Model Rail (UK)
STEP BY STEP
The diorama began life as a chipboard shelf, leftover from assembling a bookcase from a famous Swedish furniture brand. Sheets of foamboard were fixed to the surface, with a second layer added to raise the rear track.
The track was laid onto strips of strong double-sided tape (for use with carpets and flooring) before being painted with matt black, red oxide, brown and grey primers. The aerosol paints were sprayed outdoors, while wearing a facemask.
When the paint was dry, ballasting could begin. The tracks were treated to Geoscenics Granite ballast (branded for ‘N’ gauge’), applied initially with a spoon. Remember to use an old teaspoon dedicated for this task, or your coffee will take on a rather gritty texture!
After spooning the loose material, we need to manipulate it carefully into position with a soft paintbrush, working it between the sleepers and under the rails. The job is easier on bulkier track, but the thin sleepers of this Code 75 track from Dccconcepts made the task laborious.
A deeper layer of ballast was created around the base of each bufferstop (plaster cast items from the Ten Commandments range (www.tencommandmentsmodels.co.uk). Again, the brush is used to position the loose material.
Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), available from chemists, was applied over the ballast with a pipette, allowing it to soak into the loose material. About 6in of track was treated at a time. If any ballast was disturbed, it was pushed gently back into place.
A jar of Geoscenics Track Grime (supplied in the Sidings Weathering kit) was shaken thoroughly and a thimble-full was mixed with the ballast glue, in this case Ballast Bond from Deluxe Materials. With the lid on, the glue jar was then also shaken well.
With a needle point applicator added to the nozzle, the Ballast Bond was applied to the dampened ballast. The alcohol drastically improves the ability of the glue to penetrate the ballast without disturbing it. Don’t overdo the glue, as only a modest amount is required.
While the glue was wet, the fine cinder material in the Sidings Weathering kit was sprinkled on top. This serves to absorb any excess glue, thus speeding up the drying process, while also adding a grimy aspect to the ballast.
After an overnight break, the areas between the tracks could be treated. As a finer grade of scatter material was to be used, I decided to brush a thin layer of Scatter Grip glue onto the surface. Note that the buildings and weighbridge have already been glued in position.
While the Scatter Grip turned tacky, I mixed up a blend of Geoscenics ‘N’ gauge super-fine granite ballast and the cinders supplied with the Sidings Weathering kit. The two materials combine to give an authentic shade.
With a larger spoon, the mixture was sprinkled over the tacky Scatter Grip. I aimed to create an even coating, keeping it away from the ballasted track. Don’t worry about getting it perfect – we’ll refine its appearance later.
Give the Scatter Grip an hour or so to dry before using a soft, wide, flat brush to gently spread the fine scatter evenly, working any excess towards the edge of the baseboard or scene to be swept up and re-used.
As before, the scatter material was gently flooded with rubbing alcohol, applied with a pipette. The fine ballast is likely to be disturbed by the fluid, with craters possibly forming, but don’t worry about these for now.
Follow the alcohol with the Ballast Bond glue and Track Grime mixture. Sprinkle a little more of the scatter over the wet glue, absorbing any excess that has formed into puddles. Craters formed earlier may be cured at this point, thanks to the levelling effect of the thin glue.
Leave for at least 48 hours to allow the glue to harden completely, then address any unevenness with coarse sandpaper.
The sandpaper is also ideal for treating high traffic areas of yards or roadways, smoothing the texture of the scatter material.
The edges of features like the weighbridge or any paving slabs or cobbles can also be tidied up with the sandpaper. If the ballast looks too deep in places, particularly around the tracks, try rubbing with a steel wire brush to remove any excess material.
Next job was to treat the perimeter of the yard. I erected a sleeper-built fence (from the Ten Commandments range) and planted weeds and bushes along the edges, using various bits of faded Woodland Scenics foliage, recovered from old layouts and dioramas.
A jar of Oil Solution fluid is also provided in the Geoscenics Sidings Weathering kit, and this can be brushed directly onto the ballast. A stippling action is preferable, as it leaves a more random pattern. Allow to dry and decide whether a second coat is required.
Both the Track Grime and Oil Solution fluids can also be applied through an airbrush. A little water can be added to thin it down if necessary and I sprayed it at a low pressure (10psi), randomly around the tracks and yard areas
More tonal variation can be introduced with weathering powders, using black, grey and dark brown shades, mixed together on a makeshift palette and applied with a stiff brush. It’s essential that the surface is completely dry before applying weathering powders.
Darker shades of powder can be concentrated around certain areas, especially coal bunkers or staithes. A stiff brush is more effective for dispersing the powdered pigment evenly, creating subtle shifts in tone rather than abrupt changes.
An old toothbrush makes a handy tool for spreading out any heavy deposits of weathering powder and creating a slightly burnished effect to the textured surface. Only use dry brushes, as any moisture will lead to heavier staining.
Once you’re happy with the appearance, the final job is to clean the rails with a track rubber and brush or vacuum away any debris. Now we’re ready to add the finer details and typical clutter associated with a railway yard.