Roughed Landscape

Using wet newspaper, I formed some hills and covered them with plaster and gauze. Not perfect, and I kind of made a mess which will need some cleaning up. Before I do that, I will smooth out the hills a bit with more plaster, then add some rocky areas with gypsum and rock molds—but I have to wait for those to come in the mail.

Backpedaling for Aesthetic

Although the COVID-19 “quarantine” measures are being touted as a time to connect with our hobbies, for those of us in healthcare it is a time of increased anxiety and added work. Whenever I have free time now, I’m hardly being productive.

However, I have been following a number of modules from across the pond, most notably the recently completed “Loctern Quay” at

I realized British modules rarely employ complex backscenes, whether painted or photographic, as that level of detail detracts from the composition. More often, the backscene is a faded shade of blue or gray. Weeks ago, I started to ponder whether I liked my own backscene. In the end, I decided that, despite the arduous process of obtaining a photo that would work as a backscene, and then applying it, I’d rather simplify for the sake of the end product.

Last weekend, I got to work. I took a can of spray paint that had been kicking around (Rust-Oleum “Chalked” Serenity Blue) and did a bit of masking before spraying right over the backscene.

I like the result, and the no-frills, no-clutter aesthetic. Must be the Swedish in me. (Pay no attention to the clutter in the basement.)



It took a couple of months but we are settled into the new house, and I finally got LSR running this afternoon.


Little Snoring:

The house has a fantastic view of the Green Mountain railway line running up the Winooski River toward Essex Junction, which gets a bit of traffic: a few fuel trains pass each day and one or two Amtrak runs. Not British, but I’ll take what I can get.

Backscene Redux

My family and I are moving next weekend to a house down the road, so most of my time lately has been consumed by preparation for that. Of course, Little Snoring will be coming with us and by design it should be easy enough to relocate. I’m hoping to reuse the bookcase, too, assuming the new space works.

More on that when we get there. For the past month I’ve been waiting for a vinyl backscene that never arrived. I ordered it from a small backscene company in the UK and parcel tracking indicates that the company never dispatched the order (it is in “ready for dispatch” status). The company’s owner (and, likely, sole operator) claims he shipped it and that it must have been lost in customs. He didn’t offer to send me another; rather, he refunded the order after a few hasty replies to my inquiries.

I went out on a limb and ordered a paper backscene from Gaugemaster instead. It was a fraction of the cost, and it arrived within a week. The paper is a thin semi-gloss, much like a poster you’d thumbtack to the wall in a college dormitory. It will likely hold up better than the last one I tried.

Unfortunately, Gaugemaster’s N-gauge backscenes are only about 6″ tall, and my backboard is closer to 9″. While I plan on having a “hill” leading up to the backscene, it will only be about 1″ or 1.5″ tall. Thus, I need a backscene that is at least 7″ tall. So, I went with the only other size offered by Gaugemaster, which is about 12″ tall but the image is also larger and more suitable for HO- or G-scale. I figured I’d be cutting off the bottom few inches anyhow, so the larger foreground details will be mostly removed and might look okay. Here goes:


Putting it in place temporarily:

Looks good enough for me.

You can see that I started from the right-hand side, which will make it easy to transition the backscene to a second module when the time comes.

After fitting, I applied wallpaper paste carefully to the panels then put the sheets down, again working from right to left. I took out as many bubbles as I could with a rubber roller, but some bubbles inevitably remain. You can see them when viewing up close, particularly at the seams between panels:

On the leftmost seam, the colors don’t transition very well and the foreground of the leftmost panel is rather badly photoshopped:

But all in all it looks pretty good:

I think I will apply Mod-Podge to the whole backscene to protect it, and maybe that will create some textural consistency at the seams. After that, I will spray it with a Testors Dull Cote, which should get rid of the shine and maybe conceal the bubbles a bit.

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: