Friday, September 18, 2015

Layout Chronicles; Backdrops

There's lots of options available for creating backdrops for model railroad backdrops. Masonite, roll aluminum, floor lino, to name a few.
I've used Masonite in the past, but this time I've decided to try sheet styrene. Masonite requires a lot of fasteners, thus much puttying to fill all those holes up, as well as it's not very stable with temperature and humidity shifts. Every joint on the old layout cracked in spite of the taping of the joints. I'm hoping/expecting that the styrene will be more resistant to seasonal changes.
Much credit for this decision must go to my friend Trevor Marshall. Basically he talked me into it. Trevor and I bounce ideas off of each other on a regular basis and it was he who said why not use 0.060" styrene. After considering the idea for about 2 minutes, I said "why not indeed?".
So first I bought 3 sheets of styrene and cut it into 16" wide strips.
The stuff handles just like modeling styrene, score and snap, you just need a lot more room.
I then sawed up some 3/4" square stock and made some rudimentary frames which will support the plastic. These were secured to the rear of the benchwork. You can see that I didn't bother creating support for the actual corners. I believe that the material will do an adequate job supporting itself.
Time will tell.
 With the frames up, the next thing is to prepare the styrene for the butt joints.
I simply cut off a couple of 2" wide strips, shorten them enough to fit between the framing members and glued to the first sheet with solvent cement.
Now we're ready for the big event. I ran beads of this stuff;
along the members of the frames I created. The glue grabs very quickly, and I only had to had a few nails in the top to hold things in place as I created the coved corners I was after.
Adjoining pieces on both sides were measured and cut and secured in place with the butt joins getting solvent cement flowed into them. A larger frame was cobbled together for the Kettle Creek valley and a sheet was attached to it as well.
The seams are being filled with spot putty.
Once that is dried, I can sand and refill as required and then a base coat of sky blue will get applied.
You'll note that I've kept the backdrop down from the ceiling. It tops out at 64 inches, which is just below eye level for me. I've done this for a couple of reasons.
The basement gets lots of daylight and I don't want to lose that. I also don't want to restrict airflow with a 35' long additional barrier.
And lastly, the backdrop is there to control the view of the layout and the chosen height will do that nicely with the benchwork height I've chosen.
The actual painting of the backdrop will be rather "neutral". I do not subscribe to the current fashion of photo mural backdrops. Backdrops should not upstage the layout, but rather assist in focusing attention onto the primary subject, the trains and the immediate surrounding scenery.
I would have followed Trevor's lead and hung a neutral grey cyclorama all the way around, but this room and this layout doesn't lend itself to that approach.
Once I get some blue paint flung, I can return to the driveway and mill more Homasote. Who has more fun than us?

1 comment:

Ryan Mendell said...


Love the styrene back drop idea, let us know if you see any cracking like you had with the masonite joints.