Well, I am in the process of returning the dining room table to my wife for
dining purposes! After 6 weeks of nightly effort, the scenery is completed
on Center Val Ease.
Just to bring some of you up to date, Center Val Ease is the third suitcase
in the Val Ease Central Railroad. I had made a Y2K resolution to complete 4
Achievement certificates including the Master Builder-Scenery one. There
were three major, from my point of view, hurdles to be overcome to comply
with the requirements of this particular certificate: I needed 12.65 square
feet of completed Z scale scenery, I needed to comouflage the turnout motors
(previously reported) and I needed to find a way to complete the dock scene.
Fortunately for me, the addition of Center Val Ease added enough area to the
layout to reach 12.77 square feet. The dock scene however took me 3 weeks
of fiddling, testing, scrapping of materials and head scratching to finally
come up with the solution...Cork roadbed!
I needed a material that was resilient, and easily carved in order to
simulate the poured concrete of a working river port. It also had to cover
the ties of the siding that obviously had to run along the dock, over which
an overhead dock crane would move.
I started out with bass wood but it needed to be shimmed and I didn't like
the surface, it looked too much like wood! A week passed...
Then I tried styrene but I had problems cutting it to shape and I didn't
want to have to use solvent based paints to paint it. A week passed...
Finally since I had found solutions to the 100 or so other little problems
that cropped up in other areas of the layout, I came back to the dock. I
had a couple of left over pieces of cork which I off handedly tried to fit
along side the dock track lead. Hey, what do you know? The height was
perfect for the concrete pad. A week passed...
Now what to do with the track lead? I cut its outline in the cork and took
out the strip. As a result, the track would have a cute little down slope
from the mainline switch into the dock compound. Even better! I then cut a
very thin piece of cork and laid it along the edges of the ties. Bingo,
they were gone and the transition to the pad was perfect.
This looked promising so I took everything up, glued the cork in
permanently, attached leads to the ends of the rails, painted the rails
rusty black and glued the track down permanently. Then came the strips
along the edges of the ties and finally, I placed my one piece of salvaged
stripwood between the rails and test ran a car and loco along the siding.
No problemo! Glued permanently.
The next step was to paint the cork with a nice thick layer of neutral gray
acrylic paint. It dried darker than out of the tube and penetrated the cork
surface. It actually looked like concrete. Well close enough for both me
and my wife's tastes.
Details were then added like a 10 foot high security fence with access
gates, a guide rail for the travelling dock crane, a storage shed along the
dock for maintenance personnel. I also installed aluminum siding along the
dock and cut and glued pilings in place spaced about 1 inch apart.
While all of this was taking place, I prepared the river surface using a
base coat of thick dark brown acrylic paint mixed with black and some white
to create depth and eddies in the water. Once dry, I applied a thin first
coat of acrylic gloss medium. Once that had dried I began to apply a series
of 5 coats of medium, teasing the surface with a small brush to creat waves
in an irregular pattern to simulate the surface of a river waterway.
I still have to add life to the dock, people, vehicles, garbage and clutter,
but I can take my sweet time for that. Believe it or not, while on my way
to work last week, I managed to record a juvenile seagull squaking to its
mother for food. Got my background sound effects! (It's usefull to keep a
microcassette recorder in your pocket for just such opportunities!)
So excitedly, I called the NMRA judge to have him come over to do his stuff
for the certificate...no deal...he needs to come by with 2 other judges to
comply with the requirements. He has informed me that it will take him at
least 3 weeks to find a date when everyone is available! Oh well, there is
no rush after all...and I can use the time to add invisible details to the
The official unveiling of the complete Val Ease Central featuring Center Val
Ease will take place at the Great American Train Show in Portland, Oregon,
February 19-20. I look forward to seeing the reaction of the General Public
and getting comments from Terry Sutfin, my Z partner in Vancouver, WA.
Talk to you again soon,
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