Screwin’ Around Saturday

Last winter, Krista and I attended a ballroom dancing class. A step forward, a step sideways, and a step back to home. Too often we relate progress as a measure of forward motion only. What I’m learning is that, in dancing, with each step, regardless of direction, it’s all progress, learning, and good. If I ever question any of it, I just look into the eyes of my amazing partner and I’m reminded of just how very good it is. I like that.
Mike Cougill’s book, Track: Then and Now, includes a section written by Trevor Marshall describing his methods for producing overgrown track. I have very fond memories of watching trains navigating overgrown right-of-ways and it’s something I insist that I’d like to model. Trevor suggests sticking down some static grass around the ties before ballasting. I am so impressed with the idea that I thought I’d try it myself between a couple of ties on my layout.

I don’t have a static grass applicator but my friend Scott suggested simply grabbing some static grass fibres and rolling them between my fingers. This way, with them bound you could simply daub them into glue and that’s what I tried. In this morning’s light, the glue has dried and I’m impressed with the finished look. I’m looking forward to continuing to explore these ideas to see what effects can be produced. That said, I’ve been testing this “in Prod” as we’d say at work and I should really get a stick of track stuck down on a separate board for such testing in case it goes wrong.

I’ve got this collection of jars filled with various materials that I think might be useful for modelmaking “someday”. In one of those jars is some material that’s from our driveway. It’s a mix of broken concrete, sand, and dirt. I was skeptical of it but equally had always intended to try it out. I’ve tried spreading some out and brushing it into place just to see what it might look like.

The larger stones are simply too large for use as ballast in 1/87 scale. Though I’ve passed it through a sieve several times there’s still a lot of dust in the mix and it’s everywhere. I’m not sure I like the way it accumulates on the tops of the ties. What I do like about this material is the rich variation in stone shapes and sizes in the mix. The colour is pleasant and the natural variation just feels so warm and lifelike. There are many criticisms of the ballast sold by Woodland Scenics. I’ve used a lot of it over the years and don’t mind it. As I explored working in my alternative medium I thought about the dust in my mix and how I’ve never had that problem with the Woodland Scenics product. I’m not sure of the direction forward. I dislike the homogeneous colour and tone from Woodland Scenics but I think I prefer using it. What I need is a halfway medium between it and the natural alternatives. This will take some deeper consideration and time.


Oh yes, and this morning this arrived. Given that trackwork is still underway it had to be trucked in from the locomotive dealer in Pennsylvania. I had hoped it could be brought in by rail but, in the end, it wasn’t to be. We’re not sure if it will stay in this colour or makes its first revenue appearance in a different colour scheme. What we do know is that it’s already December and if we’re going to be able to accept any loads of salt here we need to get this engine pressed into service sooner rather than later.

There’s work to do. Time to get the kettle on, the soldering iron warmed up, and cross a few more items of the punch list.


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