I’m mulling over the state of the I&W these days. Some changes have already taken place and more are possible in the near future. I’ve written often that I was satisfied with the layout. That’s still true. I’m not bored because it is a small layout or seemingly limited in scope and potential. I don’t plan to enlarge it or make wholesale changes to the theme, era or other things like that. The changes I’m considering are about improving the appearance along with refining the focus and operations.

In studying full-size railroads, both my chosen branchline and local switching operations, my understanding has grown and I want the layout to reflect this new knowledge. Additionally, I feel I can do better with many of the initial scenery efforts. This abandoned station platform near the Mill Street crossover is a good example.

Two Technoques_000

Abandoned station platform in West Harrison, IN

Abandoned station platform in West Harrison, IN

It was inspired by this platform in West Harrison IN on my branchline. I modeled it using bits and pieces of styrene strip and sheet stock.

Abandoned station platform -Styrene

It was a straightforward project that turned out well and I was pleased with the outcome. So why replace it? For one, styrene is great at representing smooth surfaces like sheet metal but, hard to texture for rougher things like crumbly concrete. Furthermore, even though they’re embedded in the ground, the broken edges of these sections are far too smooth and crisp for what I wanted.

Modeling the driveway near the Pole Track showed me a better solution existed (below).
Quarter-inch scale individually cast platform sections

Concrete platform Quarter-inch scale

I’ve featured these photos before. Many of you will recall I cast these sections in plaster from a simple homemade mold and that they crumbled upon removal, which just added to the effect I wanted.

Since this is an extreme foreground scene, I spent a lot of time on the texture and color of this detail. The plastic platform doesn’t compare to this, so it’s slated for replacement. Not because I have to but, because I want too.

The lesson here is that there is more than one way to do things and experimenting with new techniques and ideas can produce good results. A second thought is this: You’re going to grow as a modeler. Your skills will improve over time as will your eye for what looks right and what doesn’t. One of the true joys of this hobby is learning new skills and growing into them.

Along related lines, going over first efforts is a way to keep a small layout going, instead of just trashing it and starting over from scratch. There’s nothing wrong with that path, if, it’s what you truly want. A small layout allows, perhaps even encourages, a pattern of continuous improvement over time as a means to keep the spark going.

Summer is approaching. It’s a time when many scale back on modeling activities in favor of the outdoors and warm weather. Not everything has to turn into a major reconstruction project. If there is something on the layout that has bothered you, consider if or how you can improve instead of trashing it wholesale. The results may be more satisfying than you first thought.



  1. The Industrial Lead

    Hi Mike,

    I typically distress the edges of the styrene to give a more ragged effect, but yeah it’s hard to rough them up satisfactorily. I think your plaster road is convincing because the cracks reveal it’s thickness.

    I’ve already caught the summer bug. Can’t find an excuse to do any model railroading.

    Take Care,


  2. mike

    Thanks Greg. Yeah, it’s hard to make plastic look like anything but plastic. Plaster makes for a better representation of concrete, both in texture and the way it takes coloring and weathering.

    Warm weather doldrums are setting in here too.


  3. Simon

    Although it is not impossible to make plastic look like other things, when texture is key, other methods are usually preferable, as you have found out and demonstrated.

    I feel I can do better with many of the initial scenery efforts… …going over first efforts is a way to keep a small layout going, instead of just trashing it and starting over from scratch”

    This is a really good point, and offers a very constructive mindset for the beginner.
    Get stuck in, have a go, acknowledge/accept that you can and will improve, but don’t let the fact that you have not yet reached the standard you wish to aim for stop you from making a start.

    Everything, even the sub roadbed and supporting framework, can be replaced over time. Turnouts can be removed, for replacement with new ones built to finer standards. Equipment can be upgraded over time, too – nothing is irreplaceable, but gradual improvement may be more encouraging than wholesale “scrap and build”. It also maintains a sense of continuity, like the workman’s shovel, which has had five new blades and four new handles, but is still as good as the day it was bought!


  4. mike

    Hi Simon,

    Yes there are lots of ways to renew a small layout instead of just dumping it and starting fresh. While there are times a fresh start is desired, it’s too bad this mindset isn’t outlined more often in the popular press. I suppose it doesn’t help advertisers sell more product, which is a short-sighted excuse in my view. I digress however.

    I like your analogy of the workman’s shovel that has been maintained over the years. A layout can be treated in a similar way and as you suggest, this provides a degree of consistency, as new skills and knowledge are applied to the original theme.