Cameos of Railroading
I recently completed these two compositions. Both were made for fun and as a way to practice techniques and play with different materials.
Composition No. One: When The Railroad Leaves Town
In this one I used a triangle shape to break from the traditional rectangular form often applied to such pieces. The shape provides a more dynamic interior space to compose with. I purposely avoided having the track at right angles or parallel to any of the edges and also used the clumps of the grass to repeat the triangle form. Doing this helps the inside relate to the outside in a harmonious way.
I paid special attention to the tie color. Even though the ties had a basic wash, I added more and felt successful in capturing the bleached colors and tones of older creosote and wood. In addition, I dusted everything with weathering powders and actual dirt to bring it all together. The thing I’m truly surprised by is how the painted rail heads blend the track into the landscape. As suggested by the title, this is a recently abandoned line that nature will eventually reclaim.
Composition No. Two: Excuse Me Coming Through
This piece was a further experiment with modeling track in pavement. Again, I played with the overall shape and interior composition. The line of the curbside and the shape of the road surface and ground, along with the track are all deliberate choices. Nothing is parallel and the gentle curve gives a more dynamic sightline than straight track would have. The actual radius is around 48 inches, which is quite sharp for quarter-inch scale.
I imagined a long industrial branch weaving its way through the street grid, parking lots and back alleys that are full of the places in between mentioned in this post.
Of particular interest in this piece was refining the techniques of modeling pavement. I started with the idea of doing a brick surface but quickly abandoned that choice. The regularity of plastic brick sheets didn’t appeal at alI. I’ve used foam core board as a road surface before and went that route here. I peel off one of the paper layers to expose the core and apply a thin coating of lightweight spackling compound. While this piece looks better than previous efforts, I’m not pleased with how the foam tears when I try to carve cracks and expansion joint lines. A razor saw worked better for the joint lines and I’m still looking for a better way of doing the cracks. The one distinct advantage of using the foam board is the lightweight nature of the material compared to the equivalent amount of plaster or joint compound. For a small piece like this, weight isn’t an issue but it could add up over a larger surface. It’s a choice of what’s important to you. I prefer more realism and would go with the techniques used in this early post from my old layout.
My focus was on refining the color of old concrete and I feel good about the outcome on this piece. It’s a simple mix of three colors using a wet-in-wet technique that is easy to replicate if the need arises. The base coat is Tamiya (XF-78) Wooden Deck Tan applied full strength with a brush. While this layer is still wet, I applied washes of (XF-66) Light Gray and (XF-2) Flat White that were thinned with denatured alcohol for the final color. These washes vary greatly from very fluid to more opaque. They stain the base color more than cover it. In my experiments, the white seems to be the key ingredient for getting the tone right. You don’t want a heavy layer and I lifted the paint off in spots with a paper towel and applied another wash until I saw what I wanted in the surface. As with most color, applying these washes is subjective and the only way to learn is by doing it until you see results you like.
I made notes on the procedure and was able to closely match the color afterward when the road needed some touchup. Any slight variations will be blended together with further weathering steps. One could vary the basic colors in the mix for a warmer or cooler tone to match a concrete sample. There’s lots of room for experimentation here.
I mentioned that doing these was an enjoyable diversion. The compact size allows for easy completion and that alone is satisfying. They make an excellent playground for trying new ideas with little or nothing to loose in the process. In this sense, they are a wonderful way to just relax and model for the sheer enjoyment it can bring. I’m also learning that design isn’t decoration or something you tack on to a work; it’s a way of approaching a project from the outset.
Such pieces are a good proving ground to expand or refine your techniques and are also an excellent way to introduce and share the craft with others.