Sunday, August 7, 2016

Plan 9 From Outer Space…

"This isn't Plans 1 through 8 from outer space. This is Plan 9! This is the one that actually worked!" - Jerry Seinfeld

I alluded to a “major project” on the other end of the basement in a post last week. I suppose it’s time to fess up and show just how “major” this project is and the current state of that end of the railroad.
It started with the removal of the White River Junction scene from the layout early last fall. My plan at the time was to install Bethel in its place.
While that was going on I was trying to locate things like structures and streets in Richmond and Randolph. As you can see on the track plan the way the mainline curved 90-degrees and then 180-degrees in Randolph, and the 180 degree curve in Richmond, was playing havoc with creating a realistic arrangement of the structures in both locations. See the benchwork plan below for the "before" benchwork arrangement:

The reason for this form factor was an attempt to hide the support column in the basement from view. But it was becoming clearly evident what I needed was a longer stretch of tangent track, especially to depict Randolph.  If I attached the neck of the peninsula to the narrow wall of basement (at the top of the plan) I would create a long stretch of tangent track on both sides of the backdrop. See below:
Key to all this was learning to simply accept the support column (not much of a choice since it holds up the house...) and live with it. 
So I decided to make a change to the benchwork footprint. This photo, taken before the track laying was finished in this area, shows the previous view from the spot: 

We removed the old benchwork and reattached the peninsula to the far wall.  Then we unscrewed the backdrop and ran it straight (surprisingly, the thing didn’t crack or break). Then I spliced some new pieces to the backdrop and connected it to the end wall. Next step will be repainting the backdrop sky blue. 
Sharp-eyed readers will also note that White River Junction is being replaced by Essex Junction. Long time blog readers will recall that was the plan for the layout several years ago. Guess I should have stuck with my original plan!
This view shows how much tangent track I have for the new version of Randolph. It also shows the tremendous mess all this work and rework creates:

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Demeritt Cannery - Planted

Got the track in Waterbury ballasted, added some additional scenic texturing, and planted the ridge of trees behind the Demeritt Cannery. Then I "planted" the cannery in place. 
At the same time, a large project is also going on at the other end of the basement - but more on that later. 
This photo shows a task that's moving up on the "to-do" list - adding some lighting that shines on the front of the structures in Waterbury - right now everything is pretty badly backlit due to the position of the ductwork in the basement and the position of the overhead lights. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Some improvement


Spent the better part of a rainy Independence Day working on a set of platforms and walkways for the feed mill. But I did peel away the most offensive sections of the bad ballast. If you have ever seen AMI Insta-Roadbed, the sticky, black stuff - that black goopy mess was similar to how the bad ballast came up! Even so, there was a lot of track with half-dried, shiny, sticky ballast.
I first brush-painted those ties that had developed a shine from the glue. The results were far from perfect but luckily these are two spur tracks, so the gray/brown/earthtone ties work in this situation.
Then I added a very thin coat of fresh cinders to the surface.
I soaked it - thoroughly - with 70% alcohol - and then secured it in place with diluted matte medium. I usually prefer white glue to matte medium for ballasting track since matte medium when it's dried, isn't going to be "soaked" off - so any track ballasted with matte medium is staying in place and never going to be removed and reused.
I again turned off the lights and headed upstairs. Stopped down there this morning before leaving for work. Hadn't completely dried but the results are already much approved.
The ties are still a little shinier than I'd like in some spots - but that's something a little final weathering can fix. As I said yesterday I plan to add more than the typical amount of grass/weeds to these spurs so that will help disguise any miscues with the ballast as well.
All in all, I think it's safe to move forward with the gravel ballast on the mainline.



Monday, July 4, 2016

Ugh, what a mess....


Yesterday I added the cinder fill ballast to the area on both sides of the mainline and the cannery and Derby & Ball spur in Waterbury. Everything went fine - I spread the cinder ballast, soaked it with alcohol & water, then used a dropper to add the diluted white glue. 
Went down to the layout room this morning, flipped on the lights, and was greeted with this mess. 
Instead of soaking in and drying the glue became a sticky, gooby mess! (Yes the photo above shows the "dried" version!)
I said "That's disappointing." (not an actual quote - what I really said was unprintable!) 
All I can think of is the large jug of Elmers I used had somehow separated or aged and simply didn't set correctly. It's similar to an issue I've had with Woodland Scenics water - that stuff never really dried completely, it remained slightly tacky for months. This stuff looks and feels the same. 
I may very well have to tear out the track and replace it, but I figured trying to salvage it in place was worth the effort. 
The first step was to dry brush a coat of grimy black, Railroad Tie Brown, and Earth paints on the top of the ties in an effect to flatten the still-glossy glue. 

Once that dries I'm going to try placing a thin "skim coat" of fresh cinder - and this time use Matte Medium to secure it in place. I'm hoping that will cover most of this mess. 

The only saving grace - and it's not much of one - is the fact that these are two spurs meaning I might be able to use grass and weeds and dirt - along with a second "skim" coat of ballast - to disguise most of the mess. I've always wanted to try track buried in weeds - guess this is my chance. 

Happy Independence Day!