The PRR Chartiers Branch - Progress Report - 2014-01 Report
01/30/2014
01/30/2014
I've been calling this the "Closet Module", but really it is supposed to be a scene into the downtown setting of Washington, PA, so I guess I should call it that. After laying out all the lines on the surface, it is time to start working on the 3D parts. I decided that the sidewalks should be done first, since they are the messiest. I am going to make the sidewalks out of plaster-of-paris. I used a good number of scale 1"x8" strips of styrene, placed on their sides to form the sidewalk. As a matter of fact, I ran out of 1x8 strips, so I had to start using 2x8 strips. I only used the 1x8 strips for the curves, because bending the 2x8 strips probably would not have worked so well. Carefully pre-bending the strips' curves before installing them helped. I used lots of superglue (the gel kind) to glue them all down. It all went well, with the ones in the back being a bit of a challenge. I kept the glue on the inside of the sidewalk, so as to keep the street side clean.
2014-01 Report
The ends of the sidewalks are just formed to be squared off. I then went over the street side of the curb and filed those down into a curved shaped, much like you would find on a real sidewalk. This took some time and elbow grease. Whether or not that will show up in future photos is to be seen.
2014-01 Report
Where the sidewalks meets the end of the world, I needed something to keep the plaster from dripping out. I decided to put some masking tape at the ends, and then use Aleene's Tacky glue to form a ridge at the end. It did that because the edges of my module aren't quite flush with the top of the framework, so the plaster could ooze out. The glue helped me build a nice dam. This is especially noticeable on the one on the left in the photo below.
2014-01 Report
And here is the plaster-of-paris curing. It went fairly smoothly. It is a bit tricky to get the consistency right, because it sets pretty quickly. I used a painting palette blade to smooth the top to be flush with the top of the styrene strips, much like you would use a trowel or a board to smooth the top of just-poured concrete. A few days later as the plaster had completely cured, there were some unevennesses visible. I will probably go back and pour another thin layer to get it to be even with the styrene.
2014-01 Report
Here is a close-up (as best I could) of the sidewalks. More to come later.
2014-01 Report
While doing some more cleaning out of stuff in boxes, I found this double-track N-scale portal I had left over from my previous life. Since S-scale is two and a half times bigger than N-scale, I figured it would work well over my single-track S-scale layout. I liked the look, so I glued it to the side panel of my layout to dress-up the hole leading to the rest of the layout in the room's closet. I didn't like the outside edges of the tunnel portal, so I hid that with some bushes and some pollyfiber material. Eventually some trees will hide more of this hole.
2014-01 Report
Last year I built the lumber storage rack building you see in the photo below. The idea is that the other half of the property was to have a small-town hardware store on it. There was a lumber yard in Washington, Pennsylvania, but I have only found very little information about it, so my project will be free-lanced. There has been a hole in this part of the layout, because the Tortoise switch machine that controls the turnout in the back of the layout has its actuator arm sticking up above the scenery. I got tired of looking at that hole, so I decided that it was time to start building the foundation of that future hardware store. I started off by cutting two sheets of foamboard to fit the available space between the tracks. There will be a loading dock area where the red pickup truck sits.
2014-01 Report
I had some large-rock Plastruct sheet material in my stash, so I cut strips of that and glued them to the edges of the foamboard, using Aleene's Tacky glue. The next day, when I took this photo, I used a variety of tools to trim the strips flush with the top of the foamboard.
2014-01 Report
Especially near the front of the foundation, where I had cut away a good portion of the previous scenery base, there were large gaps. I mixed up some Sculptamold, and applied that around the entire foundation, to make it look like it was embedded into the surrounding ground.
2014-01 Report
The next day I mixed up some paint with which I painted the Sculptamold. I then mixed some white, gray, and brown artists paints to create the gray-brownish color with which I painted the rock walls of the foundation. When that dried, I used white paint and the dry-brushing technique to highlight the rocks in the rock wall.
2014-01 Report
I painted the top of the foamboard with Polly-Scale Aged Concrete, mostly to make sure none of the white of the foamboard paper was visible later on. I plan to cover this entire surface with strip wood, which will represent the building's flooring. However, that may be some time before I will get to that, so in the meantime it looks like a poured foundation.
2014-01 Report
The last thing I did was cover the new ground surface with white glue, and then sprinkle some Woodland Scenics fine blended ground foam over it to represent grasses.
2014-01 Report
Of course, the two wires sticking up through the foundation are for the electrical service the building will need later on. Plumbing service is implied!
2014-01 Report
About a month ago I completed the construction of the scratch-built Canonsburg Milling factory. It is finally time to integrate it into the layout. I removed a bunch of the scenery base in the back corner of the layout where the building will go. Conveniently, under it are two feeders for the 12-volt accessories bus wires to hook up the structure's lighting.
2014-01 Report
I build a new scenery foundation out of foam board. I whittled it down until it fit the space cleared out. Here the structure is test-fitting the foam board.
2014-01 Report
I just couldn't resist taking this close-up photo of an employee going into the back of the building on the second floor.
2014-01 Report
The foam board pieces needed supports under them to keep them straight. To avoid having any of the white of the paper showing through in the future, I painted them a base brown color. I also cut a hole in one of the pieces to route the structure's wiring through.
2014-01 Report
Speaking of the lighting, I installed three SMD LEDs, one above each of the doors. Magnet wires were soldered to them, so that I could hide the wiring. I simply glued the SMD LEDs directly to the exterior wall of the building. They are a rectangular block, perfect for an industrial look. I painted them Polly Scale Stainless Steel. I soldered a current-limiting resistor to the positive lead magnet wire of each LED, and glued the resistors to the inside of the building, to help prevent the wires from becoming entangled later on during installation. These were then all soldered to a common plus and minus (red and black) feeder wires, which will be connected to the under-the-scenery accessories bus wires.
2014-01 Report
With the foamboard pieces back in their slots on the layout, I carefully put some Aleene's Tacky Glue all around the bottom of the building, and then placed it in position on top of the foam board pieces I had made earlier. I let the glue set overnight. I could then take the building, now with its attached foamboard scenery bases, off of the layout, as shown here. You can see the SMD LEDs installed above each of the three doors (tiny metallic-looking blocks).
2014-01 Report
With the whole assembly off of the layout, I was able to install a plaster block that I had cast as part of this project, which is the loading dock in the front inside corner. The staircase needed a bit of filing to get the block to fit properly. I also decided to paint the exposed foam board base the same Polly Scale Concrete I had painted the foundation of the building itself. In the meantime I applied some ballast in the area by the track that was damaged when I removed the old scenery base. When all that was dry, I soldered the building's feeder wires to the accessories bus, and put the building in its final spot. This is what it looks like with the lights on. It was a lot of work, but I think it is worth it.
2014-01 Report
As you can see in the photo below, I still need to apply some scenery filler between the track sub-roadbed and the foam board. I also plan to add some details to the loading dock, but that will come later.
2014-01 Report
For the last two shows in which the Houston S Gaugers participated, I built a collection of new "foreground" quality trees (see bottom of this page). It was now time to permanently plant those on my home layout. The center section of my layout is meant to be the scenic area. The train moves through the scenery on an s-curve along side the Chartiers creek. The first order of business was to get rid of the old trees that just don't compare to the new techniques I have learned. Three acceptable trees remain in the background. The large foreground tree is OK (I might put some more foliage on it).
2014-01 Report
Some of the trees that were in the foreground before will now be demoted to the background.
2014-01 Report
Here's one box (of two) of the trees I had made for the train shows. The boxes protect them during transport, however, I have learned that I can only get one, maybe two shows out of these fragile trees before they start showing it. That is part of the reason why I plant them on my layout, and force myself to build new ones for the next train show.
2014-01 Report
And now we officially kick off our re-forestation program. I picked the ugliest and smallest trees to go against the backdrop. As you can see, removing the old trees caused me to knock off a few wires from the telegraph/telephone poles in the foreground. No worries; that is easy to fix with some patience.
2014-01 Report
The back row is done, so now I can plant some of the smaller, but nicer trees in front of them.
2014-01 Report
I used weights and whatever else I could find to make sure the trees stayed upright while the glue dried.
2014-01 Report
To plant them, I poke a hole in the scenery base (which is just cardboard framing, covered with Woodland Scenics plaster cloth, and a thin layer of Sculptamold, so it is easy to puncture). My trees have a toothpick installed in their bottoms, so I can guide them into the hole. I fill the hole and/or the bottom of the tree with Elmer's white glue, and then just plant the tree. Once the glue is dry, the trees are in there firmly for a home layout. Should I demolish this layout in the future, I will be able to pull the trees out of the scenery and reuse them on the next layout.
2014-01 Report
The larger and nicer trees go in between the track and the creek. Again, some more creative use of tools to try to keep the trees straight (it didn't work here, though). My trees have roots, which helps in keeping the tree upright.
2014-01 Report
This is a photo of the other side, where I also planted three trees.
2014-01 Report
After all this cured for a while, I worked on blending in the roots with the existing scenery ground.
2014-01 Report
These trees are actually quite hard to photograph. I probably need to consider buying a camera lens filter, because either the photo is too dark or over-exposed. Anyway, here is an angled long-shot to show most of the center area of the layout. This photo shows 24 trees that I've built (two more are not in the photo). I think the whole center section can probably handle another ten trees, including the very front edge of the layout.
2014-01 Report
Although this is too dark, it does show off some of the extra work I did to the scenery ground. I added a lot more "junk" to the forest floor. This area is supposed to be an untouched wilderness in between two towns that is only accessed via the railroad. I plan, in the future, to add low-growing bushes in between the trees. Several more trees will be added between the track and the creek area as well.
2014-01 Report
A view from the other angle, from my vantage point.
2014-01 Report