Category Archives: Scenery

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…



I’ve started the scenery…

That’s right, I’ve started the scenery. As I was finishing the main street in the New Brighton scene, I realized that before placing buildings the background needed to be in.

Another – if you give a mouse a cookie moment.

As I have mentioned in the past, I’m pretty old school on the basics. For scenery base it is plaster cloth over screen. The only break from the past is that instead of some type of plywood form, I am using black foam core. Why black foam core? Because of a past one off project for a client, I have a foot high stack of 12″ x 18″ black foam core sheets. The plus side is it’s free and easy to cut. Make a mistake, throw it away and try again. Down side is attaching the screen. Glue takes forever and is iffy. Hot glue and foam doesn’t play well together. Ended up taking individual staples from my staple gun and pushing them trough the screen into the foam core. They will hold well enough till the plaster cloth goes on.

I started at the ninety degree corner between the New Brighton scene and the Jackson town scene. My vision is that this will be enough of a view block to separate the two scenes. It is a hill descending from the corner out to the fascia.

Once I established this hill, I worked back to the bridge scene in New Brighton. Below are photos of the progression.

The scenery is started. The outer hill in place.
When finished the hill with scenery in place will be the break between scenes.
The rear scenery land form in place.
First coat of plaster cloth on.

Something that I failed to mention was that the inner section had a retaining wall. What I ended up using for it was a sheet of Department 56 stone cobblestone that I had picked up on discount somewhere.  The scale is a bit big, however to the eye it looks right. Meaning the rivet counters won’t be happy, but everyone else won’t notice.

Gluing the retaining wall to the hill form.
Continuing the retaining wall around the corner.

After the landform behind New Brighton and the retaining wall were in place I headed around the corner. Problem here is that the hill drops to a small river. And you will notice that there is no river cut out of the plywood base. One of those things I figured I would take care later.

So all work has stopped on the basic scenery till I get the river in. Which is a whole new mouse and cookie story. One I will continue in the next post.

Till then, Take care and Happy Railroading…

Installing Main Street in New Brighton…

As well as trying to figure out the yard in New Brighton, I have been also working the other side of the aisle. As I have built the individual blocks for my main street along the berm, I hadn’t actually glued anything down. Because all the buildings are close to done and some waiting final installation for the last details, now was time to get the road in.

I used Walther’s road system ( for the city streets. Mainly because it mates up to the railroad bridge. Plus I figured I wouldn’t be scrimping on width for a city street and the sidewalks work with it. Pretty much a win all the way around. One word of caution, the concrete sections have beveled edges so when glued together give the appearance of individually cast sections. Mix these with asphalt sections, because you have both and aren’t paying attention, and you will have some filling to do to even things out.

I had already made the block sections as I built the buildings, so it was just a matter of gluing these together and down to the plywood. In the past I have used contact cement for this. It will hold anything down, forever. But, you have to wait for it to dry before joining the pieces together and like I said you never get it apart. I now have a new best friend for this job. Canopy glue. The first brand I had was RC56, the current bottle is something56, don’t know the name but they all seem to use 56. So far it is holding beautifully and I haven’t knocked anything loose.

When planned the road the idea was for one complete half plus a partial on the other half. The main reason was so at the intersection of Main street and the street under the railroad bridge, I could have the Walther’s working traffic light without it hanging in space.

Prepping the town for actual road installation.

I glued down the main sections and you can see that there is about a 1 inch strip that I needed to cut and fit. Starting on what would be the north end of the street and working south I started to cut and fit the pieces in place.

I started fitting the outer sections that require a lot of trimming on the north end and worked south.
Working my way south on Main Street. You can see just past the super market where I have cut and fitted the outside road sections and the pieces waiting for their turn.

I just continued down the street till I got to the end where the road T’s.

South end of the main strip in, filled, sanded and ready for paint.

As you can see I was also doing a little filling of cracks and sanding as I went. Now I need to mask off the fascia and surrounding areas and paint the street and sidewalks.

A couple of other things done. after getting the street in I also put in the foundations for the houses on the north end. with these in place I can put in the plaster yards and start the scenery at that end.

Foundations and sidewalks in for the houses.

In addition to those I have finally settled on which buildings will be on the far side of the railroad overpass.

Final buildings chosen for the background. (Far side of the bridges)

On the right side of the street, not that visible, are a bar and a movie theater. They were chosen for this space because they both have one sided Miller Engineering (  signs on them and won’t work else where. And on the left is a Heljan ( building. It was part of a brewery complex, one of those things you pick spur of the moment, that hasn’t found a home yet. The scale looks off to me. Bigger then N scale but smaller then HO scale. In the background it looks right.

And that’s what I’ve got for now, till later…





Early July update…

Just got back from another week long business trip, but during the week I was home before this trip I was able to get a couple of things done. I just didn’t have time to post anything.

Heading south from Jackson you come around the bottom leg of the peninsula into the  city berm scene I had talked about before. Below is a photo that I posted before, it’s of the scene as originally conceived.

Head on view of the bridge/berm scene.
Head on view of the bridge/berm scene.

It’s kind of hard to see from this angle but I had intended to have a double track bridge with a single track bridge right behind it. As I actually started working towards this scene I found out that I didn’t have enough room to get the rear track switched off the main and head onto the rear bridge. Looking over the situation I found I could get the track separated far enough if I – A: moved the whole scene over about 8″ and – B: changed the double and single bridges into a single triple track bridge. I was able to modify the girder portion of the bridge into a triple track bridge as the Walthers kit is made for this modification. However, having already built the abutments, modifying them wasn’t as easy. In fact, to say I butchered them would be extremely kind.

So off to the LHS to get a couple of new bridges. For those who care, my hobby shop of choice in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is Becker’s Model Railroad supply in New Brighton. He had one kit in stock and ordered the second which I had in a couple of days. In case you’re wondering I needed two kits because they build into a double track bridge, if you want three tracks you need two kits.

One of the things I found is that when you build this kit as instructed for a triple track bridge you will end up with about a 1/2″ gap between the girder portion of the bridge and the actual bridge abutment, which works out to about 4 scale feet. The gap is extremely noticeable and looks like crap. So I took some time and studied the model to figure out how to modify it to eliminate the gap and have the abutment look symmetrical. I should note that I had to build the abutment first as it sets the width of the subroadbed.

Below is how I modified and built the abutments.

First I modified the base of the abutment which is also the sidewalk. I marked where I would cut the sidewalk section. In the photos below I highlighted these with arrows.

where the splices in the base plate were made. In addition to joining for the third bridge deck, I had to shorten by half an inch.
where the splices in the base plate were made. In addition to joining for the third bridge deck, I had to shorten by half an inch.

After I cut and joined these I  began the modification of the actual abutment section. I started with the pillar section of the bridge.

The placement of the splice cuts for the bridge abutment.
The placement of the splice cuts for the bridge abutment.

The photo above shows where I cut the pillar section. One of the things that the instruction wants you to do is to cut the double pillar( the center one on the lower pillar section ) but I figured if I cut through smaller cross section next to the double pillar I would have a less noticeable seam to fill and hide. Below is a photo with the cuts made, but before assembly.

Base cut and glued together and the abutment ready to be glued.
Base cut and glued together and the abutment ready to be glued.

Once I started to glue the pillars together, I also started to glue the backings on to add strength but I made sure that I staggered the joints so that no two joints were on top of each other.

The joints for the rear of the abutment, cuts are offset to add strength to the front of the abutment.
The joints for the rear of the abutment, cuts are offset to add strength to the front of the abutment.

Once the pillar section was done I glued the works together, filled and sanded the joints.

The bridge abutment glued together and joints filled.
The bridge abutment glued together and joints filled.

Though I kept checking as I was assembling the abutment, once I finished I put the girder section in place and was happy with the result as there was very little gap when in place.

Bridge deck fitted to the bridge abutment.
Bridge deck fitted to the bridge abutment.
Bridge abutment primed and waiting for the finish color.
Bridge abutment primed and waiting for the finish color.

After I finished the bridge abutment I was able to cut the subroadbed and put the works in place. I was then able to lay the cork roadbed in place.

Roadbed laid up to the bridge.
Roadbed laid up to the bridge.

In the photo above you can see a track that is heading to nowhere. The track to nowhere and the rear track on the bridge are for a return loop that will be underneath the helix and needs to be in place and operating before the helix goes up. In the original plan the area I’m using as a return loop is actually a set of staging tracks that feed into the yard. I reversed the direction so that I can set up a portion of the layout with continuous running. Trains can reverse here, run around the peninsula, up the helix and again around the upper portion of the peninsula and then into a reverse loop on the upper level. When I picked this plan, continuous running was the one thing I felt it lacked. I was happy when I figured out how to do this as I like to sometimes watch trains just run. Also I can orbit a train as I switch towns and have to clear the mainline as the other train comes through.

Below is a photo of how the scene will look when finished.

Low angle concept shot of what I want the finished scene to look like. Obviously there will have to be some modification of the bench work that is in the way.
Low angle concept shot of what I want the finished scene to look like. Obviously there will have to be some modification of the bench work that is in the way.
Birds eye view of where this scene is headed.
Birds eye view of where this scene is headed.

As you can see in the photos I will now have to do some modification of the bench work structure as it is the way of everything. The up side is that I now have more room for structures in the background which will greatly add to the depth of the scene.

I know that I have been putting it off for what seems like forever, but I have some open time coming up. Which means that I will have the base of the helix done probably within the next week or two. This is truly important as it is not only the base for the helix but also the tracks leading into the yard at New Brighton.

Stay tuned, and Happy Railroading…