It seems I didn’t learn the lesson about how easy it is to overcrowd a scene with track. Last weekend I repeated the exercise from the old Indiana and Whitewater on my new Mill Road cameo layout.

On the old layout I had three tracks on one end that crowded things from front to back. I removed two of them and the improvement and breathing room this provided was huge. I backed myself into the same situation on the Mill Road cameo, by placing three tracks on the left end. After mulling it over, I removed the one in front because I didn’t need it. As before this provided a much-needed sense of space that complements the rest of the cameo. I’ll use a bit of storytelling with a pile of old crossties and tieplates along with pieces of rail to suggest what happened here.

I removed the branching track in the foreground and had planned to leave the decommissioned turnout in place with one switch point removed.
Inspired by photos on a Facebook group I’m a member of, I decided to pull the turnout and leave the ties and remnants of rail. This cleaned up the over all look of the scene even more.
Chris Mears recently asked a thoughtful question about blending track into the surrounding areas to reduce the visual clash we often see in models and I thought this would make a good blog post.

I’m of the opinion that we treat track as too precious and delicate. It feels like a holdover from toy trains on the floor and worrying too much about maintaining electrical contact. Naturally, each scale is different in terms of what the models will tolerate and code 125 rail is like a steel girder compared to codes 70 or 55 but, my experience with P48 suggests that you can abuse track far more than you might think and still have reliable operation. HO or N scales are a different story because the models are much lighter and points of wheel contact much smaller, so there is no universal application for every scale. It’s always a matter of trial and error.

I also think we tend to box our modeling approach according to what we’re working on. Okay, I’m laying track, so the rails are this color, the ties are brown and the ballast is gray. Now I’m doing scenery, so dirt is this bag of brown material, grass is green and on it goes. This can result in a lack of cohesive tones across the entire scene. We tend to forget that scenery weathers too. Wind blown dust and dirt particles settle over everything and will impart a more uniform tone over time. Something the diorama artists and military folk understand far better than we do.

The siding next to the elevator in Centerville was buried. There is little reason not to model this in most scales as I did with the Pole Track on the old layout.
I want viewers of Mill Road to discover there’s track in the landscape rather than think I just added a couple strips of scenery along the edges of the track. To that end, I’m adding lots of tall, frost killed winter grass and burying the ties in dirt, grain spillage and weeds. The working tracks serve a grain elevator that sees modest traffic, so weeds and other vegetation can get a foothold. The visible trackage is where outbound loaded grain cars are spotted for pickup. I want these tracks to reflect the conditions found in the real world.

Carrying these textures and colors across the cameo brings a cohesive look that allows the eye to move along easily, rather than jump from one texture to another.

Handlaid P48 track is robust and I’ve gone over sections with additional weathering and materials more than once. I’m not afraid to pile on material and bury track because I’ve learned how far to go before problems surface. I’ve had to go back and trim away tall grass and weeds that interfered with operation and chisel away the odd bit of excess ballast but both are simple to do. The truth is that the only thing stopping us from elevating our modeling is our own preconceptions about what’s possible and practical. As mentioned, each scale is different and detailing that works in a larger scale may not in a smaller one. However, I believe it’s time to put the toy train worries away.

Mike