals, and got ready to plant the trees. To plant them, I used a pointed awl to make holes in my scenery. I’m finding a downside of the way I did the scenery with plaster sheets here, you can’t just poke things into the scenery, you need to punch/drill a real hole to get them in, and glue them in place. Good to know for future scenery on projects.

Getting the trees installed on Canyon Road. Such a simple project but it so advances the look of the diorama in a few short hours.

I am pretty pleased with how the trees came out. Every shot of the diorama looks a bit better when I make progress like this. I have a variety of long grasses and other materials to work into the undergrowth and hillside to hopefully finish the scene as it looks a bit barren under the trees now, but that is a project for another day.