MODULE #4

57.5cm x 25cm

2019-2020


Module #4 is a straight double track segment with a standard width of 250mm and a length of 575mm (equaling 5x Rokuhan's standard 110mm length plus a total of 25mm for the connecting track pieces at both ends).

The module design reflects the "staging idea" of theatrical layout design, providing both a sturdy and protective shell and a stage-like setting through which trains run - in this case, a a segment of double track crossing a creek on a girder bridge somewhere in an Appalachian backwater.

The bridge and the little stream it enables the railroad to cross are of course the focal point of this module, with lots of greenery setting both the fore- and the background of the stage. There is nothing happening here, other than the odd train rumbling across the bridge and breaking nature's silence, but it provides railfaning vistas from several angles and viewpoints.

It also illustrates the scenery to trains ratio possible in Z Scale - even within the limited depth and height of just 10 inches (25cm).

 

 
 
 
 
This module differs from thr previous ones by not having a truly hidden on/off setting, e.g. in the form of a tunnel or an overbridge.

With this module, there is simply a cut-out (which sounds somewhat better than "hole") in the backdrop at both ends which is lined by large trees - obviously very detectable from a full head-on perspective, but quite inconspicuous when viewed from the front (also helped by the fascia having "stage wings" on both sides).

 
 
 
 
 
 

CONSTRUCTION STAGES

 

Any commercial products mentioned here are purely bona fide indications of what I have been using myself.
I have no connection to any manufacturing companies nor do I profit from listing any products or brands.

 
The plywood framework is made from 10mm poplar plywood, cut to shape where needed with a jigsaw and then assembled using screws and a moderate amount of wood glue. This provides for a sturdy but still lightweight "stage box", and the 10mm thickness also makes calculating any dimensions easier. As per my module specifications, the track runs at a height of 10cm with a backdrop height of 15cm, giving a total height of 25cm for the module.
 

 

 
 
It's always important to get dimensions and measurements right from the start - such as establishing the width of the cutting for a bridge made up of two Rokuhan R072 girder bridge segments, giving a total length of 220mm. The picture on the right (above) also illustrates how small portable modules can be worked on at a table in the comfort of your living quarters.
 

 

 
 
For the scenery below track level, my "railbox" module construction requires the contours of the landscape to be built up "top down" rather than the usual "bottom up". Three styrofoam layers, each 30mm thick, are built up that way, using a hot wire cutter. Once the three layers are glued in place, the piece of plywood forming the riverbed base is put back in for good. Next, a rough base for the bridge pillars is put in place.
 

 

 
 
The end partitions are then put in to complete the "railbox"; on this module there are no tunnels, the cuts through which the track leads trains on and off the module will be made less conspicuous by trees and other viewblockers. The styrofoam scenery base is covered in modelling plaster, and once dried some basic senic contours are added to the level which is on and above track level. After all of the plaster is thoroughly dry (a 24 hours waiting period is the minimum; I usually let it sit for a week), a liberal coating of acrylic paint seals the surface (there will be a lot of diluted white glue applied to it later on). This can really be any colour, but adding two layers of first earth brown and then green literally sets the tone for what's to come and thus serves as a "scenic colour base".
 

 

 

 
At this point, the track could be put in place, but focusing on the little stream and the slopes on its banks first provides easier access. Painting the small riverbed with different colour hues (with darker shades in the center and lighter touches towards the edges) gives it some visual depth. There are some amazing how-to online videos providing stunningly reaslistic results, but even the comparatively crude approach used here will yield nice results when the resin is poured. As for colours there simply is no set formula - the very same waterway can and will look very different depending on weather circumstances (and after some heavy rainfall all rivers look brown), so it really is up to the modeller to portray what he or she likes. For this module, I opted for a dark blue (quite unlike the murky water on a previous test module), which will provide a nice mirroring effect.
 

   
 
After painting the fascia dark green and adding some blue and white sky to the backdrop, the next step is to build up the vegetation. The (fairly steep) banks are first, and these are covered in Woodland Scenics light green (FC145) and dark green (FC147) bushes, glued directly to the slopes and then soaked with a 1:1 mix of white glue and water (with a few added drops of washing-up liquid to break the surface tension. Getting all the greenery down is a slow process because it can only be done in segments (due to the steep sloping terrain the module needs to be tilted to provide a more or less even surface where the scenic material is applied), and once done, requires a waiting period of at least 48 hours for everything to dry properly. This gives some time to work off the layout, in this case weathering the girder bridge and its supports, which will be set in place once all the scenery work is done.
 

   
 
Next, the two girder bridges and supports are lowered into place, together with the track, which is then straightened out and secured in place with Märklin track pins. It's a good idea to have a test run at this point, before permanently fixing the track down with ballast. Ballasting is done using Woodland Scenics fine grey ballast poured into place using a small teaspoon; once all is deemed right "wet water" (a mix of roughly 1:1 white glue and water plus a fw drops of washing up liquid) is carefully applied to the side of the ballast until this is well soaked (more details on this process can be found here). This then needs to dry for at least 24 hours.
 

 

 

 
The "stage theme" of this module is a bridge crossing a small creek in the neck of the woods; trees are therefore essential, and lots of them. Good quality trees have a price tag - unerstandably so. This is okay if you need just a handful, but in this case, I felt it was worth giving those (in)famously cheap trees made in China and offered on Ebay by a multitude of different sellers a chance. Naturally, those trees all look the same and not like much when viewed on their own, but grouped together the overall appearance actually is not too bad. 79 of those trees, in various sizes and two different colour hues (mostly dark green, some light green) are present on this module, with their (unsightly) plastic stems cut off but no other modification.

The last major scenic left to tackle is the creek, which is to be filled with resin to resemble water. Originally intending to use the leftover Noch 2k resin and hardener I had used on a proof of concept module back in 2014, I discovered that while the resin was still okay the originally clear hardening agent had taken on an amber colour. Not putting any blame on the product (after six years in a closed but of course no longer sealed bottle such a degradation doesn't seem unreasonable) I didn't take any risks and, given the extensive use of various scenic materials by Woodland Scenics on this module, opted for Woodland's Deep Pour Water, which is also a two-component product.

 

 

 

 
It comes in two varieties, clear and murky; opting for clear, I found that it is indeed very clear (think: almost transparent). I had prepared the riverbed with colouring, but hindsight might advise to add just a little bit of blue tint to the mixture before pouring. The crystal clear water doesn't, however, seem amiss in the locale modelled, and the resin dries nicely with no bubbles or other disturbances. If viewed from an appropriate angle, the "water" does show the reflections you are generally looking for as a modeller.
 
 
 
 

 

 

page created 9 June 2019
last updated 5 May 2020