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Paper Bag Scenery Tutorial

SANDSTONE CANYON
This is a method of creating a “Tough Skin” scenery shell that is lightweight and less messy than plaster. I now use a two-layer process with spray foam in between the back and front paper. The foam allows some density for planting trees, fence post and whatever for stability. Every now and then at the groceries store, I ask to have my purchases bagged in paper bags. Open up the bag at the bottom and cut out pieces that fit your scenery situation. There is a seam in the bag, so I use this for the first layer that won’t be seen. I use Carpenters wood glue for securing the edges in place. Follow the instructions below for a detail of the method. Crumple up a paper shopping bag and then open it up. I cut a section of it to fit the scenery slope at left. It was first glued along the edge of the sub roadbed and allowed to dry. Now the bottom edge is glued in place on the lower bench work. A paper flap was also glued to the edge of the viaduct and allowed to dry. This will later be folded over and glued to the other vertical paper bag. After the photo was taken, more bag material was added at the right until it met the existing scenery. A piece of Styrofoam was glued in place so the paper flap can be folded over and glued in place without collapsing the adjacent paper. You can install cardboard or Styrofoam supports every so often behind this shell system. I do it only when the scenery is at a more gradual slope for strength. The second layer of paper is glued at the bottom edge only because I’m going to start filling in between the layers with spray Foam. That second layer of paper is held open with the tape measure just for the picture. I thought it best to keep all the store brand printing on the backside from the side that will show. One can of foam do about four square feet of scenery shell.

It’s best to have that much area ready so the entire can will be used up. A second area was readied for foaming so I could use up the entire can of foam. The top paper is glued at the bottom edge and pulled back for the picture. The paper on the other side of the track is also doubled and will be pulled back for foaming. The foam was sprayed in full-length rows starting at the bottom and stacked just short of the top. I quickly raised up the paper and glued it at the top. The foam will expand to twice its size as you can see the bulging of the paper after it cured a couple of hours. I will use some plaster of Paris to fill in the gaps as you see in the photo above. The same was done in this second area also. The carpenters wood glue was used to attach the paper after it was filled with foam. I spray the unruly paper with water to make it softer for laying against the foam underneath. Very important step Immediately after Plaster of Paris was applied to close up the joints, I bushed on a soupy mixture of scenery color and texture. For this, I used Cajon Powder and diluted glue. The mixing bowl and stiff brush are seen in the photo centre. As I worked, the plaster began to harden so the color brushing continued until the white plaster was coloured over. A second coat touch up was done in a few places to tone down the white of the plaster. I don’t want the plaster to come loose and fall off the paper. The glue mixture with powder will create a lasting bond as it somewhat mixes with the fresh plaster. One 11 ounce package of #1200 Cajon Rock Powder was enough to color the scene at left and below. Some of the “white” from the plaster shows through that gives the rock face interesting highlights. Immediately, the rest of the powder was sprinkled over the still wet scenery. Then some “Zip Texturing of #1203 Sand & Gravel, #2 Dead & Alive ground cover, #9 Fine Green Blend Grass and #1205, 1207 Cajon Rip/rap material. End it up by lightly spraying with wetted water and dripping on the diluted glue. Gradual slopes as this hold the loose rock as in nature. The very four ground, back scenery and backdrop painting are not finished yet for this article. When that is ready, I’ll plant many of the trees I’m working on. The next tutorial will cover the topic of preparing this same terrain for the planting of brush and trees.

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Scratch building a George Sellios design service station

I don’t believe this was ever a Fine Scale Miniature kit that George built for his layout. You can see what I’m talking about by referring to page 33 in George’s book about his Franklin & South Manchester Railroad. The station also reappears on page 63 in the November Model Railroader. His has red trim and I went with the Sinclair green. I have about $40.00 in the scene that is mostly the cost of the detail parts. We had 10 service stations in Calumet and I worked at one as a teenager and hung out at several others in town. This was made to go with my Gasoline Alley scene next door as that garage is at right. Caserio’s owned the Sinclair bulk plant and service station next to the railroad tracks on West Pine Street in Calumet. My friends parents owned a Sinclair Station a few blocks away on East Pine Street. Mine is just called the “Calumet” station. Every layout needs a close up action spot in every town, so this is the model chosen for the purpose here.

There is an outside service area where all that equipment is displayed. The scene is early 1950’s so the cars will be that and older. A corrugated metal fence frames in the property.

There is an outside service area where all that equipment is displayed. The scene is early 1950’s so the cars will be that and older. A corrugated metal fence frames in the property.

Street and sidewalk curbs have been touched up with #1290 Concrete Paving material. A row of #1155 Basalt Rip/Rap rock was placed between the street and railroad right of way. The now painted cast metal details are; windshield wiper display cabinet, tire changer, battery charger, four shelve cabinet, 10 ton press, work bench (wood), air powered grease pump on barrel, wheel balancer and bearing packer. Other service station equipment is in the scene also. It’s never winter on this part of the layout so vehicles can be worked on outside year around.

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A 1950’s scene

I like the looks of masonry structures for my 50’s scenes with only a few wood ones as in reality, most of them burned down by then. This angle of the scene is not appreciated as the viewer would have to lean over the layout to see it this way. The streets are laid out at an angle to the layout edge to avoid those parallel lines that make scenes boring.

 

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Caboose Light Markers

That freight isn’t ready to leave until the conductor turns on the marker lights.
I bought an old caboose with a bay window. I place a toggle switch that powers the L.E.D. marker lights and a 3-volt interior bulb. Stay away from those slide switches as they can be unreliable. A toy train becomes more interesting when lighted for “after dark” operations. The caboose typically sets square on the rails, but I tipped it slightly for the picture.

All caboose or specially marked freight cars have Logic Rail Technologies detectable wheelsets to activate the red block signal if left on the mainline while switching cars at a siding.

That 16 car freight emphasizes that my yard has a bowl to keep cars from rolling out on the mainline. The camera also exaggerates the kink in the yard tracks at left.

Before that train leaves, have the conductor turn on the lights to simulate a “get ready” action for train movements. In this situation, how about a train is approaching from the rear, that’s why they have marker lights.

Learn more about Caboose Lights

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Logging Repair

The logging Repair project is on hold for now until it’s placed in a permanent location on the layout. This is my first attempt of the board by board construction with strip wood made on a table saw. The base ground color is #1090 Cumbres Earth, #1183 Oak Creek Orange ballast and dabs of other Az Rock products to enhance the scenery.

The scenery was done before the structure was built. A future rail spur is modelled with the graded roadbed, ties and spike kegs waiting for the track gang to lay the ties and rail.


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BUS STOP

Our fleet of city buses was very worn out by the time I was old enough to ride. Russell and I were 7 years old when he suggested we take a ride over to Laurium (3 miles) from our neighbourhood in Calumet. We scrounged up the fifteen cents and a nickel for a transfer if needed to get back home. It was a daring adventure at the time as our parents had no clue what us kids did in the summer roaming around town. We got home an hour later and none knew the difference until we bragged about it. Looking back, I’m glad we did it because the bus service was shut down a year or so after that. The three ladies are going to catch this bus. Sitting on the bench are a couple of old scoffers betting on whither the bus would even make it to this stop. They know this particular unit has a bad right rear axle bearing, a wrist pin knock in the engine and chattering clutch. In the waning days of operation, it’s called “break down maintenance”. And the dog, he’s been caught sneaking on the bus before. This is a people-friendly bus stop with a newspaper dispenser, mailbox, bench and phone booth. If you have a long wait, the diner can provide a quick bite to eat and/or something to drink.

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Transferring loads


I just had to build a Campbell Scale Models produce shed several years ago. This is how it fits on the layout as if it could be used for receiving loads from a box car such as the one seen here. The loading platform is long enough to place three box cars for unloading. There was a situation in Minneapolis were forty box cars could be unloaded at the Farmers Market East of Lyndale Avenue and North of Glendale Avenue. I don’t think anyone would model that as thirty five feet of layout would be required.
Just for the heck of it, I’m going to give the conductor of this train the job of unloading three cars of boxes from box car to the platform without knocking anything over. I’ll be nice, there will only be a few boxes per car. Will he know enough to open those box car doors at some point before the train arrives there?

Success at unloading three box cars

The produce shed was carefully positioned near the track using the NMRA gauge which is real close to the boxcars. The ballast had to be chipped away so the platform would be in the same plane as the boxcar floors. I used the brush to push the freight unto the dock from the other opened door without a problem. What helped the transfer is to keep the loading dock slightly lower than the car floors.

 The Campbell Scale Models L.C.L. Freight House kit came with wood blocks and barrels. The instruction sheet has sign cut outs to place on them for detail. I made photo copies to be used on my homemade boxes and crates. Everything on the platform could easily be used as live load transfers for that way freight.

To meet N.M.R.A. standards, their gauge was used to position the loading dock for height and distance to met their clearance standards. I moved the dock a couple whiskers lower and away to minimize the chance of engines and rolling stock from striking it.

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TRAIN WRECK Nightmare on the Chief

Is this the horrible result of a model railroader that switched from DC to DCC?
(My scene was inspired by an article in Trains Magazine published many years ago.)

The scene was built in twelve hours including hand laying the track. High Desert Soil (#107-03) is the ground cover with some #40 Blended Grass and # 62 Conifer Green Foliage amidst broken ties and twisted rail.
OOPS!
Looks like someone threw a switch the wrong way again.

Used 1302 as ballast, 1032 in between the tracks and 1250 as ground-cover.

The scene is modeled after a real train wreck between no. 8, the “Fast Mail” and no. 19, the westbound “Chief”. This disaster happened in September 1956 at Robinson siding New Mexico.

The Northbound Mail was sitting in the hole waiting for the Chief to pass by when the North Switch had been thrown the wrong way in the middle of the night. News reported out of Albuquerque was able to hop on an airplane and get aerial pictures of the devastation.

 

 

It’s totally impossible to have a head-on collision like this using DC.

Now look at the mess, twisted and burned diesel with death and injuries to the crew.

 

 

Use 1307 as the rocks

The Undertaker and Priest were summoned to sort out the living from the dead. “Oh why, oh why”, asks the owner of this layout, “if I stayed with DC, this never would have occurred”.

 

 

 

One of the Santa Fe’s private cars was at the rear of the Fast Mail and the occupants escaped injury even though the train was shoved back a car length from the collision.

 

 

 

In the wee hours of the morning, the boom car was brought in from Raton NM to salvage what it could. In order to lift the passenger car, numerous lead weights had to be installed in the Athearn boom car as a counterweight.

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Concrete and Asphalt Paving Powders

Concrete and Asphalt Paving Powders

These products are rock powders that will provide a slightly gritty scale texture. They can be applied to any surface that white or yellow carpenters glue will bond to. We have applied the products to Styrofoam, plywood, Homasote, cork, cardboard, matboard, plaster, and Masonite. Why use these products instead of styrene or manufactured ready-to-use material? I consider modeling as a three-dimensional form of art. When you apply a material such as this with even the greatest of care and finesse, those human shortcomings will show up in the finished model. This is what gives the work character and interest to the viewer even if it’s only you. Plaster could be used for roads, streets and sidewalks; however, sanding is required to fix the surface and the plaster dust is a real nuisance to clean up. My downside of plaster is that it sets up way before it smooth enough for a road surface. Our products will have an acceptable natural color right out of the bag, and you don’t really have the weather to surface for a believable scene. Materials;

(#1030 Asphalt Paving Material) or (#1290 Concrete Paving Material)

White or Carpenters glue

Mixing bowl

Artist palette knife

Broad knives from one to three inches wide

Razor saw

120 grit sandpaper

AZ Rock dry color pigment kit #14

Rubbing alcohol for diluting stains

India Ink

Mars Black acrylic paint

The usual variety of brushes, model paints, hobby knives, and eye droppers.

The real fun begins after our products are installed, cured and dry. Concrete will have expansion joints and curbs tooled on the surface. Liquid and powder stains will be applied for the weathering. Asphalt streets and roads can have potholes and patches applied with Acrylic paints and so forth. Before you begin, make some field trips and take pictures of what looks interesting to model. There are two methods for applying the material.

Dry method;

I used this method for a gas station or parking lot diorama on a 1/8 Masonite base. This could be likened to the method used by the Navajo Sand painters. When everything is dry, the base can be tipped to remove the extra sand. I have lately been building urban scenery with streets, sidewalks and driveway aprons appropriate for each situation. I use 1/8 inch Masonite cut to the size that fits a half to full block of buildings including the sidewalks. Any driveway aprons or alleyways are filed and sanded on the edges paper-thin. File and sand the corners to the radius of the sidewalk corners at any street intersections. Lightly sand all curbs to a slight radius. Set your buildings back on this base and see how they fit. These dioramas can be built on the benchtop and assembled on the layout for that urban scene. Now you can make your streets with either our “wet or dry” method.

You can use this method on your already installed bench work except step #7 below becomes more important.

1. Brush full-strength glue on the area to be paved.

2. Flatten the glue with a palette knife to provide an even layer.

3. The glue will begin to dry on you in places, so lightly spray it with water.

4. Sprinkle on the powder as evenly as possible.

5. Use a dry palette knife or bread knife to flatten the powder into the glue base. Don’t let your tool dig into any wet material as it will make lumps in the surface.

6. If globs of glue come to the surface, add more powder and flatten it out with your tool.

7. Keep trawling the surface until the entire area looks slightly damp and stop. If you ended up with a lumpy mess, you can save it by using our “wet” method below starting at step #5.

Wet Method;

This is useful for applying pavement to any area on the layout whiter it’s on a slope or flat. Perhaps you have an old-style gas station where the pump island area was humped for getting those gas tanks absolutely filled. This feature can be added later to the base you built using the dry method above.

1. Pour some diluted glue and water (1 glue/3 parts water) into a mixing bowl. Add powder and stir until you have the consistency of toothpaste.

2. Spoon some mixture on the layout. Even after stirring, the powder will quickly settle to the bottom. The spoon allows you to keep the mix in the right proportions for your work.

3. Begin by working the material into the surface for establishing a good bond. Then flatten it out with a palette and/or broad knife. Now you’re learning what a cement finisher goes through. The thickness should be about 1/16 inch.

4. There will be places that are too soupy on top, so add more dry powder to stiffen it up and continue trawling.

5. Add more diluted glue to any areas that are to dry and can’t be worked.

6. Continue trawling until the area is flattened to your satisfaction.

Custom sidewalks before or after?

 Free handing curbs has never worked out for me as they come out to squiggle and vary in height. A very beat up part of town will have some crumbled curbing. 

I will try this only in short stretches by leaving gapes in the method below. I have successfully used very thin corrugated cardboard cut to size and glued in place. Weight them down until dry because it will curl. When dry, coat with the wet method and apply thinly with a brush and smooth with the palette knife. Brushing on the soupy pigment always requires two coats. Let the first one dry and then quickly do the second so the first doesn’t come loose. Take care to fill the edges of the open corrugations and tool the curb radius as true as possible. When dry, coarse sandpaper can be used to dress up the surface and edges. I used cardboard that was similar to a small USPS Priority mailbox. I use the brass angle that has each side snipped at an angle an 1/8 inch of angle is left one the end. File and sand away the burr left from the snipers.

Tracks in the street or a crossing at grade;

Drag the tool along the guller area where to street meets the curb. Flip to tool over and now drag it to form the curb edge. I use the “wet method” for the areas outside the rails. The pavement will have to be applied thick enough to cover the ties and nearly up to the rail height. Between the rails, clearance must be maintained for the wheel flanges.

 I used a thin matboard cut narrow enough to allow strip wood on both sides for a steel flangeway. Short sections are easier to handle and use full strength glue to hold them to your wood or even plastic ties. Weight them down to eliminate curling. When dry, brush on the wet paving material just enough to cover it. Flatten with the palette knife. Pre-paint the strip wood with a color like “Rock Island Red” (iron oxide) and allow to dry overnight or longer. I hope your cardboard was narrow enough to fit the strips in place and allow clearance for the wheel flanges. Trim the mat board to make this happen. Glue the strip wood where it touches the mat board and install spacers between it and the rail to keep it tight until dry.

This was for straight track. For curves and switches in the street. You’re on your own, however, that same method should apply. Just maintain clearances for those moving parts such as switch points.

Several of my grade crossings are planked with strip wood such as Campbell Scale Models profile Turnout ties. In that case, pave up to the two or three planks outside the rails. I stain them with our #1430 Earth Pigment diluted in rubbing alcohol. Our #1145 Black Pigment us used for the Creosote look on the ends. Slightly dry brush the surface with an off white or light gray for simulated sun highlights to make that effect pop out.

Detailing and weathering;

You can go as far out as the imagination allows. How about a car at the service station with the hood open and steam pouring out of the radiator (cotton) and antifreeze running across the driveway into the street sewer grate (green paint). Asphalt doesn’t lend itself to dramatic detailing like concrete so let’s talk about that. You can pick and choose from this what would also work for tar roads, so let’s move on.

Use the tip of a razor saw or a dull X-Acto knife to score expansion joints in the street and sidewalks. Score down the center of the streets right through any intersections. Newer streets have the curb and gutter as an independent pour. For that score a line down the street about a ¼ inch away from the curb. Now score from the curb to curb for the cross-expansion joints about 10 or 12 scale feet. Use your head and don’t let any scoreline cross like the curb and gutter lines if you made them. The sidewalk curb line is very critical. In HO Scale, mine is about a 1/8 inch wide. Keep that width absolutely parallel to the street side of the curb. If my sidewalk is about 3/4 inch wide. I make the cross joints about that distance apart. Whatever, keep them all the same equal distance. Here again, start the score from the curb score and move your tool towards the building. Now you will know why I never glue my buildings in place as they get in the way for this maneuver. I get my cast metal sewer grates and manhole covers from Durango Press. Carve and/or drill depressions on the pavement for these. I pre-paint them grimy black and weather them with my 1400 rust powder. Older pavement will crack from those heavy trucks and/or winter frost. Score jagged lines in the surface with a sharp tool and keep them random in shape, size, and location. In a couple of places, I carved cobblestones into the street (random size area about an inch or so) and painted them a brick color.

Now, drill appropriate size holes in the sidewalks for fire hydrants, signs, and power poles but don’t install them yet. Sweep or vacuum that and the scoring mess for now. Consider what you want to be painted in the streets like center lines, parking spaces, crosswalks or even RR (dry transfers) for an approaching railroad track. Paint leaks under masking tape so freehand with a brush and paint, or best, colored markers if you can find them. Mark these areas lightly in pencil with a straight edge first to keep things straight. Now get out the Mars Black Acrylic paint and apply it to your street expansion joints, pavement cracks and edges of sewer grates and manhole covers. I sprinkle on a few tabs of my White Chalk Powder #1440 and let everything dry for a spell. Tires leave blackish streaks on the pavement so with a very small and stiff artist brush I apply #1450 Black Powder. Be cautious with the pigment on the brush and have only a track amount on the bristles.

Make random arcs around intersections where cars pealed around the corners. How about horrible skid marks through an intersection? That white chalk powder left in the street, with a stiff brush, tone down all places with a little scrubbing that looks too black. I use the #1440 White Chalk Powder to tone down bright shiny colors on all my railroad structures. I do this while the paint is still tacky, so it imbeds into the surface. I am a “non-dullcote” person except to protect some models from having the weathering smeared through handling. If you did all of this, you’re on your way to becoming an artist in other things as well.

Place your hydrants, power poles, signs, people and vehicles in the scene. The best part is you don’t have to be done quite yet. There are many detail items you can place like, trash cans, phone booth, dogs, jaywalkers, park benches, newspaper stand, pop machines, mailbox, paper trash, cardboard boxes, weeds and a little dirt ( #1090 Earth or #1020 Light Earth).

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CONCRETE PAVING MATERIAL

10 OZ. OF DRY ROCK POWDER THAT IS MIXED WITH WHITE OR CARPENTERS GLUE AND WATER to THE CONSISTENCY OF TOOTHPASTE.
Spread it out with a bread knife and/or palate knife just like a real concrete finisher would.

Breaking away from that sterile plastic look for streets and sidewalks
This three-building set came in from Downtown Deco last month and I started putting it together lately. An extra plastic building was placed into the scene so there could be an alley in the middle of the block. The street and sidewalks are in place with my #1290 Concrete Paving material. This is my first attempt at having a track in a paved street.

1/8″ Foam core was used for the sidewalk and thin cardboard for the base between the rails. Our paving material powder is mixed into glue (carpenters) and water to a consistency of toothpaste.

The creative part is adding details like the original brick street exposed through the broken pavement.

A similar theme of streets and sidewalks will carry through with the new block of buildings. This requires a jog in the streets that adds interest to the scene. Notice that the scenery is at an angle to the wall and bench work to keep the viewer’s eye from following those straight lines.

The street traffic can keep flowing with this half-block jog worked into the narrow limitations of bench work.

 

The area at left will be transformed into a representation of my favourite junkyard on Water Works Street.