Friday, October 19, 2012

Last of the Hardshell

This past week I completed the last of the hardshell scenery on the layout. I have worked my way around the layout, in a somewhat hap-hazard fashion until all that was left to do was small portion of hardshell where the Wilson Bridge Branch leaves the room and heads to staging. The photo below shows the area with first pieces of cardboard webbing in place and the tunnel portal prior to weathering.

The next photo shows the entire area, including the diesel servicing facility at the east end of Nelsonville. There will be a small stream running beside the engine service facility and four bridges over the stream. I have always been a big fan of the C&O's Cane Fork Yard on the Cabin Creek Branch and this area will look very similar to that location.

To line the tunnel, I used several rock casting that my Stepfather made many years ago using aluminum foil.

The next step was to weather the front of the tunnel portal using artist's acrylics. Once I was reasonably happy with the results, I glued the portal in place and covered the area from just behind the face of the portal to the wall with a piece of cardboard. The rest of the webbing was then added between the fascia, the backdrop and the portal. I'll come back later and add some finishing touches to weathering on the face of the portal.

In the photo above you can see the new panel I made for CX Cabin. This location controls a hidden double crossover just to the left of the picture. You can see the removable piece of styrofoam, which allows access to the turnout, in the middel of the second picture. As I got ready to complete the scenery here, I realized that crews would need to be able to track their progress from the staging yard in the other room through the double crossover. The east end staging yard now has a 6-track upper section and a 6-track lower section. Trains coming from the upper section will need to take the diverging route through the crossover to get the main to Nelsonville. I installed IRDOT infrared detectors in this area and also on the hidden wye in order to be able to know when trains were clear of the crossovers.

The next step was to apply plaster impregnated gauze over the webbing and then cover it with structolite. The photo below shows the area at this point.

The photo below shows the area once the base coat of green paint was applied. I plan to paint the area around the face of the tunnel portal with tan paint prior to installing the finished scenery. And the two spurs behind the branch line will serve a small truck load tipple. I'm going to wait until I have a better idea of what this area will look before I finish applying the base coat of paint.

The shot below shows the recently completed section along with North Pierce, WV, which is across the isle. The area around North Pierce is the first area on the layout that was finished. It's somewhat ironic that this is also the first area that is going to be re-done. The main line here and the yard lead go into hidden staging and as I've mentioned here before, the line then heads to an unusable hidden storage yard.

Also, the trees on the hillside here are from an old layout and I've found a much better way to make polyfiber trees. I attempted to replace the trees in this area but the scenery is just too deep- I can't even get to it with a creeper.

Planned changes include having the hillside behind the factory extend to the wall and the stream curving out of site to the left. The yard lead will now join the main about in the center of the photo above and a single main will cross the stream. The main line will then proceed into a tunnel, through the wall and into the new 12-track staging yard that will be built in the other room. In addition to improving the scenery in this area, the new staging yard, which represents all locations west, will greatly improve the operation of the layout. I'm looking forward to seeing the first train cross the entire layout and head into the west staging yard!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Some Finishing Touches

Over the past few weeks, I have added some finishing touches to several areas of the layout. I installed some black skirting at the bottom of the fascia from just east of Big Chimney, WV around the isle to Logan, WV. The material was purchased at Banasch Fabric Outlet and is held in place with wooden clothes pins. I used a hot glue gun to fasten the clothes pins to the back of the fascia and the bottoms of the control panel and bill box support boards. All of this took about two hours, including the 40 minute trip to the store and back to purchase the material. Here's a look at the finished product.

I also found a permanent (at least I hope) solution for the bill box labels on the layout. As a short-term solution, I printed up the names of the locations represented by the bill boxes on Avery labels and applied them to each box.

For the permanent solution, I printed up the same Avery labels but used a white font with a black background. I think this looks a little less obtrusive but still allows the crews to be able to read the labels clearly. I inserted the labels, without removing the backing, into 3 1/2" clear file tabs and then trimmed the tabs to fit the lael. The tabs were spray painted with a matte finish prior to installation on the bill boxes in order to reduce the reflection from the lights.

The last addition was a schematic drawing of the layout that was mounted at each town, yard and junction. I got this idea from Bob Bartizek and his beautiful Pennsylvania & Western layout which you can see here: The schematic drawing helps the operators know where they are on the layout in relation to other locations on the layout.

These finishing touches have really improved the overall look of the layout and will hopefully help the crew feel more comfortable when operating the layout.