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SKEW BRIDGE - Attic Layout

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Thanks Mick,    

                          I do like my profile picture hopefully I can buy one from Hattons when there released

I have started my a few winter repairs on my outdoor layout  as the temperatures have been reasonable the last few days looking forward to running trains again in spring time.

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I've ordered some small bags of scatter material and static grasses in order to try them out before deciding how I'm going to tackle the embankments. In the meantime I've been painting up some more to

A short 60 second video of 60048 and MGR wagons through the new landscape  

Things are now taking shape on the small scenic end section despite me saying that there was no rush to finish this part of the layout. I began this morning by painting the bridge that has been i

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The improved weather over the past couple of days reminded me that I still have the ground level track on the outdoor layout to finish off and I would do so if it wasn't for wanting to get the attic layout completed too! I think the outdoors will have to wait for a while until it's warmer - it won't come to any harm.

I'm also looking forward to running trains outdoors again - as I said earlier they look so much better in natural outdoor lighting.

It's a bit of a late start but I'm going into the attic shortly to continue with my soldering duties.

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It took me a bit longer than I had anticipated due to my delayed start but I've finally managed to get 'almost' all the droppers added along the entire scenic length of the layout and connected up to the power bus. I say almost because just as I'd put the soldering iron away I noticed a short length of track between two sets of points that I had overlooked so that's a task for tomorrow.

As a reward to myself I managed to locate my set of HEA coal hoppers and placed them on track for a quick run as a change from the usual MGR's. I wasn't sure how many I had altogether as some were in boxes and others were in a tray in the shed but I've put together a rake of 38 all in Railfreight livery. I've coupled them up to the class 66 for a short video though I think it's unlikely we would have seen a full set in that livery behind an EWS class 66 loco. My personal recollections of them were almost always behind a class 37. This rake of wagons will be modelled in loaded condition once I reach the stage where I can concentrate fully on the rolling stock.

Sorry about the picture quality - I think I need better lighting above the layout!


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The scenery is looking good in those dark colours, Mick, and the whole thing is coming on impressively.  I hope you can keep up the good work even if/when the weather gets colder.

It was interesting to see your comment a couple of days ago:

and the whole point in building a layout up in the attic is to run all those trains I've been hanging on to for years and which wouldn't fit in anywhere else.

That well sums up my reasons for building a garden railway - nice long trains, and of course the scenery is already there.  Anyway, each to his own.  It's great to be able to follow your rapid progress, and to see the videos.





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2 hours ago, Andrew said:

The scenery is looking good in those dark colours, Mick....

Yes, it's a shame I'll be covering most of it up when I get round to landscaping. I could do with sourcing scenic materials in similar colours.

2 hours ago, Andrew said:

...I hope you can keep up the good work even if/when the weather gets colder.....

I'm hoping so too Andrew. It's been fine so far but I've got a heater up there if ever I need to use it. To date I've not had to - just light the log fire downstairs and it's cosy.

2 hours ago, Andrew said:

...and the whole point in building a layout up in the attic is to run all those trains I've been hanging on to for years and which wouldn't fit in anywhere else.

That well sums up my reasons for building a garden railway - nice long trains, and of course the scenery is already there....

The drawback to that on my part is that I would have to keep putting stock on track and taking them off at the end of the session which is not my idea of a fun time. I've got at least 16 full length freight wagon sets and that's before I even start thinking about passenger stock. At least in the attic I can make use of them all and leave the majority of them on track all the time. 

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I'm finding it a bit of a struggle to get the long lengths of track nice and straight. When I've been doing the garden layout I get my head down to track level and look along the tracks to search out any sections that might need moving over a bit and failing that I sometimes take photos zoomed in on sections at a time which highlights any irregularities. I've tried all kind of methods up in the attic but I'm still not satisfied with the results. I get to the point where I think I've done it and then the next time I look I see another kink that needs straightening. 

Here's a photo I took earlier today which shows the up and down main lines to the left, the down loop line, and then the first of the 3 dead end sidings. At normal viewing distance there doesn't appear to be much wrong with the down loop but the photo shows just how uneven its path actually is.


And in the following photo it's not until you zoom in on a specific area that you notice the kink in the up main. The 2 protrusions from the sleepers are actually track pins with a distance of approx 12 inches between them so the degree of magnification is quite high but I still want to even things out so that it doesn't show to such an extent on photos.


Unless you pin the track at very short intervals there's always the chance that you're going to knock a section and then you have to start going over it again. To lay the track I've used the straight (but short) Tracksetta gauge between the rails, a 1 metre steel edge rule along the edge of the sleepers, and my usual 'align by sight' method but until you permanently fix the track down then you run the risk of dislodging it. I'm not quite ready to do that just yet because I'm not certain that it's as good as it can be and I don't want to have to start digging it up again.

During my railway career there were times we would sit down by the lineside, perhaps on the rails themselves, and I was never far from a camera or pair of binoculars. Looking up the lines under high magnification it was scary just how misaligned the tracks appeared - much like the photos above believe it or not, sometimes a lot more severe, so perhaps I shouldn't worry too much.

Aside from the track what's also obvious from the above photos is the fact that the loco's need drivers in the cabs and the loco detailing fitting to the front buffer beams. It might be wiser to put the long lenses away and just take a few steps back to enjoy.

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Good Morning Mick,

                                        I found tracksettas brilliant for making perfect curves but the straight tracksetta piece are useless. I clamped a long straight edge to my baseboard then pushed the flexi track against it, then used pins or screws to secure. I found also pushing the track to hard ageist the straight edge caused kinks. Getting perfect straight lined track is difficult . You could also try drawing perfect straight lines then use that as your guide. As you say though the real thing is far from perfectly straight as long as it does not effect the running of your model trains and you can live with it try not to worry.

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Thanks Dean. I agree with you regarding the straight Tracksetta - if it were longer then it would be much more useful in my view but there again perhaps most people don't have such long straights on their layouts. I've seen videos where someone lays a few metres of track and then runs the tracksetta quickly along the full length to straighten it but it doesn't work for me. Maybe there's a knack that I just haven't grasped yet?

I was just looking back at the first of the 2 photos posted above and my little embankments now appear much larger with some trains alongside them. It seems I got carried away a bit. There'll be mountains on this layout Roddy! I remember saying.

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Both Peco and Hornby make 670mm straight rigid track (quad straight). I bought some recently for a display case as I do not want the track to be flexing when the locos, etc. are on it. The Peco (ST-204) was the better value at £3.50 a piece with Hornby (R603) being listed at £4.99

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6 hours ago, Riddles said:

Both Peco and Hornby make 670mm straight rigid track (quad straight). I bought some recently for a display case as I do not want the track to be flexing when the locos, etc. are on it. The Peco (ST-204) was the better value at £3.50 a piece with Hornby (R603) being listed at £4.99

Neither would be suitable in my case Dave because I'm using code 75 track specifically for its finer appearance but it is certainly one of those occasions where rigid track would have advantages over flexi.

I've persevered with aligning the track today using a long metal straight edge along the sleepers and instead of hammering in more pins I've used a diluted pva mixture to hold the track in place. Narrow lengths of thin MDF are placed on the track and weighted down until the pva hardens sufficiently. It seems to be working okay and it's possible to lift the sleepers easily enough should it need further adjustment - I've had to do it once so far.

While sections of track are being glued I've been painting the sides and chairs of any exposed rails with a mix of sleeper grime and light rust, wiping the surplus away from sleeper ends and rail tops with paper towels. Not a particularly enthralling task but one that needs doing before I can consider ballasting.

I've obtained some Woodland Scenics materials to begin the scenery and been watching some interesting videos on techniques for producing realistic looking vegetation and especially trees. Whether I'll be able to produce anything like what I've seen I'm not sure but the time is fast approaching for me to give it a try.

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12 hours ago, Riddles said:

...with your skilful weathering technique.....

I've seen various methods for painting the rail sides using both brushes and pens and there's usually a lot of care goes into the application. I just dollop the paint on with a small wedge shaped brush and wipe the surplus off. I don't see the point in spending a lot of time on it. Here's a section of the down loop I've just done showing it before and after - the paint is still wet.


And I'll add this next photo just to show one of my soldered rail droppers now that I've started threading the wires through the baseboard first before soldering the protruding part. Previously I'd been bending the end of the dropper wire at a ninety degree angle and soldering that to the rail before passing the wire down through the baseboard but it resulted in a big blob of solder. Here I've drilled down through the baseboard at an angle directly underneath the rail and bent the protruding section of dropper at a slight angle so that it contacts the side of the rail. It holds itself in place while you apply the hot iron. Both the rail side and dropper were pre-tinned. Once the ballast is applied there should be very little joint visible.


I actually went back over some of my previously soldered droppers on the scenic sections and re-did them using the above method and the following photo enlargement shows why I did!


These were just outside the tunnel portal on the short end scenic section and they look so prominent and ugly.

I would have been better drilling new holes but instead I used the existing holes to thread the dropper wires down which meant they stand out a bit further from the rail sides but at least now they are less prominent than before. Again, with a bit of ballast they should be less prominent.


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Among other things, today I've made a start on the scenery. I've never used commercially available scenic products before so I'm just doing things a bit at a time to see what effects I can create. I know what I would like things to look like but not what I need to buy in order to achieve it.

I've already painted the embankments with an assortment of colours having a predominantly reddish brown tint and I would like to retain a lot of that so to begin with I've used a very fine Woodland Scenics green 'turf'. Using neat PVA glue applied with a brush to the flatter areas of the land this turf was then sprinkled on and the surplus hoovered off using an attachment on the vacuum cleaner that has a fine netting over the end in order to save as much of the surplus scatter material as possible for re-use. I've treated only the areas I believe would have grass on them leaving plenty of visible soil/rocks.

This is the short end section around the tunnel portal


And this is part of the long scenic section of the layout


It does look a bit lush at the moment but as it's just a base coat I'll be toning it all down later. Much of this will be covered up by shrubs and other vegetation anyway so it's not a problem.

I've started teasing out some polyfibre pieces and painting them with brown acrylics. These will have green foliage applied to them when they've dried for use as trailing vegetation or possibly something that resembles ivy. The embankments need to be messy and overgrown with plenty of brambles and similar.

I could be at it for some time!

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I've added a bit more scatter onto the short end section to complete the base coat around the tunnel portal area and up to the small overbridge. I'll have to think carefully about what to do from here because it's already getting close to the look I'm after. I don't want to overdo it because there's got to be lots of shrubs added yet and I want plenty of bare earth left showing. This end section doesn't look too bad in the lush green scatter either - it quite suits it.


I'm not worried about the prominent divide between the sky area and the land as that will be lined with shrubs and such like.


I do like the following photo with the embankment rolling down to track level.


I have some other grades of scatter material in slightly different shades so I'll be trying those to see how to use them best. I'm looking forward to ballasting the above area  - it should make a massive difference.

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More of the same today as I've continued putting down a base coat of scatter material along the embankment of the main scenic section.

I began by going into the corner and around the tunnel portal before continuing onto the smaller sidings embankment for a short distance.


I've now managed to complete all but the final couple of feet of the rear embankment along the scenic section where there's still a 'skew bridge' to construct and install.


My final act of the day was an attempt at making some small bushes using polyester toy filling covered in scatter material. The filling was first painted with brown acrylic and left to dry before being coated in hairspray and having scatter material sprinkled on. They're nice little clumps which will be found a home around the layout.


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I've ordered some small bags of scatter material and static grasses in order to try them out before deciding how I'm going to tackle the embankments. In the meantime I've been painting up some more toy filling material ready to cover in scatter to simulate bushes and shrubs. The ones I did a few days ago don't look too bad when placed on the layout so I'm going to need lots more of them.


Today I've painted some in brown and some in a dark green colour so that I can have several 'varieties' rather than them all looking much the same.

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56 minutes ago, ba14eagle said:

I'm really liking the sparse foliage Mick.....

Me too Iain, it's how I wanted it to look and how I remember it being, although my memory isn't as good as it once was.

1 hour ago, ba14eagle said:

....The dark coloured base reminds me of all the bare, reclaimed land in Notts & Yorkshire 

Yes there was plenty of bare land round these parts after the demise of the coalfields. I think the green base coat is a bit too lush so I'll be toning that down slightly at some point using some longer static grasses in places. I really like the little bushes with their sparse foliage but I'll probably need a couple hundred of them. Good job they only take a few minutes to make. I'll be having a go at some trees soon too.

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I'm not sure exactly how to blend this in with the scatter material I've already applied but I've had my first attempt at using static grass today and I'm quite pleased with how it's turned out.

When you apply it to a horizontal surface it's quite simple to get it to stand upright - not so easy on a sloping surface. The grass below is 6mm high and fixed to a layer of PVA adhesive.


I've used a generic make of static grass and a static grass applicator purchased online. I'll be much more comfortable using it when I learn to do so without giving myself a jolt every now and again.

All I can say is that I've got a hell of a lot of work ahead of me if I want to landscape the entire scenic length and it's going to take quite some time to complete it all. I'm also going to need a very large supply of static grass.

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I've continued with the static grass today, working on the short end section of the layout in an attempt to perfect my technique. Actually there doesn't seem to be any secrets to its successful application - it's pretty easy to obtain a realistic finish so well worth having a go. My choice of colours may not be to everyone's taste but I wanted lots of yellow, dried grasses. It's colourful if nothing else.

I've been mixing several colours together to get that dry patchy look, working on small sections at a time but leaving as much of the original base showing through as I can get away with. If the area is level or on a slight slope then it gets a coat of glue before being static grassed. I've left the most steep or vertical areas for now.


Below is how the tunnel area is looking so far. I need to sort out the join on the inner wall of the tunnel.


And from above looking down on the layout. As the backscene above the tunnel portal slopes forwards it's proving difficult to apply the static grass right up to the edge as I can't get the applicator in that close.



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