Category Archives: All Things Trains

All things trains – engines, rolling stock, track, scenery, and accessories.

All Things Trains

BDRWY_3Welcome to the first in a series of posts about the building of the Big Dog Scenic Railway.  This is the O scale railway that circles the shop.  We have spent the last couple of months laying track around the store interior, and now we are ready to begin laying down the scenic elements that will create a finished look.  We will also create various “scenes” along the right-of-way (towns, villages, industries, etc.).  As we make progress with our various building steps we will document our methods and materials and present them in this post.  Follow along as the BDSRy takes shape!

Our first project is to create retaining walls along the right-of-way to hide the risers we needed to use to control track elevation.  We are using Pactiv 1″ thick extruded polystyrene insulated sheet.  This comes in 4′ x 8′ foot sheets and is super lightweight.  It is easily carved and shaped to represent just about any material you like.  It is light and easily transported.  Many modelers use it on top of their layout base as it also deadens sound and presents a great land form that can be carved for ditches, lakes, ponds, etc.  It can also be stacked and cut and sanded to shape for mountains and hillsides.  We will get into some of those details as we progress along the BDSRy.

Stanley Surform Tool

Our first step was to cut some rough outline pieces to begin forming our retaining walls.  After the rough cut, we then needed to shape it to a more finished form.  A Stanley Surform tool is ideal for sanding the styrene to a desired form.  Warning! – sanding is messy and best done in an area that can be easily cleaned.  Not the best activity to do while watching the Super Bowl!!

Rough cut shapes

After the shape is created, you can fine-tune it with a more detailed cut.  We did two methods here – a brick retaining wall and a stone retaining wall.  For the brick wall, you can use a blunt instrument (screwdriver, back edge of a knife, etc.) to create the brick lines.  Once the lines were created, we then cut the wall to fit the slope of our incline.  We did the same for the stone retaining wall, except that we carved and gouged rock faces instead of scribing lines.

Here we have carved the horizontal and vertical lines, and are now cutting it to fit the incline.
Carved rock wall with rock debris and experimental paint job.
Carved rock wall with rock debris and experimental paint job.

In this photo you can see how we carved the rock face, then experimented with some additional rock details and tested a small patch with paint.  The paint came out a little more brown than we liked so we will change the shade to something with more gray in it to more closely resemble granite.