I know what some might be thinking: distressing the ties on a basement sized layout to this standard would be a lifetime task that would get old quickly. I agree. However, it doesn’t have to be and there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
I enjoy this level of detail immensely, however on my own layout, I only put this amount of care into areas like the Pole Track, where a viewer can see everything close-up. I did use a razor saw blade to add a basic wood grain texture to all the ties because it would be easily seen in quarter-inch scale, even from a modest distance. I also kept the type of track in mind as I added the detailing. A lightly used branch will look different from a well maintained trunk line. For the display module’s track, I wanted a really decrepit look. Since people will be able to get an extreme close-up view, I decided to go all out on the details and texture. These photos show just a small section of a four-foot long siding.
It’s relevant to understand the importance of the modeling scale you’re working in when considering what details to add and how far to take things. Even in quarter-inch, it’s easy to go too far and turn things into a caricature. There’s a fine, easy to cross line between weathered and cartoon.
In 1:87.1 scale I wouldn’t go much farther than the wood grain effect on ties unless you’re representing a severely maintenance deferred branch. My reason is that in the smaller scale, the impression is that things are farther away, therefore the amount of visible detailing and texture will be less apparent. This is even more true for 1:160 scale. Although I’ve never had first hand experience with the scale, I could see things getting overdone quickly. In both of these scales, color and tone have a greater impact and convey a lot to the viewer when they are handled well.
Going in the opposite direction to say, 1:29 like Craig is doing, one could add even more texture to the ties because the impression in this larger scale is that you are much closer to the object and therefore able to see finer and finer details and textures. This is important to remember because we all tend to assume that what works in one scale is equally applicable to all of them. Not so.
Another lesson I’ve learned is how I tend to fall into a rhythm and begin to repeat the types and pattern of details I add. I noticed for example, all the really deteriorated ties starting looking very similar, so I took a break and let things sit for a while. Just being aware of this tendency is half the battle.
Once the ties are done it will be time for coloring, tieplates, rails and lots and lots of tiny spikes. At least I can do all that sitting down at a well lit bench.