Making the Scene(ry)

“Talkin’ ain’t doin’.

Zoe Washburn


Now that the construction phase is done, time to turn attention to world building. I started by laying out the streets in ‘Tacoma’ with cut manila folders:

Street layout 1 Street layout 2

The ‘roads’ are angled 45 degrees to the table edge to provide visual interest. The wide strips are a scale 30′ wide (two 10′ lanes and two 5′ sidewalks), while the narrow strips represent alleys 12′ wide. These widths are appropriate for 1948. The strip parallel to the locomotive represents a two-lane road without sidewalks that will cross the tracks. I just pivoted it out of the way to run trains.

The building is off of eBay. What you see is what came in the mail. I bought it because it’s era-appropriate, and has some nice architectural details. With some work it can be a ‘signature’ building. But that’s a project for another day. Now it serves as a stand-in for block spacing.


After due diligence, I spent an afternoon shopping.

Scenery supplies


The bags contain Woodland Scenics products Earth, Green Grass, Weeds, Fine Grey Ballast, and Cinders. For this layout each bag is a lifetime supply. The tall paint can is Rustoleum’s Desert Bisque, a textured paint that some forum posters said represents aged concrete well. I have some reservations, but am willing to try it. The small paint can is Testor’s Dullcote, a staple in the hobby.

I’ve spent the last 15 years armchairing; time to do!

The nice thing about using ground foam is the ability to add textures in layers, giving a somewhat 3D effect. Static grass yields excellent 3D results, but given that I’m covering square inches rather than square feet, and this is my first layout, I decided to keep things simple.

First step was to mask the layout. I had an idea to use spray glue for primary ground cover attachment, and spray glue is good at going where it’s not wanted, like track and points:

Scenery masking 1 Scenery masking 2

The paper plate is my ground cover experiment. I sprayed on the glue, then sprinkled Earth, Grass, and Weeds in layers with spray glue for each layer. It seemed to work well, and I liked the result.

First, the Earth:

First earth layer


After the glue dried, wind was supplied by the vacuum to suck up excess. Fortunately, no fire. Next, Grass:

First grass layer


Then, Weeds:

Weed layer


I didn’t cover the entire area with Weeds, just spots here and there. Not trusting the spray glue entirely, I diluted some white glue with water and liberally sprayed the area. The result:

Sawmill side groundcover


My first scenery. Yay! The grass is patchy, but I was looking for that effect. This is grass in close proximity to a railroad; it’s not going to be country club groomed. Because the time frame is June 1948, I considered using a browner shade of grass, but my experience in western Washington is that there’s plenty of moisture through June, so a greener shade seems appropriate.

Nest up: ballasting.


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