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It did not always look this way

The GNRR local crew switches cars in Tate Yard preparing to depart to Marietta.

Many times new model railroaders see a finished layout and don’t comprehend all the steps it took to achieve the final product. Hours of planning and work go into a layout before it even begins to resemble an operating model railroad or real location. One of my friends recently asked me to show more photos of my layout under construction and I thought it was a good idea. As this year comes to a close, let’s look back at how my Tate Yard scene developed, and the steps I took to complete it.

The design of my Georgia Northeastern Railroad (GNRR) layout went through several revisions before I decided on the final one you see here on my website. When designing the layout I wanted to include the small prototype yard on the GNRR located at Tate, Georgia. While my track work design is different from the prototype yard, it functions in the same manner of holding cars coming to and from the marble industries in Marble Hill, Georgia. When there are enough loads in Tate Yard they are taken down to Elizabeth Yard to be interchanged with CSX. The yard also include a locomotive service area which was a high priority on my list of things to include on the layout.

Construction of the bench work followed a standard design of 1x4 framing with cross braces on 16” centers, and topped with 2” thick extruded foam for the layout base. When building the framing, I incorporated notches for the creek and river scenes because they were lower than the 2” thick foam cap. These lowered areas help relive the “flat earth” look of the layout. It is important to have these areas planned out prior to building the bench work. The construction of the bench work progress quickly and was done in less than a week. Once the bench work was installed, it was time to start putting down some track.

Before building the bench work I mocked up the track plan on brown craft paper using the Micro Engineering track components, so it was a simple matter to transfer the track plan to the layout base once it was built. Even when drawing up the “perfect” plan, there are always minor adjustments that need to be made once you see it in 3D. I painted the foam with an earth colored paint and then placed loose sections of track and turnouts on the layout base following the track plan to verify the arrangement. This was the best time to make final adjustments and see if what I designed would look and function as expected. After confirming the exact locations of the track and turnouts, I used a magic marker to draw out the track center line for the next steps.

The main line track was laid on standard cork roadbed, the runaround and yard tracks were laid on thinner sheet cork to give it a lower ballast profile from the main line. Temporary bridges were installed over the river and creek scenes so that I could operate over the entire layout. Once I had the track installed and wired to the DCC system I tested it for several weeks to make sure everything was operating perfectly. Next up was ballast and beginning of the rough scenery.

I used Arizona Rock and Mineral (#138 CSX,SP, Wabash Gray) ballast and took my time to install it, making sure to not glue the turnout points in place. The small hill along the backdrop was made using pieces of extruded foam. Next I covered the foam with plaster sheets and installed plaster rock castings onto the hill. The rocks were painted with various craft paints and weathered. The areas without rocks were painted with a reddish brown colored paint then coated with a thin layer of screened and dried Georgia clay.

Next, I added Heki WildGrass fiber grass mats (HK 1575 and HK1576) in the areas exposed to sunlight, and Woodland Scenic Flock and Turf Green Adirondack Blend in the areas where I was planning to install the trees. I also used Heki Flor (nr. 1550) for weeds and vines growing on the rocks and grass. The final step was adding trees and low underbrush to the top of the hill. Before I installed the trees I used a 6”X 9” Scotch-Brite scour pad trimmed into approximately 2” high strips in an irregular line. After trimming the pad it was spray painted a camo brown, coated with inexpensive hairspray, and covered with ground foam. The prepared scour pad was used to fill in the gaps between the trees along the top of the hill and to represent a distant tree line. SuperTrees from Scenic Express were made and covered with various colors of leaf flock material. Once the trees were prepared, they were installed along the top of the hill.

As you can see it was a multi-step process to complete the scene. It is through using numerous products that you can create a believable scene on your model railroad. Give some of these techniques and products a try on your layout, it may help your layout look more realistic.

While 2020 may not have been an easy year, I am thankful for all the great friends I have made through this hobby and wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year. Until next time, stay safe and keep model railroading.

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