Over the last week I stripped off the top layer of foam core and applied a thin layer of premixed drywall compound, a process I’ve used many times. While it was good to explore different materials, I don’t have time for shortcuts anymore. Let me explain.

I could try a bunch of stuff and likely would have in the past. But time is not on my side anymore and I would rather master a familiar method. I’m more focused on what I enjoy about model building than ever and now prefer to go deep with a technique and explore all it has to offer.

I still have so much to learn. While the modeling in these images might look good, there is plenty of room for improvement in the coloring, texture and presentation. For example, I struggle greatly with the color of old concrete. To my eyes the color here looks too dark rather than the sun bleached gray often seen outside. Part of this is from using the sediment in my container of thinner as a color wash. I want to see if a lighter wash of color or pigment will get me closer to the right hue.

The sisal twine grass can be effective when done in mass however, it just looks straggly in small clumps. Once again it’s a case of being complacent rather than thinking about the model and its impact. The smaller darker clubs are from JTT or Scenic Express (I don’t recall off the top of my head) and look better.

I like the way the drywall compound produces shrinkage cracks as it dries. Their quality and pattern would be hard to mimic any other way. As this surface represents concrete instead of asphalt, I marked out control joints in ten foot square sections. The overall cracking pattern is better than my sample from last time. It’s more restrained and natural looking. I do believe though that I went overboard with the weeds growing in the cracks and crevices. If this were an abandoned section of pavement they might be plausible but they wouldn’t be so thick on an active surface. Looking at the images now, it feels like I succumbed to another preconcieved stereotype rather than observing the real thing. I can and probably will yank a few of them out.

In all, it’s a more satisfying effort and it’s good to be actively modeling again.



  1. Dave Schroedle

    Mike, concrete is a evil mate, it’s colors can be often driving as the concrete parking lot at work has a light tan coloration as with the loading dock it has a grey patina.

  2. mike

    Hi Dave,

    No doubt there’s a lot of variation in the color of concrete. As you suggested tire wear, fuel stains, dirt and everything under the sun creates an impact. Look forward to seeing you in St Louis soon.


  3. Bill Cooper

    Hi Mike,

    You might check out Andy York’s small layout “Keyhaven” at http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/page/index.html/_/articles/layouts/keyhaven-r56 .

    Excellent work, and he did a bang up job modelling track inset in concrete (it helps that Andy’s an excellent photographer and the photos were taken outdoors). The pavement he modelled is probably in better shape than what you’re trying to achieve, but the color, texture and tone of the concrete is spot-on, at least in the photos. The layout was featured in the August 2012 issue of British Railway Modelling in which Andy also described his technique.

    BTW, I get a lot of inspiration from your blog. Thanks for sharing your work.

  4. Tim David

    To me the sisal grass looks like a different plant species, possibly one that requires more water and is drying out. The combination looks good. Just need some broad leaved weeds.

  5. Chris Mears

    You raise a really worthwhile point about practising skills you already use instead of seeking out the next new thing. That speaks to a refinement that steps toward nurturing your relationship with the work.


  6. Chris Mears

    And I quite like the way the region where ballasted track meets paved and the space where the flangeway is. Both look so raw and “old”, like they grew into that state and neither like they were modelled to look that old.

  7. mike

    Thank you everyone.

    Bill, That’s a lovely effort on Andy’s part. I’ve come to a genuine appreciation of small layouts like that. Thanks for the kinds words.

    Tim, I see the sisal as tall grass that is allowed to grow wild.

    Chris, Appreciate the thoughts. I do like this method for the way it imitates full-size materials and processes. Using foam as a finished surface wasn’t giving me what I wanted.

    Regards everyone,