Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sidetracked, Soldering, Sleepers and Staining

For quite some time I've been meaning to build a small diorama for photographing pieces of rolling stock and locomotive's on, and thought now would be as good a time as ever to do it.

Even though the main aim at the moment is to get the shelf layout underway, building a small diorama would give me a chance to try out a few ideas and techniques that I want to use and see if they work as good in practice as in theory. So whilst this is a bit of a side track, it gives me a chance to practice some soldering again and get something finished for a change!

So armed with a piece of 900x300mm ply, some cork strips cut from 300x300 cork tiles bought from Bunnings, some masking tape, PVA glue, balsa wood and pcb sleepers and some code 55 rail I got to work.

Instead of cutting the cork to roughly sleeper width, I cut thinner strips only around 8mm wide which are then placed to line up with the outer edge of the sleepers, leaving a gap in between the two strips. The ideas behind this are basically these. It uses less cork so saves money, thinner strips are easier to form into curves, the space in the middle will be used to run the droppers from the rail to the main bus wires, as well leaving room for the piano wire that will go down to the two position switches that also switch frog polarity.

So that all sounds great in theory, but what about the trench left in the middle when it comes to laying the ballast. Well, I also wondered if I used masking tape across the top and then used it to form a gradual taper on the outsides of the cork to help form the ballast shoulder. This in theory will mean I should need less ballast, and be able to have a fairly consistent shape to the shoulder, with some variation purposely used for effect.

I used a small amount of PVA glue to stick the cork to the plywood, and with a piece of weighty laminated wood laid over the top after positioning the cork it was allowed to dry for about an hour.

Whilst this was setting I got to soldering the PCB sleepers to the code 55 rail, using one PCB sleep in every sixth position. On the straight track I think the PCB sleepers may only need to be used for every seventh or eighth sleeper as the rail is not really likely to go out of gauge in such a short distance, especially as it will also be stuck to the balsa sleepers as well.

I soldered one rail in completion to the PCB sleepers before adding the second rail, and am wondering if when laying curved track this may be an interesting technique. If I solder one rail first, then lay it in situ curved on the cork in place like a piece of flex track, I can then add the second rail in position. Once again we'll see how this goes in practice a little later on.

Once the cork had well and truly stuck to the plywood I stuck the masking tape down over the top in two strips, forming a nice gentle shoulder on each side. I have no idea of masking tape degrades over time, but I figure once coated with a PVA mix and ballast, even if it does the ballast should be a hard formation and not collapse anyway!

I've already cut a fair amount of balsa sleepers in a little jig I made which at least makes this job a bit faster and a little less tedious. I'd soldered the PCB sleepers based on using 2' 6" sleeper spacings, so it was simply a matter of laying the track in position and marking where the PCB sleepers fell, and then using a scale rule marking the appropriate positions for the balsa sleepers to go in between. When positioning the balsa sleepers I wasn't too critical to get them exactly square and evenly spaced. Branch line track seemed to be a little less accurate and this slight wobbliness adds to the overall effect anyway. A small smear of PVA glue was run along and the sleepers stuck in place.

Once set in place, the sleepers where given a light cote of Kill Rust etch primer which comes in a pressure pack spray can. Sleepers seem to get a bleached grey colour over time, and this was a quick way to get an overall base colour without having to individually colour each sleeper.

Once dry, I got a bottle of Tamiya Flat Black and Flat Earth, and diluted with some Isocol rubbing alcohol, used a wide'ish brush and gradually built up a little contrasting colour, trying not to add too much. The beauty of the diluted mix is that you can very slowly build up the colour, as it is very easy to add too much using straight paint.

Even taking my time, I think I may have gotten a little too much brown into the sleepers, although up close and in some pics I took they do look quite good. Once I add some ballast and paint the rails I'll have a better idea of how they looking the setting.

The rail is yet to be attached to the sleepers, as I want to paint it and have the PCB sleepers basically textured before I stick it down for good.

It's probably a bit hard to tell from my average quality images, but I think overall I'm much happier with the look than what I have previously been able to achieve using flex track. And whilst the hand laying method is slower, it does give a much better representation of a light branch line which is what I want to model.

1 comment:

Shelton D'Cruz said...

Thanks for showing us how you did it.