Scenery

Time for a Bridge

With the card stock fascia in place, I saw that working on the bridge in the corner would be easier to do before the fascia was installed. The bridge is in a horizontal and vertical curve, with the track to the right dropping down the hill and the track to the left being level. I decided to leave the Homasote roadbed in place to minimize kinks and bumps.

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Handlaid code 70 track comes up to the bridge from either direction. A short section of ME code 70 HO scale flex track makes the connection over the bridge site.

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In preparation for doing track work, I traced the railhead location across the bridge site and removed the HO flex track.

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Since the Homasote was going to stay, it had to be trimmed to the approximate final width of the bridge. Since the track curves here, the bridge would have to be wider than it would be if the track going across were straight. Thinking about how wide to make the bridge, I used a section of O standard gauge flex track to determine how wide the bridge would be if it had originally been a short standard gauge bridge that had been moved here by the soapstone company to use on their 30 inch gauge line. A saber saw was used to trim the Homasote down to the revised width.

Fascia Mockup

Eventually blocks were added to all the joists to support the fascia. Along the front of the Ariel Church and Horse Mountain sections of the layout, I approximated the height of the fascia at each joist and cut posts for each location.

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I attached the posts to the joists temporarily, and tiled together a large piece of cardstock to create a pattern for the fascia.

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Everything was taped and thumb tacked together in a flimsy fashion.

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I sketched a profile line along the cardstock and trimmed it out. Then left it like that for a while to look at it over time.

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The more I looked at the fascia mockup, the less I liked the places where it rose up high.

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Over time I trimmed the peaks down lower and lower until I was happy with the profile.

Thinking about the Fascia

The 18 inch gauge tram for the talc dump crosses over the 30 inch gauge line. I felt like the time had come to get serious about the fascia.

My plan for the fascia is for it to be constantly curving, with the top edge constantly rising or dropping with the profile of the foreground scenery.

Way back when I built the benchwork for the layout, I cut the joists to the length I estimated necessary to support the fascia, at an angle approximating the angle of the fascia at that point.

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A butt joint connection to the end of a 1 by 4 joist was not going to provide adequate support for the fascia, but that was not a problem I had to deal with back then. Now the time had come to deal with it. I decided to add small blocks to the top and bottom of each joist to turn them into I-beams with more surface area for making a connection.

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Adding blocks to each joist was a severe test for my clamp inventory. But now the joists provide better connection points for firring strip posts that will in turn support the fascia.

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precut blocks wait for clamps to be freed up so they can be attached to joists

Planning for Talc - 2

One thing is leading to another around the talc dump. I felt like I needed to have a better idea of the arrangement of the buildings before proceeding with the scenery.

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Since many of the talc dump buildings were to be connected by the On18 tram, I built a section of right of way. Since the tram will not actually run, all track components including the roadbed itself are styrene. I used Grandt Line 18 inch sectional mining track as a guide for gauge, crosstie placement and length.

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Using sheet styrene for roadbed will allow the tram tracks to undulate along the uneven surface of the ground at the dump site.

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I mocked up a suitable arrangement of buildings for the scene.

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With the arrangement of the buildings determined, I was comfortable with the idea of continuing with base scenery to the left of the talc dump.

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Rather than use Gypsolite to cover the plaster cloth on this hill, I tried Fusion Fiber. I found it to be very easy to use with easy cleanup. The ground surface is not as brittle or prone to cracking.

Corner Solution - 2

Finally happy with the back profile for the corner. I lap glued two pieces of Masonite together to make the length, and used the cardboard template as a pattern to cut the back profile.

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I set the profile board in place to check fit.

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A few adjustments needed to be made to the support posts.

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The profile was glued and screwed in place.

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Foam board trimmed out to rough in a removable hilltop in the corner.

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Working out the contours for the hillside adjacent to the talc operation.

Corner Solution - 1

I did a lot of looking at the cardstock back profile template. The right end close to Ariel Church looked fine, but I made a lot of adjustments to the left end and center.

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I decided I wanted the extreme left end of the back profile to rise up as it approached the edge of the layout. I cut a hole in it so the track to Piedmont could pass through.

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The center of the profile board in the coved corner of the room needed to be adjusted to fit whatever scenery I was going to try to put in the corner.

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Looking down at the hidden track behind the profile board, there is an odd shaped space between the coved back profile board and the coved backdrop in the corner of the room.

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I cut a piece of cardboard the size and shape of the space behind the profile board in the corner.

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The cardboard was used as a pattern to cut a piece of foam insulation board to fit in the space.

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Furring strip props were cut to hold the insulation board above the hidden track that runs underneath.

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The insulation board will sit in place, and can be lifted out if necessary to allow access to the hidden track.

Planning for Talc - 1


A little construction progress to report

Ariel Church is developing along very different lines than my initial ideas for that section of the layout.


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Ariel Church is where one of the continuous run connecting tracks ducks behind the scenery. My objective is to hide the ruse of the track disappearing in one place and reappearing somewhere else completely. This old photo shows that my early intentions for Ariel Church was to build a Rainetown-style diversionary town scene. Unfortunately, there is not enough space for a town scene.

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My tour of the old Phoenix Stone Company property along the Tye River in Nelson County included a visit to a talc deposit. Eventually I made the connection between Ariel Church and the possibility of modeling a talc operation to provide a purpose for the Ariel Church town track, and help hide where the track extends behind the scenery. Toward that end, I am building a Backwoods Miniature kit for an 18 gauge critter.

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Ted gave me some sections of Grandt Line On18 track, and I have been using them, along with Lego blocks and old boxes, to mock up a layout for the talc reloading operation at Ariel Church.

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In order to determine how the talc bunker will fit over the Ariel Church Town Track siding, the base scenery needs to be built on both sides of the cut. Jeff came over and we knocked out the scenery support posts necessary to extend the base scenery from Ariel Church all the way around to the door.

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The posts are being installed along the benchwork.

An Idea for Ariel Church

A problem I have made for myself by building a layout that goes from room to room to room is dealing scenically with holes in the walls. Track passes through four holes, requiring eight solutions for the same problem of making the holes as inconspicuous as possible.

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The long hidden track connecting Piedmont Mill to Ariel Church passes through a hole in the wall. Initially I planned to run the track through a tunnel under a ridge along the wall. But I really did not want a long stretch of inaccessible track to worry about. Quizzing fellow modelers on how to keep hidden track clean did not put my fears to rest.

It occurred to me that it really was not necessary for the hidden track to be completely inaccessible. The back profile board for the scenery could just hop over from the back to the front of the hidden track. Though hidden, the track would still be vaguely accessible from directly above. Even though access would be difficult, being able to possibly reach the track for cleaning or clearing derailments made me much more comfortable with the whole arrangement.


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I decided to mock up a back profile board that crossed in front of the hidden track at Ariel Church.

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I taped together large sheets of scrap cardstock and placed them on the layout where the new back profile would go from behind Shops around the corner to Ariel Church.

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I drew a ridgeline on the cardstock that complimented the height and shape of the scenery coming into Ariel Church from the right. I took the cardstock down, cut it to the ridge line, then reinstalled it. It looked like it would be feasible to hide the break in the back profile where the track ran through it. Also, the mockup did not seem to appreciably reduce the apparent size of the layout or the amount of space available for scenery and structures.

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I threw together a quick mockup of a possible scene for the point where the hidden track transitions from the front to the back of the scenery. A tipple here would definitely work, but trees and underbrush alone may be all that is needed to disguise the transition.

Color Choices

When the time came to pick colors for the base scenery, I wanted to pull colors that already existed on my backdrop forward into the 3D scenery.

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I like relatively low level, warm lighting in the layout room. I did not want to paint the sub scenery with a color that would absorb a lot of light. Using paint chips to find colors that matched the overall tone of the colors in the backdrop, I came up with two colors of paint for the sub scenery. One is beige, the other a pumpkin orange. Pulling paint from both colors randomly kept the sub scenery from looking too uniform and flat. Both are very light for colors that are supposed to represent dirt and fallen leaves. I plan to build up the scenery in layers much as I built up layers of paint on the backdrop. The sub scenery will influence the color palette and add luminosity, even though the vast majority of it will be completely covered.

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I used Gysolite as adhesive to add loose rock castings to those cast in place. I filled the seams with patching plaster.

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I got really lucky with the lighting on a recent trip through Bremo, Virginia, stopping to take a series of exposed rock studies for color reference.

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Since my rock castings were composed of three different plaster products, I primed them first to avoid problems with inconsistent absorption of paints and stains. I mixed acrylic paints using Gray Value #5 as a base tone.

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I used a lot of white, and traces of yellow ochre, burnt sienna, chromium oxide green, with cadmium red and cerulean blue to either warm up or cool down colors back toward neutral.

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After the paint dried, I went over the rock castings with an india ink and alcohol wash. Once that was dry, I used chalks to color the castings, rubbing black into the shadows, pale yellow into the faces, and white to highlight the upper edges.

Back to Scenery

Work resumes on the hills I started along the back wall.



The work began with a little demolition. I had looked at the large section of rocks I had cast on a steep hillside for a long time. During that time I had been more observant of rock outcroppings along the Rockfish and Tye Rivers. Cursed with the knowledge of what those rocks really look like, I popped almost all the rock castings off the hillside and made repairs with an additional layer of plaster cloth.



Then I used an old 2 inch brush to apply a layer of
Gypsolite over all the plaster cloth.



The Gypsolite adds a coarse texture to the sub scenery and kills the stark white of the plaster cloth. It is now much easier to see the contours in the scenery and visualize how to proceed.



The rock castings had come off the hillside in large, reusable pieces. I am test fitting some of the pieces along the creek beds and cuts.

Extending the Hill

I have extended the subscenery down the full length of the south wall.



A lattice of cardstock strips hot glued to the back profile board.



Two layers of plaster cloth over the lattice extended the white hills to Cove Quarry.



The hills that the P&EBR winds through are beginning to take shape.


A Winwood Mixed rolls past the new hillside at Cove.

Subscenery

Once the shape of the basic hillside was formed with the cardstock web, it was time to build the basic scenic contours.



I decided to use plaster cloth for the subscenery. I have used it before and found it easy to work with. I applied two layers of plaster cloth to the hillside. It is best to not wait for the first layer to completely dry before applying the second. The plaster cloth is rigid and has a surface that accepts paint and other scenic materials very well.

Since the hillsides in this corner of the layout were very high and steep, I wanted a few rock outcroppings and minor cliff faces in the scene. All the rock castings I had on hand were left from my HO scale modeling days, and were not big enough to create a rocky O scale hillside.



I purchased several large latex rock molds from
Bragdon Enterprises. They have a wide variety available. I chose a few that appeared to have deep relief and patterns that looked typical for eastern rock formations.



The Bragdon rock molds were very easy to work with, and I was able to pour Hydrocal in the molds, wet the hillsides, and stick the rock molds in place. After the Hydrocal had time to harden, I peeled the latex mold away.



Random pieces of casting made at the bench were placed around the rocks cast in place to fill in gaps.

Back Scenery Profile

The support posts for the back profile installed, I brought large pieces of cardstock home from work.



These big cardstock panels are used in the packaging of material we use. We recycle enough of this cardstock in one day to provide more material than I could ever find use for on my layout. I duct taped panels together to make 8 foot templates and positioned them on the support posts.



I used shears to cut the cardstock, creating templates for the back scenery profile.



The cardstock templates were used to cut Masonite scenery profiles, which were screwed to the support posts.



Then I cut the cardstock into strips about one to two inches wide.



The strips were hot glued to the Masonite and each other to form a lattice support for the scenery.

Snap out of it!

For a full year, I regularly ran trains on my new layout,
But did very little in the way of new construction or revisions.



When I switched from HO scale to On30, I figured I was leaving the world of Ready-To-Run, prebuilt models behind. I assumed a far simpler O scale layout would be marginally interesting to operate, and more modeling time would be taken up with scratchbuilding. But once all the track was in and I had a reasonable inventory of locomotives and rolling stock, I was completely caught by surprise. Small locomotives pulling short trains around a winding industrial line captivated me beyond all expectations. All I wanted to do was run trains. I suddenly found myself in the segment of model railroaders who never get around to building scenery on their layouts.



I needed a convicting experience that would make me believe that the full potential of the layout would only be reached if I continued building, and modeling time would be better spent doing something constructive. On a mild January day I drove to Nelson County and hiked to a few old quarry sites. I came away feeling that my layout could be greatly improved by representing some of these beautiful scenes.



I decided to start scenery construction in the far corner of the layout. No towns, mills or quarries were planned for this area, so I thought it would be a good place to experiment and determine how I would build scenery.



I don’t want the scenery to be attached directly to the backdrop, so I developed these posts to support a Masonite profile board immediately in front of, but not touching, the backdrop.



The posts are attached to the same benchwork joists that support the roadbed risers. 2x2 blocks against the wall maintain a gap that will put the back profile board about an inch in front of the backdrop. The height of the posts indicate the planned height of the back profile board at that location. 1x2 blocks on the front of each post at the bottom will support the back profile board.

Cow Field Module - 1

Once my mill module had progressed to a presentable state, I turned my attention to work on the cow field module.



This module is only one foot wide, compared to the two foot wide mill module. The theme for this module is a simple rural setting for the train to run along a rocky hillside. I started the scenery years ago ... a “once over” of rock castings, coarse turf, stag moss, and a grout dirt road. It was high time to move beyond this point.



Small trees and underbrush were constructed from bits of
Super Trees. Foliage was applied with spray adhesive. Bright green foliage and turf were added to bring the color range of my module scenery more in line with the colors used by other members of the JRD On30 Module Group.



Super Tree material was added to a sagebrush armature to create one large tree for the hillside above the tracks and cow field.



Even with the addition of a lot of foliage, my module still looked empty. I decided it needed a few points of interest to help compose the scene. A diecast tractor, some
Woodland Scenic cows and a figure out of a gandy dancer set were chosen to populate the cow field. They all received a heavy spray of Dullcote lacquer and a rottenstone bath.

Winwood Backdrop - 2

Once the basic color and shadow areas had been applied and allowed to dry, I wet a Q-tip with alcohol and randomly rubbed through the paint.



The alcohol picked up the acrylic paint down to the protective isolation layer. The resultant light streak looks very much like a tree trunk, complete with faint bark detail. Very few tree trunks are required. I also added a few dark tree trunks and some branch detail with a fine brush.



That Winwood is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is supposed to be implied by a distant ridge above the treetops on the right end of the backdrop. The distant ridge also helps define how far away the water tower is.



At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to add a water tower to the backdrop. I rendered it with colored pencils and watercolor markers. It is fairly translucent so the backdrop coloring shows through, which helps make it look somewhat distant. The water tank provides a point for the eye to focus on, and it helps define Winwood as an old industrial site.



Once the shadowbox for Winwood was roughed in, I was able to test fit the backdrop in place, and trim the height to fit.

Winwood Backdrop - 1

As the first step of scenery, and to bring Winwood up to the level of completion of the rest of the layout, I designed a very simple backdrop.



The backdrop is 18 inches tall, and about 11 feet wide, to cover the 8 foot length of the shelf, turn in the back corners, and come out to the front edge of the shelf at either end. The scene is simple low lying ridges and hills along the James River in Nelson County. At this point the James River runs from south to north, and is toward the right of the scene. The river itself will not be on the backdrop or modeled, since it would be several hundred yards out of the scene.

The town site of Winwood will be marked by an old water tower. The water tower idea came from Bill Davis, and it is a good way to imply the scene’s industrial heritage. I decided not to try to build a water tower, but to just paint it in the medium distance on the backdrop itself.



The backdrop is painted on a 2 by 12 foot strip of cheap vinyl flooring. I chose vinyl because I want sharp radius coves in the corners. I chose this particular flooring due to its smooth, even backing. I unrolled the flooring face down in my shop, and applied 2 coats of acrylic primer with a roller to the back.



Once the primer was dry, I moved the backdrop to my workbench and sketched out the rough design. I had to keep in mind where the coves would be, and that quite a bit of the top would be trimmed off when the backdrop was ready to be installed.

I mixed up large amounts of 2 colors of paint: sky blue and a pale warm yellow. These colors were used to block in the areas that would be sky and hills. Once dry, I painted on a coat of clear matte medium as an isolation coat to protect the base paint.



Once the matte medium was dry, I began to apply thin layers of green and brown paint, wiping and daubing it on the backdrop with sea sponges. Color was built up in thin layers of rough texture, allowing the paint to dry between each application.



As the color and texture built up, I concentrated on adding darker tones to the areas that would become shadows under individual trees.

Schwenk's Mill - Construction

The Mid-East Region Convention was fast approaching. The James River Division On30 Module Group had signed up to give its first public showing at the convention.



My Schwenk’s Mill module was far from complete, and could not possibly be finished in time. So I set about making it presentable as quickly as possible.



I had a general plan for a mill and two sheds. Two roads running diagonally across the module would connect the buildings and reduce the boxy rectangular look of the module. The roads themselves are primarily charcoal colored grout with sifted dirt and small stones added. The ground cover is mainly fine sawdust. Cherry and red oak in the sawdust make it orange/red tinted, and therefore a fair representation of Virginia red clay. Over top of the sawdust I layered on a mix of decorative moss, lichen, and Woodland Scenics foliage and turf in late summer colors. A short section of tram roadbed is handlaid code 50 rail on HO low profile ties, ballasted with crushed slate that I collected in Buckingham County.



The mill is built in three sections out of black Strathmore board and basswood bracing. The metal siding is drawing paper embossed with the pattern from a piece of corrugated styrene sheet.



The roof of the mill is drawing paper embossed with the pattern from raised seam roofing styrene sheet. The doors and windows are Grandt Line. The dust collector is an HO scale Walthers detail part. The concrete foundation of the loading end of the mill is spackling over the Strathmore board. Trim, steps, roof details, and many other items were left for later.



Ready or not, the time has come to pack up and head for Hagerstown. At the convention, Clint Hyde was kind enough to supply two small buildings that fit nicely in the vacant spaces on the module.

Even though far from finished, construction of Shwenk’s Mill has already taught me a great deal about scratchbuilding. I now know how important accurate, full sized plans are for building, and I have a more realistic idea of just how long it can take to scratchbuild a building.

Callaghan's Crossing - Display

The second module I am building as my participation in the James River Division On30 Module Group is half-sized, which is 4 ft. long by 1 ft. wide. This module is very light and easy to transport.



Besides being set up at Module Meets, I plan to use it as a diorama for photography. For these photos, I sat the module on the benchwork of my layout to take advantage of the backdrop.



There is room on the module for a short train to be displayed, which will allow me to take it to model railroad gatherings and use it as a display diorama for my models.



Building modules is a great way to gain experience at model railroad construction quickly. Regular work sessions allow the members of the module group to share techniques and troubleshoot one another’s problems.

End the Year Painting

In one gigantic push, I sent Christmas cards, bought and wrapped presents, and picked up tons of leaves in my yard. With the Holidays winding down, I am closing out 2007 by finishing up the backdrop painting I started 3 months ago.


The west wall of the backdrop has many more trees painted on it now. I assume that the view of much of the new painting will be blocked by 3-D scenery once construction has advanced to that stage.



There will be derricks, shop buildings, and stone piles in front of the backdrop at Cove Quarry.


There will be a hill with a derrick on it here at Meridian Quarry.

New Road and Treeline



I thought about putting a road on a high shelf along the edge of the quarry ... maybe to help imply that the scene goes back into the distance, maybe to distract the full focus of this part of the backdrop from just being on the quarry itself. The widely spaced rotten fenceposts would do little to keep a truck loaded with stone from going over the edge. They are mainly there to imply that the road continues around the corner out of sight.



I started working in trees in front of and below the existing treeline, which will give me more flexibility as to how high the 3-D scenery will be.



Broom straw and other weeds have grown on the embankment along the road


Working trunk and limb detail into the new trees.

Finishing Cove Quarry

Some washes of thin white and chalky neutrals softened details and "knocked back" the quarry into the background



Sharp edged, contrasty hightlights and shadows on the rock piles along the bottom of the scene bring them forward so they appear to be closer.



Since there is no longer a hidden track running under the scenery along the wall, I think I will lower the profile of the scenery where it meets the backdrop. This will require the trees on the backdrop to extend further down. I have painted in an isolation coat of light tan where the new trees will be.

Cove Quarry taking shape

I painted in a distant hilltop and the trees around the quarry. Then I printed out photographs I have taken of abandoned soapstone quarries to use as color and value references for painting the quarry. I wanted to show a support bulkhead of stone in the quarry. Soapstone quarries would often have these "walls" of stone left in place to support the walls of the quarry as it was cut deeper.



Since this quarry exists entirely on the backdrop, there will not be an actual "hole" that you can look down into, so I am painting a long, low stone pile across the front of the scene to prevent being able to see down into the quarry.



I added some fissure lines in the rock face to illustrate the "grain" of the stone.

Cove Quarry roughed in



I painted a base coat on the backdrop for Cove Quarry. The tree base is a straw yellow, and the quarry base is a dirty gray green. Once the base coat was dry, I applied a clear coat of acrylic gel medium. This will make subsequent layers of paint easier to work with and correct.



"Blocking in" the shapes and shadows of the trees, and defining the quarry. The paint is brushed on with a 1 inch wide brush. Before it starts to dry, I spray it with water, and then pat it with a sea sponge. This breaks up the brush strokes and creates a coarse textured, translucent layer of paint.



More layers of color for the trees and the quarry. Will I be able to create the illusion that the quarry extends back into the scene?

Backdrop revisions-Cove Quarry

The removal of the track running along the wall and under the scenery at Apex has changed my plans for the scenery in that area. Some of these changes include the backdrop.

I am now planning on loading stone on a track in the corner of the layout where I originally had planned to put a garage. There is no room to model a quarry to provide the cut stone, so I am going to try to render the quarry on the backdrop, with just a stone pile immediately adjacent to the spur actually being modelled.


I added a strip of Masonite to the bottom of the backdrop in the corner in order to extend the rendering of Cove Quarry down closer to track level.

I then Gessoed over the part of the backdrop that will become the new Cove Quarry scene.



I sketched in an idea for the basic location of the quarry, but my initial impression is that the quarry should stay lower in the scene, and the "new hillside" needs to be extended to the left.

These backdrop revisions come at a good time, as I have to give a clinic on backdrop painting at the MER convention in a few weeks. These revisions will give me a little practice before showtime arrives.

Finally Presentable

The entire backdrop is now at least presentable, if not complete.



In a few weeks I have to give my backdrop painting clinic at the James River Division Meet.



I am also open for the Meet's layout tour. Just a backdrop ... no layout!



I cannot count on being able to paint anything in a hurry, in front of a crowd at my clinic. Hopefully, those interested in my backdrop painting techniques will drop by to see how mine turned out.

East Wall Complete

The point where the new painting and the old painting meet on the east wall backdrop is pretty obvious to me.



My sponge technique has become a little too regular, making the foliage look like rounded blobs of leaves. I don't think it is worth doing over, as most of it will be behind 3-D scenery.



Ariel Church has ended up with an odd shaped ridge behind it, but I like it. The bluff seems to imply the area is underlain with a rock shelf that has eroded.



A meadow stretches up the hillside from town. I am not inclined to try to render either the fence row along the woodline, or cows in the field.



Once past the cove in the corner, the hill sloping down to the road still needs a lot of work. I do not like the uniformity of the profile of the trees. A patch or two of taller trees needs to go here.