The top level of my south straight is now complete with the addition of a bridge that connects the long hedgerow and the southeast corner which was my very first scenic undertaking for this track. It's been sitting down there all my itself for quite awhile, but now it is connected with the rest of the circuit. Because of the time span involved, it does point up the importance of selecting a scenic approach that can moreorless be carried throughout the construction of a circuit. It also points up the importance of paying attention to the joints in between scenic modules and how these will interact one with the other as the build progresses. As it is, connecting this old piece of scenery with the brand new bridge section worked out just fine, especially since I needed to add a small 5" strip to extend the scenery to where the bridge was going to end, a factor I did not (and probably could not) calulate earlier in the project.
All this will not fit in one picture, of course, but here are two images that provide a composite view down the south straight from end to end. Note the bridge has only one side because of the way I am constructing the entire upper layer. It is a compromise designed to feature the cars on this circuit, less so the scenery. Also note that I purposely blacked out the lower track level on these pics just to avoid confusion.
Now to the bridge itself and its construction. I roughed out the form of the bridge using scraps of foam I had left over from other scenic construction, hot glueing these together so that the basic columns, ledges, and shapes were correct. This was test fitted into the scenery and trimmed up as need. The foam provided a great substrate because it is less prone to warping or distorting during the application and curing of finish coat materials.
For the stucco portion of the walls I used joint compoint, primarily because it dries slowly and allows lots of time to work it with a brush over the course of its drying period. This makes many subtle and even layered effects possible, but really I just messed with it until it looked right to me, using primarily a stippling effect with my paint brush for the final texture. The columns and the top ledge was done next, made by buttering the foam with a fairly stiff mix of Durhams Wood Putty. I used this material because it dries more quickly, holding its shape to a degree while carving and shaping with a variety of tools. I used a small brush with water to soften the carved effects if needed.
To color the bridge I painted the stucco one color and the columns/ledges another. Then I painted individual blocks of stone with thinned paint in different tones of brown, just to vary things up. The paint for this was watered down so that the colors would blend to create more subtle color variations. Once the paint was dry I used a wash of india ink, water, and a drop of dishwashing detergent to make sure the ink solution flowed nicely. If the ink got too dark, I lightened it with water. The final effect is part skill, part accident, and part luck, but I am overall pleased with it.
I am thinking about adding a lush vine that would theoretically be growing on the outside of the bridge, so all the viewer would see is where the vine comes over the edge and tries to establish itself on the inside of the bridge (the part the viewer can see). I am also thinking about adding a few pidgeons who just happened to land on the bridge, at least before a car comes screaming by.
The long straight at the south end of my circuit saw some action this weekend with the completion of a long line of hedges (5 feet worth) that come right up to the track edge, somewhat reminiscent of the old Nurburgring.
The hedges are made on a substrate of roughly carved styrofoam, but the real texture comes from layers of Woodland Scenic foam, all well stuck-in-place with 50/50 white glue and water (with a drop of detergent added). First, I liberally painted the substrate a dark shade of green (50/50 paint mixed with water) and then sprinkled on some dark green, fine foam bits. This soaked into the wet paint. Once this base layer dried, I mixed the glue/water solution in a small cup, added some lighter Woodland Scenice coarse foam or "foliage", and stirred this all together. Then this glue-saturated mix was placed and arranged on the piece with tweezers all along the hedge row. Once all this was dry I placed the hedge into the scenery and added bits of foam here and there to the tops to dial-in a natural-looking top profile. The hedge is completely removable from the circuit should I need to do additional work on it one day.
This brings about something of a milestone on this circuit: 1) the scenery is over half-way completed and 2) from here on out the entire circuit will be virtually unphotographable. So posted below is a pic of the moreorless completed west half, at least the part I could fit in the camera. There are more details here and there that are out of view or beyond the capability of my camera lens. It looks really great in person with a wide variety details, textures and features tucked in everywhere.
In any case, it is a far cry from where things started:
Scenery construction continues! I had a foreground area on the bottom level that was planned as a perfect place to park some cars, primarily due to it's easy access. Here is the final result:
The area was constructed in two sections. The part on the left side (which includes a small grassy area and the tarmac) was made using the mat board technique I am using throughout the circuit: a lower cutout of mat board tucked into the lower groove on Scalextric track, 3/16" square basswood bracing atop this, and a painted surface made of mat board on top. Once these layers are all glued together, they conform well to minor track elevation changes and retain their shape if I need to move the unit to the workbench for some extra detailing.
The section on the right features a grassy knoll that helps this section flow together with adjacent scenery. This small hill was constructed differently...for it I used only Sculptamold with some imbedded 3/16" basswood strips for added rigidity. You can see the joint between the two sections just behind the guardrail seen in this picture:
I have been finding that Sculptamold does warp a bit, especially in a large, relatively flat casting. It's not been a problem, though. The fix, brutal as it sounds, is to crack the dried casting into two or three sections (or as many as needed), adjust and reset them with white glue, and then smooth over the seams as needed with a little more Sculptamold. This works great and allows for exact control and precision.
The guardrail was made with 1/4" stock for the posts and a strip of mat board for the horizontal boards. I used mat board because it is so very flexible and I had some tight radii to deal with. The bolt heads on the guardrail are made by clipping the end off of a straight pin and glueing it in place, after making a small indent at the mounting point with a slightly larger pin.
Again, I am trying here to create little pools of interest on my circuit with stretches of more generic/understated scenery in between. This, I hope, will give a little sense of movement from place to place across the circuit and give the viewer a chance to visually linger within each of the various scenes. Not sure if this will happen much with cars moving at racing speeds but otherwise it seems to be working okay. Here is a view that shows this a bit and gives a view of the relationship between bottom and top racing levels:
I've been wanting to build a little mechanics garage for many years...a good place to display cars, figures, and other accessories on a busy race day. In fact, one particular chicane on my present track was placed specifically for this feature.
I began by laying a tarmac base using mat board with wood bracing, much as I have done on other sections of the track. This was a little complicated as there are elevation changes here, but the technique I used previously worked perfectly. Once installed, the tarmac was painted a lighter shade of grey with pencil lines added to denote joints and cracks in the pavement. Over this I did another dry brush coat of grey paint to soften and blend the effect. I also added little bits of ground foam to represent weeds growing in the cracks and joints. I may add more of this, and add some painted features to the pavement, later.
The structures are built on a substrate of 1/2" foam, easy to cut, trim, and hot glue. I could have used this as a model for rough placement, but since the structure was going to be covered with joint compound anyway, I just used it as is. Here is the entire scene thus far (taken from a slightly lower angle than driving position, just so you can see more. The actual visual cut off is just below the top of the grage door openings):
I will be adding an Esso gas pump and a small building on the left, but that comes later.
Once the joint compound was in place (and fiddled with to get it looking decent) came painting and weathering. This was great fun. There is no great technique here, just using layer upon layer of watered-down paint until the look seems right to me. I had to hand-paint the Citroen sign which took some time but, once weathered in, it was well worth it. Doors and windows were made of strip wood (the infamous coffee stirrer) over a mat board base cut to fit the opening.
This complex is a real active, attention-getting spot on my circuit. I am trying to intersperse these active areas with areas featuring more generic scenery to give a sense of movement through the circuit from place to place. We'll see how this goes as work continues. For now this area has none of the figures, cars, accessories, or even buildings fixed in place as I fidget with placement. Frankly, I see no reason to glue anything down...it's a fun place to play.
I continue to use the methods previously described to construct other areas of scenery. One important factor of this track is that, because it is comprised of two levels, sections are seen almost in a letterbox view. The main focus remains the track and the cars, but it is possible to suggest scenic elements that would normally extend much higher than the view allows. No need to actually model these, just suggest them. Here are some pics of recently completed work:
After completing the undergirdings for my circuit and getting a workable track layout in place, I have begun to tackle scenery. Progress has been slow and steady since I am also developing techniques and a look that I hope to carry throughout the circuit. Aside from that, let me also say the track itself is a blast to drive!
My general approach to integrating scenery and track is to create a three-ply track borders, which brings borders up to track level (actually, I prefer to keep borders a hair shy of track level so they never trip up my cars). To do this I use one bottom ply of mat board, cut wider on the inside edge to tuck under the gap at the edge of Scalextric track. In this way the track weight itself is used to help keep the border in place and properly aligned to track height. Atop this layer of mat board I use 3/16" x 3/16" strip wood a spacers. Finally, another layer of painted mat board is added to the top. This multi-ply approach, once glued up, allows the border to follow the ups and downs of my scenic contours easily. It also helps the module retain it's shape if I need to move a piece of scenery to the workbench for extra detailing.
Here is a view of one section presented previously. Note that I have added the bottom layer of mat board, slotted under the track sections, and the stripwood bracing.
This next view shows the same section with the upper layer of mat board, scenery applied, and a black-out facia board installed. This is the finished look.
I have continued to use variations of this same method elsewhere on the circuit. One of the main reasons I like it is that is involves no powertools since the mat board can be cut with scissors and the stripwood with a razor saw. Here is another section that integrates a border into the scenery. The front edge is black because that is where the facia board is installed:
In the case of this module, the stripwood was extended beyond the width of the border to key into the scenery that is built up using lightweight Sculptamold. Static grass and other details are then added. Because scenic modules are designed to slip under the track edge, and because at least a 1/2" space is allowed at the back side of each module, it is easy to slip the scenery backwards, out from under the track, to take it to the workbench. I am also carefully prethinking joints between modules in the scenery to be as invisible as possible, although I must say the static grass is good at covering a multitude of sins in this regard.
Here is a view of almost the entire module shown above, with unfinished sections to the right and left.
I cobbled together a simple little tool for making white lines at the edge of my painted track. It is basically a piece of styrene with one hole to secure the end of a white poster marker and another hole to hold a Scalextric guide (braids removed). The Scalextric guide was glued in place and does not move/pivot.
Onto the top of this I mounted a small block of wood, just so the tool would be a bit easier to control.
The shank of the marker has a slight taper, so I gradually enlarged the hole little by little until it fit snugly at approximately the right height. Because the tool uses a guide riding in the track rails it works very smoothly.
Given that this overall slot car track design is somewhat unique, I spent a good deal of time analyzing past projects and various material properties to come up with a way of dealing with scenery, borders, and mild track elevation changes. In this exercise, cost and availability of materials have been a major consideration so that basic experimentation and future track changes are less painful to accomplish. Here is what I have come up with: each track level has a rigid, yet light (1/8" Masonite and 3/4 square stock), shelf that serves as a base. Atop this is 1/2" thick extruded foam. This product, I found in the past, does not bend much, at least not as much as Scalextric track is capable of handling. Therefore, I use only sheets and strips of this manterial as a support for track elevation changes. The gradual, seamless elevation changes that follow the bend of the track are accomplished by using a cheap cardboard product used to protect newly installed hardwood flooring during construction. This stuff comes on a reasonably priced 50' roll, and while not strong enough in a single layer, it does nicely in two layers where seams can be staggered for a stronger, seamless track underlayment. Here are some pics to show how the various materials (including the track itself) inter-relate:
Please note that because of the semi-rigid properties of the pink extruded foam, it is quite possible to extend the track beyond the reach of the base shelf located underneath. This makes for much more flexibility in track design and more interest for the driver. Here's the most extreme example of this on the current track, showing once again the various layers:
When extending the track beyond the base shelf it should be noted that I will ultimately hot glue a series of small wooden blocks below the front edge. On these blocks I will be able to attach black profile boards. The profile boards will hide all of the sub-structure, following changes in elevations in track and scenic elements. Once installed, profile boards unify the entire support structure, making things extremely rigid. More on that later.
The circuit I am building here will be more or less a nod to 1950s-era Grand Prix road courses, so there will be little bits from Le Mans, Rheims, Spa, Nurburgring and others included.
A good number of my cars are from this era. I don't think I'll let myself get too nuts over the details...just having fun.
Construction is proceeding, enough to see a few new elements. Note the track now has lines at the edges. I made a crude tool for this, but it worked great! I'll show you that later.
You can see here that the top facia is now installed and painted...see how it focuses attention onto the roadway? Middle and lower facia come later once I determine the scenic profile shapes that they will be cut to.
Here's the view from the other direction:
Some points of interest from this series of photos:
1) I am using foam panels (pink) to create basic elevation changes to the track. I can adjust, remove or add to these over time.
2) On top of the foam I am experimenting with an inexpensive cardboard product (used to protect newly-laid flooring) to create an underlayment to support scenery (see top photo, right, level 1). At this point, I am laminating two layers of the cardboard together. This seems sufficiently strong, but l'll report more on that later.
3) Track sections are being gently bent to conform to the cardboad underlayment (or visa versa...lots of minor tweaks can be made here).
4) Track elevations are not too extreme because I'm trying to retain good track visibility. I'm just adding some interest for now.
5) Upper level flourescent lighting is in...lower level LED strips will be installed soon to kick some added illumination in there.
6) I will begin painting in basic scenic backdrops soon but find it is best to find a suitable horizon line that will work for most of the track plan. I intend to work on these carefully, section by section, as the track scenery unfolds because foreground objects are a big determiner on how the backdrop elements are included. Besides, I have some 3-D experimentation to try on backdrops...more on that later.
manitouguy on Mechanics Garage
gokartride on More scenery
manitouguy on More scenery
manitouguy on Scenic Beginnings
manitouguy on Painting Lines on my Track Edges
f143 on The Look for this Circuit
manitouguy on Changing Plans Again
gokartride on Fin
gokartride on Changing Plans Again
manitouguy on Changing Plans Again