A story and a new start (basic layout)

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by ep1taph, Jan 4, 2007.

  1. ep1taph

    ep1taph New Member

    When I was 12 I received a basic HO trainset as a gift from a relative. I had some fun with it, but fun escalated into a full-scale 4' x 8' layout. My father and I worked on it for around a year in very small bits and spurts. He was busy with work and I was too young to do much by myself. It was a full rectangular-circle with a cross over that bridged over a stationyard. It was nice, but, we never finished the bridge and mountain it was supposed to come out of. We lost interest and it fell into disrepair. Space in the basement began to become an issue and it was brought up to get rid of the train.

    It was a hard decision, but when I decided to go away for college we sold the whole thing. I missed it, and as another gift, my parents got me a very basic n-scale starter set (model power, sante fe phase3 locomotive). It was probably a result of playing so much Sid Meiers: Railroads all the time and talking about how much I loved the trainshows during visits earlier in december.

    So after being very dissatisfied with the ez-track that came with it (a very, very tiny loop) I found an old plank of wood that was 26" x 4' and bought a bunch of code80 track. Originally I wanted to keep the layout as simple as possible, just a rectantular circle and a 2-lane yard through the right side. But, I thought to myself that it wouldn't be any fun to only be able to run one locomotive on it at a time, so I went back to the store and purchased more code80 track and made it so there were 2 full loops.

    I also purchased some ballast and scenic cement. The problem is, the plank of wood I decided to use already had a basic green turf-mat attached to it (it was going to be some display for a project, and was glued on).

    I've been reading these forums for a few days now and it's reminded me how much fun modelling can be, I just hope my wallet can keep up. I want to do a small town, a station, a mountain that the two tracks go through and some roads. I'm sure I'll be asking for help here more than once.

    My first question is, will the mixture of scenic cement and ballast attach alright to this rough turf-mat? I will probably use a test strip and some extra code80 to get the technique just right. There are a lot of new products at the shop I've never even seen before!



  2. countyofficer

    countyofficer New Member

    Should attach without any problems. I use a mix of white glue and water for glue, 70% water 30% glue for grass and such. spread a base coat down with a old paint brush,apply turf, wet it down after applying turf either with a water mixed with a couple drops of dish soap or rubbing alcohol mix then to be sure everything is nicely sealed down I drip my water/glue mixture over it again using a old vinegar bottle.
  3. berraf

    berraf Member

    Welcome aboard ep1taph!
    My congratulations to your descision to start over again with a new layout.
    I do look forward to see more pics from your work :thumb:
  4. ep1taph

    ep1taph New Member

    Did some ballast work, but it has become apparent to me that the turf-mat is something I'll never touch again. Doesn't look very good, and I should have attempted to remove/sand the surface beforehand instead of taking a shortcut and keeping it.

    This project has evolved into a learning-grounds for me. I don't think I did very well with the ballast. The problem was this: once I would lay the ballast down and get it all looking great, I would add the sealing compound. I tried using flatout scenic scement, mixes of elmers glue, diluting with water and other household things, but the same result always occurred. As soon as I would add any of the mixture to seal the ballast and hold it the way I want it to stay, the little pieces of ballast would cling to the drop of water I used. I was using a very small eyedropper. As the liquid would fall, it would stay as a single entity and pull pieces of ballast accross it's surface area, thus ruining the very nice and realistic ballast I already had. As I went around the track I got better at it.

    The second issue with the turf mat is it stained with the cement. Perhaps I over-used the mixtures. What do people normally use to attach ballast without having it move around? Some kind of spray/airbrush? Do you then have to cover your track with something like masking tape?

    I've been putting together a large list of notes and things I will do different the next time over. Hopefully, by trying a bit of everything, I'll end up with enough knowledge to do it properly next time.


  5. ep1taph

    ep1taph New Member

    Things I aim to do differently next time include but are not limited to:

    1) Better surface/bench to work on.
    2) Styrofoam on top of that.
    3) Using a kind of trackbed.
    4) Planning the layout entirely so I can properly wire switches.
    5) Use track blocks to properly power multiple trains and stop others.

    For the first serious layout I will most likely do an early 1900's theme of a railway between Lexington and Louisville, KY. There will be a small mountain range in the middle, with the two cities on each side of the layout. Each city will have a form of a loop and an industry, and there will be two lanes that go through the middle of the layout to connect the two cities.

    There's a large trainshow coming up near me (it's in Latonia, KY) so I'll be going there to see some nice demonstrations and how-to's. They have little workshops and sell a lot of HO/N stuff each year for rock-bottom prices!
  6. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Good to see another one jumping back into the hobby! :thumb:

    I don't think your ballast looks that bad, judging by the pics. I'm going to be using one of those grass mats for my benchwork but I'm doing O-27 and not overly concerned with realism.
  7. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    When putting the ballast on, brush any ballast off the tie tops and rails. Then tap the rails to futher vibrate the ballast into place.

    To avoid the floating and balling up effects with ballasting, wet the ballast first with a mixture of water and alcohol (about 70:30 water and 90% isoprop alcohol). Wetting can be done by misting with a spray pump or with an eye dropper. After the ballast is thoroughly wet, then dribble the glue mixture on. Most folks use 50:50 mixture of white glue and water with a drop or 2 of dishwashing liquid to break the surface tension. I prefer to use a 30:70 mixture of matte medium and 70% isoprop alcohol. The matte medium doesn't dry as hard as white glue, reducing the noise transmission through the ballast shell.

    Some guys use real rock for their ballast, which tends not to float as much as the Woodland Scenics ground walnut shell ballast. Arizona Rock and Mineral is one brand of real rock ballast; there are others.

    Your ballast actually looks pretty good in the pictures.

    just my thoughts
  8. berraf

    berraf Member

    The best way to learn is to try and see what works and what do not.
    Now you gave both the surface mat and the ballast a first try and are ready for the second.
    Please keep us informed about your process :)
    But remember to have fun all the way :)
  9. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    One of the great things about this hobby is that you learn by doing. Going all the way back to some of the Model Railroading "how-to" books that have been around for twenty years or more, one of the tips given when one is "done" with a layout has always been in my mind: "Rebuild worst square foot of pike." The idea here is that as skills improve, you'll want to go back and "do better." Nothing wrong with that!

    But the most basic idea is "Model Railroading is Fun" and that's the most important thing to keep in mind!
  10. ep1taph

    ep1taph New Member

    Thanks for the comments so far, especially pgandw letting me know about the Isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Gotta adjust that darn surface tension!

    I also noticed it's even harder to get realistic looking ballast if you aren't using a raised track. Next time I will be using some kind of foam/cork raiser. This is still my "little experiment" and the better part of me told me to keep going with it, even if it does cost me a bit.

    I'm a big mountain lover, so I decided I definitely needed to learn how to do that. I built up a bunch of styrofoam in the general shape I wanted, then I layed wire mesh over it to support the next layer of cement-soaked paper towels which then dried hard and insulated the tracks underneath from the next layer of plaster strips. After that, I got to use Sculpt-a-Mold for the first time ever. Pretty amazing stuff, though I'm still learning the technique. I'll have to do quite a few more touchups. It could have come out worst, but I'm a pessimist so I always look on the dark side of things!

    I worked on the Hydrocal rock face and got a decent result. I was actually quite impressed at how "rocky" it did come out to look. Considering I'll be adding plantlife all around it, I think it may just do the trick.

    Any suggestions on the best way to put turf over the mountain? I plan to spray a layer of scenic cement down, then use a shaker to put the turf/grass on and seal it again. I'll vary it, using small bushes in some locations and I have a good assortment of thick forest trees to use.


    Well maybe the background was edited in! It's better than looking at my basement walls and clutter. :)

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