Scenic practice

I’ve been doing a fair bit of work on the club layout lately. Along with making the signals (more on that later), I seem to have ended up doing the scenics too.  Given that my previous scenic ‘CV’ only extends to arranging some plastic fir trees around a papier mâché shoe-box tunnel, I thought I should perhaps practice a bit first…

So I’ve started a little diorama (60x40cm) using the same techniques as already employed on the main layout. First I butchered an old layout top to make a plywood frame for a single line cutting through a sloping hill side. The idea was to have ~half cutting and ~half embankment. I forgot the height of the track bed though, so it’s more embankment than cutting!


Basic diorama formers

I painted the frame white for some protection, and to see/fill the holes and dents in the old ply more easily. Then I added the basic land forms from chicken wire, mod-roc, and plaster skim (mixed with brown paint and PVA).  The plaster skim is also added underneath, which forms a nice hard shell.  This is the basic state the club layout is in already (plus track work of course). From here, I’m into terra incognita…


Evolution of the landscape

I’m not sure I’d use this technique again — the chicken wire is simply painful to put on, and I don’t think gives that much subtlety to the landscape. Next step is to put the track base down, then do the cess before laying and ballasting the track. The intention here is to go for a fairly well maintained single line from the 1930s…

Off on holiday next week, but a club mate has lent me this estimable tome. Looking forward to getting learnt about modern scenics 🙂


Holiday reading…


Fascias and Backscenes

The boring blog entry on woodwork… but I always like reading how others build their layouts, so I thought I should put an entry in too. It is about all I’ve managed to progress in the last month or so anyway. Really, this has been an exercise in “fail to prepare, prepare to fail; and then try to work out how to recover with out it looking like a total c*ck up”

Attached ImageJunction dock was meant to be totally self contained on a 4x2ft board, and presented ‘cameo’ style. I fairly quickly realised though that a little off scene extension would allow the layout to be run as an inglenook and provide a bit more operational interest. So, first thing was to install a solid based to take the tracks off scence. A little hardwood fillet (cut from an old bit of skirting board, I think) was inserted into the basedboard. This will take brass screws for the track. With hindsight, I’m not sure this will add much. I could have just driven the screws through the ply and into the softwood frame with I suspect as much effect…

Side walls are 6mm ply, about 14-inches high (oh yes, nice unit mixing :)). The backscene is made from 3mm hardboard, curved between the end boards. Here is major failure #1. The end boards are 1200mm apart. The hardboard is sold in 1200mm lengths. The arc of a curve is longer than the chord of the curve… bum, should have though of that… So I had to install a couple of carefully shaped “piers” at either end to support the curved backscence.

The cut-outs for the sector plates were marked from the trackplan and cut 60mm high. They’ll eventually be hidden inside/behind buildings.

Attached ImageTo avoid the “corners in the sky” issues, I’ve added a pair of cardboard wings to continue the curve of the backscene round. I cut a chamfer into the hardboard to make sure the card sits flush, so it should be easier to fill/paint the join. Fairly pleased with how well that worked.

Attached ImageHere is failure #2 though. I cut the backscence 12-inches high (half the hardboard width), the intention being to operate the layout from the back. I soon realised though, that most of the track is under sheds, so can’t be seen from above! The backscene is also too low compared to the proscenium arch, so you can see above it. So I accepted the layout needs to be operated from the front, and should be a fully enclosed box — meaning a 14-inch high backscene. Of course, having cut the original board in half, I needed to go and get a whole new bit of hardboard… Not too expensive a mistake at least!

Attached ImageThe front of the layout is a “proscenium arch” (of sorts), cut from a sheet of 6mm ply. I used the router to get nice round corners to the aperture. The front panel is mounted to a top panel (actually two top panels, as I didn’t cut the first one deep enough! failure #3.

Also attached is the small daughter board which will hold a pair of sidings to enable inglenook operation. This is just a simple sheet of ply mounted to a “T” of softwood. It’s aligned to the main board with a pair of bullet alignment dowels, and held on by a pair of M6 bolts running into threaded inserts in the main board frame. Probably at some point I’ll decide the daughter is a permanent feature and will build a little front panel for it too… (failure #4?)

Attached ImageHere’s failure #5 (related to failure #1). I used the same length of ply for the base and for the proscenium — which means it only comes to the inner edge of the end boards! So I had to add some corner mouldings to get a nice edge on the front and side. I should have accounted for the end board thickness and sized the baseboard a bit smaller to compensate… All painted up though (dark grey – not black) it doesn’t look too bad I think. Backscene ‘wings’ still to be painted…

So, now I have to stop procrastinating about turnout operating mechanisms, and get on and lay the track…