After many years of delay, I'm finally beginning my first model train layout. In order to actually get started rather than overwhelmed, I scaled back my plans and expectations. I looked at my realistic space resources. I explored track plans from the internet, concentrating on ones that were made up of track pieces I already own, mostly. I realized that starting with a flat layout is ok, there's plenty to do even there. (Besides, it's geographically appropriate for my chosen setting.)
I'm using Kato unitrack, which works remarkably well despite being snap track. I'm hitting a middle ground between prototype realism and total fantasy. I'm modeling central New York state (say, Onandaga county or so) in the 1970s/1980s. Rural/small town area near the other great east-west lines of the Thruway and the Erie Canal. I will use trains, buildings, and other models appropriate to that place and time, but the town will be imaginary. Right now, I'm working on coming up with a name for a town that sounds like a small upstate town, but isn't the name of any real place. Lots of my rolling stock is Conrail, or Conrail's predecessor roads. I've got a great building kit that I'll be able to turn into a fabulous half-abandoned industrial building that's long past its prime. The main street of the town will look like it once had good times, but is now rather shabby. Yes, I'm reliving my childhood in 1:160 scale.
Actual work began with a trip to Home Depot (with much help from nathanw
) to pick up a 3'x6' of plywood and extruded foam, which are my benchwork materials. I used Liquid Nails of the appropriate formulation to attach two layers of 1.5" foam to the plywood board. This gives me plenty of depth available for digging out streams or ponds later on. I used sculptamold to smooth the gap between pieces of foam, and globbed some water-based polyurethane around the edges of the plywood to keep it from shedding splinters so much.
Once all that dried, I gave the foam a base of "earth undercoat" paint. It doesn't adhere well. I'll need more paint than I had on me to really hide the pink. But it looks less like a pink lunar surface, and more like a normal wasteland. After that, I brought it upstairs to the office, where its table legs are two sturdy old computers. I've started to set down the track temporarily so I can think about where the structures will go and draw some outlines before glueing it down.
Let's see where this leads, eh?