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David - In progress thread

Krackel Hopper

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I thought I might use this project to put some detail on my urban plate station kit, but after looking for suitable passengers I came to the conclusion that it would consist mostly of adding stickers, ballast and a few detail pieces. It's certainly a project I might do in the future (the plate station can be easily used in configurations small enough for a 3 car train, up to an 11 car train with the sections I have), but I think an expanded station on my steam roundy-round layout might be a better use of my time, since I want to get that overall project done.


I've been making very slow progress with the layout base, in the last few days I finally got some plaster on one of the grades (I put plaster and paint inside the half completed tunnel framework, but the results where not great). I'm looking to get the plastering done soon, at which point I can paint and add scenary and track.


The station itself I think will expand from the original freight platform to become a mixed freight and passenger depot. The era will be the early 1950s, though it will (mostly terrible) freelance in actual design.


I've got the track and the measurements of the buildings penciled in. While I've got the plastic pieces from the warehouse put together (the whole 3 minutes it takes to assemble a Tomytec building), I'm going to end up taking it apart so I can add the sticker details and use some glue so that pieces stop popping off it (TomyTec structures look great and snap together instantly, but are less then exact in size due to the cheaper molding process, resulting in stress on the joins). The same treatment will be done to the other TomyTec items (passenger station will be TomyTec Station A without the extra platform pieces used). I've got figures on order too, the first Showa era set that includes some good standing passengers and some laborers suitable for my warehouse, and I've got the Kato steam era ground crew and drivers sitting in a box waiting for a use.


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I've been putting in small chunks of time to work on this over the last week. I've also got some pre-photos of the construction that went into the overall steam layout. The layout and the station represent my first permanent layout work, so most of it is trial and error and is going to contain a lot of mistakes.


The base is constructed from Woodland Scenics foam and Gatorboard. My initial cutting work on foam and gatorboard went poorly, with rough edges. I bought the WS foam knife (basically a 2" hobby knife) and modified my cutting technique - instead of trying to saw all the way through and then work my way down the line, I very lightly cut the entire length of the cut-line. I then kept repeating this slice rather then saw method until I was all the way through. The results have been much improved. I used the WS foam glue - this was easy to use and I got good results from the get go. The only adjustment I made was my glue spreader - I initially used popsicle sticks, but these where not fantastic and I ended up with lots of glue on my fingers as I tried to get everything covered. When I ran out of popsicle sticks I went to the dollar store and couldn't find any more - what I did find was coffee sticks (the long thin wood sticks you see at Starbucks). These proved to be an ideal spreading tool. They are thin to get into small places, and they flex easily, allowing you to get the most stick-to-surface contact without putting your hands in the glue.


My tunnel is a bit of hack job of over-engineering without thought for aesthetics (but it's very sturdy!). At some point I will need to cut away some of the top part of the middle wall, to remove the 40' vertical cliff right beside the engine house. The risers are also done a bit wrong - I had trouble bending them for such small curves, and ended up breaking one. From there I just decided to cut rather then bend and assembled them into shape.


I also ran into an issue of how to feed my turnout cables. Before I started I had intended to lay 2 layers of foam. The lower layer would have the tunnels cut out for wires, and the upper layer would have holes. I abandoned this after laying the first layer of foam. I felt that the base was high enough as is (though I could have bought some 1/4" foam) and I had doubts about trying to feed cable through the tunnels. I put a solution on the backburner. The solution came with the idea of putting the base on felt feet (bought some at the dollar store) so that cable could be taped to the underside of the base - this would make maintenance easy. The only thing required was making nice little holes through 2" of foam and gatoboard. The tool for this cost $0.69 at Home Depot. I bought two soldering brushes, one of which I have pulled off the bristles to get the metal tube (it's just a small piece of sheet metal bent around). This tube makes a perfect hand operated drill for making fast and clean hollow holes in foam, just big enough for a Tomix power connector to pass through.








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First on the agenda this week has been the plasting effort. I'm using WS plaster cloth, cut into roughly 5"x3" pieces. My plastering is amateur at best, I'm still learning how to use it right even after some missteps in plastering and painting the tunnel. I'm saving the plastering of the section nearest the tunnel until I have the tunnel roof and hill in place - I've learned that trying to join to "dry" plaster is quite difficult, the older plaster seems to suck the water out of any new plaster it touches instantly, making it hard to form. Most of my landscape is solid foam - as with the tunnel I've somewhat over-engineered things based on the idea of a newspaper mountain slowly collapsing in on its own weight. I'm only using paper blobs to add more organic curves. For the paper I'm using 100% imported Japanese brown paper. This can be purchased cheaply from Hobby Search (they'll even include a few dozen sheets for free with each order).









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Near the end of the week I've begun adding the paint that will be the undercoat for the scenary. I used WS green undercoat. I also have black and "burnt umber" paint from the dollar store. I've found a mix of the two can create a good dirt color which I used in the tunnel. My brushes are also from the dollar store.


The WS under coat needed a lot of shaking. It also seems to have some kind of soapy product in it. It has not done a great job of replacing my white plaster with green, leaving lots of spots that refuse to be colored. I used some of my homemade dirt paint on the inclines, then painted over it it with the WS green to some good effect. Since the undercoat seems to work best when there is already an undercoat, I've started some experiments to find the best color combination using areas of the layout that will be covered with buildings. This has led to me buying 3 more bottles of dollar store paint, white, Christmas green and leaf green (the color selection is limited, everything else is blue, red, yellow or metalic).









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David - It looks really good and you've done a lot in a short period of time.

Do you plan to mount the track onto the layout?

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David - It looks really good and you've done a lot in a short period of time.

Do you plan to mount the track onto the layout?


I have some 1" peco nails in a plastic bin that I was going to try and use for mounting the track when the time came.


I've had the foam base and track design for a while (see the steam roundy thread which has the old photos and layout mockup), but setbacks like the ones I described above made me constantly put work on hold while I tried to "figure out" what I was doing wrong. Unfortunately this big foam board is taking up my table, preventing me from running other trains. With the project party I got the idea of adding passenger service and ideas just came together about how to turn the top level from a minor spur into an interesting station. I'm using that as a kick in the butt to restart this project so that I can get a completed layout, or at least get it complete so I can move it somewhere else.

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Some parts for the layout. Some of these are from the original steam mockup (I'll need to take apart those buildings and glue them, and I don't like the seam where the platform is joined to the end cap), the Kato steam era drivers and signal men I bought last year but never used (without some surgery they won't fit into the 9600 cab. The Showa era TomyTec people is one of the parts that came with the second Kiha 110 order yesterday - they where what really brought the layout together. This is the first set (the other Showa set is some mothers and school children). You'll notice this set has some platform attendents, waiting passengers, and some labors for the freight platform, a perfect mix. The station is TomyTec small station A. I won't be using the extra platform pieces (maybe the caps), as the 140mm platform affixed to the station building is enough for the space I have (and those are the measurements drawn on the layout, so I haven't planned for anything bigger). The fence is something I saw at the LHS - maybe a bit of a pity purchase, as I paid more then what I would for a TomyTec fence that probably would have been of equal quality. The tunnel is old, I've kept the box to keep the pieces together as you actually get 4 portals (2 of each kind) and 2 pairs of framing pieces.








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More painting done. I made a number of mixing samples to find a match to the WS grass undercoat. Leaf Green darkened with Burnt Umbra came out best. I painted some with my mix and then put WS over it after the first layer had dried - it actually managed to remove paint at some point. I'm getting to think that the issue with the WS undercoat is that it's too soapy/washable, to the point that each stroke actually washes away the last one. The rest, down on the lower level, is just my own dollar store paint mix at the moment. I may just abandon using the Woodland Scenic paint completely. I'm sure there is a trick to using it right, but since there aren't good instructions to say (much like the plaster doesn't point out how important rubbing it in is) it's being left on the pile of North American train products targeted toward 50 year old do-it-yourself craftmen, and not any new generation that came after that.




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This week didn't see a lot of work. I tackled the issue of how the over simplified tunnel exterior wall had painted me into a corner - I had a 3 inch (40') vertical wall almost touching one corner of the engine house. Even with the steep hillsides intended I didn't like what this would look like.


So I eyeballed it (1) and cut out a segment from the wall (2) - at the plastering stage I'll use paper to to use this extra space to create a less severe hillside. The area on the left where some foam blocks are glued down will see additional "earth" added, the final hill will run almost parallel to the side of the engine house, unlike now where they diverge at about a 45 degree angle.


Next I got the roof ready. I already had the rectanglar piece cut (3), so I simple cut out the extra in progressive cuts (4). I added a few shims (5) by cutting up the same stir sticks I use to spred the foam glue. I glued the roof of the tunnel on (6), but not without making a mistake - I had intended to paint the underside of the roof piece black before attaching it. Now I either need to live with a white foam ceiling, or paint inside a confined space.


Finally I used some thinner (1/4") foam and created insert pieces. The shape and angles where create by eye and progressive cutting. I glued them in place.


This coming week the agenda will be to create the skeleton for the hill (and maybe paint the tunnel roof), and then complete all the plastering in one go. Once I'm done that there will be more green painting followed by the grass, buildings, track and details.









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I didn't post an update last week(end) as I didn't really get done what I wanted to. I painted the inside of the tunnel, the darkness of which now begs the question of why I spent some much time trying to get good coverage of my brown dirt interior.


I also started getting the shape of the hill in order, but I never progressed beyond the side. I ran out of tape and bought another roll, but it was some Made in China brand whose glue dissolved in about 12 hours. Not shown here is how later in the week I went to Canadian Tire and got some scotch brand masking tape to go over it, it's fixed now.


Now I need to make the shape of the top of the hill before I can plaster. I'm not sure what mix of foam/paper I'll be using - I'm wondering how "flat" the top is going to look, and if I can avoid an obvious transition from steep hill to gentle hill top where the foam roof of the tunnel is. I don't want the hill to be a foot or more high, but I've got to somehow keep some of the grade to avoid it looking like the hill was made for the tunnel (which it was).








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Some work on the top of the hill.


I used 1/4" foam to make successive levels. I wanted to try and keep the entire layout at around 6" high. I also attached the tunnel portals.


I've added paper (with tape) to provide the transition between levels. I'm not trying to figure out how much to leave the levels flat (man made), or adding rough shapes, as I've started a bit on the left and less so on the right.


Once the shape of the hill is done I can finally get to the plastering.









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Two updates from the weekend. This is Saturday, where I finished creating the structure of the hill. The first half the hill was done with lots of little balls of paper spaced very close together, and lots of tape. I later went back and tried to fill in some of the areas to smooth things out. The second half of the hill required me to become much more conservative, both to get a more rolling look, and because I had used up most of the brown packing paper I had kept. I came down to the wire with my last scrap of paper used.


I also took some lessons from the tiny little hill I made on the otherside of the layout where the corner had a very flat top after the dropoff from the mountain (I don't have any any pictures yet but after plastering the hill I went back over there and smoothed ). To avoid this I made sure the paper hills came right up to the edge - I created paper balls that I then flattened on 2 sides by pressing them into a table, then carefully anchering them to create a smooth termination of the hill. I also used up a lot of tape. My earlier work in make smooth transitions between the levels of foam went to waste since I ended up covering the whole mountain with a more rolling landscape.


Also, a preview of the next part: In order to get some experience with grass I took a piece of leftover foam, taped a big ball of paper to it, and plastered it at the same time I plastered the rest of the hill. This will be a test area before I move on the actual layout for scenary.









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Ok, now the plastering. I didn't do much in the way of of in-progress shots, since my hands where dirty. I think I got a good spread without holes or stray ends. I did get a little plaster on the tunnel portals, most of which washed off. In hindsight I should have masked them off with my cheaper tape. The corners/edges came out good, and I plastered down the edge of the form for a better/more consistent painting surface (the gatorboard was not plastered, it will be painted matte black). Also, just got a photo of the little hill that was fixed up. This was just done by folding some plaster sheets to create the needed volume, then pressing it into shape by hand. If you look back up you can find the original 'obvious foam square' corner it was before. It will obviously need a fresh coat of paint.


I'm going to let the whole thing settle for a few days.









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Ran the trains around a bit. The track will need work once I can nail it down in terms of keeping good pickup. Clearance and grades and all checked out. Some painting done, I don't think I'll get any grass done on the long weekend. I'm starting an experiment on my little piece to see what a path will look like. (Brown paint, then the soap woodland scenics grass paint to make a blend, then mostly burned grass).






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Some delayed updates:


First, applying some woodland scenic green and a little burnt grass turf to the test piece. The glue was straight forward to use, the spray bottle takes some getting used to. Putting it on the setting that looks like "more" seems to work best, as this spreads out the glue more then the "less" setting. It's probably easier to use at an angle if the bottle has more then a sliver of glue in it. With the test piece and my layout I'll be able to tilt or even turn it over to remove the excessthat does not stick - I'm not sure how you'd manage this on benchwork.


The results seem ok. The turf is rather thick close up. The dirt path, despite being perfectly straight seemed ok, so I proceeded with the same method on the layout. That involved first taping off the area to be painted. Since this was the full layout I taped off the general area, then made  less perfect border by tearing off small pieces of tape, and using the irregular edges.


After that it was a coat of burnt umber paint. I applied a second coat a while later, and then finally went over it with the woodland scenics green undercoat, adding a small bit and brushing most of it off to tint the brown area and remove the smooth finish.


Finally I finished the holes for the wiring. They where already mostly done, I just punched through the final gatorboard at bottom, then filed out the holes to the proper shape so that the Tomix connector would pass cleanly though. Last I used some of the scenic cement, which I've used as a filler in several places (it dries into a smooth, solid material), as a sealer, gently coating the holes interior so that foam doesn't come loose.









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Not the best picture, but this is what I'm using for the terrain.


Blended Turf Green Blend T49 (main grass)

Fine Turf Burnt Grass T44 (some areas around pathes, some other accent areas)

Clump Foliage Medium Green FC683 (bushes, mountain detail, tunnel accents)


I'm using the WS sprayer S192 and the scenic cement S191. Both seem to work well enough. I haven't had a problem so far with the cement not sticking the grass or drying in an off color. You can over glue, resulting in little clumps of wet grass. That also happens if you try moving it around with your finger. I bought 3 glass salt/pepper shakers (3/$1) which have screw on gaps and relatively large holes. They seem to work well for spreading though I doubt they're of use beyond small dioramas due to limited volume. The S190 glue will be for the bushes, but I'm also going to be using it for the models, and have already used it as a sealer of sorts. It's like a hybrid of white glue and testers rubber cement. The color properties after it dries are better then either (it's really flat and blends in). It also drives very smooth and rock hard, not soft or brittle.


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I've added the grass layer to the hill, but I'm now left with a question:


Should I attach the track/buildings, tape them off, and then add grass to the main area, or add grass and then place things on top of it?



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Some more intermedate steps. I cleaned the Tomix track on its own (my biggest complaint is that it seems to get dirty faster then Unitrack, and more importantly the dirt has a more obvious effect on operation - it may have to due with the track being slightly undergauge) and will probably clean it a second time before finally applying it.


I applied a little more paint, going over the areas that technically will be under track/structures (I long since stopped painting inside the lines, resulting in the variable size of the unpainted track areas). I attached the felt feet to the bottom - this was a design feature so that I could just tape the wiring to the bottom, though it also prevents the back of the gatorboard from possibly scratching whatever it's on if the layout is moved.


I retested the holes for the wiring and found they where not big enough thanks to the cement filling I used (one hole was covered over). This required more filing to bring them back to size.


Finally I wanted to test nailing track down before I did it on the full size layout. I have 1/2" track nails (I also have 1/4" track nails but had ruled them out early on). To do that I carefully nailed a 70mm piece of track to my testing square (with a cutting matte under it). The testing square is on the same 1/2" foam used on the lower level of the layout (the 1/2 foam is glued to 1/2 gatorboard) so I could determine what effects the penetration would have (would the foam split, would the high of the track not be enough to prevent the nail from going all the way through).


Since my test square already had grass on it I also got a result of what the track looks like if just placed right on top of turf.


Personally I think the track looks just fine when attached directly over the grass (I didn't clear any away, I just pressed the track right down and nailed it). The only other benefit I saw to putting the grass on after was that a small portion of the ballest could be left exposed, so some grass would actually be glue to the track. But given how small the Tomix ballast is, it doesn't look like it would make a difference. By putting on the track after it means I can just go at it with the spray glue without having to mask off the track and switches. I also avoid the question of how to mask the buildings.


I think I'll put on the main grass first, nail down the track, glue down the buildings, and then go back in an apply the accents - burnt grass, some extra grass at the edge of the buildings, and the bushes (I'm not sure how far I can get away with putting pushes around buildings to hide the buildings plastic foundation piece)









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Added grass to the rest yesterday. I masked off some areas that didn't need it, though in hindsight I think I should have only masked off the dirt areas and just went for coverage overall, since after remeasuring I found I needed to add a bit of grass to ensure things where lined up. You can see below both with the masking, and after the masking was removed. Even though I smoothed out the corners after, I think I should have spent more time on the masking, doing an inverse of what I did for the painting in order to get less straight edges and sharp corners.


Tonight I went in to perform the grass detail work. My plan had been to have a few cups, containing glue and grass, and I'd use a q-tip to hand apply glue and grass. Apply glue without spraying everything worked a little, but hand applying grass immediately proved useless, so I went back to the shaker route - anywhere that I didn't apply glue, it wouldn't stick, so I just blew off the excess (and made a mess). Shakers seem to be key to applying turf. On some future project it would be a good investment to go to the dollar store and buy a variety of different shakers in order to get different spreads.


I have some early photos but I'm going to wait until it's dried out. There has been a different between wet turf and dry turf.







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Some touch up on the grass, and the previously mentioned addition of some dead grass and general hole filling.


I'm also working on the buildings, which up until now have at best undergone 5 minutes of assembly out of the box. I'm going back and properly putting them together, adding glue, stickers and in the case of some of the fence pieces, a little paint to cover the spots where they where cut from the sprue. I have a box of fence pieces that match the station fencing - this will be used to put up fences around the station area and the edge of the hill (prevent people on the path from walking up to the tracks, prevent guys from the freight area from falling over the hill.


I have enough left over platform bits that I could potentally have a second basic platform at the other spur. It will have to wait until the track is down to figure out if there would be enough space to position it correctly. It would be a platform with just a simple set of stairs, a sign with the schedule, some fence to prevent passengers from falling off the back, and a lamp to shine on it at night. If there is enough room for the platform I may place a lone passenger there.








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Some more work on buildings has happened. Here you can see everything assembled, though in reality the roof and awning of the station are not glued in place - the awning and its beams will take some thinking to glue, as they pose a challenge to assemble even without it. You can also see the second platform, which may or more may not get used. I haven't begun to cut out and clean up the fencing, since it I won't be ready to start that until everything else is down.


Some work has been done to lay the track. First you can see the switches having their wiring fed through. For the "upper" two I taped the wires, which was all that was holding them up in that position. The lower two I fed most of the wires with the track sitting on the table, then turned the layout flat to place them. This order worked to my advantage, as it seems I might have misjudged where one of the holes should have gone - I'm not sure if I should make a new hole, or just make due with the existing one.


I'm also doing some last minute work on the track that goes into the shed. I removed the metal joiner, which allows the track to slide all the way into the shed, and I've glued on (waiting to dry) a small piece of Woodland Scenic 1/4 foam to act as a soft bumper. I'm not sure if I should paint it black to make sure it is hidden from sight.









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I've shifted the track a bit, the holes aren't perfect, but it's close enough now that there is no obvious wire. The dirt path to the station doesn't line up as well as I wanted with the crossing and the stairs. It also looks like there is no chance I'll have people on the layout for today.


I won't be able to add the second station. As you can see, even if I plowed down the small hill under it, the corner of the platform is touching the edge of the world.


Trying to attach some running tests, sorry for the poor video quality, it could really use some lighting.



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And now what is probably the last project part post for this layout (Yes, it's not even 6pm on the 25th here in EST)


Nothing is glued down, and the track is not nailed, I'm just placing the buildings to check everything.


Items left incomplete:


Nail track

Glue structures

Glue figures

Prepare and install the TomyTec fencing around the station and "cliff" edges.

Add bushes, possibly extra turf around buildings






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Nailed down the track today. Interesting piece of information - it seems like the holes in Tomix track are not uniform - All the 140mm straights seem to have the same huge hole (it was too big for my Pico nails, so those pieces are not nailed down), the 99mm straights have medium sized holes, and the 140mm rerailer has below average holes (the nail barely fits).

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