Category Archives: Scenery

More Backdrop Work…

In keeping with the theme of getting the backdrop scenes done, I completed the area between the large elevator on the backdrop and the main road thru Jackson. This strip includes the two apartment buildings and three commercial buildings.

Row of backdrop buildings awaiting scenery.

In the foreground in this strip is the smaller grain elevator and the feed mill. In the photo above the feed mill has been removed to make access to the background easier. Additionally I have ordered a Roomettes Lighting interior for the feed mill.

My thoughts for the background scene were simple. Several trees by the apartments and a fence running behind them. The commercial buildings would have some trash by their back doors. Additionally I added a couple of backdrop buildings cut from a sheet of Walther’s Insta Buildings Main Street Stores.  These were placed in the gaps between the apartment buildings and the commercial buildings.

The first step was drilling the holes for the fence posts. I wanted to get these done before putting the grass in. First I measured out how much fence I needed, cut it and taped it down to the work bench. I then laid a piece of masking tape down by it and marked the post locations. The tape was then transferred to the layout and I drilled the holes.

Drilling the post holes for the fence behind the apartment buildings.

After the holes were drilled I started with the basic grass. With the grass in, I then added static grass to the area between the tracks and the fence as well as behind the commercial buildings. This was my second attempt with static grass, the first did not go well. I believe what I did the first time was hold the applicator too high so that the grass laid down when it hit the ground. Keeping that in mind I tried to get the applicator as close the the ground as possible. Being close to the buildings this was a little difficult. But it did turn out better than the first attempt.

With all the grass in I then added the fence followed by some scrub shrubbery. I also added the trees to the areas between the buildings.

Long shot of the apartment buildings with finished scenery.
The finished scenery behind the apartment buildings.

I then directed my attention to the commercial buildings. I added some shrubbery and the trash piles.

The trash behind the retail stores.

The whole scene turned out rather well and I’m happy with it. I will add the ballast after all the scenery is in.

With this area done it’s on to the next. This section is from main street to the beginning of the peninsula.

The last five feet of Jackson that will get its scenery.

This will include both the background as well as foreground scenery.

Till next time, Happy Modelling…


Missing The Little Things…

Missing the little things. By that I mean that for all the work that I have done I still haven’t gotten to the little things. The details that make and finish a scene.

This became apparent back when I was laying down the first ballast around the peninsula. I had gotten the ballast down and smoothed out and stood back to inspect it for any irregularity’s. Just for fun I grabbed a track gang figure set I had and set them into place as if they too were inspecting the ballast job.

Looking southbound, ballast in waiting for glue.
Looking northbound past the farm, ballast awaiting glue.
Ballast down, awaiting approval before applying glue.

I have found that as I had planned the layout I foresaw the different scenes but not really the backdrop scenes. So as I have finished the different areas and towns I have filled in the basics in the foreground but have not done the area by the backdrop. And because the background scenes aren’t done, I haven’t wanted to finish the scenes in the foreground because they would be prone to damage as I reach across it to finish the back sections.

A few examples…
Overall station scene put in place.
Make up of the track cleaning train.
Basic scenery done up to Main Street in Jackson.

The only scene finished front to back is the farmhouse scene, though no figures and the rest of the details need to be placed. Otherwise all the towns have foreground scenery and buildings but little along the backdrop. The exception would be the town of Jackson where I have the backdrop buildings done. Just need to be lit. Although I came across the Roomettes website and now thinking about interiors for some of the buildings. The hill scene/view block between Jackson and the downtown New Brighton scene has basic ground cover down but is awaiting trees. As is the pasture scene for the farm.

Which got me to thinking. Last fall I bought a Scenics Express Supertrees starter set. I watched a video on working with the set. The first thing they suggested was spraying the trunks with Rust Oleum Camouflage brown paint. Being as it was a bit too cold to spray outside and although I have the spray booth, I prefer not to spray oil based paints inside, I figured I would wait for spring.

Well, the temperature outside is warm enough now. And it’s something I can accomplish outside (remember the demon puppy). So one of the next things up will be to do the trees. And then start finishing the various scenes around the layout.

I also will be ordering a couple sets of the Roomette interior sets. When received will give you a run down  on the product.

Long story short. I need to start finishing things before moving on. Which is actually a good thing to realize as I keep looking at the upper level and thinking of all the great scenes to come.

Wish me luck. Till next time, Happy Modeling…

Not Sure… A Quarterly Update?

Wow, it’s been a while. (Major Understatement). While I would love to say that while I haven’t had the time to sit down and write, I have gotten a ton done on the layout.

Truth is, other things have eaten into available time. Personally I would have thought with the current pandemic keeping myself and my wife at home, I would have more than enough time and money. We don’t do anything or go anywhere. Big trip out is to pickup curbside for the things we ordered online.

First there were the home projects…

Part of it was the home projects. Last I left you I had only to make and mount the cabinet doors on my wife’s shelf system. I formally called it a project on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving it was merely to paint the kitchen. As you may recall I was having the heavy lifting on the other things done professionally.

Yeah, that didn’t work out. The day we were having the appliances installed, we also had the guy who was doing the final measurements for the new granite countertops. He kindly informed me that when they installed the countertops the appliances would have to come out. Additionally, because we had a portion of the counter with a 10″ overhang for a breakfast nook, we would have to add support for the stone countertop.

Yes I removed and reinstalled the appliances (which I had paid to have installed). And yes, I tracked down the brackets for the overhang. Which meant I had to remove the old countertop (yup, paid to have this done) to install them.

Also in there, my wife’s parents needed some light work done around their home and didn’t want any outside workers in their house. I was it.

That all being said, I did get some work done. It was one of those get a little done and write about it or skip the writing and get a little more done.

Where I left you…

I will start with the the drive in theater sign.

I remembered that Miller Engineering had a drive-in theater sign, just not this one. This one was much better. As I was exploring it I noticed that it was a limited run piece. And they were out. The scramble was on as I now had to have THAT sign. I did find it on Amazon without much of a markup from suggested list. Once I had the sign I realized that it was going to need a little work before hitting the layout.

Next project up, Drive In theater sign form Miller Engineering.

As you can see, it has everything needed for basic installation. The problem would mainly be in the gray portion of the sign. It’s rather flexible, plus it had a slight bend to it.

The naked base.

My plan was simple. I would build a base around the circuit board that looked like a brick planter base and would work up from there, strengthening the gray portion and ending with a walkway for putting up the letters on the marquee.

First step was to give myself something to glue to. Using Evergreen I-beams glued to the outer edge of the circuit board gave me a good starting point.

Added styrene I-beams for gluing surface.

A larger piece of styrene was added to the I-beam to give me a larger gluing surface and a little added clearance for the wiring harness .

Additional styrene strip added as gluing surface.

Next I added the brick sides. The brick work is cut from a brick wall left over from some unknown kit. They measure out at just under 4 feet high. Was shooting for 4 feet, but went down to the nearest mortar line for easier cutting. Once in place I cut out a piece of styrene for the top. I split this and cut out a notch to fit around the upright gray portion.

Brick base done.

To finish off the planter I then added plastic to form a concrete cap around the top.

Concrete cap installed.

Two larger styrene I-beams were cut and added to the edges of the upright gray portion of the sign. These alone straightened  and strengthened the upright. I attached them with white tacky glue as I was afraid anything stronger may attack the sign material (I had done the same with the initial I-beams around the circuit board ). So I cut a piece of .040 sheet styrene and glued them connecting the upright I-beams.

Still a little floppy, I added triangular braces to each corner. This finally had the desired effect. The sign was now straight. I then added the walkways to the top of the sides.

Walk way done on this side.

After the walkways it was time for paint. First was the mortar lines. I did this in my traditional paint and scrape method. To recap, I paint on a coat of concrete paint over the brick, let it set a bit and then scrape off the paint from the brick face leaving the paint in the recessed mortar lines . Obviously the concrete cap was painted concrete, the upright portion was painted white and the walkways were painted black to blend with the sign at the bottom of the arrow. I then added some foliage to the planter and it was ready for the layout.

The Miller Engineering road sign ready for the table.

Next up was to find its home on the layout. Not having a sign when laying out the initial drive-in layout became obvious. There really wasn’t a good spot for the sign. So I made it work as best as possible .

Once I found the signs spot I cut away the plaster to the foam. A slot was cut through the foam for the signs pigtail.

The plaster cut away and hole for the wiring harness cut through the foam.

I then dropped the sign into place.

Working on the drive in theater scene.

To finish the scene a gravel drive will be added to the end of the asphalt section. A fence will be added next to the road and drive-in service drive. The fence will hide a couple of spotlights that will illuminate the drive-in screen. A bunch of Woodland Scenics cars with lights will be added to the ticket booth and street turning in to the drive-in.

Though this will make a killer scene in the dark with everything lit, my plan is to add a sandwich board sign advertising a “Flea Market Today” so the scene makes sense in the light of day also.

And that’s it, that’s as far as I have taken this scene.

Up next…

What’s up next? I’m not sure, will look at the images I have and decide. The last several months have kind of been the squirrel in traffic approach to model railroading. Been working on several things, will see what I actually have been recording .

I promise it will not be as long to the next post. Til then,

Stay Safe and Happy Modeling…





Back to the Layout…

With all the kits that I have been doing you may be wondering if I had forgotten about the actual layout. The answer is no, I have been spending time on that also. With the Woodland Scenics kits that I put together I now had a vision for the town of Addison. As the first thing you see when entering the layout room, the bare plywood was bugging me.

First thing was to get the empty space around the outside of the peninsula filled in. You can see it unfinished in this shot.

Looking at the end of the peninsula. Farm on the right and the drive in on the left.

First I had to pull the fascia and paint it. Once back on I filled in with plaster cloth, a coat of plaster and a base coat of paint.

Plaster cloth in place on outer ring.
Other side of peninsula with plaster cloth in place.
Coat of plaster over cloth. Ready for base coat of paint.
Base coat of paint on, ready for base scenery.

After that I started placing the buildings in Addison looking for what looked best.

Playing with placement of buildings in Addison.
Alternate view of new block in Addison.

Once I had what I liked I moved on to putting in the foundations in place. As well as the core buildings I also placed the depot and gas station just off the highway that runs along the fascia.

Gluing bases down for depot / gas station.
Plaster in around building foundations.
Ground color down around building foundations.

I also placed the platforms for the depot.

View from the other direction, also showing team track / depot freight track.

I then started adding the buildings.

Overall station scene put in place.
Most of the buildings set in place for trial in Addison.

However, before I could put everything down I had to get everything wired up for lighting. Which is where I’ll leave you for now as that is a story in itself.

Til then…



More Scenery Work…

One of the projects over the summer was getting a little more of the scenery in. Though not an extension of the area I had started with. The reason for this is a bit convoluted.

My wife’s family decided last spring to have a family reunion in the Twin Cities. My wife volunteered to have not only the welcome to town dinner on Friday night. But also the farewell brunch on Sunday. Which meant we were having between 40 and 50 people through the house. Twice.

Wanting to put my best foot forward and make the layout attractive from the family room, I figured I would do the end of the peninsula around to the town of Addison (formerly the town of Brandon).

Once again what was the view from the family room.

View of the layout and cabinets from the lower level Family Room, this is why my wife wanted the doors on.

The scenery process was pretty basic, except I did use foam for the base. Would I do it again? Not sure, I know a lot of people love the stuff, But it’s got it’s pros and cons. The process was foam, roads put in, plaster cloth, final coat of plaster and then first pass of scenery.

The sequence in photos:

Fitting the foam in place at end of peninsula
Working around to the farm.
Trial building placement.
Next, putting the roads in place.
Road base in place and ditches carved.
Then, the plaster cloth.
Plaster cloth at the farm.
Gluing the final road in place.
Looking at the end of the peninsula. Farm on the right and the drive in on the left.
The family farm outside of Addison on the end of the peninsula.
The elevator complex at the south end of Addison.

Also forgot to mention that I tried my hand at backdrop painting again. You can mainly see it behind the farm. I think it turned fairly well for a first pass and trying to get it done in a limited time.

And the work all payed off. People walking by the steps saw the layout and asked to see it. I had a couple of trains orbiting the layout so there was motion. Though there were no model railroaders in her family (I know, what the heck!), everyone seemed to understand the work that went into it and appreciated it.

And yes, it was a proud moment for me. Maybe more so then when fellow modelers are over, because it was all new and amazing, Whereas the modelers are sometimes ho-hum or a little nit picky critical.

Oh well, till next time…


Odds And Ends…

Well, we are into the last half of March which means it’s been way to long since I last sat down here. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, I just have not had the time. Also, except for a couple of specific projects, I would have said that I really hadn’t gotten anything done. But looking around the other night I realized that I have accomplished a few things. So, without further ado, lets get you caught up.

First up is a craftsman kit that I picked up 30+ years ago. It is a Quality Craft Models Kit. Quick history, Quality Craft made kits in HO until about 1980. I had picked this up at a LHS off of their consignment shelf. I had finally got around to finishing up the assembly about 2 years ago. It then went to the paint area where it got pushed to the back. Well, looking for something to do I finally painted it.

GATX #96500 tank car.

It is a model of GATX #96500. This is a 63000 gallon tank car, commonly referred to as a Whale Belly car. It was 98ft long over the couplers. The only commercial plastic kit was made by Atlas in N scale. All that’s left is to decal it. Small problem, I can’t find it’s box or the decals. That is the real problem with a long term project. I’ll keep looking, however if I can’t find them the instructions are full sized. I can scan them and make new decals on my printer.

Next up is New Brighton Yard. I Know! Talked about this for a long time.

The meat packing plant.

The yard in New Brighton.

As you can see it isn’t and never will be a classification yard. There is the meat packing plant, the dairy, power station and a yet as unidentified business. Plus some trackage to store cars on for these businesses.

I also finally got the programming track in and wired. It’s next to the staging track lead.

The new programming track in the fore ground.

Last but not least I continued on with the basic ground cover in Jackson. I am now up to Main Street.

Basic scenery continued.

Basic scenery done up to Main Street in Jackson.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the space up front that is bordered by the front grain elevator and the switching spur. It is a crescent shaped space. Thought about throwing in a crop field of some sort. But looking at it the shape made me think of the outfield of a ball park. Thus, the city of Jackson got their “Town” ball field. If you are unfamiliar with small town baseball, you should find one and go sometime. They are usually very nice ball parks. The games do start later as all the players have to finish work, go home and eat. Then they head down to the park for the game. They are a lot of fun.

The new ball field is in.

That’s what I have for now. Next time I will cover one of the “specific” projects I had mentioned. The other was an Epic Fail and right now we are not talking about it.

Till then…

Takin’ It To The Streets…

As I had mentioned in my last post I wanted to keep going with the basic scenery. In order to do this I had to get the streets in Jackson in place. In the past my streets were simply styrene plastic painted and weathered. I decided to take it up a step.

One of my sources of inspiration is Model Railroader’s Video Plus( And one of their contributors is a personal favorite. Fellow Twin Citian, Gerry Leone. Gerry is a long time contributor to Model Railroader and now MRVP. His Bona Vista Railroad has been featured many times in the magazine. Anyways, one of the videos he has done is a two part series on making roads.

The main difference between the way I had been doing it and Gerry’s method is that he glues 100 grit sandpaper to the styrene. The end result is that you have a very nicely textured surface when done. If you would like an in depth description of the process I would suggest watching the videos, otherwise I will do a quick recap with pictures.

I was adding two streets to the scene. Both ran from the front to the back. Because of their location, both streets cross five tracks. The first thing to do was to install Blair Line ( wood grade crossings.

Getting ready to build a road. timber crossings in place.
The street prep for the main street crossing in Jackson.

After they were in place it was a matter of cutting the styrene road pieces to fit in between. I had to add styrene strips to the back to bring them to the proper height.

After that work progressed in the following order:

Primed the sections. Airbrushed the base asphalt color (Tamiya – Medium Grey). Airbrushed a lighter grey for contrast. Masked and then added center stripes. Added cracks with a fine point Sharpie. Added a little more weathering and then installed. In the pictures below you will notice that I had mounted the sections in order with proper spacing on a piece of cardboard. This was done so that all weathering / striping / whatever remained consistent.

Backside of the asphalt sections showing the spacers to get the to the proper height. All number so that I don’t screw them up.
The asphalt sections. Styrene plastic with 100 grit sandpaper glued to it. Painted.
Close up of the asphalt sections. The texture does resemble a older tar road.
Dry brushed a little white on to the street to pick up some highlighting of the grain.
The street sections glued down in proper order with correct spacing. Final asphalt color applied.
Center stripes masked off.
Dry brushed on white paint for the stripes.
Center stripes painted. This is why the proper spacing.
Adding the patching for cracks.
Last step before installation. Adding various weathering colors.
And the street in place.
Jackson Main street in place.

Also while I was at it I finished the streets in New Brighton.

Also finished the streets in New Brighton.
A closer view of New Brighton streets finished.

A side note. The patches on the streets are for real. The masking tape lifted some of the paint. Instead of trying to match the paint I used darker grey to give the look of a fresh patch.

That’s it for now. Next time we’ll get back on track.

Til then…



Keeping Busy…

After the track was painted and the tops of the rails wiped down, it was back to the actual base scenery.

And the base scenery was all I am trying to accomplish at this point. What started this was wanting to keep busy and get things done that moved things forward. To this end I had got out episode one of Model Railroaders Dream, Plan, Build DVD series. I had subscribed to it when it first came out, which was while a was building my last layout. The first disc arrived just as I was putting the backdrop up. And one of the instructional pieces was backdrop painting.

My initial plan was to paint the backdrop on this layout first and then add ground cover. When I watched the video, they had the ground cover down so that they could match the background color to it. And that is why we are at where we are at.

I had stopped by one of the big box stores and hit their “oops” paint section. I was looking for a brownish or a brownish green color to cover the white plaster. Found a quart can of a light brown for a couple of bucks. Perfect. The guy working the department walked buy and asked if I needed help. Told him no, that I had found what I wanted. He looked at the can in my hand and said “that is some cheap paint”. I looked back and asked “you mean the price or the paint?”. He just said “Yup”, and turned and walked away.

Well, he was right. If I was trying to paint a room with the stuff, I would have shot myself by now. but since it’s for the layout it’s fine. As you can see in the pictures, the white plaster is barely covered. This is with several coats of paint. Again, for what I’m using for, it works.

The plaster in with a base coat of paint. Better sense of what it will look like done.
Plaster landform with a base coat of paint.

With the paint down it was on to the base ground cover. My method for this is simple, spread white glue with a brush, hit it with the various ground covers and let it dry. Then vacuum off the excess.

View down the berm scene with the first layer of ground cover on.
working on the first layer of ground cover with a little inspiration in the form of a picture of a finished scene.
The first layer of ground cover extended around the corner.

As you can see I didn’t finish the yards around the houses yet. I had planned on dirt driveways but think I may need to go back in and add asphalt driveways before the grass goes in.

Even the base layer is a huge improvement, so I decided to carry it all the way through the town. So I have to get the rest of the plaster base down. Which means I will have  to get the roads done first.

And that is where we will pick up next time.

Till then, take care…


October Update…

Hello and welcome to this, my October Update. Life has been pretty crazy since I last caught you up as to what I had accomplished on the layout. I’ve been really busy with a variety of things, but still have had time here and there to work on things downstairs.

After finishing the switch project and not having had a chance to cut the curved sub roadbed pieces, I looked around at “what’s next”. What I came up with was… back to scenery.

As you may recall, possibly not as it was a year ago, I had started some plaster work between the berm scene and Jackson. I had put in the landform and one coat of plaster cloth. So the first thing was to put a finishing layer of plaster down. Like I said, I’m pretty old school.

The start of scenery, first coat of plaster.
Plaster coat around the corner.
And the river scene is plastered.

As you can see in the first photo, I had put in foundations for the houses before the plaster.

Next step was to paint the track. On one of the forums a guy had pictures of switch point masks that he had 3D printed. Looking at the picture, they were pretty straight forward. So I made a set out of styrene strip and tubing.

Track painting switch point masks.

And yes, I have a left and right for the closure rails. It’s because of the outside rail divergence. Anyways the masks in place:

Switch point masks in place before track painting.

And after the coat of paint:

The track painted, masks still in place.

The finished product with the masks removed:

Painting masks pulled, will need to come in with a paint brush and touch up.

After this I just come in with a paint brush and touch up the places that need it. All in all they work great, paint one area, pull them and use them again. The color I’m using is Model Master ( – Railroad Tie Brown #4885. I then hit the rails with Woodland Scenics ( Tidy Track paint marker “rusty rails”, part # TT4581. I had tried Testors CreateFX Rail Brown paint marker and though it’s a great rail color, it is too close to the tie color.

And for now this is where I’ll leave you. Back soon with a further update.

Till then, thanks for following along…

A River Runs Through It…

As I had said the next part of the scenery had a river that runs through it. I had penciled in where I had wanted the river but never cut it out. Part of the reason was that I was unsure of what type of bridge. The track here in on an incline (slight) and a curve. And I didn’t want just a culvert.

I finally decided to use the sides of an Atlas ( plate girder bridge. That way I could cut the sides of the plywood subroadbed flat on the side and add bridge abutments and presto, a bridge.

First up was to cut out the river. Not an easy task considering that everything else was in place and I had to be careful not to wreck what was there. Mainly I had to be careful of the wiring that ran underneath the area. This is where one of my favorite tools came into play. It’ my Dremel Max ( oscillating cutter. With the wood  cutting head in It, you can come in real tight and have excellent control. So I got the river cut out.

The wall in place and the river cut out.

And then the next problem. Seems the feeder wires for these two tracks are right in the middle of the bridge.

Of course the feeder wires are in the way.

So these had to be moved. No big deal, but it seems it is always something.

With the wires moved it was on to the riverbed. I used 1/4″ plywood but wanted to add stiffeners so I could staple the screen to it. Problem here is there is little access. Because the cabinets are set back 6″ from the edge of the benchwork and wiring running underneath, you can’t come in from the bottom. the piece is too wide to come in from the top. And there is only a 3/4″ wide slot at the front. So I prepped the panel with all screw holes in place, slid the panel in and then added bracing.

The river base ready to install.

Next up was the abutment. My first version was the bridge support with the wings attached. Once done I slid them in place and decided that the wings where way to low.

Bridge abutment version 1.

The bridge abutments were built out of .040 styrene sheet and .100 styrene strip with some trim work to look like poured concrete. I cut the wings off so I had just a support. Then I built new wings that came up to the full height of the river bank.

Abutment wings for version 2.
Version 2.

Then I needed my plate girder sides. As I recall you used to be able to buy them separately as a flat car load. No joy there. I ended up buying a full bridge and cutting the sides off from it. Next thing was Atlas built there bridge around a 9″ piece of straight track, which scales out around 65 feet. My span was only 28 1/2 feet.

Bridge abutments in place. The plate girder sections will need to be resized.

A little too long. So working from the center I cut it apart. I used the short double reinforced sections from the ends and grafted them on to a cut down center section. The end results are near perfect.

The finished bridge set in place.

Then brought the screen down to the river and added the plaster cloth.

The scenery finished down to the river.
alternate view.

It just needs a top coat of plaster and it will be ready for some earth paint and then scenic materials.

That’s what I’ve got for now, until next time. Happy Modelling…