I picked up some T-Trak modules from CMR Products. They are really great. Plywood is nice and flat and they have pre-drilled holes so it is really easy to get the uni-track set to the module. My son and I finished the first one last week. I took a few pictures along the way to show how they progressed.
After we assembled the module, we added a good-sized hill. We wanted to have a road cut and the initial hill (pink foam) we made was too far away from the tracks. We added a little more foam (white) to push it forward a bit. I also cut a piece of plywood and glued it to the back of the module to “dress it up”. After we got it to a place we liked, we glued everything in place with Gorilla Glue.
Next, we added some plaster bandages to cover up the foam. The plaster bandages smooth out the terrain and help the sculpt-a-mold (next step) stick a little better.
The next step was adding the sculpt-a-mold and the plaster castings of the rock faces. Sculpt-a-mold seems like a paper-mache product. It sticks to the plaster bandages well, but didn’t like the raw plywood of the module. (There’s been no problem with it since it dried though.) I’m not sure if I should cover the plywood of future modules with the bandages to help the sculpt-a-mold adhere better. Maybe a bit of spackle would help? The module really started coming together at this stage. The picture doesn’t show it…
The cliff faces came next. I watched a lot of You-Tube videos and practiced on a spare casting before giving this a go. I settled on a staining technique. First, I wetted the whole rock face with water. Next, I gave it a gray wash. After that I hit it with some brown and orange-brown washes in various spots. I also put some greenish tints here and there to represent moss. Finally, I washed the whole thing with black. I am pretty pleased with the results.
Here’s where I dropped the ball on taking pictures… After we’d gotten the rock faces painted, I used some brown interior paint (a sample we had left over) to cover the sculpt-a-mold. We added some rocks (actually bits of plaster from the casting process that we broke up and stained) below the rock faces. This is where the whole process ground to a halt. I’d ordered a bunch of supplies from an on line company and they took ages to arrive (I’ll do a review on them later).
When we finally did get the static grass and turf, we set out to finish the module. I built a static grass dispenser out of an old sieve and a 9-volt battery. I mixed up various colors of static grass (Woodland Scenics: 1 tbsp Dark Green, 1 tbsp Medium Green and 1 tbsp Wild Honey), brushed on some glue and got shaking. It looked like it was working ok, but when I shook off the excess, the module looked a lot like my head: a whole lot of bald spots.
Hastur knows why it didn’t work. My best guess is there wasn’t enough texture in that paint to actually hold the glue. I laid down more glue and dumped more grass on the module. I didn’t worry about it standing up anymore – I just wanted to cover that bare ground. The second coat of static grass looked a lot better. I shook off the excess and used a toothbrush to tease some if it into a standing shape.
Finally, we added a bunch of bushes, blended turf (for bare ground) and small trees. Here is a shot of the final result:
And a close-up of the road cut:
This isn’t going to win any prizes, but the result looks pretty good. This was a fun project and we learned a lot.
- Dry fit everything first. The small modules went together well and tape held them while the glue dried. For the larger modules (I got a couple end caps), clamps really help keep them square. I also needed to do some sanding on the end caps to get them to fit nicely.
- Attach the levelling screws and run them up through the holes in the top of the module while the glue cures on the little pieces of wood that hold them in place. I’ve got at least one place where the levelling hex bolt doesn’t quite line up with the hole in the top of the module.
- Paint the area between the tracks black and use your base coat color next to the tracks before you lay them down. It’s much easier to paint in advance than to mask and paint after the track is laid. I had some paint seep up the side.
- Read the T-Trak information on wiring and then read it again before putting down your track. I messed up (wasn’t “blue to the outside”) and needed to re-lay the track.