Monday, July 13, 2020


A week or so ago, Lance Mindheim asked me to provide a couple of photos showing the railroad as it sits in the basement for a layout design book he's writing. 
My first thought was "I really need to clean this place up" - Covid-related quarantine has meant no visitors, group work sessions or the like, so the tendency to leave tools and supplies on the surface of the layout has become an issue. One I needed to deal with whether or not there's a photo shoot looming!
Then I reflected on my own books, and how they can stay in print for a number of years. "Do I really want," said I to me (since there's no one else here most days....) "to have the first photo of the layout published to show a sea of unpainted plywood with unballasted track?"
The answer led me to put aside the Great Tortoise Install and focus this weekend on trying to get some scenery looking at least a little respectable. 
The result can be seen in the photo above. One neat part about building landforms is that any one of several methods can be used. And all that really matters in the end is the top 1/64" or so - since that's all that really shows. 
My preferred method for open, or relatively open, areas such as fields and pastures, is cardboard webbing. For tree-covered hillsides I really prefer green florists foam. The webbing will get a coat of plaster cloth followed by a skim coat of plaster to create the hardshell. The green florist foam will get a coat of paint followed by ground texture. As an aside, I've never understood why anyone would go through the added expense of using the foam scenery base, and the added trouble of carving it to shape, to then cover it with plaster cloth of other texture material. That seems to me to be negating the primary advantage of using the stuff - which is to easily "plant" trees an the like. 
After finishing the waterfall on the Thresher's Mill diorama "off layout" I installed it in place. I still need to  blend the river surface and finish the rough landforms to the right of the river crossing. I hope to spend some time this evening getting that done and getting a start on the plaster cloth. 

Luckily, I saved a lot (three large appliance boxes!) full of finished fall trees from the old layout, so the hillsides should be tree covered very quickly. LAst winter I trimmed our two Crepe Myrtle trees to get some tree armatures. Those have been sitting untrimmed in a couple of boxes in the garage, so yesterday while waiting for the dogs to dry off from their baths I sat with them on the deck and trimmed the seed pods off. 
I don't think I'll have time to complete the foreground trees for the photos for Lance, but I did want to get my car in the garage and these things were in the way!
One more note - the scenery doesn't connect directly to the walls - I cut profile boards and mounted the cardboard strips and pieces of foam to the profile board - leaving about a 1/4" or so gap between the back of the scenery and the wall. This way, if I want to add a photo mural backdrop in the future I don't have to try to trim the bottom edge to follow the scenic contours. I also might try something with the lighting to shine light "up" on the sky. But that's a project for a day in the far future!

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