Saturday, April 18, 2020

Saturday Scenery Status: Raising Gra-Rock & Don't Forget the Headblocks!

I thought all the terraforming was done, now that I had finished the lumber siding relocation and the dirt scenery there. But before applying the static grass, I wanted to raise the height of the Gra-Rock Bottling Co.

Oh, and I had totally forgotten to plan for & install headblocks on my turnouts - but we'll get to that in a bit.

But first, Gra-Rock.

Using cork roadbed beneath your track becomes a slight problem when you want to model that "buried in the dirt" look of a siding. And the issue is just amplified when there is an industry alongside the track. That's the problem I confronted with the Gra-Rock building.

I used foamcore board that was about the same thickness as the cork roadbed, cutting it to fit the footprint of the building.

Thankfully, I figured out before it was too late that I wanted to plan for a lawn & sidewalk in front of the main entrance between the building and Church Street.

To make sure no white showed through later, I painted the foamcore board with my dirt-colored paint.

Then it was off to the bench to make some sidewalks out of .020" thick styrene - 4' wide and cut to length.

Once I'd painted the sidewalk, I glued it in place. Given the foamcore base and the location of the sidewalk, it'd be easy to replace the building if I have to remove it for any reason.

The final step was to "raise the terrain" by troweling in enough Ground Goop in the surrounding area to level out the terrain, even with the track.
Now for the headblock fail & recover...

I'd finally decided on a ballast to use for the mainline between Hartford & Middletown (which had been newly-ballasted during the summer of 1945) and had just started applying it when I noticed that something didn't look quite right . . .

Yup - that's a naked turnout. No headblocks for the switchstand!

The good news is that Micro-Engineering supplies headblocks that will attach to either side of the turnout.
The bad news is that, since the turnout is already installed on nice elevated roadbed, the headblocks hang out in space.

The solution is to "backfill" the area under the headblocks with a scrap piece of roadbed, installed upside-down. And then to goop & scenic around it.

But first, I had to cut out all the parts and stick them to tape and into foam for painting.

All painted and ready to install.

Back to our turnout - this is one of the instances where Ground Goop is really handy. Just trowel it on like mud.

I then added some cinders to cover the goop and give our crews something nicer than traprock ballast to walk on.

Then it was on to the other turnouts. Where ever I could, I placed the headblocks (and, therefore, the eventual switchstand) on the opposite side of the tracks from the aisle (less chance of hitting them while throwing the switch). I'd also mark the spot to get an idea of how large to make the cork filler and how far to spread the goop.

The south end of the Wethersfield bulk track was a little tricky. First I had to carve out an even area for the cork to rest on.

Here's the cork and headblocks roughed in, but there was another challenge...

The terrain drops off pretty severely here.

So, I brought out more Ground Goop and filled in the area, creating a little berm. Trying to do all this modification with foam board would be pretty frustrating, I'd guess.

As the goop was drying, I added cinders and some fine ground foam for weeds.

And now, it looks like it was built in place and had always been that way. Which was pretty much the look I was after.
Actually, that cinder line looks a little too neat - so I'll probably mess this area up later with some more cinders and lots of weeds.

The turnout to Valley Coal wasn't as difficult. Just cork, then goop.

Then cinders - taking them over to Wells Road.

Then some alcohol & glue to fix everything in place.

Then some fine-ground-foam weeds & let dry.

Some more finish shots - here are the turnouts for the Wethersfield bulk track and the lumber company. Again, I'll probably mess the area up a bit since these look a little too neat.

Wethersfield house track turnout.

And back to where we started - the Ballantine's turnout, at the north end of Wethersfield.
Of course, it would have been much better if I'd remembered to plan for - and then install - the headblocks right from the start. But the important lesson learned here is that there are few things that can't be redone and/or fixed - especially when it comes to scenery and scenic elements.

Hopefully, that will reduce some of the anxiety you might feel to even get started. I know it's helped me - but it's a lesson I apparently have to relearn over and over again.

As we continue to try and get the blog caught up, be sure to check in tomorrow - yes, there'll be a special Sunday edition where we'll start some static grass(!)


  1. Chris,
    Bill Shanaman here. Watching the Gra-Rock Bottling Co modification. I lived in Wethersfield at 55 Harmond Place. Near the Wethersfield Lumber Co. As a kid in the early 60's I used to go down to the Station. I also remember playing around the Gra Rock building. There was a siding up to the freight door. I remember that because I too am doing the Valley Branch in HO myself. It came off the main just south of the Church Street in front of the additional wooden storage buildings south the Gra Rock that were part of it. It ended right past the first window north of the freight door. They were boxcars parked there sometimes. I think it was used as a box factory or something like that before closing. The Art center took out the siding and made it a parking lot. It had a Hayes style bumper at the end of the siding because I cut my hand on the thing one time. So something to think about before you jump into static grass and scenery. Please use my email addy if you would like to respond. Nice job on your layout Chris. Bill

    1. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure that siding wasn't there in 1948. Which is a good thing, since it'd be super hard to add now - even if there was space for it! %^)