Filling Gaps

After assembling a couple of kits over the last couple of months I needed to get back to some work on my new layout. I have reached the stage where all the track is laid, wired up and trains were running. Because I needed to prepare Queens Wharf for an exhibition last May I’ve done almost nothing to my new layout since late 2011. The track and wiring were completed in approximately mid 2011 and I was able to test run trains on the complete layout for a few months while I worked on 1919. All that changed last weekend when I decided to paint some backdrops.

There’s a very good reason I decided to get stuck into the backdrops and scenery and this is because I’ve decided that Morpeth MkII will make its public debut at an exhibition in March 2014. I had been toying with the idea of becoming involved in a new project with some friends but this has been put in the slow lane for the moment while my Morpeth layout started getting some attention. The backdrops are not completed on all three scenic sections but I’ve done enough to allow me to make a start on the models and landscape.

I’ve worked on quite a few layouts over the years and these have been approximately a 50/50 mix of permanent and sectional exhibition layouts. Of all the lessons I’ve learnt one of the most valuable is to work on bite sized chunks. I find modular layouts are a great way to work because I can bring the section into my workroom and this allows me to work on it in comfort. However I don’t limit this modular approach to the layout sections: I also modularize the bases I use to build my models on so that I can work on them on the workbench. This way the only time I’m leaning over the layout is when I’m checking something or installing a new model and filling in the scenery. I’ll go into a bit more detail on this in a future post.

So today, while I listened to podcasts of the Model Railway Show http://themodelrailwayshow.com/, I started to lay some ground forms on the turntable section of the layout. I used some small sections of blue extruded foam on QW and found that I really liked this material for this purpose. I know our north American cousins have been carrying on about this material for years but I live in a sub tropical climate and finding a source for this foam hasn’t been all that easy. Recently my friend Peter Krause convinced me to try Austech http://www.austech.com.au/ and we stuck lucky. They sell and extruded foam product they call Gold Board and it is just what I was after. This product comes in 20-100mm thick sections that are either 600mX2.4m or 1.2mX2.4m. This is a brilliant modelling product and there really is no comparison with older scenery base methods: it’s light, rigid, cuts easily with readily available hand tools, it sands like very soft wood and, one of its biggest advantages, it works dry. You don’t have to wait for it to dry or set and for me this helps make maximum use of my limited modelling time.

I have had a wedged shaped section of layout to fill with landscape and I was looking to make some use of this real estate as it was the only part of the layout that didn’t have a building or use already allocated to it. I started with a 50mm think base layer and built this up with a layout of 20mm thick sheet that I started to shape and sand to the shape I wanted it. I glued this with Maxbond construction adhesive but I made sure that it was compatible with the foam before I glued it down. After a lot of shaping and sanding – I used a Stanley Surform tool for the initial shaping and some very rough 150 grit sand paper wrapped around a cork block – it was time to clean up and make some decisions about the use I might make of the space.

I have an Outback Models church kit that I’d been thinking might fit nicely onto this space but the other model that was also a candidate was the Waratah Model Railway Co weighbridge. I took the wall sections from both of these kits and sticky taped them together with blue, low tack masking tape. I plonked these down on the foam in various locations to see how they looked but I couldn’t convince myself that I could fit both models into the restricted space. In choosing between a railway infrastructure building and a general townscape structure the railway structure won out so the church is going to have to wait a few more years for a home. I’ve also put some time into a scratchbuilt loading bank structure and this can be seen in the photo I’ll post. I always start with structures at the back of a layout and work my way forward, no matter how tempting it is to get started on a more exciting foreground structure.

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