Oh dear! Another long time between updates.
My excuse is that I have simply been too busy to write anything! Now that I am taking a short break, I can do a catch up although I’m sure I missed taking some pictures that may have helped explain things.
Firstly, I built a small triangular ‘filler’ board for the corner where the layout turns through 90 degrees - this provides a base for some scenery beyond the railway itself, supports part of the backscene and hopefully, provides a way of getting rolling stock onto the traverser (more on this later).
Now the weather had turned threatening so I re-assembled the whole layout in my box-room and gave my Prussian motive power a running test, this was very therapeutic and enjoyable. It also served to show that certain of my locos are unsuitable for use on the layout, sadly the lovely Weinert T13 0-8-0T is of too rigid a wheelbase to handle one short but tight curve and my Roco T14 2-8-2T is just too poor a runner - no real surprise there. Also, few of my tender locos will be suitable as they are too long for my little turntable.
My scenic expert, Doug had lent me some plaster cast samples of various items, including some lovely “old fashioned” platform sections. These showed that I needed to raise the area around where such items will be installed so I built up the area using strips of Woodland Scenics roadbed. Once this was done, the platforms looked much better.
Now, I had to tackle the job that so many folk hate - the ballasting. By now, time was running short and I had to get the layout to a certain state before I could take it to my very good friend, Doug’s house so that he can work his magic on the scenery.
So, I had to get a move on! I decided the least tearful way of doing the ballasting was to simply mask everything off where I didn’t want any ballast to appear.
Once the masking tape was in place, it was a simple matter to use a small spoon and apply the ballast. Now, I have had some dreadful experiences with ’real’ stone chippings in the past so this time, I am using C&L lightweight ballast, which I believe is made from crushed Apricot stones - it is supposed to be quieter than regular stone and was quite easy to apply. It seems much less abrasive of the finger ends as you work it into position.
Once in place, I lightly moistened the area by gently spraying with ‘wet’ water, then applied diluted scenic glue from Woodland Scenics that does not set hard.
The trick now is once the glue has seeped into position - get the masking tape off quickly as it is a nightmare once everything has dried in place. By rinsing each piece of tape in a tub of water as it came off the board, I was able to recover quite a lot of ballast too. No sense being wasteful, I always say.
Amazingly, each baseboard must have taken at least 8-10 hours to ballast but that includes all the cleaning up of all the rails after each session.
Before I painted the sides of each rail with rusty coloured paint, I spent some time cleaning off the little pieces of grit that had glued themselves to the rail, this was another rather tedious job but worth it, I feel.
The beauty of working on a portable layout is that it is so easy to separate the boards and turn them around to gain easy access to each side, saves a lot of backache.
In anticipation of this job, I had invested in a “Rusty Rails Painter”, a miniature paint roller with a drip feed type applicator. This made painting the rail sides go very much faster than when I’ve used a brush previously. However, I still used a brush to do the finishing touches on the points.
With a spell of clear weather on the horizon, it was back outside with the layout so I could now get the whole track-bed weathered. It had been a long while since I last used my airbrush so that got a thorough clean first, then a few practice blasts before I hit the track. After a couple of deep breaths, I did it, from both sides of the layout, first with grey then with track colour, cleaning the railheads both times. Remarkably, this job took only a couple of hours of quick work.
I had also started on my back-scene boards which for now, are simple strips of thin plywood, some recovered from other projects and are to be painted a neutral pale to mid grey.
When coming to shield my traverser from public gaze, here is where I came across a hitherto unforeseen problem. The backscene has to shield the traverser including when at it’s fully extended position, otherwise the traverser is useless. When set up in my box room, the wall prevents the traverser from fully extending but in the open, it reaches beyond the width of the baseboard.
This would mean that the backscene has to be supported in fresh air!
My only visible solution was to build a baseboard extension for the traverser board and having done that, I thought that I might as well add a matching scenic extension board too.
The layout has now grown by three new baseboards however, only one of which is for home use and this was always planned anyway.
I was now in a position to finalise the backscene boards which then let me make a start on building the scenery ‘proper’. At this point, I was committed to adding “hills” directly to the main baseboards when Doug informed me that he had never worked on sectional layout scenery before and he wondered how we would avoid the very obvious joins between the baseboards.
This was now panic time for me as I have never gotten beyond this point before and was in brand new territory. Somehow, a flash of inspiration came to me - something to do with the new extensions for the traverser.
I reasoned that I needed one scenic section for home use (slim) and one separate section for exhibition use (broader). This gave me the idea of individual lift out sections that would have no joins in them as the sections can now span across two or more baseboard joins. I felt this was the kind of thinking that Iain Rice (a railway modelling and writing hero) might approve of, hopefully!
I gathered up all my remaining pieces of plywood but still had to form the larger section from two pieces and when it came to gluing the pink foam* boards onto the sub-board, I weighed everything down with all the heavy objects I could easily lay my hands on. 24 hours under approximately 150Kg worked quite well.
Now it was time to start carving the hills themselves - the smaller section I had attacked with an old bread knife but I found that quite hard going so with the larger section, I thought of using my hand saw. This worked well enough for the major profiles then I switched to my surform and was able to finish my landform quite easily.
With some logistical changes occurring at Doug’s house with regard to space issues, we agreed to work on my scenery together at my house so I cleared an area in my big shed and set Leberecht up there, ready for a site inspection by Doug.
I’ve now ended up with Doug’s impressive collection of scenery building supplies at my house and additional jobs! I had built the faces of my cutting too close to the track, leaving no room for actual scenic treatment so we agreed that I will cut that area back somewhat. This will allow us to add some treatments that should completely disguise where the terrain joins are.
Having worked almost full-time on the layout for the past few weeks, I am taking a couple of days break - mainly for family matters so that’s all for now, Folks,
*Why are these so hard to obtain in the UK?