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MR 101: Basic questions about surface/structure/scenery relationships

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  • Member since
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Posted by bmtrainmaster on Saturday, March 11, 2023 4:50 PM

I don't secure my buildings to my layout. Magnets would be a cool thing to try.

-bmtrainmaster

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Posted by crossthedog on Saturday, March 11, 2023 12:28 AM

Thank you Guy, Shane and Mike for these additional examples.   

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Friday, March 10, 2023 7:06 AM

I added the scenery around the building, as I set them in place. 

All of my buildings have "foundations" that are pretty much visiable.

Just a couple of examples.

Mike.

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Posted by NVSRR on Thursday, March 9, 2023 5:31 PM

Looking at the building by the track  is a brown strip that is the epvc property base.    the detal will be on that part of the abandoned building

At the edge of the ties  of the siding of this abandoned building  is the edge of the epvc property.   note how all the detail is on the proerty.   I havent scenic this in at the piont this pic was done. 

This one also sits on property. but sceninced in. you can not see where the edge is and the other scenery starts.   blended in nicely. 

 The building on the left has a foundation added on the epvc property. then all blended in to the scenery

If you look by the pump house, you can see the epvc under the steps. and the strip styrene foundation just behind the tanks. to adjust the building 

 

Shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 9:50 PM

crossthedog

 

I think maybe the Perkins is a bit of extra trouble because its foundation of course has to sit level so that the building doesn't lean, but the ground has to come up around it in an "unlevel" fashion. I don't know how the modelers in that first photo got the hillside to be so tight to the wall unless they had no plan to ever move the building. Maybe, as some suggested above, the whole area was built à la diorama as a scenic whole. Which would be challenging in this particular spot but maybe doable.

 

-Matt

 

 

Matt,

The term my buddies and I use is "dirting in". That is where you glue the dirt and scenery materials right up to the edge of the building so there is no gap. Generally, this means you will have to wet the ground to get the structure off of the layout after it has been installed.

Most of the structures on my layout are installed using this method. While it is inconvenient to remove a structure I haven't had to remove one that was installed in nearly 20 years now...I will typically glue the structure down and apply glue and ground cover. I use a bean bag on top of the structure to keep it from moving while the glue dries…

 

Below is a shot where you can see the ground is still wet from this process...

 

Have fun,

 

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 9:00 PM

Thanks guys. There are a lot of really good methods expressed here, some combination of which I'm sure I will be able to land on (as it were). Most of my buildings will be on flat areas, and I can readily imagine most of the methods you all have outlined above for that.

I think maybe the Perkins is a bit of extra trouble because its foundation of course has to sit level so that the building doesn't lean, but the ground has to come up around it in an "unlevel" fashion. I don't know how the modelers in that first photo got the hillside to be so tight to the wall unless they had no plan to ever move the building. Maybe, as some suggested above, the whole area was built à la diorama as a scenic whole. Which would be challenging in this particular spot but maybe doable.

Which also makes me think, I could just leave the stone foundation permanently in place, since the wood structure above is already removable and will probably remain so. More anon...

And wow... Peter, those additional photos... I don't know how to spell that sound that we make when we're flabbergasted and press air out between our lips. Is it "pblbpflbfblbllbffpblbpflbpbfbbpblflblp"?

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by HO-Velo on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 8:38 PM

Thanks Matt, I like taking low-light layout photos, adds a little realism while helping to hide my modeling sins.  

For flat terrain mounting my preference is fastening structures to PVC sheet.  With a removable roof one or two screws thru a floor piece or floor tabs holds the structure in place.  The structure can be removed or left in place as desired while layering on the textures, as other's have noted the scenery can be built up to the 'foundation'.

I like how you're mounting that nice structure into the hill.  Think I'd attach the slope pieces to the roadbed/benchwork just snug enough to allow removal of the stone foundation, then scenic the slope surfaces.  After the foundation is back in place carefully touch-up any gaps or irregularities.  Just me, but I think a path thru a grassy slope looks cool.  

Thanks and regards, Peter

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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 9:25 AM

There are two issues here, among the crillion questions: what is the most prototypical/real looking, and what is the most practical and durable given the day to day things that can and do happen to and around the layout.

Even if just slightly I think you'd find that most buildings are elevated a bit compared to the ground around them.  The last thing you want is water draining towards the foundation.  

I myself like the idea of prepping the area for the building and putting a separate "foundation" the exact footprint of the structure into the scenery (rarely all the way down to the bare plywood but now and then that might have to be the case).  I have a little shop level shaped like a disc to make sure the foundation is really flat because while it is true you do see leaning structures now and again for the most part the structure is level even if the surrounding ground is not.  Since I use Sculptamold and not plaster for most of my scenery, in certain situations I prepare the foundation, slather on the Sculptamold, and press the foundation is while the Sculptamold is still a bit wet and flexible.

How to make the foundation (styrene, reasonably thick like 1/16", painted to look like concrete) the exact footprint of the structure?  Well, if you have one handy, put the structure on a Xerox machine!  Otherwise carefully tracing it with a pencil.  I suppose you could even carefully paint the bottom edge with acrylic paint and use the structure as a sort of rubber stamp on paper or the styrene sheet itself. 

For a large and complex structure the foundation may need to be in multiple parts.  The idea of and earlier poster about a bit of adhesive caulk to keep the structure in place yet easily removable is good.  Another but somewhat more involved procedure would be to add plastic protrusions to the bottom so that it would in a sense click into place on the prepared foundation.  

This may sound childishly obvious but believe me the enthusiasms of the moment can sometimes blind us to the obvious -- TEST the foundation you've made with the structure BEFORE mounting the foundation to the scenery.  And while it might seem to make sense to just fasten the foundation to the building first and then place it on the layout, it is MUCH easier to fiddle with the foundation to make it level, and then mount the structure, than it is to fiddle with the entire building.

The late Art Curren who was famous for his kitbashing and kit-mingling articles used to create mounontting blocks on inside corners and would actually screw his structures in place onto the plywood (obviously that called for a removable roof).  Under some circumstances -- the layout/diorama being movable [as in Art's case] or likely to be bumped by visitors or kids or visited by the family feline -- that can be a good idea but it calls for yet more planning.  No rule says ya gotta do the same thing for every structure, either.  

Dave Nelson

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 9:24 AM

I am going to agree and expand on what Shane said.

I found out early that it is much easier to build structures as dioramas at the workbench and then install the entire scene on the layout. This is expecially true with scratchbuilt buildings and craftsman kits.

It also gives you all the property for details that go with the buildings.

In the past I have used 1/2" plywood for the bases, but in the future I am going to use 1/2" PVC sheet. 

1) 1/2" PVC sheet is dimensionally sound and sturdy.

2) 1/2" PVC has zero splinters.

3) I have plenty of it left over from the soffit project.

On my last layout I also made some of the buildings modular. I could swap out buildings built on the same size bases to change the scenes. I liked that a lot.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

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Posted by NVSRR on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 5:58 AM

I don't secure my buildings to the layout. Never have.    I cut a piece of epvc as the property that goes with the building.  And mount it to that.   Do the scenery work around it   Making it fit the concept of a moduAl .   Most of the detailed scenery work is done around the buildings on the property area anyway.   It saves all that work if I change the layout.  Also allows me to work on a foundation and all the little things that change. Like adjusting for a side walk, driveway, and such using the foundation to adjust it.   But the whole sitting on the epvc saves all that work.  Makes the building all the more stable too.    It also forces me to stay inside the property line when doing the work.   If I wanted to screw them, I could much more easily screw the epvc down at the corners.  Since everything on it is glued to the epvc

shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by Srwill2 on Monday, March 6, 2023 10:45 PM

Right or wrong, I generally don't put floors in my buildings, then, when I do scenery, I put a thin layer of sculptamold and touch the building to where it will go, leaving an imprint.  Then, I can apply my scenery up to the "foundation lines" and once all dry, the building goes in with some touch up scenery.

 

Steve

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Posted by Mike in NC on Monday, March 6, 2023 8:42 PM

Everyone will have an opinion and a best way, I only know what has worked for me in N-scale.  What I did on my last layout was cut an exact base from wood or plastic for each structure and fastened it in place on the layout where the structure was to go.  This also worked well even for kits I had purchased but not yet built.   All of these bases had a hole drilled through for the wiring that would be needed for structure lighting. 

 Initially I just set the structure on that base so it could be moved out of the way to avoid damage while doing scenery.  Later when I thought I was finished enough I added double sided scotch tape to keep things in place.   Fast forward ten years and a life changing event (aka: new job in another state) and it was time to take things apart.   Most of the buildings came off easy enough but a few were stubbornly stuck with the tape and received a bit of damage.

 Now many years later (and that job retired me) I unpacked train things and am in the process of starting another layout, although not so large as the last one.  I intend to mostly follow the same procedure but I'll have to make new foundation bases.  I'll probably still use doublesided tape but might try "Scenics Accents Glue".   It doesn't get hard and is non residue so things like people and vehicles  can be moved, should work for regular buildings too.   

Ok, that's my two cents,

Mike in NC,

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Posted by York1 on Monday, March 6, 2023 8:28 PM

I have a combination of foam and plywood surface.  In either case, if the building or house is going to be on a relatively flat area, I put the building directly on the foam or plywood.

My buildings are scratchbuilt, and I alway have the building bottom made of a sheet of styrene.  I attach the building to the layour using a tiny dab of caulk -- just enough to make the building not slide around.

I don't glue roofs onto the buildings so that I can add or adjust lighting.  The roofs are designed to fit over the buildings without glue.

I just started my first layout four years ago, and this method is trial and error.  It's possible there are better ways, but this works for me.

York1 John       

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Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, March 6, 2023 8:12 PM

Great structure, BTW.

Having not secured my structures to the layout, I cannot tell you what works well.  What I do is mark on my foam layout the dimensions of structures and then add scenery around those areas.  Most of my scenery are industrial, so there's not much worry about blending in to scenery.  For the few non-industrial industries, I don't worry about securing to foam yet b/c I want to add lighting later.

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MR 101: Basic questions about surface/structure/scenery relationships
Posted by crossthedog on Monday, March 6, 2023 7:37 PM

I'm about to start putting buildings on the layout in a more permanent way. But right now the surfaces on my layout are either sanded plywood or empty space over a four foot drop to the floor. Eventually I will want scenery around these buildings. I have a crillion quesions.

How do you affix your buildings to the layout? Do you scenic your area and then set the structure right down on the scenery, hoping your scenery is sufficiently flat? Do you build the scenery around your structures? Do you just use foam to shape the ground and add your grass and shrubs to the foam's surface?

If I put a structure directly on the plywood, then will it be too "low" when I get to adding plaster cloth around it? Would I even use plaster cloth on flat areas? I plan to use it around the Perkins Produce building because the Perkins has to be mounted into a hill, and the hill does not exist until I create it.

Once again here's a commercial photo of the kit installed. See how the grassy hill is tight up against the stone wall? How do you make that happen without there being a space between them?

 

I know there are books, but I want to hear what works for you. And while I'm at it, long life to you all, because I still have a long ways to go before I can post a photo like Peter's last weekend and have people mistake it for the real world, and between now and then I need you guys to stay healthy.

Thanks in advance,

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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