I made significant progress in St. Williams over the weekend. In addition to building a baggage wagon for the station, I also paved the road and crossing, built and installed crossbucks, and added fence posts to define the railway’s right of way.
I used spackle to make the road. I gave it a thick coat, sanded when dry, then added a thin top coat. When it’s cured, I’ll paint and weather it. I plan to wait until my copy of the latest book from Gordon Gravett arrives before I finish the road – I’m guessing it has some interesting techniques that I can put to good use here.
To pave the crossing, I first cleaned the paint off the inside of the Code 70 running rails with a wire wheel in a Dremel Tool. I then cut two lengths of Code 55 Rail. I tinned the top of the railhead on these two pieces. I then added flux to the inside web of each running rail, and soldered the head of the Code 55 Rail to the web of the running rail. (This is an old trick used by trolley enthusiasts to simulate streetcar trackage.)
Soldering holds the Code 55 securely, and also connects it electrically to the running rails so if a deep-flanged piece of equipment passes over the crossing, it should still receive power. (That said, I checked the crossing after soldering the rails in place, and my locomotives and rolling stock navigate it without riding up.)
I then carefully applied spackle in this area, smoothing it level with the tops of the rails. I made sure any spackle that got into the channels I’d created with the Code 55 was cleaned out. When the spackle dried, I went over the tops of the rails, lightly, with a sanding block to make sure the road surface does not rise above the railhead, and to clean any spackle off the railheads themselves.
I picked up the crossbucks from David Clubine at Ridgehill Scale Models. (Thanks, David!) These laser-cut kits are Canadian-specific – note the use of the word “RailWAY” – and are part of the Grand River Models range of S scale detail parts. (Barry Silverthorn at Grand River Models notes on his website that he also offers US-style “RailROAD” crossbucks.)
While working in this area, I also added posts to represent the railway’s right of way fencing. I will admit right up front that the fence line is much closer to the tracks than it would be in real life. But putting the posts in their proper spot would have pushed the right of way to the edges of the benchwork – which would in turn deny me the opportunity to model farms, tobacco kilns, and other neat things that help convey context on my layout. So it’s a compromise I’m willing to live with.
I started by sawing six 1/8″ diameter dowels into dozens of little pieces, using a miter box to add a 30-degree angle to the ends of each piece and a stop to make them all the same length. I then marked a “ground” level on each, so they would all be the same height when planted.
To add them to the layout, I grabbed a scrap of wood and marked it for distance from the railhead and distance between posts. I then used this to locate each post. Planting went relatively quickly: I poked a hole in the foam board terrain and stuck a post in. After all were in place, I went back and stained the posts in-situ with more Hunterline Medium Brown:
I have not yet decided whether I’m going to add fence wire between the posts, using E-Z Line. It would better convey “fence” to viewers, but I worry about it picking up dust or catching uncoupling picks. I may try a small section and see if I like it. Meantime, I’m very pleased with how the St. Williams scene is coming together. There’s much more to do – and I’m almost ready to take the next step in building the trees – but even these few details added over the weekend have made a big difference.