Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Scenery at SJ Cabin- Part 2

I seem to have developed the habit of getting an idea for project in one area of the layout, working on that project for a period of time and then moving on to another project in another area of the layout. The projects have ranged from completing the bench work in one area to completing the scenery in another. While I have certainly enjoyed the variety of the projects, this approach hasn’t helped much in terms of completing large sections of the layout.

At this point in time, all of the track and electrical work is complete, ninety percent of the basic scenery shell is complete, the fascia and valance are in place, and roughly fifty percent of the scenery is finished. The room is carpeted and the lighting is complete. I am finally at the point that I can spend a large portion of my hobby time on building structures, finishing scenery and building engines and rolling stocks. And this leads to my next project- finishing the scenery at SJ Cabin.

SJ Cabin sits at the east entrance to Hollister Yard on my layout and controls all movements entering and leaving the yard along with through traffic on the main. The rough shell scenery has been in place for almost six years now, and the track work much longer. The photo below shows how this area has looked for some time now. I scratch-built the standard C&O cabin back in the late 1980’s and scratch-built the signal maintainer’s shed, section tool house and privy sometime in the 1990’s using standard C&O plans.

You can see Part 1 of this blog on the Model Railroad Hobbyist website at:

After adding the basic ground cover, the next step was to semi-permanently attach the structures to the scene. But before this step was completed, I needed to make a few additions to the structures. The platform at the end of SJ Cabin was built using Evergreen HO scale styrene 4”x8”s and scribed siding. After painting the platform grey, I attached two full length ties to either end and two half-length ties in the middle as shown in the photo below.

I used a small screw driver to gently scrape away the scenery where the ties on the bottom of the platform will rest. I worked slowly on this, removing small amounts of scenery and then test fitting the platform. I wanted to make sure that the platform was level and that the edge of the platform matched up with the concrete foundation. The platform was then glued to the scenery using white glue.

The rails from the two sheds to the tracks are made from Micro Engineering ties and strips of 1/16 x 3/32 basswood. I stained these using a custom mix of dark tie stain made with 50% Floquil Poly S Grimy black and 50% water with a drop of wet water added (one teaspoon of liquid detergent to 16 oz. of water).

If you look back at the first two posts in Part 1 on the MRH website, you can see that the masking tape along the ridge of the two roofs had started to lift up in numerous spots. I decided to replace this and re-weather the roofs prior to attaching the structures to the layout. When I built these buildings many years ago, I believe I may have used drafting tape to simulate the tar paper roofing. Drafting tape has a lot less “stick” than regular masking tape. In recent years I have used regular masking tape and haven’t had any problems with it lifting. After re-painting the roofs, I weathered them using ivory black and white artist’s oils and mineral spirits. Once the roofs were finished, I glue the sheds in place with a small amount of white glue. After the glue had dried, I glued the rails in place. SJ cabin simply rests on the concrete foundation and is not fastened with any glue. This will hopefully prevent any damage in the event someone bumps the structure during an operating session.

With the structures now in place, the next steps will be adding more vegetation and ground cover.


  1. Tom--Just started following your blog after seeing your article in MRH along with your stunning scenery! Can you provide any details on your scenery methods as to your background? Is that just green paint over plaster or some type of textured green product over styrofoam prior to the chicken wire? If you can point me in the direction of any published articles on your techniques, that would be great.--Thanks, Brian in Minnesota

  2. Brian-

    Thanks for the kind comments. Yes- it's green latex paint over plaster. I use the tried and true method of cardboard strips covered with plaster impregnated gauze. Specifically, I use two layers of Scenic Express Plaster Wrap and cover that with coat of USG Structo-Lite plaster. This forms a reasonably strong surface, but not one that will support much weight. I then paint the plaster with the same green latex paint that I use for the fascia and valance. The paint for the plaster is thinned 50% with water. As I mentioned in the blog on the MRH website, the chicken wire was just an experiment. The trees are polyfiber tufts that I push into toothpocks that have been attached with a hot glue gun.

    I haven't published any articles on scenery construction yet, and I can't think off-hand of any that I've used over the years. Let me know if you have any specific questions- I'd be happy to let you know how I've put things together.


    1. Thanks, Tom, for your quick response. If I have some other questions and you wouldn't mind allowing me to contact you directly, send me your email address by clicking on my name above and getting my email address from my profile.

      By the way, my friends are starting scenery work on a West Virginia coal-themed layout, so we are all inspired by your work here. The layout's website: