Grasping The Nettle

The countdown to the Aus ExpO is on and I have about 18 months to go before Morpeth MkII will be exhibited for the first time. I wouldn’t describe my work on the layout over the last couple of weeks as exactly feverish, but I have been making real progress on the layout segment I’ve been working on. I spent yesterday with a small group of O-scale modellers at the home of an acquaintance who is building a large layout under his house. There were six of us at this gathering and some had driven many hours to get there. As such I didn’t get anything done on my layout yesterday however I think socializing and watching O-scale trains run qualifies as a satisfactory substitute.

As of today I have the house to myself for approximately 10 days while on a break from work. My aim is to get the layout segment I’m currently working on completed before I go back to work in the middle of October. The weather is dry and warm at the moment, so it’s a good time to be doing scenery as things dry more quickly. In fact I’m writing this as some glue dries under the ground foam I’ve just applied to the layout. I thought I might take the opportunity to detail some of the jobs I’ve been doing in the lead-up to being able to apply the first ground foam.

Modular Modelling – As the years have passed I find that more and more of my modelling could be described as “modular”. Building the layout in segments obviously fits into this category, however I’m also finding that I increasingly think of each model as a module and attempt to build them as discrete units. This actually assists in helping to preserve models when the inevitable happens and I have to pull a layout apart. If the model is a transportable “unit” I find recycling them into the next layout is much easier than if they are set directly into the landscape. One model on this section will have survived onto three different layouts once it is installed on this layout.

Foam Scenery – I’ve decided that the foam scenery has been a real success. However I will stick my neck out and say that I’m still not convinced that laying track directly to the foam is a good idea in an exhibition layout. I want my track to stay put and I remain convinced that the best way to achieve this is pinning it to a wooden sub-roadbed. The gentle undulations that can be easily achieved using the foam are, in my experience, unequaled by any other scenery base method and I’ve tried them all over the years.

Finishing and Joining – Perhaps it’s just my training as a carpenter (admittedly this was many years ago), but I find that I’m psychologically unable to start assembling the final product until I have all the elements that will go together to make it up. When I build something from wood I work for a considerable amount of time preparing a series of sub projects before the final elements are drawn together and assembled. I seem to have spent weeks and weeks building, painting and weathering a series of small models – in fact I was starting to wonder whether this phase was ever going to finish. However this method does have one big up-side: when the final assembly does commence, progress is very quick and you can see things coming together before your eyes in a very satisfactory way. I finished the models off over the last week or so and now I’ve moved onto installing them and joining them up with ground foam.

Trees and a Moral Dilemma – I have to admit that the one of the few areas of this hobby I really do not enjoy is making trees. I have the ability to make them and have done so in the past, but I’ve finally admitted to myself that my dislike of making them is not a passing fancy or some sort of moral failing that I need to live down. So I’ve given into the inevitable and purchased some commercially made trees which I have to admit are at least as good as the ones I can make myself. I console myself that I’m saving a heap of time that I can devote to other areas of modelling. There’s always that deadline of the upcoming exhibition.

Laying Concrete – My efforts to cast plaster foundation blocks for the wooden tank stand were so satisfactory that I decided to try the same technique for the concrete driveway that sits next to the weighbridge hut. I cast thin slabs of plaster in styrene formwork molds I made up, extracted these from the molds and then stained them in rubbing alcohol and india ink before gluing them in place. The effect is very pleasing.

I’ve posted a photo of the weighbridge hut and the water tank so you can see the progress I’ve made on the layout recently. This might act as a good contrast for others I’ll post when things really start to change over the next few days. The change is going to be dramatic, even if the trees are commercial interlopers 🙂

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