Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Building an Abandoned Siding

Abandoned railway sidings are an unfortunate part of real-life railroading, but for model railroaders they can make for an interesting model in their own right. So long as they look believable and can convey a story of what they were once intended for. Best of all, adding an abandoned siding to your model railway won't cost more than a piece of scrap track that you have lying around.

I decided to add an abandoned siding embedded within the concrete apron beside my cement plant.

I decided to add an abandoned siding beside the cement plant on my layout. I started out by stripping a 450 mm (or 16 inch) piece of HO code 100 PECO flextrack back so that only a 75 mm section of sleepers, (or 3 inch strip of ties as our American friends call them), remained at one end. The remainder of the rails were to be set in a concreted area that I would build from 3 mm balsa wood. After hand painting the PECO track (see my separate post on hand painting PECO track here) to resemble a well-aged grey timber relic, I followed by rusting the rails and rail plates with Rustall and set the track aside while I cut the strips of balsa wood that would make up my concrete apron.

I used strips of 3 mm balsa wood to get create the height of the concrete around the rails.

Everything about this next step is a little ad hoc. It is meant to be. Concrete loading yards are usually poured section by section, and are full of cracks and ugly joint lines. I simply cut some 400 mm long x 25 mm wide strips of balsa, and drew deep joint lines every 100 mm with a heavy lead pencil, making sure to alternate them 50 mm apart on each adjoining strip. I cut the strip between the rails to a width of 15 mm. The rails end 30 mm from the end of the concrete pad, so the adjoining strips of balsa wood were trimmed back roughly the width of the rail on each side of where the track would fit as shown above.

Using a hodge-podge of grey colours, I painted the concrete as though it had been poured in sections.

The next step was to paint the concrete. I've never been a big fan of using an all over one shade of grey for painting concrete. I prefer to use a random assortment of 'hodge-podge' grey colours that I mix up as I go on an artists palette, and keep layering the paint on within the confines of each square until I'm happy with the varying shades as shown above. The deep lead pencil lines made an easy point to end each brush stroke, and ensuring that the pencil lines are still slightly visible further highlights the joint lines.

I glued it in place with the rusted rails protruding just beyond the concrete apron.

Once the paint has dried, I glued the first strip of painted balsa wood into place beside the siding that leads to my cement plant using some balsa cement. Next I glued the bare rails into position with some contact plastic cement, and followed quickly with the strip of balsa that was to go between the rails before the glue set. There is enough time to position the pieces correctly and press down firmly on them while they dry before continuing with the remaining strips.

Then I added a few well-aged timber sleepers beyond where the rails ended for extra effect.

Not content to have a small strip of exposed rail jutting out from the confines of the concrete loading pad, I added an extra 50 mm strip of plastic sleepers that I had removed earlier from the rails and glued these in place. I then simply repeated the same weathering process as before. Most obsolete railway sidings when placed out of order usually had the points or switches removed and the rails lifted up and often reused elsewhere. However, in the case of my abandoned siding the rails are set in concrete and were simply removed to the nearest rail joint, resulting in the short section of track that is still visible.

I then sealed the entire surface with a clear coat of spray lacquer to smooth the finished surface.

With the track and concrete loading pad in place, I then painted the adjoining area where the model of my cement plant fits in matching shades of grey, and sealed the entire area with Testors clear coat spray lacquer. Covering the surrounding areas with damp strips of Chux cloth is an easy way to avoid any over spray.

The ballast around the abandoned siding should always blend into the accompanying yard or railway line.

Next I turned my attention to ballasting the surrounding area, following the same method I used in my previous post on ballasting track. It is important to remember that any abandoned siding is still supposed to look like it once belonged to the adjoining railway line or yard. So keeping to the same shade for the base colour is important. Adding too much cinders, grass flocks and ground scatter is only going to look like an overkill.

The finished result looks effective, but I wanted to add a few extra effects as seen below.

The finished ballasted area should blend in to the surrounding tracks that are still in use. At this point I also completed ballasting the remaining section of my layout surrounding the cement plant, just to ensure that everything blended in nicely. I waited until the area was dried thoroughly before adding all the cool stuff that will make my abandoned siding come to life.

To simulate a decade or more of being placed out of service, place some weeds between the rail gaps, sleepers and cracks.

Fortunately I had enough left-over grass tufts to add the final detail to my abandoned siding. Using the same shades of wild grass and dry grass that I used in my post adding some ground cover, I picked up the tweezers once more and applied the self-adhesive Leadbear's Tufts wherever I thought that wild grass would grow more than a decade after the siding had been taken out of service. The concrete pad still parallels the cement plant siding, and as such would have had trucks and forklifts loading and unloading long after the rails to this siding were taken out of service. So I mainly concentrated on the gaps between the rails and the concrete, along with the water run-off area at the end of the concrete pad.

And finally an abandoned siding that I am happy with. Not too noticeable or obtrusive.

The finished results are very subtle. When viewing the layout, the abandoned siding isn't too obtrusive. The rails line up perfectly with the siding besides the goods shed that once would have doubled as the lead track for what is now an abandoned siding. What I like is that it tells a story. One that maybe isn't noticed by the viewer on their first look, but is still there regardless, waiting for them to discover on a second viewing. All up, this project was made entirely from left-overs. Personally, this project was special because it also filled in the last blank patch on my canvas. My scenery is now in place from end-to-end. With only a few minor details waiting to be completed on my building kits, I can now start thinking of having this small layout completed within 12 months from the date I first started working on it.

A simple scene that now tells a story in its own right, and all made from leftover pieces.

Adding an abandoned siding was a neat little project that didn't take up too much time, space or money. Three things that are often the bane of my model railway endeavours. More importantly, it helped set the tone for how I am going to complete the final details surrounding my cement plant, and indeed the final details for my layout itself. With the end now clearly in sight, it seems I have to hold myself back a little from rushing to complete it. But as usual, that is a story for another day.

See also; Using different ballast coloursAdding some ground cover and Hand painting Peco track

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil