Saturday, August 31, 2019

Slow but Sure Scenery: Coal Yard, Station Planting, Siding Grass

One thing that's really getting to me is how glacially sloooooow I am at doing scenery. I suspect it's because I'm having such a hard time putting my left-brainess aside and embracing my right-brain. I'm much more comfortable building a freight car or detailing a locomotive - more into engineering than art. But I've resolved to keep at it - to keep hacking through and blaze some new neural pathways. And I figured the best place to do this safely is in the somewhat-freelanced area of East Berlin.

Here's what I've been up to since my last scenery update, along with some calls for help.

Coal Yard
The building complex which will eventually become Stanley Chemical includes a power plant. So I thought having place to dump/store coal would be an appropriate addition and - bonus! - another car type to spot in the siding.

So I got some fencing out of the parts bin to hid the foreground/backdrop seam and added a little blacksmith's shed - just cuz it looks cool (heh - "relaxing the prototype" indeed...). The photo above shows the result, right after I sprayed 70% isopropyl alcohol and dribbled on 3:1 water:glue with a pipette.

While it sure looked OVERwet (and I probably did use a little too much glue), it dried nicely. And that coal ain't goin' anywhere. Ever. I actually had to straight-up chisel a trench for the coal unloader to go between the ties...

There was a gap between the bottom of the shop fence and the ground, and that area needed some weeds anyway, so I dripped on some drops of full-strength glue and added some pinches of static grass.  Along the back (left side) of the shop, I used medium ground foam in a mix of colors. Unfortunately, the ground foam isn't quite as realistic looking as the static grass.

Above is a drone's view, still waiting for the glue to dry.

After the glue dried, the static grass looks ok, but I'm open to suggestions on how to make it look better. I'm trying for a "weedgrown" effect here.

But it still looks a bit better than the ground foam. Which doesn't look that bad IMO. At least it's something.

By the way - given that this will eventually be a paint factory, I should probably try and include a way to unload tank cars. Could be something as simple as a pipe/hose along the track. It'd just allow for another car type and spot. Any suggestions/photos of such a small facility would be most welcome!

Planting East Berlin Station

In my last post, I announced the arrival of the East Berlin station from my friend Dave Messer but I also mentioned that I'd need to "plant" it into the scenery. As you can tell in the photo above, it needs to come down a bit in order for the platform to hit at the bottoms of the doors.

Fortunately, this is where working with a foam base (or, rather in this case, foamcore) makes things easy. I just marked an outline around the base of the station . . .

. . . and then used a utility knife and an old steak knife to remove the scenery down to the foamcore. As you can see, the foamcore doesn't actually go all the way across since I used a combination of foamcore and traditional cardboard lattice/plaster cloth as a scenery base.

But fixing that was a simple matter of hot-gluing in a scrap piece of foamcore.

It took a little fiddling & dressing up of the edges, but now the station is firmly planted. No structure-to-scenery gaps here!

I'll probably add some static grass/weeds around the base of the building as I did the other building here.

Some Grass Between the Rails
Speaking of grass, having some grass & weeds "grow" between your rails really sets the track off as un- or little used, so I definitely wanted to try that effect in East Berlin. I didn't find any articles on how to do it, so I figured I'd experiment.

The next two photos show what I started with . . .

The first step was to use full strength white glue (just like I do when applying static grass normally) and add some random drops in between the rails as you see above. I spread the glue with a brush where I wanted the grass to be more evenly applied, but left the drops of glue alone. Then I sprayed a heavy mist of wet water over the area, using a piece of paper to protect the structure from overspray.

Then I applied the static grass in the usual fashion. Problem here is that I couldn't get the narrow nozzle/funnel attachment to work very well (I've never had good luck with it - it tends to allow the grass to dump in clumps), so I had to try and get the normal 3" wide applicator as close to the structure as possible and over the track - without banging the structure. Next time, I'll plan further ahead and do this effect before I put the structure in place (i.e. when I applied the static grass under the loading docks).

Despite the tight quarters, I was able to get grass all over the track as I'd hoped. And it covered pretty well as intended - splotchy between the rails, more even outside the track.

Despite the fact that I applied a mix of colors and lengths, the grass still looks a little too uniform and green to my eye. And based on some comments over at the Valley Local Facebook Group (click here to join :) I may try adding some additional colors & lengths, as well as some fine ground foam to give it some texture. I'm also considering a radical experiment of my own warped imagination: "weathering" the grass by drybrushing, or maybe using chalks or PanPastels. If any of you have done that before, help a brutha out and let me know how you did it!

All in all though, I'm pretty happy with how things are turning out - just not so happy with how slowly they're progressing. I figure I'll get quicker as I do it more - and perhaps also as I get less OCD about it.

Again, and always, I really appreciate all your feedback/comments/suggestions on alternatives & what I could do better and/or how you do it. I feel like I'm on the steep part of the learning curve, but at least I'm enjoying the journey so far. Just have to keep that machete sharp and keep moving forward!


  1. Chris, I picked up a smaller static applicator for just the purpose of spot application around buildings, etc. A little spendy and I haven't had time to try it out yet, but there ya go:

    1. Wow that looks really cool - I’ve actually added it to my Christmas list. Be sure to let us know when you use it and how you like it! Thanks for the tip!

  2. Chris,

    Your scenery efforts look great. As for static grass vs ground foam, I think it depends on what you're trying to emulate - grasses, or broadleaf weeds. I have yet to see the two combined really well, and my own static grass applicator is still yet-to-be-assembled so I can't show my own efforts. Even so, it seems like there should be a way to make use of both (or either) to create that weedy look you're after. Just follow the prototype!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Galen! I think you’re right - a variety of colors & textures is the most effective. Just challenging to know what exactly to use to get the right combination. Thanks for weighing in!

  3. Chris. The scenery is looking great. I am wondering how the coal is getting inside the factory to the boiler. If it through the front door is it by wheel barrow and if so would there be some spillage (to add a little character maybe even a model wheel barrow near by) or will the coal get delivered behind the chimney? Should there be a door in the outer wall to shovel coal into a small bin inside? Where does ones imagination stop. Always looking forward to your next post.

    1. Thanks Ken & glad you’re enjoying the blog! You noticed an interesting “problem” - but I’d decided that the coal is loaded into the back of the building :)

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks! Really appreciate the encouragement! This whole process is equal parts fun and scary %^)