Last year I had to make a choice – refresh my current layout (which was built back in 2000, and then put in storage in May 2008 before being re-erected in January 2012) or scrap it and build a new one. A number of factors had to be considered – not least the cost in both dollars and time for building a new one and the fact that I would be lacking a layout for the time it took to get a new one up and running. In the end, I decided to refresh St Alban’s Priory.
The first steps which I have taken involve redoing all the grass, using static grass. Back in 2000, static grass wasn’t something I had heard of – I assume it was around but no one I knew was using it then. Fast forward and it seems to be the bee’s knees, cat’s pyjamas and mutt’s – well you get the idea.
One of the LAG members had acquired a static grass applicator – Google if you haven’t seen one but basically its a metal tea strainer wired to a electric flyswat. Don’t earth it when on as it give a loud crack, scares the mutt and makes you jump, spilling the contents of the strainer. Every time. Yes, every time you earth it – you don’t get used to this.
I have managed to get quite a bit of the layout done – I should work out the square footage of the layout but the scenic area in total is roughly 800mm by 4000mm. Obviously the ballasted track, goods yard, platform and gas works all takes up a fair chunk of this but there is quite a bit of grass coverage too.
The five photos take you through the sequence I have adopted in doing this – I did take one with a ruler to give a sense of the size but it didn’t show up. However, the length of the earthing clip (you have to create a circuit obviously or the static charge doesn’t work) is a bit over 450mm (or 15 inches if so inclined) and I usually do an area with a nail in half way – so about 800mm long by what ever wide.
The beginning. The foreground has already been done – and the end of the platform used to end in the world's narrowest ramp so it has been removed (no barrow crossing anyway) and will be replaced with a square end with steps for anyone who needs to go that way. Signals for the platform will be going here too – possibly colour lights but not sure. Working in any case. The area to be treated is the big green patch beyond the ladder of points for the yard. The line over the back in front of the retaining wall is to the Gas Works which is just out of shot to the right of picture. The centre house is the subject of the previous post here. The grass to be replaced is some foam based product by Woodland Scenics, the code and title of which I have long since forgotten but it has faded quite a lot – in a good way, but faded none the less.
The area which is going to be attacked gets covered in PVA glue. We experimented a bit with the viscosity of the glue and found the thicker the better so it goes on neat and is then spread around with wet fingers – keep a bowl of water handy to dipping your fingers in to keep them wet rather than gluey. The water helps with the conduction of the electrical current later.
This shows the area covered with glue – it goes off a bit to the left and to the right (there is a base board join to the right – it went up to this but no further. I didn’t want to glue the baseboards together by accident). I have also kept it back a bit from the track – not quite up to the ballast shoulder simply because with the layout set during the steam era, not much grew where the trains went. St Alban’s Abbey (on which this is based) was a fairly busy station for a terminus – the Gas Works playing a critical part in the density of the traffic.
Grass done. You can just see in the middle of the grass at the back the 12mm nail I used to provide the grounding pole for the applicator. At this point the grass hasn’t been vacuumed to get the surplus off so it is quite lumpy.
Once the glue has dried (out here in Australia in Summer this is overnight if, like me, you do this after the evening meal – if I did it after breakfast the glue would be dry by lunch!) and using a piece of cloth or old nylons over the end of the nozzle, carefully vacuum the surplus up and return to jar. The slight difference in colouring in this pic is probably due to the fact that it was taken at 0930 rather than 2130 like the previous 4.
I am using three colours – the one in the glass jar is 5mm lengths and the main one I am using. The other two shades are both 2mm lengths. All are from the Heki range which is available at my LHS. There is a bloke handy who does a lot more varieties and in smaller packs – didn’t know at the time I purchased!
5mm scales at 2’6” high which by Australian standards is high grass – the home of some sort of snake which will kill you in 10 mins most likely. In the UK, it means the weather has been warm but wet and no-one has been able to mow. On a layout, whilst high it looks right. The 2mm stuff – scaling at 1’ high – just looked wrong. All the looking was at NVD – normal viewing distance for an exhibition (remembering that this is a layout which has been on the local circuit and maybe again) – of 1m. We figured the look was more important and as it looked right with 5mm grass, and wrong with 2mm, the 5 was used the most, and the 2mm for colouring.