Aoshima Apartments Ground Floor

I completed my construction of 4 Aoshima Apartment buildings into one large apartment building last March.  While I was pleased with the general look, the ground floor didn't look right.

Additionally, I had this Tomix "7-11" that I really liked, but was having trouble figuring out where this single-story structure would fit in my increasingly dense inner-city.  Below is my original implementation of the 7-11, which was pretty much shoving an LED into it and leaving it at that.
I've seen a couple examples of these 7-11's being used as the ground floor for other buildings, and that seems like a pretty good way to go.
The Aoshima Building is considerably longer and wider than the 7-11, so additional architecture was needed.  I used some plastic brick sheet that I hoped matched the 7-11 brick pattern as close as possible (well, not really.  Short of recasting the 7-11 or buying another kit, this proved to be difficult, but the result looks and feels 'close enough') and glued these onto clear acrylic which I attempted to mimic the door/window style of the 7-11 to make sure the entire ground floor had a consistent look, even if the 'new' section is really just a lobby/entry for the apartments.
I mocked up some 'fake furniture' for the new lobby, painted the interiors and exteriors, found some awnings in my unused 'bits' drawer to go over the doorways, and added more LED's.  Yes, their is a 'loose' SMD LED on one side that is planned for a future billboard that will go against that wall (which I expect will be street facing....given the width of this model, its almost certain that one end will face a street).

This work was all done last May/June, but I didn't have a chance to shoot any photos until recently.  I'm not doing any 'building work' until all my track, scenery, and (most) of the electrical is done on the "Expansion"!


Sculpt-a-molding, Roads, and Fascia

A lot of progress was made this weekend, mostly on non-track related work. 

New Incline for "Red Line" (inside loop on lower level):
I originally had planned to have my new elevated section to be Unitrack up until the trestle (in foreground in below photo), but the limitations of the Unitrack radii forced me to resort to flex track for the incline.  The below photo is looking 'downhill' from the trestle with the flex track in place (the track underneath the bridge is the same line. This 'elevated section' is just an 'up and over', but should make the "red line" a lot more interesting than it used to be).
The advantage of flex track is that I can obviously have slightly curving runs.  The below shows the incline now looking 'uphill'.  As you can probably tell, I'm using Woodland Scenics risers for this purpose to get a nice smooth incline (albeit 3%):
The track is covered by standard cellophane tape while I apply Sculpt-A-Mold to the Styrofoam risers.  I add a bit of black and brown acyrilic paints to sculpt-a-mold while I'm mixing it to get a better 'ground color' (well, better than white), even though this will eventually be covered by foilage.
After the sculpt-a-mold dries, I'll come back and apply the ballast to this track section.

Roadway Extension:
One of my poorer choices when originally building this layout was running the track virtually up to the edge.  Not only does it create a lot of anxiety if there ever were to be a derailment in this area, but it looks so much nicer to have an area of scenery in the foreground of the trains.   This is a forgiveable sin, however, as the reason the tracks are so close to the edge is that I'm trying for the widest radius possible for my curves which, of course, look better!

On the long stretch of the layout where the freight yard will be, I've decided to add a roadway.  This was easily added to the layout by attaching a board underneath the layout.  I then added some Styrofoam for elevation, and have been using Plaster of Paris to create the initial road surface.
 I'm in the process of air-brushing a dark gray color to the Plaster of Paris to color and seal it up.  I'll have to reapply another coat of Plaster of Paris to fix a few areas, but its starting to finally look like a road now!
Why a road instead of natural areas?  This is a strategic decision to distract 'little hands'!  That does mean the road will have to withstand the 'play' of little tires on its surface though.  I think several coarts of paint and clear coat should do the job.

I've also added strips of 'fascia' around the perimeter of most of the layout.  I'm using 'sintra' (again), which is a great material for this purpose as its flexible, strong, and comes in a nice 'grey' color which is what I wanted.
With fascia in place, I've been using Sculpt-a-mold to fill in the gaps between the fascia and the layout, which should look really good when its all done.  The above photo shows another 'extension' as I mentioned above, this time its all natural!

"When its all done".  Well, that still seems a way off.  And truly, I have to admit that all of these photos show quite a mess in Quinntopia right now.   More mess is ahead as I need to finish off the track-laying, ballasting, then wiring.  Oh, and scenery.  Then I'll get to that cathedral and downtown....oh my.   I've really got a lot to do!


Moving the Cathedral

As can be seen in the above photo, I've been able to get another city block wired up and lit.  While I'm waiting for all my track to arrive for my expansion, I've had some time to work on smaller projects that I've skipped over; wiring and adding my buildings is one of those projects (ballasting my track and 'painting my rails' is another one).

I've had this 'plan' for this second city block for quite some time.  Its a challenge as it incorporates the Vollmer cathedral, which is far deeper than most buildings and therefore extends the entire width of my 'blocks'.

An idea struck me that I think may improve both the city block and the cathedral.  What I'm thinking of doing is moving the cathedral to the current (well, 'proposed') site of my 'tram stop'.   This area is also the sort of 'dead zone' inside my track oval that is difficult to integrate square buildings easily.
Of course, this change means that the tram stop and tracks need to move.  I have few options as you'll notice a bridge over a road (which leads to a tunnel) that would be very difficult to move.  The nice thing about moving the tram stop is that I can use the area on both sides of the church for both a smaller tram stop and a sort of 'plaza' or parking.

Another option, and one I don't care too much for, is to turn the church 90 degrees.   Hmmm....I don't care too much for how this looks, but it would require a lot less work!
Another project that I must absolutely get to next is road striping.  I'm a bit tired of looking and plain streets and I also think that it'll be a lot easier to add striping now before too many structures or details are added later.

Okay, that's it for now...back to the train room!



While I wait for my new Minitrix switches to arrive from a couple of US, Canada, and European sources; and my  Tomix cant track curves from Japan (who would've thought model trains would be so international?) I've been taking care of some various projects in preparation for the new track.

My first task is the result of admiring several layouts where the owners have painted their track a rust or dark brown color.  When I first really started to notice this technique it scared me....I usually spend extra time trying NOT to get any paint, dirt, etc... on my track!  But to deliberately do it?  That scares me, and I assumed that the folks who did this were designing non-operating dioramas versus working layouts.  As time went by, I realized this was not the case.  So I've jumped onto the bandwagon of rail painters!
Since using a brush for this effort sounds really tiresome, I tried to use a device that looks fairly simple to paint the rails, but I really wasn't happy with the results and found the effort to apply the paint fairly exhausting.  My 'fall back' plan was to use an airbrush.  Although I've had a Paasche VL double-action airbrush for a couple of years, I never been able to achieve good results.  It turns out the problem wasn't the airbrush or the paint, but an older compressor from Badger that just wasn't putting out the pressure that I needed!  I recently bought a cheap 85psi air compressor and the results are amazing!  Its really noisy, but as my layout and most of my work occurs in the garage, this isn't a problem for me.

My color of choice has been Tamiya Red Brown.  Its also easy to get and I've heard good things on various message boards about how well Tamiya works for air brushes.  I have to say, I've been very impressed.  The only challenge is trying to not get too sloppy or rush too much and end up with excessive 'rusty ballast'!

What I don't know yet, is whether or not any part of my fears of doing this were justified.  I'll find out soon enough.

Speaking of ballast, that's been my other project.  Given the mix of Kato Unitrack, Atlas flextrack and Minitrix switches (not to mention several sections of Fleischmann profi-track flex track AND Tomix cant track curves!) I need to unify the look.  Painting the rails is one part, but adding a consistent ballast color is the next part.  Below is an example of the two methods I used of applying 'rust' to rails (the track in the background was with Tamiya using the airbrush, the track in the foreground used a dark brown and roller device I mentioned), as well as the 'wet' ballast waiting for vacuuming and touch ups tomorrow.  Doesn't look great now, but an improvement over what I used to have.
Let me say that despite my growing enthusiasm for some of the non-Kato track pieces I'm using, ballasting is still not fun.   But I'm muddling through it and hopefully learning a bit more about how to do it correctly without everything looking like the surface of the moon instead of realistic railroad ballast.
The above photo also shows the 6 inch extension across for the city (in addition to my Unitrack ballasting).  This minor extensions will be a sort of 'backdrop' using some of my excess buildings, and will also keep the trains away from the layout edge!  I'm doing something similar further up the layout, but rather than buildings, this will be rolling hills.

I'm also preparing the yard by putting down the cork, in addition to soldering leads to my some of the yard trackage. 
As you can see, and as I'm sure many of you will recognize from your own experience, the layout is an absolute mess right now.  But its a good mess....this is leading up to some exciting improvements!