Sunday, 1 March 2015

Winter Layout Work Update Part 3

Hi all – Some more work on the layout to pass along. The past couple of weeks have seen some substantial work completed on the layout in terms of trackwork and scenery. To me, scenery work makes it seem like the light is in sight at the end of the tunnel in terms of completing the layout. We have already achieved a couple major milestones such as finishing the benchwork, laying track, installing a DCC system and wiring, and establishing operations on the layout. Now we’re beginning a new phase (scenery), which happens to be one of my favourite areas of the hobby. To me, scenery takes a layout from the “plywood prairie” to an actual model of a railroad. With that in mind, here are a couple photos of our recent progress.
Mark's TH&B SW8 #58 assists in spotting some of his cars that have been loaded Woodland Scenics light grey fine ballast. Actually this photo was staged just for the blog, but as it turns out, the hoppers (Atlas) do have operable longitudinal gates that can dump ballast just like the prototype. All the tie gaps have been filled in at the point, and the track has been painted brown.

Another view of some of Mark's equipment getting ready to ballast the rest of the yard. From back, we have the main line, passing track, yard tracks 1-6 (engine is on track 5), and the switch at lower right leads to the steam and diesel engine servicing areas.

 First off, all track has been laid with the exception of the steam engine servicing area (Mark is working on this as I write). We will have two tracks leading up to a turntable – which has been installed but I somehow neglected to photograph; will post a photo later – and from there four radial tracks which lead to a roundhouse (three) and a RIP track adjacent to the roundhouse. Additionally, an ashpit track and coal dock unloading track will be used to supply and remove material from the steam servicing area.

Here we see CN 2236 on the main line with CN 9675 on the yard lead. It's somewhat difficult to tell, but this is one of the curves that has been superelevated (mainline only). The train on the main is passing the "chemical factory" of bottles used for ballasting the track (glue, 'wet' water, etc). Also note some of the pink foam installed at lower right. At left the roundhouse stands in its' approximate final position on the layout (not yet secured); the wall will be made removable with the use of magnets so we can photograph inside the building. 
Further work on the track has included painting and ballasting roughly 1/3 of the main line as well as most of the yard. The track was painted with brown Krylon Camouflage paint which results in a nice (and quick) flat brown that does a good job of representing prototype colours. Immediately after painting the excess paint was removed from the railheads with a wooden block and track cleaner before the paint fully cured. Ballasting the track was accomplished with Woodland Scenics light grey fine ballast secured by copious amounts of diluted white glue. Grey ballast was used to represent limestone ballast, something that was relatively common in our area on secondary lines and in yards up until recently (though it can still be seen in some yards such as Brantford or London). CN and CP seemed to favour slag ballast on main lines up until the last few years when hard crushed rock has been used instead. Some areas of the layout will such as the rolling mill and steam servicing area will have black Bachmann ballast to represent cinders/slag roadbed. Progress was temporarily interrupted when we ran out of ballast, but a trip to Credit Valley in Mississauga remedied that (didn’t realize how much ballast the yard would take!). Eventually, the track will be weathered once all the ballasting has taken place and any minor kinks/trouble spots worked out. Also of note, about half of the mainline curves have superelevated with strips of .020" styrene; I must admit I was skeptical at first of the how noticeable this effect would be when scaled down to HO scale, but after Mark's insistence on the use of superelevation, it does look pretty cool to see a train roll through one of the superelevated curves!

The rails inside of the rolling mill have been powered up; in reality, we probably won't need to move the engine inside the building all that often, but we can if we want to!

The first cars of lumber have been spotted at the lumberyard. Foam will be used to create a hillside between the lumberyard and the 'hi-line' in the background, as well as between the 'hi-line' and the main line in the distance.

 As I mentioned above, scenery is one of my favourite aspects of working on the layout; in contrast to strict prototype adherence, it is much more open-ended in terms of what non-railroad items you wish to include (i.e. what season of the year to model, city vs. country, foliage types, etc). I had previously built a 4’ x 3’ diorama to take photos on, so I had limited experience with scenery work, but one thing I had not done was work with foam. On our layout, we’re using ½” thick extruded urethane foam to establish contours, hillsides, creeks, etc. Not only is it light and surprisingly strong, but quite easy to shape and form. Thus far, most of the foam work has consisted of simply covering exposed areas of the benchwork, with subsequent layers to define the hills and transitions between the various levels of track. Hopefully more work will be completed in the near future as time permits. Next phase will include work on installing switch motors as there are a number of turnouts that are out of reach and are temporarily spiked in position for the normal/diverging route. 

One final note: a special thanks to George Dutka for mentioning my blog on his White Rivier Division blog on 2/26. I hope to someday match his skills in the hobby - thanks George!

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!


  1. Hey Peter,
    Nice blog. Cool to see your layout progress and some of the slides. No wonder you guys have to fill those bins at the train shows... you have a lot of track to fill!!
    Nice to see you and Mark and your Dad at Kitchener on Sunday. We (Brad and I) have a double table at Woodstock booked, so hopefully see you there - if not as vendors, as buyers!
    Take care!