Hiding the End of the World

The priorities I had in mind when I designed my layout were these:

  1. Operations
  2. A stage upon which I can photograph my models.
  3. Large enough to create the impression of a large industry.
  4. Small enough that I can build it, given my limited leisure time.
  5. Easily expandable if things go well.

With these priorities in mind, I chose at 12 foot wall next to a crawl space in my basement, and I think things are going well so far. I’m modelling a small, somewhat outdated and specialized paper plant the produces high quality fine papers. But even in 12 feet, I had to give up many parts of the factory, and fudge others, in order to make it work. Part of the fudging involved two long staging tracks that represent the woodchip unloader and a place to unload a number of different liquid raw materials. I put these under the crawl space at one end of the layout.

It was a challenge to deal with making the transition between on-stage and off-stage less obvious. I couldn’t completely conceal the transition, but I’ve placed buildings in such a way as to make it less obvious.

In the photo below, PC 9574 is arriving at the plant and coming on-stage from a staging track that will eventually connect to the modelled portion of North Tonawanda yard. For now, I back trains onto the staging track before an operating session. The building in the foreground was placed to make it difficult to see the hole in the sky where the train comes on scene. The dashed green line shows the bottom of the wall, which doubles as the sky backdrop.

In the foreground of the photo below, the closest track goes to the woodchip unloader, which is completely off-stage. The second track is where tank cars are unloaded. I’ve sketched the outline of a building that I haven’t placed into the scene yet. The idea is that it will help to conceal where these two tracks slip off the edge of the world. At least, that’s the plan.

Foreground building

Scenery Progress: Woodchip and Tank Car Unloading

I’ve made some progress on the transition between the on-scene and off-scene portion of the paper plant on my layout.

In the photo below, the long building flat against the wall has been put in place, and all of the ballast and ground surface between that building and the front edge of the layout is now finished. More details will be added later. I’ve also de-bugged the track. I’ll be placing a variety of tanks and piping on the concrete pad in front of that building, and around the two structures in the mid- and foreground (the foreground structure is not in place, and I cropped it out of the photo anyway).

On the prototype, the main building where the tank cars were unloaded had a fan of three tracks that could hold one or two tank cars at a time, and then two tracks for off-spot tank cars. I compromised by having one track pass in front of the building, and then extend into staging where tank cars can be located.

The track closest to the front goes to staging representing the woodchip unloader.

PC 9574 brings its train into the International Paper plant.

PC 9574 brings its train into the International Paper plant.

New Structure

I’ve been working on the buildings and scenery in the area of the paper plant where the branchline comes into the scene at the back, and where the staging tracks go under the crawl space. Like nearly every layout I’ve seen, mine has places where the tracks disappear into a black hole. I’m making those places less obvious with the careful placement of structures.

The newest structure on my layout is a plain metal building in the area where the various chemicals are unloaded from tank cars. Think of it as a building flat at the front of the layout. I’ll be painting it tomorrow, then adding a roof.

Here's the newest structure. The tracks in front of it lead to hidden staging of woodchip cars and tank cars.

Here’s the newest structure. The tracks in front of it lead to hidden staging of woodchip cars and tank cars. This is actually the reverse angle of what an operator will see. I sat the camera on the layout to get this shot.

This shot puts the new structure building in perspective. The track on the right is where trains enter the scene and the two tracks on the left are staging. Again, this angle is not possible from the layout operators perspective. The new structure is only visible from behind.

This shot puts the new structure in perspective. The track on the right is where trains enter the scene and the two tracks on the left are staging. Again, this angle is not visible for the layout operator. The aisle is on the left.

This shot shows the evolving scene. Many elements are still missing, but the scene is starting to come together.

This shot shows the evolving scene as viewed from the aisle. Many elements are still missing and incomplete, but the scene is starting to come together.

A tighter photo of the same scene as the previous.

A tighter photo of the same scene as above.

I’ll post more when I get the building painting and weathered. Thanks for looking!

More: Track as a Model

My previous post was about track as a model on my layout. This time I’m posting some pics of another area on my layout where I spent some time trying to build track as a model.

In this case, the rails are embedded into concrete. I’ve posted a photo of this same space previously, but I hadn’t finished the concrete yet. My aim with this scene is to represent a space deep inside an industrial plant where the concrete pad has been in place for a long time and repaired with concrete, asphalt, and cold-patch. In other words, I’m going for a pretty worn appearance. I spent some time weathering the concrete pad with a couple of different media. Have a look at the finished product:


The photo above was taken from what I consider to the typical “photographing” angle, or the angle I’ll use most often to photograph the layout. This is slightly above HO scale eye-level.


The photo above is the same location as the first photo, but the camera is slightly higher. This represents how the operator would apprehend the layout.

Obviously, the front edge of the concrete pad has yet to be blended into the surrounding scenery. When I was preparing these photos for the blog, I noticed that the colour temperature seems off. I’ve learned that off-white or bone colours are difficult to accurately reproduce with the equipment I have. But for reference, the tank car in both photos has very small areas that are painted white.


Track as a Model


Most of my layout is less than a foot away from the operators’ eyes. I’ve been trying to making the track as interesting as any of the rolling stock that runs on it. This particular piece of track is on the lead to the woodchip unloader. In the photo: home made ballast mixed with Highball cinder ballast, Mt. Albert Scale Lumber ties, Proto:87 spikes, Micro Engineering code 55 rail, Winsor & Newton acrylic paint.