Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kabayama Coal Mine

Started to assemble the Coal Mine model and am checking out where best to place it. Even though I never planned to add this particular model, luckily it fits quite well into the middle of the layout.

The plan is to build footbridges to the upper area where the minehead will be. Upper siding will be for worker passenger transport and materials, lower tracks for produced coal.

Tinycat approves.

Low view from the front of the layout. This model is really well designed, and will require just a little work to make it more realistic. The roof in particular will be getting a new coat, but the wooden slats look very realistic and weathered.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekend Update

Recently I've been continuing to add ballast and ground cover to the layout.

Looking away from the yard toward the freight depot siding. Better job on the ballast here, if I do say so myself. Working around the switches was a bit of a pain, but getting this filled in is really making this section start to look 'real'.

Close-up shot of the switches leading in to the yard area. Some of the crossing boards need another coat of paint, and the road still needs to be surfaced, of course.

A new addition! Or, I guess in this case, a subtraction. Putting in a small round pond near where the coal mine will go.

Finally assembled a crane that I had gotten as a gift nearly a year ago. It's normally an L-shaped construction crane, did some modifications to turn it into a yard crane. The scale is a little weird; in its original form, I can imagine it as a Z-scale structure. I think real construction cranes are quite a bit larger.

Near future: add plaster cloth to the new pond, and seal with a coat of patching compound, also finish the ground surface in the freight depot area.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Grass in the Valley


A week of traveling suspended work on the ground cover, but I've finished the rough base for the back of the layout, difficult to reach when it's in its normal place in the corner of the room. Above is a picture with the table turned toward such sunlight as we have on this blustery day. I'm still refining my ballasting technique; I definitely laid it on too thick in many areas, but I ran the loco around a few times and it only needed a little work with a dental tool to remove any bits that were causing it to rattle.

A view of the heaped-up ballast. The concrete supports for the bridge still need to be painted, and the bridge itself needs a little touch-up after getting hit with some plaster. I lightly sanded the surface of the rails where I had ballasted, and the loco runs very smoothly.

The entire layout, back in its normal spot. Hard to see my progress from this angle, but now I can continue on the areas in front that are easier to see, and easier to reach. You can also see my progress on the road and the level crossings. In the meantime I'm working on converting a construction crane into a yard crane, pictures to follow once I have a base coat on it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

On Ballasting

What I've learned about ballasting so far:

  1. It's always easier to add more ballast than it is to taking it away
  2. Working around switches is not as hard as it seems, you just need a lot of light and a careful hand
  3. Dentistry tools are very helpful!
  4. Don't let the ballast creep up on the inside of the rails. If you test the track surface with a boxcar and it seems smooth, beware that a locomotive with deeper flanges will bump and scrape over the same section
  5. Overall it seems better to ballast first then do the groundcover around it, since the width and slope of the ballast edges is more a matter of setting it up by eye than measurement
  6. It's tedious but the layout looks so much better once it's done!
Just turned the layout around so I can better work on the rear portion. Painting is done, after it's dry I'll try to improve my ballasting technique based on what I've learned.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Landscaping and Roadscaping

Recently I started ballasting the track, starting from the front left and working around the back of the layout. So far it's proved much easier than applying the ground-cover flock, which just seems to want to clump together.

Today I mixed up some more patching compund and applied another layer to the road, smoothing out the areas that needed it. I've also finished adding crossing boards to the level crossings. I didn't have any curved pieces so for here and the other road crossing I cut pieces of thick card and glued them down. Later I'll paint and surface them to match the road.

Also finally got around to improving the rear part of the layout, and adding a level platform for the switching tower, which you can see temporarily perched up on the hill. After this coat is dry, next steps are sanding and painting, then continuing with the ballast along the section of track pictured above.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Belated Update

 Starting work on a freight depot, where boxcars are unloaded and transferred to trucks. The platform edge is a plastic Peco piece, the bulk of it is layers cardboard, and the boards are balsa wood.

A four-track crossing, started adding balsa wood slats.

First test of ground flock over green paint.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend Update: Painted

Finished the undercoat, patched a few spots, and laid down the road. Now, another round of sanding before another basecoat on the newly patched areas! The road will be a more sandy color of brown than the undercoat, and will get its own ground cover.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekend Update - Plastered

Quite a big update from the last post: I've added a layer of patching compound to the hills, and primed the baseboard. The plaster layer went on fairly easily, I just massaged it into the cloth. I did have to cover the track with masking tape before I started though.

Note to future self: prime the boards before cutting them, and then do touch-ups later!

Next comes some small patches around the bases of bridges, and putting a coat of brown base paint (which as you can see I've tested on the small hill) over everything.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Plaster Test

Tried out some patching plaster on the small hill, and it seems to have worked very well. The texture is nice and rough and it went on very easily. I mixed it a little wetter than the package instructions and smoothed it out using a latex gloved hand.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tunnelling through the Hills

There's just no easy way to conceal an access panel on the top of a layout. You have to disguise a rectangular panel with a natural-looking landscape, and I just couldn't figure out out to do it convincingly. So out comes the drill and the saw, and there's a hole behind the tunnel and in the side wall for access. I put plaster cloth over it all, and I think it looks much better than trying to have access from the top.

I didn't leave much room to the side of the curve that runs alongside this hill; I'll have to be very careful when surfacing it not to run out of side clearance.

Here's a shot of the entire layout. All the hills are covered in plaster cloth, next comes spreading a thin layer of material to seal it, fill in gaps here and there, and give it the right texture.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Plaster Cloth

Started plastering the hills; plaster cloth is an amazing material and perfectly suited to this task. I finished these two small hills in much less time than I had thought it would take. Building the frame took much longer. Still building the frame around the tunnel in the far corner.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Framing the Landscape

Continuing work on the landscape and on the rural station building.

I added a hardboard face to the entire right edge of the layout, since that one is very visible from the room. In the corner is rises up to support the hill that will eventually go here. In hindsight I did not leave enough room for the signal box you can see here; the 'hills' behind it are essentially going to be cliff faces.

Built up a facing for the hill in the back left corner, where the tunnel will go. The top of this will lift off for access to the tunnel. I'm planning a sort of rolling hill ridge between this hill and the edge of the upper level siding you can see at the extreme right of this picture. My plaster cloth should arrive in about a week so I need to finish framing out the supports.

Finally, I'm slowly getting the base coat for Kabayama Station 樺山駅 done. Not quite sure what to do with the walls in the waiting area. There is no detail, and there's actually some large injection-mold studs around the windows that do not look realistic at all.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend Update: There's Hills in them there Hills!

I have not had much time to work on the layout recently, but I have done a few things here and there:

Making a freight platform from layered pieces of hardboard. The plastic piece in front is a Peco (I think) platform front, useful for the fine brickwork detail. The plan is to build up the bulk of the platform and then plaster the top, painting it to look like concrete.

Small rolling hill built up from two layers of cardboard. I'll lay the plaster cloth on top and add a few shrubs and maybe a couple trees. The main road will be sandwiched between this hill and the slope of the ramp.

Decorated the bridge! Printed these out on regular paper and glued on with PVA glue. I hope when the bridge is weathered they will look more like painted signboards and less like what they are.

Today I continued work on building up the landscape.

The tunnel portals are not painted yet, but I've put them in place using blu-tack temporarily to build up the tunnel. The plan is to have the top of the hill lift off for access, which I think is better than building a hole into the back of the hill since this is in the corner of the room. Sanding block is to keep the sides square while they dry. Unfortunately there will be a very steep hill between the ramp track and the top of the tunnel, but it's a good place to put a short cliff face or similar.

View of the upper tunnel portal with sides also temporarily attached.

Trying a new technique for the large hill in the upper right of the layout. Started with a single piece of cardboard that I stuck in the middle, then eyeballed it so that an operator standing in front of the layout (assuming they're 6' tall) would just be able to see trains passing behind the hill, but would easily be able to lean over and see everything. Then I measured and cut out the cardboard shapes based on this height.

Another view of the hill framework.

Yet another view. I don't know whether I'll use cardboard strips, newspaper, or a combination of both to build up the hills in preparation for plastering.

Next is to continue with the tunnel hill, and finish off that platform. I've started figuring out what each of the five sidings will accept/produce, looking forward to starting a random waybill system for ordering different cars around the layout. Also named the small passenger station and putative town beyond: Kabayama 樺山, after a neighbourhood in the real Taihoku where a major freight yard was built ca. 1938.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Taking Shape

Fixed a few pieces of track, including a switch in the approach to the yard that I realized was facing the wrong way. Here little Ness helps me test for track alignment before adding a few more pins to the track.
Roughing out the terrain around the ramp. Definitely going to put in a tunnel in the back corner, just need to prime and paint the stone portal openings before proceeding.

A view of the new upper level. Didn't really need a run-around up here, so I made it into another siding. This can be where cars destined for points abroad are left for pickup, and where consists coming in from the real main line are left for the local.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Basic Trackwork Complete!

All the major trackwork for the layout is in place! Finally pinned down the final siding today. I have a temporary mockup of a tunnel set up in the upper left corner, but I think I'm going to pick up some plastic tunnel portals and set them up before I decide how long the tunnel is going to be.

I'm thinking more and more that I should plan this layout with a mind to sell it before I have to move again next year. That said, most prospective buyers will not be a fan of an East Asian setting, so my plan is to have the buildings set up temporarily so they can be switched out by a new owner. This entails building them as modules and leaving flat areas for them to fit into. We'll see how well this plan works!

The platforms for the main station area and the sidings will be pretty generic, though, so I'm going to turn my attention to those next, and set them up attached to the layout.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Trimming and Reinforcing

Today I pulled out the layout from its dark corner into the middle of the living room. My plan was to add some crossties to the legs to improve frame stability, and to add some more nails fixing the baseboard to the frame.
The layout from a very different angle, and in sunlight!

One of the current distributors I used to wire up the feeder lines. Red feeds the inside track, black the outer. The two large wires heading off into the sunlight connect to the control box.

Reverse angle shot of the layout. I added the crosspieces, hammered in a bunch more nails, and trimmed off a bit of the baseboard from the back corner of the layout. Also started gluing together the platform for the last siding. Am also seriously considering a tunnel for the straight section of track in the lower right of the image above. The hill containing would rise up into the corner of the layout, the one which is now in the corner of the room.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Building Basecoating and Finishing the Mainline Connection

Continued working on some of the buildings, assembling them and giving them a basecoat of colour.

This small station building (the Greenmax Trainman Office) went together pretty easily. At this point I was still using a sharp knife to cut a hole in the base (which is quite thick compared to the walls) for eventual illumination. Took me a very long time and was far too dangerous.

With the main station (the Greenmax Rural Station House) I realized I could just try my drill for the floor hole, and it went through with no problem. The interior of this station is divided into three areas, from left to right: waiting area for passengers, office and ticketing desk, and finally some kind of workroom or station manager's office, which is separated by a solid wall. I decided to drill a hole in the floor of this room, since it didn't have any interior details anyway, and put paper on the windows. My plan it to have the wires come up through the baseboard into this room and power three lights, one for each section, the wires for which run along the underside of the roof. It would be possible to have each light on a separate switch, although if I don't build blocks for the roof space the light would spill through.

Overall the station is a great little structure, with lots of detail.

Finally finished the bridge to nowhere, gluing it to the supports with PVA glue and  pinning the track in place. I added a little filling compound to the supports so that eventually I can sand it flat, paint it grey, and weather it to look like concrete. Lots of clearance under the bridge as constructed.

So this area is finished, and the only section of the layout trackwork that still needs to be built is the siding on the upper level. There's a problem, however, in that the siding is much longer than the track available for a loco that is pulling out of it. I guess this will just mean some extra complexity to pulling cars out of the siding and getting them onto the mainline, which in a small layout is not a bad thing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finishing the Connection to the Outside World

Progress continues on trackwork and setting up the supported platforms for the upper level. If you're interested, here is an image of the original plan from which this one was adapted. It's from the excellent Mike's Small Trackplans Page.

As you can see I changed it from a mainly two-track layout since the Peco SetTrack doesn't allow for this much track to be packed into a small space. I also enlarged the yard area and never incorporated the crossover.

Yesterday I cut and glued a small corner platform on the extreme upper right of the layout where the track to nowhere will end. Also started painting the smaller bridge, which hasn't fallen apart yet, and set it up for a test run as shown in the video below:

Note that none of the rolling stock has been painted yet.

I've been having a strange problem with some of the turnouts where they've started to bow upward, making a substantial bump in the track at several places. Not sure what is causing this. I've had to shim up part of the track on the upper level to try and smooth out the changes in elevation.

In the meantime I'm running the train around to make sure none of the track needs to be adjusted. It's been mostly smooth so far, but the ramp leading up to the second level is not completely smooth. I might have to add a few supports to make it less of a wild ride.

Here's another short video of the train passing along the mainline past the main yard:

Have to work on the focus and level for these videos! In the meantime, a short layout tour:

Overall view, with a very non-scale worklamp in the corner. I think I might put a tunnel there where the straight piece of track is and build it up into a hill. The black building in the bottom right is the base and roof of my passenger station, and the smaller one is an assembled but unpainted station building.

The little siding that could! Added this one when I realized I needed more turnouts anyway. Will be a small local industry.

The central sidings. It's in a great place to make it serve a coal mining operation, if I can fit the buildings around the track.

The junction with the ramp track. Switch house has been assembled and painted for some time now, just waiting for a junction to oversee.

The ramp. Most of the time the locomotive and handle it alright, but once in a while the leading two wheels jump off the track. There are some dips and bumps as it is, but hopefully I can smooth these out with a little work.

The wooden bridge. Almost put those tracks too close to the left side to leave enough clearance for a loco passing underneath. Managed to finagle it but it's still pretty close. Very happy with this bridge, it actually has a lot of tensile strength and doesn't move at all when the loco passes over top.

Main yard. I'm thinking of positioning the station building to the left of the straight section of siding, and having a small "in front of the station" scene in the corner.