I want to bring more interesting features to my exhibition layout. I like to give my visitors something new to look at each year.
The past year I have upgraded the scenery on parts of the layout. I went from using ground foam and turf to using static grass with the NOCH Gras-Master. An upgrade that lifted the scenery to new dimensions. Static grass is a wonderful thing and you should look at it for your own layout. It is both fun, easy to use and mixing the different colours of grass gives stunning results.
The InterCity "Hohenstaufen" is on its way through the landscape on the exhibition layout.
My exhibition layout is created with the purpose of teaching visitors about digital operation, how to automate and how you can easily create landscape that looks great!
Everyone can do it and have fun in the process. This is also why I only use components that you can actually buy in a store. I do not spend hours on end trying to create a tree trunk, even though that can be fun too, I try to create a landscape that can be achieved with only a little practice and a good part of imagination. The model railway hobby is all about letting your creativity loose.
For a while I have thought about creating a siding with an industry of some kind. I think it would add an interesting feature to the layout. I am currently looking into the possibility of adding a sawmill or perhaps a factory that would need wood as part of the production. I love wood transports, so having those on the layout is a must for me.
Two of my modules need repairing after being damaged during transport, so this is the perfect opportunity to research something new.
A New Base For The Track
Another change I have made is with the track itself. Up until now, I have used the Trix C track with added ballast for a more realistic look. It does look awesome, but I also had some worries because using ballast locked my track plan in place.
I like to rebuild my layout from time to time, so I never really liked the idea of a module with a fixed track.
The NOCH Ballast Mat is product number 00090.
That is why I decided to rip up the old track and ballast and use the C track "as is" on a predefined path. The NOCH ballast mat (NOCH 00090) is perfect in this situation. I saw the ballast mat in a store, sort of visualized how it would look under the C track and decided to go for it.
I started out with the modules that needed repairs.
Adding the ballast mat is really easy. I simply glue the ballast mat to the baseboard using Woodland Scenics Foam Tack Glue, I guess you can use any kind of glue. I just happen to have the Woodland Scenics glue at hand.
Note! I also tried with spray glue first, this does not work, so I cannot recommend that.
The ballast mat is glued into place.
Old and new!
That is basically it! Afterwards I just lay the track "as is" over the ballast mat. Here is a train running on the new section.
The InterCity "Hohenstaufen" is on its way on the newly laid track.
My initial tests worked out perfectly so I decided to convert the rest of the modules.
To prepare for the ballast mat I strip down the module by removing the old track and the old ballast. Having previously used Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement to glue the ballast, removing it again is a very easy task as the Scenic Cement can be removed by spraying water on it. When in contact with water, Scenic Cement looses its grip within seconds and the ballast can be removed using an old screwdriver.
I did sand the baseboard down to remove what was left of the ballast. I need a clean surface for the ballast mat.
The ballast has been removed and the module is ready for the ballast mat.
When the ballast has been removed I lay down the ballast mat. I find it easy to do if I work in manageable sizes. So I have pre cut some ballast mat to make the work easier. The ballast mat is very easy to blend into the existing landscape, so if you want to upgrade an existing layout it is an easy task.
I cut the ballast mat with a pair of scissors. If you are going to use a knife make sure it is ultra sharp. The ballast mat is made from rather thick paper and difficult to cut.
Any damages to the surrounding landscape can be easily repaired later.
When the ballast mat has been laid, I blend it into the existing landscape using NOCH brown paint (NOCH 61193). Later I will add static grass, turfs and other details.
The NOCH paint works as a foundation for the scenery. I can really recommend using NOCH paints as they dry completely dull. There is nothing shiny about the paint. I really like that.
The NOCH paints dry dull and works great as a base for your scenery.
Another cool side effect when using the ballast mat is that you can run trains as often as you like while creating the surrounding landscape. If you need a break from the landscape construction simply lay some track and start running trains. A hidden bonus!
The track does need some additional weathering. More on that in a later article.
So, How Does It Look?
Well, opinions on these kinds of solutions are many and even though I think the old solution did look better, I definitely also think that the new solution is not bad looking either.
For my layout, using a solution like this have a purpose: Ease the reconfiguration of track plans and set up of the layout. The ballast mat solution solves these problems. I pay with a touch of realism, but so be it. Time will tell if I can live with it.
For now, this is what I want. It also makes it easy to fit in a turnout should the operation call for one. This was not easy before.
I would definitely recommend looking at the NOCH ballast mat if you are not into ballasting track. I think it works very well and the results are not bad.
Putting in a turnout is easier now than it was before.
A Note On Catenary
I have catenary on my layout. I only have it in the landscape sections and it is only there for show. It does not work and I have no plans to make it work. Having to take down the catenary during transport is a time consuming thing and it puts a lot of stress on the catenary itself. It is not made with the purpose of being dismantled all the time.
I have decided to try adding only the masts and leave the wire at home. Let's see how it works. I can always bring the wire back if I want to.
Here is a sample of the current look.
Catenary without the wire.
That is all for the exhibition layout for now. I will return with more articles as I get stuff done.