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Sheffie

Spring Story

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Sheffie

My first layout is just beginning to take shape. I don’t yet have a baseboard, but I am firming up the details of the track and the construction. 

 

The setting is somewhere between Niigata and Aizu-Wakamatsu, around 2007-2014. Clearly the line is operated by JR East, although there might be some freight cars from further afield. 

 

The central features of the layout will be two bridges crossing a small lake at different heights, next to a hill. One of the tracks will go behind the hill; the other will pass through a tunnel. 

 

It’s possible that a small mining operation will be established behind the hill, providing a focus for freight operations in the area, in addition to the regular outings of the Ban”etsu Monogatari. 

 

I’ve bought two yards of dark green patterned cotton fabric which will provide a basic ground cover. Later on, I plan to add enough undergrowth and trees to obscure it, but for now it provides a nice enough background. The problem is cutting holes in it. It’s an irrevocable step, and caution plus self doubt is a powerful combination. 

 

I’m hoping to find a landscape photo from the region that features a lake in the foreground. Then I plan on printing that at an appropriate scale to match the lake on the layout base, i.e. about 248mm across. 

 

I’m going to experiment with reflective materials including aluminium foil for the surface of the lake. The important thing, I’m thinking, is to reflect the landscape photo. 

 

Still so many unknowns. Will I be able to keep the cotton sheet as a single piece? How will I construct the tunnel? Where will all the wiring go? And so on. But here’s where I am today. 

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Sheffie

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The vast majority of the stuff arrived today. I’m still waiting for the super crossover kit, the 4x248 straight, and some more crossings/rerailers, but I can run a train!

Edited by Sheffie
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Sheffie

Built a frame, ran wiring, added basic terrain contours in corrugated cardboard, wired up the powered tracks, and fitted the green cloth over everything. 

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Kiha66

Looking good!  Nice job with wire management from the start, I always put it off till its become an absolute mess.  😁

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Sheffie

Oh, I’m sure this would be a horrific mess if I attempted to power the seven points I’m going to have. But with any luck the horror is all behind me. Cardboard is cheap and easy enough to work with, but I have paper cuts all over. 

Here’s another shot of the cardboard in all it’s evil. It’s actually 2 layers, each about 6mm thick, or 1/4”

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Sheffie

The track is now all in place. I still need to decide exactly how ambitious I want to be with terrain (elevation changes, hills, tunnels). And I haven’t made any attempt at a pond yet. That’s next. 

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Sheffie

Aaaand now, Joke Water v 1.0 

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Astute observers may notice the hidden message written Leonardo da Vinci style. If you don’t have a mirror handy, I can tell you that it says “non stick side”

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Sheffie

Today we have gained a fair bit of experience, and a first attempt at an old mine entrance. 

Obviously it will look better with a bit of rail going in, and I really need to work out how to get the cloth to sit down and behave itself, but actually I think it doesn’t look bad, all things considered. 

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Kiha66

I really like the old mine entrance, really neat detail!

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Sheffie

Well, it’s been a discouraging few days for me. I’ve got a package in the mail from Japan, but the tracking data says it’s been in New York for two days. 

 

I recently raised the truss bridge 12mm using the 2% gradient polystyrene ramps, and it worked pretty well, although there was a pronounced “crest of the hill” at each end of the bridge. That encouraged me to raise the bridge again, to the originally planned ~1 inch height. 

 

This involved raising the previously installed ramp by putting it on two more 6mm slices of cardboard, and putting another ramp before that one, leaving me with a 2% incline that’s twice as long as before. The downslope was much simpler—I just added the second ramp on top of the first, creating a 4% drop. 

 

It really wasn’t difficult to do, until I got to the point of tucking everything under the green cloth and trying to make it look neat. I cut the cloth to make the pool in such a way that there isn’t really enough material to stretch down to the water at one end of the bridge. Of course the cloth in general is difficult to work with, considering that the power feeder line has to go through a slit in the cloth before going down through a piece of polystyrene, four layers of cardboard, and a quarter inch of plywood, all of which need to line up, and none of which I can see because it’s all under a cloth. That makes it very difficult to fix the position of the card and polystyrene forming the embankment, which leads to things shifting around, which means I need to adjust the cloth, which disconnects the power...

 

The final result is rails that dont really sit on the “ground” and that bow down under the weight of passing trains, and a lot of “ground” that looks just like a rumpled cloth. 

 

It’s starting to look like the green cloth was a huge mistake from the beginning. I don’t know where to go now. It seems like the only option is to carve out all the raised terrain, probably from polystyrene, to exactly the right shape, and then to firmly fix it in position... but then I don’t know how to cover it all. 

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cteno4

Sheffie,

 

it is hard to do the cloth trick over a more 3D surface.

 

have you tried tacking down your foam, cardboard, and styrene layers with something like hot glue or some silicone caulking? These can come apart pretty easily with a putty knife for adjustments but hold things from sliding around. Might make it all hold together better to keep your wire holes lined up. Could also drill holes all the way thru your layers just a tad smaller than a bamboo skewer and shove them thru and nip off. Sewing pins might work well to hold the cloth in place where needed.

 

also best to make the first like 1/2” of a wire hole larger diameter to allow some wiggle room. 

 

To hold track down you can drill thru the track screw hold downs and then use pins to hold the track. Of course these won’t hold vericallynwell but will help with horizontal slide in critical spots. To hold down vertically some you could try drilling pin sized holes perpendicular to the road bed bevels on each side so you would have two opposing angled spikes to hold the track down vertically. Dab of grey paint to hide the pin head.

 

cheers,

 

jeff

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Sheffie

This is my first attempt at building a hill and in the process I’m moving the disused mine entrance to the end of it. 

 

I haven’t really made an effort to get the cloth to behave yet. I am thinking of glueing it down in places, but not just yet. 

 

And I haven’t touched the western end of the layout yet. There will be more hills there, and a tunnel. But one step at a time. 

 

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Kiha66

Looking good Tim!  I like the track curving around to the front of the mine.

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Sheffie
Posted (edited)

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I’ve done a bit more work on this, in preparation for the arrival of my first trees, which are due tomorrow. 

- added a second hill (on the right of this pic), just a low one to separate the mine entrance branch line from the main line

- pinned down the track, to prevent the cloth lifting it and to emphasize that the branch line runs through a cutting

- rebuilt the wooden boards and posts around the tunnel entrance

- tucked in the narrow gauge line so it looks overgrown at the end 

- glued down the grass cloth above and behind the tunnel 

 

One of the nice things about cotton with a hunter pattern is that it can be cut and frayed, leaving you with variegated green tufts. 

 

Edited by Sheffie
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Sheffie

(This is the first update following a redesign and rebuild to take advantage of the full length of the table.)

 

Today was my first attempt at laying ballast. I chose a small enclosed area near the back of the layout, to minimize the risk and the cost of errors on my part. 

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Step 1 was decanting the ballast into a better container. I’ve included the label details in case anyone else likes the look of this ballast on kato track. 

 

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I didn’t have any fancy tools for applying the material, so I used a folded sheet of stiff card, and brushed it into the gap with an old paintbrush. 

 

Then I used the brush to make sure there was no ballast on top of the sleepers (ties) because prototypical trains send vibrations through them that will cause loose rocks to jump off. 

 

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The glue is essentially the same as “school glue” except clear. I’ve diluted it in the ratio 1 glue to 2 water, and I used a syringe to apply it drop-by-drop over the whole area. 

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Now that it’s all wet, it looks much darker than the surrounding plastic, but I’m confident that it will lighten again as it dries. 

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Sheffie

For some reason, these pictures make the track bed look more blue than they do to the naked eye. Honestly, that’s a really good color match. 

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Sheffie

Grrr. I was wrong. 

 

The ballast is still dark. The glue must have formed a permanent coating over the rock. I don’t know what to do next. 

 

I can try using glue that’s more diluted. But that might make the problem worse. 

 

I can try adding ballast on top of wet glue. 

 

I can try putting more ballast on top without glue, but that’s potentially going to shift, revealing the darker stuff underneath and maybe getting into the points. 

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ianlaw

Hi,

 

To counter any colour differences I always paint the entire trackbed including tracks after ballasting, as can be seen here. I admit I have seen people use an airbrush achieving fantastic results. This is just put on with a paint brush using acrylic paints. On the foremost track you can see I started adding additional rust colour with weathering powder as this would be a lesser used siding. Hope this helps.

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Sheffie

That does help, thanks. 

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Hayashi

Sheffie, 3 suggestions for your ballast application.

 

  1. You may want to add a drop of liquid dish detergent to the glue and water mixture. About 1-2 drops of detergent per quart. It wets the mixture and helps it to flow better between the cracks.
  2. You can also pre-wet your track with a light spray of isopropyl alcohol, then apply the ballast and glue/water mixture.
  3. You may also want to apply the ballast dry, mask the track, and spray it with hair spray (Aqua Net). 
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Sheffie

Thanks for the helpful suggestions, everyone. I’m running some experiments on different formulations and I will definitely incorporate some of these ideas. 

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Kamome

I have done some tests adding ballast to unitrack. I’ve found painting the whole track bed and sleepers with a deep brown first gives a good definition once you add ballast. This also means your rail sides are painted. I also begin by applying glue to the track bed around the sleepers and on the preformed bank so that ballast adheres to it. I would say the less is more when adding ballast as it can easily look overfilled.

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Pashina12

Just spotted this thread - nice! I'll be following along... the Aizu-Wakamatsu area is my main region of interest!

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Sheffie

I’ve paved and ballasted the station area, mostly (the outside edge of the tracks will follow after I finalize each section of cloth. It feels a lot nicer!

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I resolved my ballast colour issues by first laying down a foundation layer, which is drenched in diluted glue (and is a local cheaper material) and after that dries I am adding a thin layer of the granite, without glue. It can never be moved, but it looks right, to me. 

 

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Im pushing forward with construction because my third shipment of trees is on the way, and I’d really like to be able to finish the eastern end of the layout, at least, when they arrive. 

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