My model railway designs often feature some sort of interaction with a roadway. On Coy, the model was positioned to begin where the roadway ended. The current layout is bisected by a roadway that is not just a decorative scenic element but something around which the static and operational design had been keyed. Which is funny because I’m terrible at making model roads. It’s too easy to remember the last scene I completely and totally ruined by trying to make a road crossing or pave a road. I’ve learned to fear this. Paraphrasing a favourite and classic Heritage Minute: maybe it’s that plaster that is the problem?
The roadway in question? Easy enough to repeat the simple plan of the current project. Yeah, there it is.
- Plaster starts to set the moment it’s mixed and I want more working time
- Even if I stretch out the working time with an admixture the rate plaster cures at is always somewhere along a straight line from pancake batter to malleable iron
- I can’t make decent formwork any more than I can flap my wings and fly
I could go on but dwelling on these points isn’t helping my self esteem and it just isn’t productive.
- I want something that I can manipulate like plasticine
- Instead of pouring a soupy mix of plaster I want something I can build up and place one tiny O scale shovel at a time
When I started building Coy’s track I would stick down some ties, fiddle with some paint and weathering on them, and start ballasting. I worked part by mood but also part as an acknowledgment of wanting to interact with the work on an almost elemental level where I’m teasing out the form interactively while the thing is being made. I loved how that felt. Where before it felt like layout construction was a series of boldly defined phases with fiercely defended start and end points this had a jazz feel where the paint played off a groovy line the ballast was laying down.
I have a lot of Woodland Scenics medium grade “buff” ballast. Goodbye plaster and hello building up the basic form in ballast. I carefully built up the profile and the ballast is continued across the tracks. The crossing boards are Northeastern stripwood and as soon as this first layer of ballast was glued I added these boards into place.
When I first started this work I had in mind boards forming the flangeways and infilled between with dirt and clay. I think I thought that would work because I was thinking of rails further apart. Turning to Robert Jones’ Two Feet to series of books showed how Monson and Kennebec Central crossings were just planked straight across.
My intention throughout was to use the ballast to incrementally build up the profile. In this way it didn’t matter what the colour of the ballast was and it didn’t even matter what grade the ballast was. What did matter was how precisely I could place it and how much I could control how much I added. Unlike plaster, if I added too much I just picked it up and moved on with my life.
I’ve already confessed my relationship with non-sanded tile grout and this was my secret weapon here. With the crossing boards in place, distressed, and stained; and the “ballast” built up to create the main profile of the road, I shifted to layers of non-sanded grout. Non-sanded grout likes thin layers so this took several applications of grout. On my regular track I’m careful to control where the grout lands but here I wanted it to fill in and around the crossing boards. Some of those boards are damaged and clay is accumulating and I love how the flangeways are starting to fill in.
Initially it didn’t bother me the colour or grade of the ballast but by this stage I find I’m grateful for both. Most of this tile grout but I can see rocks (ballast) breaching that surface and those contribute texture to the road. This is how the road looks today. I don’t have any O scale vehicles so have paused this here. As soon as I do have some I’ll use them to help me define the center of each lane and in those areas I want to add some grass and weeds. This road is used but not so much that nature isn’t winning its argument.
I’m so glad I faced this fear. Plaster was absolutely my problem. A little more mature I appreciate taking the time to interrogate my issue and I’m grateful I had the resolve to try something new. I like to believe that’s why it worked out better. Projects like this and the flat car really validate this project and also my focus on On30 models. I’m not just enjoying what I’m doing but I look forward to doing it and that feels so good.
Categories: Victoria On30