Just A Scenic Break?

I took a big step in the final stages of my J Parker & Sons junk yard tonight by running a base layer of scenery up to the building. I’ve had the space for the building complete, ready to accept the building and various hard landscape items for a while now. You might wonder about why I paint my scenery base in an ochre yellow tone. About 10 years ago a well-known member of the local model railway scene told me my scenery on Queens Wharf was too green. I sort of agreed with him on one level but I wasn’t willing to totally concede to what he was suggesting. My first area of disagreement with him was that Morpeth sits on a river near the coast, it’s not located in the dry central west of NSW so I felt having things a little more green wasn’t out-of-place. I hadn’t made QW really yellow like it would have been if I’d been modelling an area around Parkes but then it didn’t look like Ireland either! I was convinced that my tones were correct for what I wanted to achieve and when photo backdrops of real Australian landscapes came along and I applied one of these to the background of Morpeth I felt that my colour choices had been vindicated. The tones of the layout matched perfectly with the backdrop and I made no changes to my colour palette at all.

This photo shows the building base I will be installing the scene on. It's made from 7mm plywood and extruded foam. The yeloow is a colour matched pot from an original litre can i could no longer buy off the shelf. I seem to remember the original was called Applebox but I just went to my local paint shop and they matched this colour from a sample.

This photo shows the building base I will be installing the scene on. It’s made from 7mm plywood and extruded foam. The yellow is a colour matched pot from an original litre can I could no longer buy off the shelf. I seem to remember the original colour was called “Applebox” but I just went to my local paint shop and they matched the colour from a sample.

The scenery steps I take are a simple standard process I apply to all the scenery I do. I begin by painting the entire base of the model I’m installing with my standard ochre yellow. This colour is applied to the fascia as well and so it runs up the front of the layout and in under the scenery. The reason I paint my base yellow is because I find that the base colour you choose tends to set a background tone to all the scenery applied above it. There are always spots that peek through but if you use a “dirt” colour (read for this chocolate-brown), I find the scenery ends up looking far too dark to my eye. Australia is dry, the scenery needs to have a predominantly yellow tone, however this does not mean that every Australian layout needs to be “yellow”. A colour palette that revolves around the yellow end of the spectrum does not mean that there is no green in the landscape. I drive 70km to work and home every working day through rural northern NSW (there is not one large town between my home and work), so believe me, not every part of the Australian landscape is dry, dusty and parched straw yellow. Where there’s water there’s green and while Australian greens in the south-east of the continent might be a green that’s more on the olive end of the spectrum, it is nevertheless green.

I like my models to sit on something really substantial as they will be travelling a long way in my trailer so I glue them down securely, really securely! The main building was glued in place using construction adhesive. After the models have been secured to the wooden base I place the scenic details around that I’ve prepared to see what works best. In this case I was using a few Rusty Rails castings and a wooden and corro open sided shed that I’d knocked up from scrap leftovers.

This photo shows the building and surrounding yard in the first stages of applying the scenery. This is really just the base cover which is sand and Woodland Scenics blended turf.

This photo shows the building and surrounding yard in the first stages of applying the scenery. This is really just the base cover which is sand and Woodland Scenics blended turf. I think the colour tones from the 3D scenery match the photo backdrop perfectly so I feel vindicated in not taking too much notice of my above mentioned critic.

The next step is fences. I like fences because they are an absolutely critical indicator of human presence, especially anywhere that railways exist. So I will make and apply a fence line to define the space and draw the line along the railway boundary. In this case I used some Model-O-Kits corrugated fence but anything suitable such as wooden paling fence would have done. So with the space defined and the fences in place I decide where I want the main building. You’ll notice that the main structure is the largest scenic item within the yard, it needs to dominate the scene. Also it’s not centred in the yard but offset to one end by about one-quarter of the yard’s total length. Sitting it right in the center of this mini scene would have set it up to look like it’s a model that’s been placed. Of course it is a model that’s been placed but you want to reduce the impression that this is the case, not draw attention to it.

I’ve spent a few nights assembling and applying the loading docks and steps to the three doors that are visible on this side of the building. There was a fourth on the back of the building but I didn’t bother installing this as it can’t be seen and leads directly into the bank at the rear anyway. I began running in the scenery by brushing a fairly thick layer of neat PVA around the scenic items and the base of the building and then I sprinkled on a layer of yellow-ish river sand. I had a small supply of some beautifully fine yellow river sand that lasted me a few years but I’ve recently replaced this supply with some from the local area. It’s not as fine and it has too much brown in it but it does the job. I spray this sand with a sprizter bottle of water lightly and this water of course has the ubiquitous drop of dish washing liquid in it. If I think the sand looks as if it isn’t drawing up the glue I’ve brushed on I bathe the area with more PVA mixed with water and then sprinkle selected spots along the edges with Woodland Scenics Blended Turf. The final stage is to sprinkle very sparing amounts of the Green Turf from Woodland Scenics. After this I resist the urge to start gluing in shrubs and weeds. I like this base cover to be thoroughly dry before I touch it again and depending on the season this can take up to two days.

So is this just an expensive and time consuming scenic break? It does play the role of interrupting the view of the trains but it has enough detail to interest the veiwer in its own right so I don’t think the effort’s wasted.

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