Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Friday, July 22, 2016

Groveton Scenery

With the main portions of the mill structures complete, I turned my attention to the scenic elements of the Groveton paper mill area. Even without detailing, adding a bit of scenery will go a long way to making the area look more complete and realistic.

I started by preparing a surface for representing the paved lot around the buildings. An access road will cross the tracks to lead to the warehouse buildings. I used more of my supply of left over foam board to build up the road sections between the tracks and the main area in front of the middle and right building.

Once firmly glued in place, I had a nice level surface to work with for the lot and road. For paving material, I use DAP Fast 'n Final spackling material with black paint mixed in. This leaves a nice gray appearance for the main coat.

I put an amount of the spackling into a plastic container (left) and mix in black paint until I get the color I like.

The material is very nice to work with. It is not messy and dripping like plaster. It is more like cake frosting but without being too sticky. In fact it is fairly easy to remove should you get some where you do not want it. I work it onto the surface area with the mixing spatula, then use a drywall knife to smooth the area, I end up with a fairly thin coat of material as the smoothing will remove material as you do it. It can be tough to get all marks out of the surface, but it is OK if you end up with 1 or 2 ridges from the knife edge, These can easily be sanded later when dry. As the material is colored, you will not get any white to show through when sanded. You can also mix up a darker batch and apply over the dried first coat to represent patched areas and pothole fills.

Here I have applied and smoothed main paved lot area which will extend under the middle and right buildings. To the left, the largest building will be directly on the plywood with scenery built up to the edge. The glue gun was used to attach the foam core sections to the plywood.
I also took this time to put in an overall base coat of dirt and weeds. I will build this up with more elements over time, and then do ballasting and more weeds in the tracks. But this base coat helps transform the area from plywood to a scene. Materials I used included Scenic Express dirts and ground foams, static grass and grout in black and dark gray.

Blue tape protects the track and also marks the outline of the building and car sheds. The idea here is to get a base coat of earth, cinders, some weeds and such to then build upon. The standalone building is positioned within the paved lot . In the distance will be a large wood chip pile and trees to hide the trackage behind that area.

The roadway has been paved and smoothed up to the outside of the rails. After about an hour it is pretty well set but not fully dried. I'll do between the rails later as it is difficult to work there without disrupting the wet spackling. Some of the initial scenery of dirt and grass can be seen also. I still need to build up some landforms with sculptamold to the road edges and to hide the turnout control rods. I'll do that later and then reapply this base coat of scenery before moving on to more detailed grass, weeds, etc.
Imperfections in the paving will be sanded out, and in some cases used to show signs of wear, such as divots made into potholes, and uneven edges showing signs of deterioration. Overall I find this paving process quite easy and enjoyable. Adding signs of wear with chalks and other details will be a fun process.

To ensure the external building would sit properly on the paved lot area, I built a foundation from bass wood, and then lightly pressed that into the spackling after it set up a bit. Putting the building on this ensured it would sit flat and look "planted" instead of on top of the paved area.

The foundation put in place. A little of the material pushed up along 2 edges. I'll be able to lightly sand this down, as well as sand the 2 ridges you can see


Roger Sekera said...


Liked your "Groveton scenery" notes, particularly the comments on asphalt color---a very tricky thing. Since I model South Western Virginia, I actually found a piece of the CSX parking lot in Dante, VA yard that was (well sorta) loose and hauled it to my paint guy at the local hardware store. He produced a color that was somewhat correct. With powders added, the result was quite good.

Roger Sekera

Mike McNamara said...

Thanks Roger. The was a good idea on color matching. I think the weathering and detailing are where it can come more alive, such as your use of powders. I'll post more as I work on it and see where it ends up.

Geof Smith said...


I tried your approach on an Ntrak module (a great place for experimenting) and really like the results. Thanks for the tip! I'll next try it on my home layout - which by the way should be graced by the appearance of the St. Johnsbury train station by Labor Day I'm told.

One question: how long did you let the spackle dry before sanding?


Mike McNamara said...

It takes a while to fully dry, so best to give it 2 or more days. It seems to retain a softer state than regular plaster. This is good as it does not chip or crack. Once sanded, I will go over it with chalks and maybe try pan pastels to lighten things up and show some wear. Glad your station is getting close to delivery - should be worth the wait!