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New Hire

Posted - 04/02/2018 :  5:37:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi, my name is John, and I have wanted to build a model railroad for many years but have for so long been at a lack of space or time, and have also found the notion a bit overwhelming at times. I finally have come up with a workable solution that I feel I can tackle.

I have started on a modular system of my own design that is pretty compact (20" deep x length), which I have found works for me since each piece is very managable. Part of the plan is to be able to slot the modules into a shelving unit for presentation purposes, as well as keeping them easy to move and fit through doorways.

I love narrow gauge, so like many I am have embraced On30. I have always had a taste for the eclectic, so I have also worked in some On18 trackage into the design.

Here is my progress so far. This module is just 20" x 30". All track is hand laid as I really like trackwork, particularly the proportions of narrow gauge, so hand laid is the only way to go for me. PCB ties were used on critical turnout areas to keep the gauge exact, everything else is wood ties and small spikes, except for the module ends, which are also PCB ties to give them strength to endure connecting/disconnecting the span sections between the modules. Turnouts are made for DCC, with the closure and stock rails of the same polarity as their neighbors, as well as a live switched frog.

The turnout was built on 5mm plywood as a single unit, fully wired, and dropped into place. I routed out the foam to create the channel for the wiring. By feeding the two routes past the turnout, everything is powered on the module.

Hidden feeders soldered to rail bases.

30" gauge track painted and some rock progress. I initially expected to use cast rocks, but now I want to try out carved foam and have been encouraged by the results so far.

Country: USA | Posts: 9


Posted - 04/02/2018 :  8:29:20 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Looking forward to watching the progress. Welcome aboard.


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Michael Hohn

Posted - 04/02/2018 :  9:45:28 PM  Show Profile  Visit Michael Hohn's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Excellent trackwork, John. I also like the beginnings of scenery.

Country: USA | Posts: 4348 Go to Top of Page

New Hire

Posted - 04/02/2018 :  11:49:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thank you - I have always been very appreciative of the model railroad community, so it is nice to have an opportunity to share - out of the armchair at last :)

Here is more progress on the rock face. I found that a #11 x-acto is my tool of choice, as the fresh blade gives amazing results in the foam. The main issue is making sure to disguise the seams between the layers, as they undermine the illusion if they are too visible, at least for the type of geology I want to capture.

I think one of the keys is to carve rock forms that span between layers, as well as to fill the gaps with spackle before painting. The other thing that works well is to simply glue foam chunks over the surface, which also helps contribute to the non-uniform appearance I am aiming for.

By the way, I am modeling a freelanced line set in the Pacific Northwest around Mt. Rainier during the early 1910's - late 1930's, and the plan is to go with scenery finishing that reflects fall/early winter time.

Country: USA | Posts: 9 Go to Top of Page

Michael Hohn

Posted - 04/03/2018 :  07:22:20 AM  Show Profile  Visit Michael Hohn's Homepage  Reply with Quote

I think youíre on track for a good representation of volcanic rock. There tends to be some layering because the rock is a series of lava flows and ash falls. Layers can be very irregular compared to sedimentary rocks such as sandstone and limestone. So you donít have to obliterate layers completely. It weathers into lumpy shapes like youíve done.

Good job.


Nobody living can ever stop me, as I go walking that freedom highway -- Woody Guthrie

Country: USA | Posts: 4348 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 04/03/2018 :  08:30:12 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
John, welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing your modeling with us.
You're off to a very good start.
I like what you are doing with the foam.

As you think, so will you be.

Country: USA | Posts: 22358 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 04/03/2018 :  09:17:26 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Very nice work so far, I'll be watching your progress.


Country: USA | Posts: 347 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 04/03/2018 :  10:32:12 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Welcome to the crew. The track work looks excellent. I will be following your progress.

My current build:

Country: USA | Posts: 11243 Go to Top of Page

Section Hand

Posted - 04/03/2018 :  10:49:51 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Looks very good! What size rail are you using?

Country: Canada | Posts: 88 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 04/03/2018 :  11:29:41 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Welcome aboard! Looking Good!


Country: USA | Posts: 2547 Go to Top of Page

New Hire

Posted - 04/03/2018 :  12:58:03 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thank you everyone -

Mike - You are absolutely correct that there can be some layering/striation; I just find that the foam can be a bit too "patterned" looking as it is all exactly 2" thick in my case, so I find it is more natural looking to try to break those even lines at least a bit here and there. Introducing some diagonals in a few places also helps to disguise the fact that the upper level of the layout is effectively just a flat shelf :)
In the future I may try re-sawing some sheets on my band saw so the layers have random thicknesses, but still add up to the 6" total height I am using for the upper area.

Marcus - The 30" gauge track here is code 83, so about 50lb rail in O, which is pretty light and suitable for the era. I like light looking track, as it helps enforce that "narrow gauge" feel. The 18" gauge (not yet installed in these photos) will all be code 55.

Country: USA | Posts: 9 Go to Top of Page

New Hire

Posted - 04/04/2018 :  2:10:14 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I painted the rock face with a mix of acrylic paints including a neutral grey, a couple of different warm browns, a little warm yellow, a warm green, and white, mixed in various ways for different sections. I am a believer that the key with painting is creating depth with hue variation and hitting an overall color temperature more than finding a specific color (as a side note, my job is as an illustrator, so I am hoping I can transfer some knowledge from that into my models). This first pass is still a bit dark, so my plan is to hit it with some lighter variations and possibly try some very gentle airbrushing to bring up the value in a very subtle way.

After painting, I felt that the rocks in the middle of the top layer stood out as looking a bit unnatural. I took the opportunity to cut them out which helped break up the lines of the wall and also added a nice ledge which catches the light in a more pleasing way. In the second photo, you can also see the roadbed and ties in place for the 18" gauge track. I left a section of roadbed out to add some interest with an eroded section that will require a small bridge to span.

Country: USA | Posts: 9 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 04/04/2018 :  4:43:18 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
OK you have got yourself a job doing my rocks for me. Well done.


Country: Australia | Posts: 398 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 04/04/2018 :  5:20:15 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That's cool. Very neat trackwork.

Country: United Kingdom | Posts: 320 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 04/04/2018 :  5:27:59 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Very nice. Love that rock work.


"And in the end, itís not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." A. Lincoln

Country: USA | Posts: 10861 Go to Top of Page

New Hire

Posted - 04/05/2018 :  2:44:02 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Sure Bruce! I assume that offer includes a round trip to Australia :D

Thanks everyone!

A closer look at the cliff. I am pretty happy so far with how well the foam rocks integrate with the natural materials; I think it will be successful when the remaining ground cover and the other scenic details are added to tie it all together.

Here is the bridge and 18" gauge track installed; the ties are On30 ties cut down to 4 scale feet in length.

Close up of the bridge - I included 3 PCB ties since the stringers do not have enough mass to spike into, at least not without a high risk of tearing through the sides... rail is code 55. Despite being such a small size, wheel flanges have no problem with the spike heads as long as they are fully seated. You can see the feeders here too, once again attached to the rail bases. I used a 12" drill bit to punch through all the foam and get the feeders to the underside of the module.

One of the things I have been working on figuring out is how to do small rocks/rubble with nice sharp shapes. I found that a very high tech method involving a hammer and some leftover slate floor tiles yields great results! The slate has nice variations of color, and the tile breaks in a way that gives a wonderful, "fine scale" looking edge texture. I sifted the bits into a few grades, and have been pleased with the results to far. Another nice bonus is that the dense slate does not float away when you saturate it with glue, so it is easy to work with.

Country: USA | Posts: 9 Go to Top of Page
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