Under the watchful eye of the conductor, the crew traverses a grade crossing near the yard.
After testing the staging cassette to make sure the trains ran smoothly, it was time to wrap things up with applying scenery and other details to the staging cassette. While scenery is the last step, it has to be accounted for in the planning and design stage. In this case I wanted elevation changes for the one Bank Track siding to be lower than the main and the yard area to be relatively flat. I also planned for roads, a grade crossing, and a parking lot for the yard office. These areas were carved into the foam layout base or the areas made level for the roads. Once I was satisfied with how everything looked I moved on the scenery phase of construction.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I like to paint the foam layout base an earth color for the natural areas, and a gray color for the roads. This helps define the space and gives me an outline for applying the scenery materials. Once the paint was dry, I spread white glue on the earth colored areas and then sprinkled on some Georgia Clay “dirt” that I acquired from my yard. Prior to using the dirt on my layout, I dried it in an oven for a few hours and then ran it through a fine mesh screen to remove any foreign material and clumps. After screening, the dirt is similar to a fine powder and it’s perfect for replicating the Georgia clay dirt because that is exactly what it is. Once the dirt is applied to the layout base, I go back over it with a fine mist sprayer with “wet water” (a drop of dish soap in an 8 oz bottle of water), and then apply a thinned mix of white glue diluted with water over the entire area using a pipette. I like using the dirt as a base scenery layer so that it shows through thin grassy areas just like it does in nature.
While the dirt was drying, I began making the gravel road and grade crossing. I used extra pieces of rail to act as flange way guards on the grade crossing. I cut them to length, then using a NMRA standards gauge, placed them on the insides of the rail in the area of the crossing. The area between the flange way guardrails was filled with road gravel. I created small ramps for the road approach to each side of the crossing using sheet cork and tapered the edges into the scenery base. The gravel road was made using ARMs Driveway and Road Gravel (#135-0). The access road alongside the yard was planned to be slightly uneven and follow the natural contours of the land. I added a little static grass in the middle of the road, much like what you see on lightly used gravel roads.
Next, I applied Heki WildGrass fiber mats, Meadow Green (HK1575) and Pasture Green (HK1576) to the areas I previously covered with dirt. I wrote an article, From grass mat to weed patch, that appeared in the January 2012 issue of Model Railroader magazine on the techniques I use to apply the grass mats. You can also watch a YouTube video that I made, How to make a tree covered hill, which covers the steps to apply the grass mats. There is a link to the video on my website in the How To section. The nice part of using the grass mats is that you don’t need a static grass applicator to apply the material. I also add other scenery materials to the finished grass areas, such as weeds, bushes, and vines. I think one of the keys to scenery is layering different materials, and not just using one type of foam or static grass for an entire area.
One final project for the road was building a swing gate that limits access to the private road. It was constructed with styrene rod based on a common design I have seen for those types of gates. I also added small pieces of rail vertically embedded in the ground to prevent vehicles from driving around the gate.
The final step was adding some tall thicket areas and trees to the staging cassette. John Farrington recently added some overgrown areas to his layout extension and I really liked how they looked. He mentioned that he used some Martin Welberg products to model the overgrown areas. I checked the Scenic Express website and researched a few of the new Martin Welberg products, and decided to give them a try. I purchased High Spring Green Thicket, Type E (WBSESG), and Low Light Green Thicket, Type F (WBSFLG). These products come attached to a rubbery mat and can be pulled apart or cut into smaller pieces. While not as easy to work with as the Heki Wild Grass fiber mats, I was able to pull them apart and attach them to the scenery base using white glue.
The thicket areas really add a lot of texture to the grass areas and I think look great. I added a few SuperTrees to the end of the cassette that attaches to the wall to help hide the edge. A few days ago I posted a new video on how I make SuperTrees, you can check it out on my YouTube channel, or the How To section of my website.
I recently held an ops session on my layout with the new staging cassette. It added a lot more work for the North Local crew to sort the cars from the yard and build their train prior to switching the industries. The new yard worked perfectly and it was a lot of fun to switch. All the world's is a stage and this one has been a big success in its first performance.
Well that about wraps it up for the staging cassette. In a future blog I’ll cover scratch building the yard office. Until next time, stay safe and keep model railroading.