three of three

In the first scenario I wanted to explore ways to better align the rate I want to work at and what a layout that cants downhill toward the backdrop. In the second scenario my focus has been on the correlation of a six inch wide scene of two tracks and if that would feel too track heavy.

Each of these scenarios repeats common methods so, here in this third scenario, I’m repeating the same methods to work, for the sake of their practice, and I wanted to explore two new ideas:

  • Do I really need to bother filling gaps?
  • Tie plates and spikes

I love how the track Matthieu has been making for his Stanstead layout looks. He’s using styrene ties and they’re gorgeous. (Check it out—click here)

Following Matthieu’s method I cut my ties from 0.040” styrene sheet. In On30 I would glue the ties down, one at a time, with a dot of hot melt glue. That would be a mess in HO so I’m using a drop of medium CA glue. I could have used an adhesive, like a wood glue, but I want to keep working without interruption. Matthieu proceeded to scribe and wear his ties down but I haven’t. I know I could and my choice is to an act of staying focused on tie plates.

A long time ago I used etched metal tie plates and glued them, one tiny rectangle of metal at a time, two to a tie. Now, I instead just cut a strip of 0.010” styrene, the width of a tie plate, and glued it down all at once. Bingo! The tie plates are all now automatically aligned.

Until now I had only needed to slow to pause and make more tea. Since glueing the tie plates was done using that magical thin Tamiya cement I had to have to stop that work. I did shift back to scenery so resorted to glue-paint mix to stick down plies of napkins. There’s about three plies here and no packing to fill gaps between foam forms. So far, this thickness of material feels right. Over this a first scratch coat of grasses is then dusted into place.

Though I’d glued a strip of styrene for those tie plates the intent was to go back and trim out the extra material. That was super easy to do. Win!

Given the evolution of how I now build up textures and ballast I was curious how much I really needed to do to colour the ties so my colour process here is just a coat of tan craft paints, left to dry, that is washed with thin black watercolour. It’s super easy to stick in a coat of coarse ballast as a base texture so that’s done too.

There’s always a good thing if we look for it. Years of accidentally melting ties when soldering feed wires made me think: What’s really cool about styrene tie plates and styrene ties is how easy it is to heat rail and could I stick the rails but sort of melting it into the tie plates? Yes we can!

This is a lesson learned, an era’s endpoints marked, and the weight of some introspection felt. Away from the layout I can’t ignore the feeling of need to model track details like tie plates and spikes. I thought I had a solution in what I’m trying here. I can vividly recall a me that enjoyed making spikes from tiny steel wire. I thought I would again. By this photo I’m three spikes in. I absolutely can’t see to set them properly. In fact, to see if they’re even in place and square I’m taking a photo and zooming into that high resolution copy.

When I look back at the kind of track I want to make, I know it’s a kind of caricature but I also know how it’s style kind of makes subtle details hard to see anyway. We don’t learn anything from myopic data sets or limiting our experiences to only those with predictable outcomes. Will I feel that need to pursue HO scale tie plates? Probably not. Should you? Absolutely! I would love to help figure that out. Let’s talk. I love to try things and learn from others.

I could try all this on one layout but I know I’d worry too much about failing. I say this is art, or a equal creative experience of equal value, and this series of studies prioritizes that full creative experience. In these frames the priority is to do things for the sake of doing things. They’re Agile-like in terms of their process but also in terms of how their end states are defined. I love the potential of things like jute fibres and by having a place to try a field of them I gain the experience of what it’s like to build textures using this kind of medium but also a thing I can study the appearance of and contemplate. These scenarios are stored in the open and near my desk. This era of design, for me, contemplates layout design from across the room, asking: “What makes me want to cross the room and be closer to this fascination?”

So much of our collective design vocabulary is based on intense study of track layouts. We’re starting to step out, beyond the fascia, into space beyond the shores of fascia. I love how my friend Mike is looking here too. I sense a deep need to learn more about the layout I feel this deep need to create and I’m grateful to be sharing this path at the same time that he is too:

I stupidly typed this on my phone. At best I can type, on my phone with two fingers and I “hunt and peck” like a chicken in a hurricane. I cut that other finger this morning and it’s bandage really didn’t make it easier. Sorry, if none of this was worth reading. I know better.

Categories: handlaid track, How I think, model railway design, model scenery, modelmaking

1 reply


  1. study four – Prince Street

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