Have a look at this photo from the Keith Sirman collection (thanks, Keith!):
What do you see?
There’s the mixed train – The Daily Effort, as it was known – arriving at Port Rowan on what, at first, appears to be a single track line. But look closely to either side of the train and you’ll see two more tracks – the siding on the left, and the team track to the right. Those tracks are almost invisible in the grass.
It’s a great look that really captures the character of this far end of a lightly-used branch. But can it be modelled?
Maybe not to the same degree, but I’m going to try.
With the exception of the elevated coal track, I’ve finished spiking rails in Port Rowan, so I celebrated by painting the rails and ballasting the track. I airbrushed the rails with Floquil rail brown and left it to dry. I then cleaned the paint off the tops of the rails with an emery board.
For ballast, I used two different blends to achieve the look I wanted. I blended my own ballast from various Woodland Scenics products, adding lighter “dirt” colours to the ballast to be used on the siding and team track.
I applied this in the usual way: I poured it on, shaped it, then gave it a spray of water with some alcohol in it as a wetting agent. Instead of using a squirt bottle, I went to a kitchen store and bought a pump bottle for spraying olive oil. It produces a fine mist that won’t disturb the ballast. With everything wet, I used an eyedropper to apply Weld Bond glue diluted 50/50 with water. Then I let everything dry solid.
For grass, I use the Noch Grassmaster static grass applicator and only use Noch “Wild Grass”. Both can be found on this page at Scenic Express and of course many hobby shops carry these supplies.
I work in short sections. I sprayed more water to wet the ballast, then carefully applied my Weld Bond/water solution only where I wanted grass. Between the rails, I put a couple of drops between each tie. Between tracks, I basically flooded the area.
For the main track, I applied grass using the Noch Nozzle. It provides a little more control, but also releases less grass. For the siding and team track, I used the smaller of the two sifter screens that comes with the Grassmaster.
I was worried about the ends of the grass lying over the rails, so when everything was dry I hit the tops of the rails again with an emery board. I worked with the board at 90 degrees to the direction of travel and angled slightly in towards the centre of the track so the emery board would hit the inside edge of the railhead. I then worked in one direction – pulling towards the outside of the track – so that any blades of grass I captured between the railhead and the emery board would either pull out or be sanded off. After this, I vacuumed everything.
And yes, it runs. I don’t have the layout wired yet, but I was worried about this so I clipped a couple of leads to the rails and tried out a 10-wheeler. No worries. (I’m sure that this is in part due to the fact that the locomotive builder, Simon Parent, incorporates all-wheel pick-up in his models. Thanks for that, Simon!)
I’m sure I’ll need to do a bit more work with the emery board once I have everything wired and can test the area, but even if I have to snip away a bit of grass I’ll still achieve the look I’m after.
The lesson? As a friend said, “One never knows until trying”. I wasn’t sure it would work, but I needed to try. And it did.