Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early Construction

I decided to use shelf brackets to cantilever the layout in a way that left the floor space under it free.  I had to bridge three windows in the room and leave them accessible.  That required removable backdrop panels in front of the windows.  I chose to use tempered masonite for my backdrop.  This was glued to 1x2 furring strips that had been screwed to the wall studs in the room.

Once the masonite was up and dried, I painted the masonite with two coats of a sky blue color.  I added 1x2 supports to the shelf brackets and a stringer running along the side facing into the room to tie it all together and to provide a mounting surface for the future fascia.  1 1/2 inches of extruded foam insulation board was then attached to those supports with adhesive latex caulk.  I was now ready for track, however, the layout languished for about 2 years, as I was never satisfied with my freelanced track plans, nor the code 80 track I was using at the time.

The turning point came when my friend Brian convinced me to look at a prototype, and to convert to Atlas code 55 track.  The die was cast and I now had a focus.

Once I finalized the track plan, it was time to jump in to track laying.  I decide to try to paint a background scene prior to doing any trackwork.  The idea was to represent the rolling hills the Housatonic RR passes through in CT and MA.  I had never painted a landscape before, but figured I could always paint over it and start again. 

I made my own cloud stencils and misted on Rustoleum white primer (no airbrush yet).  I then used green craft paint mixed with the sky blue for distant hills, followed up with closer hills, using the green craft paint only.  I used a fan brush to make indications of a distant tree line, including conifers.  A few suggestions of fields and distant buildings and I was done.  The plan is to have most of the hills hidden by trees, but with distant views appearing here and there between the trees and forground hills.  Since the layout is located near eye level for most viewers, I wanted to keep the horizon low.

I painted the entire 58’ linear backdrop, from clouds to hills and fields in one eight hour marathon session.  Here is the backdrop and foam base, with a coat of tan paint to hide the blue color.

Next up comes the track.

I purchased the needed Atlas code 55 flextrack and turnouts.  Trackwork began in the staging area that would represent the interchange with CSX, in Pittsfield, MA.  There is a through track and four staging tracks in this area.  Here are a few shots of the very first HRRC test train running on the staging area tracks and partial main line.

Since this was the first large layout I had built, there was some trial and error along the way.  At least the layout was finally started.

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