PRR Chartiers Branch: Hazel Mine - Backdrop & Lighting

May 24, 2017

If you have visited this page before, you'll notice a dramatic reduction in content. In May of 2017 I cut the backdrop panels from a single sheet of 4'x8' 1/8" Masonite hardboard, creating the three pieces you see in the photo below. I had cut a groove in the top of the three modules so that those sheets would slide right in them and be held in place at the bottom. They did, and I was happy.

September 25, 2017

Fast forward 4 months and I have painted those panels white on their backs, and blue on their fronts. I then completed attempting to paint the Pennsylvania hills (at least, my interpretation of them with my limited skills in landscape painting). When I went to set them into the modules, I noticed they didn't fit anymore. The side panel on the left in the photo below, I was able to hammer into its groove. Not elegant, but it worked. The one on the right, I couldn't take that same aggressive approach with, since there is a delicate model sitting up against that backpanel. The 8-foot long backdrop panel along the back was made rigid by gluing two strips of plywood to it.
This worked OK, until I had to get it into position along the delicate structure on the module on the right, and trying to maneuver it through my small 10-foot square room. I tried mightily, but in the end I have decided to completely give up on this approach to doing the backdrop. It is my suspicion that the Masonite board expanded once it got painted. It also warped a lot, even the 2'x4' side panels. Trying to expand the grooves of the modules would be a tremendous amount of work at this point (and near impossible near the structure). And, finally, when I tried to imagine having these modules full of delicate tracks, structures, and scenery, I could foresee a lot of damage being done to those parts when trying to remove the backdrops. The idea is that the backdrops would have to be removed from time to time to get to the back of the modules, and, of course, when they are to be moved. So, I am going to rethink my backdrop solution, and my LED overhead lighting solution for a while. This will take however long it needs to take, but in the meantime, I will be working on some other projects.