Thursday, November 17, 2016

Finishing the Vinyl Valence & Christmas Module Progress

Once the paint dried on the vinyl (click here for pics of the valence construction so far), it was time to Hang the Valence! Here are some "before" shots to remind us how the Saybrook Scene looks(ed) coming down the stairs:

Notice the shop lights, wires, HVAC piping

Turning 45 degrees right.

Overall shot of the Saybrook Scene
Not bad overall. It's certainly better to have the lights than not have them, and you don't really notice them too much while you're operating. You're concentrating more on what you're doing than on what's above your head. But best practice is to try and frame our scene - it provides a nice, finished look, especially for when you're not operating and/or when non-RR guests visit. Having a valence will make this look much nicer overall and fit better with non-RR sensibilities (it's amazing what layout owners and model railroaders are willing to accept in the service of More Layout...)

While I chose vinyl for its light weight and ease of installation, it's still a good idea to have a friend (or the Missus - well, she's a "friend" too, of course) help you out. It's a long roll of material and having a 3rd and 4th hand help hold up the roll while you staple is especially helpful.

And that's what I did. I started at one end while the Missus held up the rest of the roll. I took great care to make sure the first few staples attached the end of the vinyl all straight and square. Then it was just a matter of having more vinyl fed to me as I continued to staple the top edge to the edge of the plywood formers.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get any pics of that actual process - our hands were kinda full. Literally.

When I got to the end of the 9' run, there was of course still farther to go. So I got the other piece, started at the other end, and used the same process. When the 2nd end got close to the 1st end, I had a decision to make: butt the ends together and splice with another piece of vinyl glued to the back of the joint - or overlap them?

I chose to overlap since getting the ends/edges to match perfectly would be difficult - if not impossible for me to do. So I cut the 2nd piece back a bit so that only about 6" would overlap (I used a small T-square to help me mark a straight, perpendicular cutting line). Then I tucked that in behind the end of the first piece, applied vinyl glue, and pressed the two ends together. To keep them together while the glue set, I improvised a looooong clamp:

"Good enough for guvmit work" as they say
That was good enough to hold things together overnight while everything dried/cured.

And here are the "finished" photos! Compare to the "before" photos above since they're taken from similar angles

View coming down the stairs (you can always enlarge by clicking on the image - and you can see more detail if you tip your screen)
Overall shot of the scene. Nice!
I REALLY like how this came out, and think you'll agree that it's a huge improvement. While most folks paint the valence black or some other dark color (based on the theater maxim paint it black to make it disappear) I think it looks better matching the wall color. And the vinyl was VERY easy to work with and cut - much easier than masonite. Not to mention orders of magnitude lighter and easier to install.

The only regret I have - and it's a small one - is that I should have made it just a little bigger/wider. At 16" everything is covered nicely from a distance - or if you're tall (over 6'). But shorter folks will still see the lights under the valence and get the glare. Not awful - and it's better than no valence at all - but I'm going to try a deeper valence in future installations - certainly 18" (which would have worked fine here) and maybe as much as 20" (as long as folks aren't bumping their heads too much on it).

In between all this, and considering Thanksgiving is only a week away, I also continued work on the Christmas module:

Simple 1x3 bracing for a masonite tabletop

Loktite PL300 foam-friendly adhesive (gap on left is likely location of river/creek)

2" foam applied and weighed down
Nothing at all innovative here, but certainly shows how quick and easy a project this is - and ideal for the first-timer. More pics to come as I make additional progress.

Although I'm not sure when next I'll be able to get to the basement. With a fairly stressful job (especially these days), I look forward to Saturdays to recoup and (hopefully) get some layout work done and give my brain a break. But this Saturday, I'll be working on the railroad, all the liv'long day - literally. I know - weep for me :^) With my engineer training, I haven't fired in a while so I'm interested to see how I do. But I know, no matter what, getting to see the families and kids coming out to see Santa on our North Pole Express - some for the first time - will make the hours and hard work fly by. These trains sell out months in advance, but if you happen to be in Essex, CT this Saturday, come up to the steam engine and say "hi" - I should be holding down the left side of #40.


  1. Crocodile tears...spend a day on a steam locomotive? How many tons will you shovel? Heh heh heh...

    Anyway, I agree with your choice of valance color. Black works if you are in a theater environment with all the lighting, wings, stage depth, etc. But for our little diorama settings, making the valance either an integral part of the scenery (clouds above, earth below over the 'edge' of the layout, etc.) or as invisible as possible is the best treatment, IMHO.

    Are you concerned about the vinyl sagging?


    1. Hey Galen and thanks for stopping by! I'm encouraged by your comment on the valence color. I think it's working well, but getting another's perspective is especially helpful.

      As for the vinyl sagging: I'm really not worried at all. It's literally hanging straight down from the plywood forms to which it is attached by staples every 6-12". So I don't think it'll sag at all, but I *will* be keeping an eye on it!