The last major push to get this module finished is commencing now, and that is the scenery base in the back of the module, i.e. the creek area. The front of the module, the coal yard, had to be finished before the main building was put into position, so that is pretty much done. The first scenery element to add is the mine entrance tunnel portal. When I bought the abutment for the incline, I also ordered the tunnel portal from Pre-Size Model Specialties. I looked through their entire inventory for something that looked close to what the prototype photo shows. Since the mine entrance tunnel portal doesn't need to be as tall as a locomotive tunnel portal, I primarily looked at their HO-scale product line, as the portals will be smaller. I settled on the double-track cut-stone version, part #157.
(external link: Pre-Size Model Specialties)
In S-scale, this part measures 45-1/2 feet across the top, stands 24-1/2 feet tall, with the opening measuring 27-1/2 feet across, and 17-1/2 feet tall in the center.
My initial plan was to remove a portion of the center section of this tunnel portal to make it less wide. But, when I placed it next to the abutment, I noticed that the opening perfectly lined up with the width of the abutment, so I decided to install it as-is. According to the engineering drawings of this coal mine tipple, the tunnel portal stands about 10 feet behind the abutment. This translates to about 2 inches in S-scale. On my module, the distance from the back of the abutment to the back of the module is exactly 2 inches, so, theoretically, the tunnel portal should be positioned just off of the back end of the module. That wasn't going to be practical, for two reasons. One, the obvious one, it would require some sort of special extension that would make this module longer than 4 feet deep and probably would get damaged during moves. Second, it would not allow me to somehow make the portal opening look dark. So, I installed the tunnel portal right up against the back of the abutment, which gives me a bit of space behind it to create the theatrics of giving the illusion that the portal goes into the abyss. I decided to put the tunnel portal lower than the top of the abutment, to give it less of an imposing look. But, if I glued it directly to the module base, it was going to be too low, so I first attached two 1/4" pieces of leftover plywood to raise it up. This was also necessary, because I didn't plan far enough ahead when I designed this whole module, and the portal has to stick out a bit into the space of the next module. The plywood base will help ensure its survivability. The tunnel portal was glued down using 5-minute epoxy, after I had sanded its base square and flat. So, in the end, does this match the exact look of the prototype? No, but it does communicate the fact that the mine is located underground.
I applied a single coat of the india-ink-and-alcohol solution over the entire tunnel portal. Later, when the whole scenery base is done and being painted, I will apply more coloring and weathering to age it even more.
This is the more normal viewing angle of the tunnel portal from the other side, as viewed from the front of the layout.
With the tunnel portal in place, everything is now finished as far as major components, so I am going to start working on the scenery base for the back of the module. I have not yet come with an effective means for a backdrop for my modules, so I placed this piece of leftover Gatorfoam board against the back of the module (see the clamps at the bottom, right of the photo). This is my temporary "backdrop board" to which I am going to build the cardboard-strip frame of the scenery base.
I had already cut a two-inch wide strip of cardboard to which I hot-glued a bunch of one-inch strips. With the placeholder backdrop installed, I clamped the cardboard to that.
I could then cut each strip to length and hot-glue it to the module's base. This ensured that the two-inch cardboard strip in the back stayed in the correct position for a future more permanent backdrop panel.
I also added some shorter, internal pieces that were glued to the bottom of the two-inch horizontal strip, to make sure that it didn't twitch or warp over time.
Most modelers will put Woodland Scenics plastercloth (or similar materials) on their cardboard webbing (or the foamboard equivalents). But, I am a big fan of using Sculptamold as my final layer, so plastercloth isn't really needed. And, it just keeps going up in price! So, this time around I am using a technique I used many years ago on one of my N-scale layouts, which is to tear strips of newspaper (in this case the weekly junk-mail grocery store ads), dipping them in a glue mixture, and spanning them across the cardboard webbing. I mixed the plain white glue with water at about a 50/50 ratio. The ratio is not critical, but the more water, the more of a mess it all makes, but not enough water, and the paper just tears in the thick glue. So, over a couple of evening sessions, I covered all of the cardboard webbing. It simply serves as a base to which to stick the Sculptamold to. I let it dry overnight.
(external link: Woodland Scenics Plaster Cloth)
And then it was just a matter of mixing some water with some Sculptamold, and start spreading it around. I am trying to make the tunnel portal and abutments look embedded into the surrounding land surface.
(external link: Amaco Sculptamold)
The first batch I did, I mixed in some paint, but soon realized that that was a waste of time as I will be coloring and weathering, and eventually covering over, the entire surface anyway. Typically, you only really need to color Sculptamold (when you are mixing it) when you expect that some edge or corner of it might break off in the future, thus exposing the white color; if you color it during the mixing stage, a broken off piece will still show the same coloring. This is handy for things that get moved around a lot, such as club layout modules. I decided to also cover up the edges of the creek banks (the area where they will eventually butt up against the next module over), just so that it looks nice for the time being when I only have this one module.
I am building up the Sculptamold to embed the abutments and the tunnel portal as well. More needs to be done here.
Once I completed the Sculptamold layer, I started painting it. This first coat, just to set a base color, is Delta Ceramcoat "Charcoal". I watered it down a bit and then just thoroughly spread it all over.
As I had to mix up different batches to complete the entire coverage, I wasn't very consistent with the paint-to-water ratio, and so this is what I saw the next day when it all dried.
I applied some watered-down Delta Ceramcoat "Burnt Umber", but that didn't hide the splotchiness. So, when that dried, I went back and re-applied a single batch of the "Charcoal" color over the area that was too light. That solved the problem. I then applied Ceramcoat "Medium Foliage Green" in spots
Being happy with the basic, raw coloring, I decided it was time to work on the periphery. I liberally applied the india-ink-and-alcohol mixture over the entire surface, hoping that it would run into all of the crevices. As you can clearly see, the first application did not have enough alcohol in the mixture. I decided to leave that as it was, hoping that it would become less visible over time (the answer is, no, but I call it a "feature").
After that cured overnight, each of the next three days I successively added light colors using the "dry-brushing" technique to hit the tops of the exposed ridges. The first day I used Delta Ceramcoat "Rain Grey", the next day I went over the areas again with "Antique White", and the final application used "White". All of this was also applied to the tunnel portal and the two abutments, so that they all look very similar. This photo shows the final result of a week's worth of applying paint layers.
I also painted the sides of the module, as those are exposed for now, until I start building the next two modules that go on either side of these. At least this module will look nice in the meantime.
The next step is to paint the creek bottom. I covered the entire area with Delta Ceramcoat "Black". Because some streaking occurred, I applied a second coat the next day. The reason for using solid black is that I want to communicate that the creek is rather deep.
I mixed some "Black" and "Medium Foliage Green" together (enough to do the whole area), and applied that to the outer edges of the creek. This represents the slightly less deep region of the creek.
This photo is overexposed, but it does show the beginnings of the creek water. To the photo above, I applied a mixture of green, brown, and gray colors to the edges between the flat creek bottom and the creek banks. This painting give the impression of wet soil. I have applied two coats of Liquitex "Gloss Gel". The first coat was just straight coverage, and the second coat was made to look like waves.
I added a third coat of Liquitex "Gloss Gel" to the creek. For now, I think this is sufficient. It looks pretty convincing in person. Plus, the creek is at the back of the module, so it is not fully visible from the front. I have also started to apply some vegetation.
This is probably how far I am going to take the vegetation around the creek. The photo is not great, but in person it looks pretty convincing from a distance.
The backside of the abutment on this side of the creek, which is visible from the front of the layout, has a gap in it. As stated at the top of the page, this is because of the way I "kit-bashed" this abutment. Well, now it is time to hide that gap. I found a few miscellaneous items, some were salvaged from my previous layout (detailing parts can be expensive, so I salvage them), the others were newly made.
Here is a view from the other side of the module, showing that same area. The abutment gap is still visible from this angle (in between the black barrels and the staircase), but this is not a common view from which this scene will be visible in the future, so there is no need to fill this area. All items were glued in place with plenty of Aleene's Tacky Glue. Some remaining gaps between the item and the "ground" were covered up with bushes/weeds. This is probably a neglected area of the facility, so weeds are a definite possibility.
I haven't really shown this view since building the scenery in the back of the module, so here it is.
I had another one of these barrels available, so I glued it in place in this spot near the front of the module. Since all the "dirty" scenery work is now done, I placed some of my equipment back on the module, to make it look more lived-in.