Friday, March 18, 2016

Blue Skies, Smilin’ At Me

Once again it’s only two weeks since my last update, but again some serious progress has been made on the construction front, with my mates once again putting in some solid hours on the layout.

To slightly sidetrack for the moment before getting into details on what has been done, as a basic overview, construction up to this point has probably taken around ninety hours of labour. This includes the odd trip to Bunning’s for materials, but due to careful planning these “time wasting” trips have been kept to a minimum.

The reason for pointing out the amount of hours that the layout has absorbed so far, is to highlight something that is probably not often thought about, and that is how long it will be from the beginning of construction, until you actually get to put down some track and see trains running.

It might seem like pointing out the bleeding obvious, but the end goal of any layout is to see the collection of model trains running around and doing their thing. The actual building of the layout to a certain extent is just a means to an end, and whilst there is a degree of enjoyment in the construction, it can start to feel like the actual running of trains is just never going to happen.

Because of this, it would be very easy to stop construction on some of the niceties that in the end will make the layout present very well, and simply begin laying track and getting trains running, even in a very basic way. The trouble with this is, that once trains are running, motivation for finishing off the actual construction of the greater layout can fall by the wayside, and this is where the dreaded “Plywood Central” can end up being a long-term result.

Don’t get me wrong, I am as keen as mustard to hear my collection of sound equipped locos start-up that the first time and move under their own power, and even better when they are pulling various wagons around and earning their keep, but I am also determined to make sure that the layout even without track and trains is finished to an acceptable standard first.

Continuing on with that in mind, the last few days of construction has seen solid progress on that front, with the presentation aspect of the layout taking another large step forward.

The “sky” has been painted on both levels, the paint colour chosen was derived by cutting a small sample off the sky section on the back scene that I am using, taking it and getting as near as a colour match as possible.

The “sky” is made up of 7mm thick plywood, which has been screwed directly into the metal brackets that supports the whole layout. Taking into account that the layout is approximately twenty metres around the room on two levels, it was neither a simple or small job for my wife to put on a couple of coats of sky blue paint. The sky on the top level is about 175cm high, and the lower-level sky is about 125cm high (I must get an exact measurement one day), and both levels have their challenges when trying to paint upside down.

As well as the “sky” being painted, the complete back scene boards on the bottom level, which are made of 6mm MDF, have been painted in the same colour blue. Because the lower level was always going to be more of a staging level, and due to it’s relatively small viewing angle, in a standing position you barely see any of the backdrop, and even at a comfortable sitting height you still don’t see where the backdrop meets the sky. The lower level may also see quite a bit of low relief industry and buildings placed against the backdrop, so for this reason no actual scenic back scene has been planned for the lower level.

The upper level however, will use a combination of various Haskell backdrops ( ), which to my eyes look fantastic, and very much reflect the typical country New South Wales scenery. These backdrops are printed on vinyl with an adhesive backing, and whilst in theory is simply a matter of peeling off the backing, lining it up and sticking it to the back scene boards, the combination of its length, the awkwardness of the position on the layout which happens to be in a corner (just to make it even more challenging), and the stickiness of the backing made it a slightly challenging task for my mate and wife to fit into place. However, the reward for the effort involved is huge, even without the dedicated LED lighting in place to really show it off.

The simple addition of a blue sky and background made a huge change to the way the layout looks, and the section that had the two strips of LED lighting temporarily attached looked absolutely brilliant when lit properly. I grabbed my small test diorama and placed an out-of-the-box Trainorama BWH wheat hopper on it, and took a couple of photos. Even with just a plain blue background, the effect is quite impressive.

The next task was to get the LED lighting panels mounted for the lower level. These panels which are also made of plywood, are suspended below the middle level, and are attached to the timber framing which runs around the front edge of the middle level by small metal 90° brackets. I say 90° brackets, but each panel will end up being tilted so that the LED lights project slightly downwards, the small steel brackets are flexible enough to be able to be bent to get the right angle for the lighting.

The last item of construction to be completed, was to fabricate, fit into place and paint the fascia that goes around the top edge of the layout. This was constructed from 9mm MDF, and is attached to the top arms of the steel layout brackets using a simple 90° steel bracket. Once the fascia was in place, a small piece of quad was fitted to each corner join, and then it was treated to a few coats of low sheen black paint.

Once the paint had dried, the effect was very impressive. The black fascia absolutely frames the top of the layout, and the contrast between it and the orange colour of the walls in the room is very effective. Once the middle and lower fascia panels go on and are painted black, the finished result should be quite awesome, and whilst it is tempting to get them done straight away, in the logical order of construction a few things need to happen before they can be put into place.

I’ve included a photo of the end section of the layout, which quite graphically shows like those old cutaway drawings, the make up of the layout. You can clearly see the “E” shape steel bracket which is screwed to the benchtop, the 38x19 framing underneath the foam panels, the plywood sky, the MDF back boards, the plywood LED boards on the middle level, the MDF top fascia panel, and the 75mm wide piece of timber which runs around the front edge of the middle layer, which as construction goes on becomes a far more important item than it might appear.


Ray P said...

Darren, very professional looking. I wish I had taken the time to prepare the room(garage) as your wife, daughter and mates have done. Unfortunately when we moved into our new house the garage became the 'storeroom' which included 4 large pieces of my previous Bylong layout and eventually the desire to get something running took over. Given your circumstances you are very patient.

Ray P

Darren said...

Hi Ray,

I've had a vision in my head for a long time of how I wanted this layout to look, and I am indeed very fortunate to have a purpose-built room for it which makes it so much easier to keep clean.

All of the actual construction involving cutting of timber etc is carried out in the normal garage, meaning that materials, dust and debris in the layout room is kept to an absolute minimum.

Staying disciplined and getting most if not all of the main layout construction finished first, will mean not having to revisit it in the future, which becomes more difficult once track, scenery and rolling stock begin populating it.

And again I am extremely lucky that my mate is putting so much time into this, so in that regard the work that has been completed so far has happened so quickly in relative terms, it's just worth doing it once, doing it properly, completing each part and then moving on.


Phillip Overton said...

Very jealous of how much space you have to play with Darren. The room is looking fantastic. Its funny how the finish of our layouts depends on how much work is put into it at the beginning isn't it?

Darren said...

Hi Phillip,

I am very lucky to have such a great room in which to build the layout. You are right, there has been a massive amount of work so far on the layout, and we're not even to the stage of laying a single piece of track yet.

It is taking a lot of discipline to stick to the plan and get most of the building stuff done first before we start laying track.

Next week should see all of the LED lighting mounted and working, of which there is a considerable amount of electrical work to be done so that it all works properly.

All going to plan the rest of the back scenes will also be done on the top level which should be another huge leap in the way that it all looks.