Monday, September 18, 2023

A New Approach to Blogging... And An Update (Fascia Painting, Scenery, and Repair)

At the risk of repeating myself, it's axiomatic that there's an inverse relationship between layout progress and blogging about the layout. Unless you're not doing either, which I hope isn't the case . . .

Well, it certainly hasn't been the case here on the Valley Line - I just can't believe it's been literally over two months since I posted an actual layout update. In my defense, we had a wonderful visit with my parents and a trip to Cape May during that time, not to mention trying to wring out as much as possible of the last weeks of summer, including a spectacular stargazing cruise.

And sure, I've uploaded quick little posts showing that I chased the modern-day Valley Local, started track weathering in Saybrook, and even did some rocks around Old Deep River Road and mocked-up a photo backdrop in the Deep River scene, but progress updates per se (not to mention posts about other things, op sessions, and such) have been harder for me to get around to posting.

So, instead of just blowing them off, I've decided to take the same approach to blogging as I have to the layout itself - tackle them one little bit at a time. If this new approach works, you can expect more frequent - but shorter - posts here at The Valley Local (though not as short as the "Wordless Wednesdays" I've limited myself to lately...).

At the risk of stepping on the toes of my good friend Tom Jacobs with his #AnHourADay, sometimes I don't even have an hour to spare - but if I can just #DoOneThing, progress will add up over time, a little bit at a time.

So, in preparation for an upcoming layout open house, I figured the biggest bang for my time would be to paint some fascia and put down some ground foam and I broke each of those projects down to smaller tasks I could do relatively quickly. . .

Fascia Painting
One of the selling points of model railroading to the Missus (not, to be fair, that she needed any convincing) is that so many of the skills you develop building a layout are transferrable to working on the house. Suffice it to say, I've become really good at patching/topping, and painting...

To wit - here are some "before" photos of the fascia:

Shailerville Bridge area

Somerset section and staging yard

I forgot to take a "before" photo of the Mill Hollow section, but here it is as the first of the "during" photos.

The process is pretty straightforward: I sanded down all the rough areas, spread lightweight spackle over the holes and gaps, and sanded smooth once dry. I repeated the process 2-3 times in order to get as smooth a base for painting as possible. I then rolled-on a primer coat of latex Kilz2, and a top coat of my agonizingly-chosen fascia color.

And here are the "after" photos - quite an improvement!

Shailerville Bridge


Staging yard box

Mill Hollow section

Base Scenery
Eagle eyes might have noticed that the end of the peninsula in the foreground of the photo above has been transformed a bit. Yes - I've been confronting my scenery phobia by "just doing one thing" with regard to scenery, "just" doing a base coat of ground foam - and it's amazing what a difference it makes!

After a few fits and starts (one of the downsides of waiting too long between scenery sessions is that you have to relearn so much), I've settled on the following process for base scenery:

Step 1: Paint full-strength white glue over the area - in this case, dry brown ground goop (Sculptamold colored with latex paint color matched to the dirt I use).

Step 2: Sprinkle on a variety of different colors of fine ground foam, meant to represent the "thatch" below the static grass which will come later. In my case, I use the different Woodland Scenic colors in the above photo, using "Burnt Grass" the most.

Step 3: Dampen the foam with a mist of "wet" water and drizzle on diluted white glue to fix in place. One of the problems I had was that the foam ended up drying much darker than it went on. You can see the contrast between the glued/dried area and some dry foam I just added.

I actually came up with two solutions to this persistent problem:
1) I sprayed cheap hairspray as an adhesive and sprinkled new/dry foam on top of that; and
2) After wetting the foam as in step 3 above, I just added more ground foam on top of the wettest areas.

I'm happy to say, both approaches work fine. And - at the end of the day - as so many folks have reminded me: "It's scenery - you really can't mess it up!"

Speaking of messing up though, I realized almost too late that I should deal with the roads before adding the ground foam. Here, I used my tried-and-true technique for making "tar and dirt" roads by applying a thick coat of black paint and sifting dirt on top. Click here for more details about this process.

And here are the "finish" pics of the end of the peninsula. LONG way to go yet, but certainly gives it a base level of "finish" and it's much better than plain brown foam or Sculptamold!

"Fixing" Scenery - a.k.a. Scenery Over Scenery
I'm learning that effective scenery has a LOT to do with layering - texture over texture. The more layers and textures, the better your scenery will look.

But it's also true that you can apply more scenery over previously applied scenery to change the look or to repair an area that's bothering you.

Case in point: This "hole" in the scenery at Shailerville Bridge:

I don't remember whether the fascia was added before or after the scenery here, but I wanted to fill in this hole behind the bridge abutment and the gap behind the fascia. I'd already painted the fascia here (see earlier in this post :^) so first step was to mask it off to protect it.

Another view of the hole/gap. I suppose I could have passed it off as erosion - or just cut the fascia down to match, but the solution ended up being easy peasy.

First - just like the prototype would - I backfilled the area with "fill" - in this case, some of my handy dandy ground goop.

Next, I daubed some white glue on the area between the fascia and the poles and added some static grass.  By the way, the Woodland Scenics Static King is the BOMB - especially when used with the AC adaptor.

While the goop was still wet, I blew on some dirt using a folded index card to help direct it.

And here's the result - MUCH nicer, I think.

Of course, this is only a meager attempt to gild the lily - BillS is responsible for all the rest of this amazing scene. But hey, I filled in the hole! And painted the fascia . . .

I've made some additional progress on the layout since these photos were taken, but - in order to stay true to my new approach - I'll stop for now and will post more soon.

In the meantime, thank you for your patience with my spotty posting. In addition to more-frequent posts, there are some cool new developments coming in the next few weeks/months. So I hope you're able to stay on board The Valley Local - having you along for the ride makes this journey even more fun!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris,, thanks for sharing your process and techniques. My technique is somewhat similar but like you, I have long pauses in scenery so having your ideas to encourage me to try things is helpful. keep us posted on your progress, it is fun to be along for the ride.