The last few weeks have seen the backdrop landscape and clouds finalized.   Because the Fort St John area is so flat it was a challenge to get the illusion of distance while using a very low horizon line.    I followed the techniques in Mike Danneman’s book “Painting Backdrops for your Model Railroad” especially the sections on Midwest backdrops and clouds.

I used standard acrylic artists paints and was able to get a nice late summer field colour scheme with minimal mixing.

The clouds were a bit of a challenge to get right and a few isolated cumulus clouds I started with never looked right so I just gradually added more and more until I got the “Big Sky” feel I was looking for.   In retrospect a plain blue sky would have been easier!



The last few weeks have seen the backdrop get painted a basic blue, some fabric skirting mounted along the front to hide all the various boxes and some painting and weathering of ties.

The skirting was sourced from the Spotlight chain of NZ stores.   Ties were weathered using inexpensive craft paints and was done by randomly painting ties various shades of grey and brown using both washes and dry brushing techniques.


Fascia Painting Update

August 11, 2018


Spent the last few sessions painting the fascia and lighting canopy with a nice brunswick green.  I considered some other colours but I have always used dark green on prior layouts and I see no reason to change.

I feel like the layout presents itself very well now even in its unfinished state.  The next step is to get the backdrop painted in a basic sky blue before moving on to either some wiring or kit building.

Several days to myself this week allowed for a burst of productivity.   I finished what I call the “rough terrain”.   This is either plaster cloth over cardboard webbing (for the east end of the yard), or pieces of foam roadbed sheets to form various flat industrial areas and building pads.    I used a general purpose filling compound (Spakfilla Rapid) from Bunnings to blend the roadbed into the terrain and to fill any gaps.




I painted the whole terrain with a rough coat of a generic beige colour that approximates the clay soil ground colour of that part of British Columbia.    I just picked up a couple of inexpensive test pots from Bunnings. (Colour is Dulux of NZ “Linton” if any one wants to know).

My intention is to eventually go over the rough terrain with sculptamold or a similar product and repaint with the same base coat.    For now the goal was to get rid of the white plaster and black foam mashup look of the terrain.

I pre-weathered the track the easy (but messy) way,  using a spray can of Rustoleum flat black paint.    This required extensive masking of the backdrop, fascia (and room walls) to avoid overspray.   Proper ventilation is (obviously) required for this.  By working slowly, stopping frequently and spraying the track in small sections it is possible to do this without creating clouds of paint fumes.   I also ran the vacuum cleaner and held the hose end near to where I was spraying.  I am not sure if this actually sucked up spray paint fumes but it felt like I was at least trying.



A key part of preparation is masking the point blades of each turnout so they don’t get covered in spray paint.  I just used small pieces of tape on the point blades before spraying.     A standard abrasive track cleaner easily removes the spray paint from the rail tops after painting has been completed.


I will still paint and weather the rail sides and  ties, but a coat of flat black spray paint is a quick way to get rid of the shiny model train track look.    The room preparation and point blade masking is the most time consuming part of the process.


Some more progress…

July 22, 2018

With tracklaying largely complete I wanted to get the layout looking slightly more presentable rather than dealing with connecting a bunch of wires together underneath it.

I made a start forming the basic terrain shell at the east end of Fort St. John yard.  This was done using a web of cardboard strips covered in masking tape.  The next step is to create a hard shell of plaster cloth over this base.   The west end of the yard is largely flat so it will be a case of just filling in any gaps with joint compound

The front profile board was created from a several pieces of foam core, while a cosmetic fascia panel was mounted on the layout support frame work.   With a little over six months of work under my belt I am quite happy with how things are looking.





Last Spike (sort of)

June 30, 2018

Today I installed the last piece of track, soldered the last rail joiners and dropped the final two feeders, so I guess it is a Last Spike moment.    However the track is only finished for the main Fort St. John yard area.  I still need to build benchwork and lay track for a small staging yard under the window.



At present all the feeders have been soldered to the rails and turnouts and dropped through the benchwork where they are just dangling in the air underneath.   I probably went overboard, but I believe every single section of track, no matter how short, should have feeders.  I also dropped feeders from every single turnout, even the ones that were soldered together in yard ladders.    It will make for a period of misery soldering them all to bus wires, but hopefully I will be rewarded with trouble free operation.


I want to get the layout somewhat presentable in the next few months so I will focus on installing and painting fascia, roughing in the basic terrain (spoiler alert.. it’s mostly flat) and painting the basic backdrop.   I also have some locomotive projects I would like to work on. Final wiring and DCC system set up will likely near the end of the year.


Tracklaying Update

May 27, 2018

Track is going down slowly but surely in Fort St. John.  I have been trying to do at least an hour a night of something to keep progress moving.    I am working on the middle layout section first (the main yard area) before moving to the hinged extension and the curved exit to the staging yard.

I am soldering feeders as I go and currently they have all been dropped down through the benchwork in preparation for bus wires.

Because my old power pack is North American voltage (and plug) and I don’t have a DCC system, I have simply been testing the track by placing a 9 volt battery on it to run a test engine through the point work.