Backscene Reversed

Well, that only lasted a few minutes before the backscene paper began separating from itself as though it was two-ply.

Now I have the Sisyphean task of sanding tacky PVA from the board before taking a new approach. If I can’t find a suitable vinyl backscene, I might be painting one directly onto the panels.

I don’t often advocate against a product. “Different strokes” and all that. But this paper-based backscene has been nothing but troublesome, and I’ve been about as careful and precise as possible.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some cleaning up to do…

Backscene I

Yikes this is difficult. I’ve trimmed and attached 1/2 of the backscene, and made plenty of mistakes. I’m using archival PVA glue and maybe started laying the printed sheet in a larger swathe than I should have, creating a few air bubbles that can’t be pressed out.

On the areas where I did try to go back and smooth things down, I inevitably scratched and gouged the delicate printed surface (it is only paper, after all). Then I went over the sheet with Testors Dullcote in an effort to protect it from further harm, but the nozzle on the spray can was gummed up and spat drops of dullcote rather than providing a nice, even coating.


Oh well, it looks pretty good for all that:

Painting the Fascia

I spent a few days painting the now-primed fascia, and most of that time was spent experimenting with a gloss furniture paint that I’ve had kicking around for more than a year (Rust-oleum Hunter Green). Trying to apply gloss paint evenly turned out to be an exercise in futility, so I sanded the gloss down with 400-grit sandpaper and then hit the whole thing with two coats of Behr “Marquee” matte paint in a color called “Secluded Woods” (base 1453, color S420-7).

Looks pretty good, but pay no attention to the mess behind it. I’m beginning to gut my “tools & bits & bobs” closet.

Now it’s time for the backscene!

Painting Rails

And now for the most terrifying step of all: painting the rails.

The idea here is to make the rails look more realistic by taking away most of the shine, except for on the railheads. This makes the tracks look well-used and rusted. When’s the last time you saw real railway tracks with nickle-silver rails and black plastic spacers?

I consider this an important step, although many modelers skip it. If done carelessly, it can result in globs of paint and poor connectivity, especially on turnouts which require the stock rails and switch rails to be metal-on-metal.

To paint the rails I used Rust-oleum Camouflage Brown spray paint, which covered the rails nicely with a single application and which is dead-flat, with no gloss at all. Last time I painted rails I used a semi-gloss, which didn’t look half this good.

I taped off the turnout points and the adjacent sections of stock rail. I also masked the turntable with painters tape. I painted a section of track at a time and cleaned the railheads with a paper towel soaked in denatured alcohol before moving onto the next section. Then I toggled the turnouts to make sure they don’t stick. (They always do at first, but they loosen up after a few toggles.)

Backscene Curve

After sanding the fascia to smooth everything down and prepare it for primer, I decided to finally add a curve over the corner of the backscene panels. This will allow me to lay the printed backscene without a fold, adding to the illusion of panorama.

I have been racking my brain for a way to add the curve, and have read other blogs from modelers who have used sheet metal, plasticard, foam, and wood. These were all viable options but seemed a bit out of my league.

Then I had a “eureka” moment when I pulled the backscene out of the cardboard shipping tube. I cut out a 90-degree portion of the shipping tube, trimmed it just shy of the height of the backscene panels, glued it into the corner, and topped it with a small wedge of 1/4″ plywood which I filed down to match the curve. I added wood filler to the edges of the cardboard, then sanded it all down. Here’s the result:

Backscene Test

I received the printed backscene finally, after it sat in purgatory at ISC Queens for a few weeks. The backscene is from Model Scenery Supplies in Northrep. Overall, I think it looks fantastic, although there was a section with faded stripes due to an apparent printing issue, but I will be able to cut that section off.

Here’s a test photo:

Still needs to be trimmed at the margins, and I need to add a permanent curve in the corner, but it looks good already.

I also started building up some hills along the fascia. They need sanding before they are backfilled down to the level of the roadbed:

First NEM Coupler Conversions

My Dapol 28XX 2-4-0 engine came factory-equipped with NEM magnetic knuckle couplers, but my trusty old Graham Farish 0-6-0 was unfortunately only equipped with bulky and unsightly Rapido couplers, as were my Dapol Collett coaches. Rapido couplers are not compatible with NEM couplers, and they don’t have a metal flange so aren’t triggered by the magnets on my layout.

I finally decided to change that. I have been holding onto a Dapol NEM conversion kit for many months. I’ve been a bit intimidated, to be honest, having read the instructions about a dozen times. But tonight I resolved to equip my Collett coaches with NEM couplers (I will wait to convert the 0-6-0 until I am a bit more experienced).

It really wasn’t all that bad. I removed the trucks from the coaches to make it easier. Then I used some clippers to remove the Rapido coupler box (well, most of it; it is molded into the trucks so a bit of the Rapido pocket remains). I filed the cut ends flush with a jeweler’s file, then super-glued the NEM box in place. I added the “inner pocket” (which enables some lateral movement) and then snapped in a NEM short-shank coupler.

I wanted to take some photos of the process, but it was almost impossible due to the small size of the pieces and poor lighting. I took a few “after” photos using my flash, which was the best I can do. In the first photo, you can see the jig on the rails which helps gauge the height of the couplers and also holds them in place while they are being glued to the trucks:

Adding the Panels

I started attaching the backscene panels this morning. Here’s the first panel being clamped:

The process has been fairly straightforward, except the baseboard wasn’t perfectly square, causing a slight lean. It is imperceptible to the casual observer, but caused a bit of an issue when connecting the left side panel. I broke up some small bits of wood, stuffed the gap with a few splinters, and applied copious amounts of wood glue. It is currently being “clamped” with painters tape until the glue is set:

Once set, I will use some plastic wood filler to smooth it out. Otherwise, the whole thing is coming together nicely.