Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Modular Scenery Blocks

After a 6 month hiatus, I returned to Harte Siding to continue on with some scenery.

This time around I thought I would try and cobble together some scenery  away from the layout on a workbench in a modular form and then when complete take back to the layout and position in place.

I see a couple of advantages with this for me and my layout. Firstly I can make all the mess I want and it doesn't interfere with the rest of the layout and track work. Second and equally important it is much easier for me to build the scenery this way, without having to reach over and put myself in uncomfortable contorted body positions to do the scenery.

I am using 2 inch extruded styrofoam built up in appropriate layers for the various elevations. This stuff is very easily sculpted with utility knives and rasp type files. A hot wire cutter would be nice, but so far I am managing just fine.

Then I use various drywall and other fillers, like Dura Bond 90 to fine tune the land forms.

Also experimenting with tree bark for rock forms and landscaping elevations. Oak is the tree bark of choice this time around.

I've used Woodland Scenics blended turf for ground cover, but I am also using fine sifted sand and sawdust from my wood shop and colouring it with acrylic and water colour paints, which allows me to get the right shade I am striving for.  We'll see how that pans out. So far so good.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Creating Deciduous Trees and Shrubs

I like trees...lots of trees. And after checking out the prices for ready made, I knew I would be learning  how to 'create' my own. You tube is chock full of how to's on making trees. I watched a few and tried to pick out the best bits from each of them and try to employ them in my own tree making handiwork.

For my first batch of trees I choose Scenic Express Super Trees in the super value pak. Apparently this 'tree' is harvested from the northland (Serbia) where it grows as some short type of scrub vegetation.

The trees are dried out and very brittle right out of the box. Some folks boil them to soften them up....an hour in super hot water does the same trick. Some will them hang them to dry and attach a small weight to the upside down tree to straighten it out. For most of mine I leave them be and just let them assume their natural shape.

Next I mix a diluted batch of white glue and water....approximately 5 to 1 ratio. 5 parts water to 1 part white glue in a large pail or tub....big enough to submerge the twigs and trees. I do several at at time. Let them soak for a minute or so.  Pull them out and shake off the excess  medium and hang them to dry overnight. I've also had good success just laying them on a couple sheets of newspapers.

Once dry you can start pruning and shaping. With these particular plants there is also a random leaf or two or dozen that need to be removed. A pair of long tweezers works good for this.

Unless your modelling paper birch or a stand of poplars, most tree bark is not white, so some light painting of the trunk or main branch is necessary. I use various shades of flat grey, flat light green, and khaki colours. Cheap rattle can spray paint is what I use.

Next up is the el cheapo unscented hair spray. Mist the branches and shake on some ground foam, or ground cover, pretty much anything that will hang onto the branches will work. Obviously you want to mix and match different shades and hues of greens, some light yellows for highlights. Then remist again with the hair spray and stand them in some extruded foam to dry overnight. Next day you can plant your forest and shrubs.

I think overall my first batch of trees turned out not too bad. Lots of fine tuning to do as I go along for sure. Now I just have to ramp up and start reforesting the rest of the layout.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Finally Made It Back

Here we are, finally made it back after that last time warp of November 2016. Times change and so did my layout.

My last grandiose layout plans came unglued at the hinges for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was my over ambitious dream list of what a first layout should be, seeing as how I haven't been   doing this model railroad gig for over 40 years.

So I hunkered down and regrouped, read Lance Mindheim's books about shelf layouts again over the winter and decided that perhaps a smaller more manageable shelf layout in which I can actually complete all stages of construction might be in order.

With that in mind I cobbled together a shelf layout that measures 20 inches wide by 30 feet in a more or less U shape configuration. Track consists of one meandering rural line and a small siding. The final track plan may well end up getting revised down the line, but for now I wanted to move onto other facets of the hobby....electrical, scenery, weathering, structures etc. I want to complete this layout and try a whole bunch of different methods for scenery, so I can get a feel for what others have done and see what works best for me. So the overall cohesiveness of the layout , especially the scenery, may not jive 100%, but that's OK.  This will be the guinea pig test layout for the next one,if I like it enough to keep going...  ;).

At this point, the track is down, weathered and ballasted. I used fine sifted sand and glued it all down.

The wiring underneath the layout for DCC is for the most part done. Main bus line and feeders hooked up.

Structures will consist of a couple of elevators and some smaller buildings suited for a backwoods rural theme. I haven't cobbled together anymore structures as yet, other than the two grain elevators I built over a year ago.

My focus right now is on the scenery. Applying ground covers, small elevations of styrofoam, small shrubs and grasses and of course trees. Some of the scenery was homemade and some stuff bought.
Using a lot of woodland scenics ground foam, fine and coarse turf and static grasses.
Been trying to source my supplies locally when I can, however as of late I have been obtaining most of my scenery stuff from Otter Valley Railroad and Credit Valley Railroad in Ontario. Cheaper than local and delivered right to my door. Part of the  problem with buying local is that 95% of the time they don't have the stuff in stock and have to end up ordering it in and wait several weeks. I can do the same thing, cheaper, faster and all around less hassle. My take on it is that a lot of these bricks and mortar places are just shooting themselves in the foot the way they are running their show. If you can't at least stock basic scenery supplies, that apply to all scales, I dunno, I just don't get it. And then they cry foul that no one is patronizing their business.  Rant over.

For about $15 I built my own static grass applicator. It needs a little tweaking but it's just about there. Beats paying $200 plus for the retail one.

And trees.....trees are ridiculous if you want to buy the commercial stuff. Not very realistic and pricey to boot. So I did a little research and made my own and I think they turned out just fine. They are still a work in progress as I fine tune the 'leaves' and colour hues, but I'm slowly honing the tree crafting art.

So that's where I am at to this point.   And so far..it's fun.
Here's hoping the next post won't be 5 months down the line.