Monday, February 7, 2005

My little foray into N-Scale

I started my N-Scale experience in January 2002 by purchasing the Woodland Scenics kit. With any luck my final layout may will resemble the picture on the box. I started with a 3'x6' 3/8" plywood base covered with sheet styrofoam. From there I installed foam track risers which elevate the track and allow for better scenic contour and relief in the layout. Roadbed and track inside the tunnels were laid at this point because you cannot work inside the tunnel area once the mountains are in place over top.

Foam sheet goods were installed to frame out the tunnels and town area, and then the profile boards were installed around the edges. All work to this point was done using a hot wire foam cutter, low-temp hot glue gun, an exacto knife, and T-shape push pins. I did very little work on the layout from March 2002 until August 2002.

Starting in August 2002, I wadded up newspapers in pillow shapes and stacked them strategically to create mountains and landscape contours. I then covered the entire layout and wadded newspapers with 2 layers of plaster cloth. This really brought the layout to life and I finally started to see some results. Roadbed and track are being laid at this time and I have the a small section to complete where the bridge overpass is near the center of the layout. Roadbed was secured with foam tack glue and track was secured with Goo Contact Cement which is NOT water soluable. This is in response to an earlier problem I had with the foam tack glue letting loose on flex track under stress when wet water and scenic cement was applied to hold the ballast in place.

I have a little work I must do to fix a track problem at the near end in the middle of the outside curve. I unknowingly placed a power connection in the middle of the curved using the soldered rail joiners. I did not know that these rail joiners are not very tight and the pressure at this point in the middle of a curve on the ends of flex track is quite great. There is a gap in the rail there and the engine derails frequently. My proposed solution will be to solder the rails together at this point and better secure the track by using more contact cement. The power leads will also be soldered at this point to create a good connection.

Other than the above-mentioned problem, the trackwork so far seems ok and installation was not difficult or too time-consuming.

I haven't worked much on the layout since 2002, but along the way I did manage to make, install, and stain light-weight hydrocal rock outcroppings and tunnel portals. Around Christmas 2004 I painted the roadways and lots and put down the ballast. Painting the roads and lots were no problem, and went quickly.

The ballast was time-consuming, but all in all not as bad as I would have thought. Having the right concept and right tools make it easier. I put the ballast in an old plastic 50's-style ketchup bottle and cut the end off to allow pouring the ballast down the center of the track and along the side on the ties. I then used a combination of soft bristle paint brushes to brush the ballast exactly where I wanted it. It is a tedious and slow process, and a word of advice...try not to sneeze! The N-Scale ballast is the consistency of sand and you need to be extra careful with random blasts of air...enough said.

Now the MOST IMPORTANT step!!  I made some "wet water" (a couple drops of liquid dishwashing soap added to a container of water) and put it in a 1980's-style hairspray bottle. I started by spraying up a couple feet above the layout and letting the wet water fall gently onto the ballast. I sprayed more and more water and got closer and closer until I really saturated the ballast with wet water. Now I was ready to put my 50/50 white glue/water solution on. I used an eye dropper and slowly and carefully flooded the ballast with the diluted glue mixture. After a couple days drying time the stuff is pretty hard and fixed in place. I followed up with a track eraser to clean the glue and ballast from the rails.

Fall 2005 was the last work done on the layout. The entire layout was painted with earth cover paint using a foam brush. I dumped the paint in a bowl and went to town. I figured the less perfect it looked the better it would look for nature. Next I began working on the first layer of turf. The track and switches were masked with tape. I wetted an area with scenic cement, sprinkled the turf out of a jar, then final sprayed with scenic cement over top. The layout was never finished beyond this point, but sold in 2008 to another modeler when I moved.  He will take it from here!