study four

late Thursday

In January I produced a series of three studies based on extracts of techniques and design ideas I wanted to explore as forms. This evening, a fourth study emerged.

  • I enjoy handlaying track for On30 and that therapy of spiking rail to wood ties is something I value (need) in life now.
  • I’ve always laid down cork, under my track, but do I really need it?
  • I remember trying code 55 rails, in On30, to represent 25lbs rail but not why I moved away from it. I have a small piece of code 55 that I’m too lazy to put away properly so let’s use this. Yippee!

These studies are so simple to make up that, well, why not? As before the core is two plies of half inch thick foam bonded using low temperature hot melt glue. While I had the glue gun warmed up I tacked down some ties and, using some scrap foam, I stuck down some basic landforms. The agile nature I’m using here keeps the work moving forward. This is not about being in a rush but instead about making choices that satisfy how much of “I need to create” and then work until that energy is spent. This flow has a real, live, interactive feel where my hands and tools moderate forms rather than plant them as installations of divine punctuation.

“As I suspected earlier, that same glue-paint mix I used to bond the layers of paper towel (McDonalds napkins) to the foam base was perfectly fine to start layering basic scenery textures into immediately.” -January Me

There’s no need for detailed seam filling at all so I just moved onto napkins, bonded using that mix of craft paint and glue, then some basic grass textures, followed by a scratch coat of ballast swept into place that’s glued down the way I always have. Wet-on-wet, one night, one flow, from blocks of foam to now working track that’s ballasted and seated in some casual land. A place for a train to run and a place for it to be seen.

Saturday night

Friday passed by in a blur of urgent adhoc’s and sort of briefing notes so most of what got done on Study 4 was looking at it. These things are like creative batteries so “looking at it” has certain recharge qualities about it.

The house is almost shut down and I’m just wrapping up some trivial things before retiring to bed. I grabbed a favourite paint brush, some paints, and bit of water; and painted the rails and washed some colour onto the ties. While zooming in on the progress photograph I see a blob of glue. I can’t see these as easily anymore so this is another example of how “the camera as a tool” is helpful. I adore this cumulative, iterative, style of building a scene comes together so that blob of glue is just a guide for where some dirt and grass need to accumulate. It’s not a mistake, even despite its sloppy origin, but an invitation to do something neat.

Sunday morning

I think this study has gone far enough. I’ve been working on these notes since this all started and the original purpose for this study has been fulfilled. We’re onto a third round of coffees here and it’s too nice outside to be inside much longer. A while ago I’d had some ideas about installing jute twine, for grass, by poking it into foam and since the napkin skin of this is so easy to work with, and while brewing the latest coffee, I thought I’d poke some in here “just to see”. I added some teased-out kitchen scrub pad because it’s a form I just love the look of. That I’m tangenting into the realm of scope creep signals the end of this study’s chapter. I do want to explore things like these long grasses more so I’ll keep this panel for a little longer, for that conversation.


  • Half inch foam
  • On30 ties from Fast Tracks
  • Micro Engineering code 55 rail
  • Micro Engineering small spikes
  • Woodland Scenics ballast. My house mix of ballast and non-sanded Polyblend tile grout.
  • Ground foam, tile grout, and static grass from a tub labelled Kalamata olives. “Like no olives I’ve had before Gromit.”
  • NS Red from Grand Pré


I wish I’d had some “buff ballast” to use, I don’t, as crushed rock really isn’t the look I want for this but “waiting” is sometimes a polite way to never doing something. I’ll be piling more colour and texture over this grey rock anyway so the problem will be buried in time.

I doubt I’ll ever go back to plaster-era methods.

No cork is a step toward reconciling the environmental cost of this hobby. When this work is dumped in a landfill “no cork” is one less thing I left to become someone else’s problem.

Foam for this was salvaged from January’s third study. That study had a purpose that was satisfied by its creation and now its purpose is to be part of this new work. Changing my work, even down to adhesion methods, is a move toward facilitating a higher volume of material that can be recovered for the next work which has a satisfying “one less trip to Home Depot” feel coupled to the more obvious environmental stewardship thoughts.

Posts like this are my journal so Future Chris can be reminded by Past Chris who always seemed better-prepared and way cooler.

Code 55 rail totally works here. The wheels that Bachmann use, under their On30 models, like most modern HO scale wheelsets, have a profile and scale (almost and very close to Proto48) with a very small flange. That means we can use a lot of that 0.055” rail height for things like track spikes. I intentionally left half the spikes out so, while rolling a truck (one of those long-wheelbase, stunning, Bachmann 29904’s) I could feel, hear, if it’s hitting spikes. It isn’t. Even if it did, I could polish that isolated instance with a file because it’s as likely a burr on the spike’s head or one just not driven home properly.

Categories: handlaid track, How I think, model scenery, Victoria On30

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: