Pink as in Progress

They say a man can only push N scale trains around on a sheet of cardboard for so long. Right? Just in case they do, I figured I’d better prepare a response and this morning I’ve been fooling around with just that. The cardboard has been removed from the benchwork and in its place what feels like quite a lot of pink styrofoam.

My personal, emotional, scope for this project lists ditching and drainage as two things I’d like to represent on this layout. I’ve never really made much progress here on any previous layout but both are such an obvious feature on the prototype. To do this, I reasoned, I’d need a lot of freedom along each side of the track. Rather than lay everything down and then dig it all out later I thought I’d try something different, for me at least:

  • Use the foam as my roadbed material instead of a layer of cork
  • Carve the edges of the foam to follow the track and then build the scene up instead of down
  • Develop the roadbed and track interdependently of surrounding scenery instead of trying to force one to work within the limits of the other

The first point is out of the way now. I’ve laid down two complete layers of foam to provide a base on which to develop the scene. A third layer was carved to follow the edge of my track, based on the plan I drew. I’ll glue this layer down and then the plan to its top. I can then shape the edge to form the edge of the roadbed.

I’d like to treat the roadbed as an element separate from the surrounding scenery. Though I’m doing this with foam it doesn’t feel too different from a spline style of construction with parts built up from layers of plywood. Just as with that method, once I’m satisfied that the track is in place and working correctly I can fill in the void areas around it with blocks of foam to build up the scenic areas. To me, separating these two elements completely feels like I can focus design decisions regarding each on the needs of each activity and I think both will benefit from this approach.

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6 comments

  1. Isn’t there an old proverb: Give a man N scale trains and cardboard and he can operate for a day. Give a man a Sawzall and some pink form and he will railroad for months.

    I think you will find a changeable form of layout construction easier. I am a simple man. I like plywood and Robertson screws. I desire too much flexibility to use solder, spline, plaster or roadbed. It’s just the way I am.

    Congratulations on this important step and I know you’ll keep us posted! Have you celebrated with a celebratory coffee or other special beverage, Chris? Is it too early?
    Eric

    1. Thank you Eric. I appreciate the wise thoughts.

      I might paraphrase: “Give a man easy access to Home Depot and he’ll just keep on starting over as the mood catches him” if only in a bit of self-directed jest.

      I’m still sick from this lousy flu, as with the balance of the family, so celebratory drinks have been more along the lines of a steady steam of mugs of hot tea, but that’s okay.

      I’ve just finished sticking the layers together and laminating the plan to the top. So far so good.

      Chris

  2. I hope you and your family get better soon. The only thing worse than being sick is having everybody sick at the same time… no fun at all.

    However, as the flu fades, there’s nothing better than laying tiny rails to help one recover… nice to see the progress!

    Steve Hunter

    1. Thank you Steve

      Flu fatigue is washing across my house. We’re all pretty sick of feeling sick. I know I am.

      On to happier things though, it feels pretty good to cement a first step of the layout into place. Naturally this narrative approach to design and construction means that with the deck in place, I can now focus on questions like “Am I sure I want to control my turnouts this way?” or “Last chance, Mears, are you sure you want that track here?”

      I’m excited.

      /chris

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