Saturday, 15 June 2013

Crossing the Tracks

It has been a busy few months on the work front and this has limited the time available for modelling activities. With retirement looming, it seems as if my ‘working self’ is making sure there is one final bout of frantic activity before being consigned to history. However, the recent Queen’s Birthday long weekend did offer some respite, at least for two of the three days.

On the Saturday, I took the opportunity to visit the Epping Model Railway Exhibition at Thornleigh. It was another great exhibition from that club with a number of layouts that I had not seen previously. There were some very impressive layouts showcasing a very high standard of modelling. Congratulations to the organisers.

Suitably inspired, on Sunday, I felt motivated to tackle a few well overdue tasks on Philip’s Creek. I finally managed to finish the fence separating the village from the railway easement ( Then, it was time to tackle a job that had been hanging around ever since the scenery was laid on the first sections of the layout; the gap between the two original modules.

Previously, I had tried to mask the gap by locating the pub and road on either side of the gap in the hope that, visually, it would be overwhelmed by other detail. I suppose that idea worked in part, because something else always seemed to have a higher priority.

Anyway, filling the gap was not difficult, and I then started to cover the work with basic scenery, knowing that some day it may have to be broken up if the modules are separated. For the area between the tracks, I planned a mix of gravel, dirt and grass. However, after laying the ‘dirt’, I suddenly realised that I had created a path between the fettler’s shed and the Royal Hotel. The fettlers were ecstatic. Not only did they have a shortcut to bring in tools and equipment but they now had a quick and direct access to the pub for lunch each day.

So instead of looking for an appropriate scatter material, I went searching for one of the Laser Rail Bits timber level crossing kits that I had purchased a few months ago. One kit had sufficient pieces to allow me to create a pedestrian crossing point across three tracks. This very simple accessory was laid easily and all that was left to do was weather boards and build up the footpath level. 

I decided to try dry soft pastels after reading a few posts on the subject ( and The two photos of the crossings show the timber on one track with a mix of greys and brown pastels that was then rubbed with a piece of paper. I may have overdone the rubbing because the timber planks now look very homogeneous. I'll try a few different approaches on the next two tracks to get more differentiation between the planks. Probably also with the benefit of hindsight I should have weathered before installing them.

However, it has created a nice little feature that, to be truthful, I hadn't visualised previously and all because of a bit of motivation from the Epping Model Railway Club - thanks gents. 


  1. Phil

    When using the pastels, don't be afraid to dampen the timbers with some water. I have an old set of pastels that are left in the box, & use a wet brush to rub them & fill the brush then rub onto the timbers, even use a bit more water to allow the colours to soak in.

    I use that method on both timber areas including the stock race shown in the last photo on my blog, also the loading race is one of Rod's products as well. I also use the pastels on Loco's & R/S.

    I have had no problems with any of the timbers, including the Laser cut items, nor with the cut down paddle pup sticks used for the stock yards.



  2. Col,

    Thanks. I admit that I was a bit nervous about possible swelling issues particularly for an item where tolerances are close. Rod had done a very good job sizing the middle sections of the of the timber track crossing and they sat very nicely between the fishplates and any swelling, however small, may have caused a problem with the wheel flanges.

    However, I take your point. I too have used pastels for other weathering jobs, predominately buildings and some rolling stock although usually dry. I'll have to try the wet brush techniques.

    cheers Phil

  3. Phil

    I used a couple of the same level crossings from Rod, & went the same way with pastels & no issues at all. I have one a curve near the petrol depot, which also has suffered no ill affects. Only thing I had to do was shave the ends of the 4 foot & the inside to take the curve.

    What I have found is that using the pastels either with the wet brush or even as others do by sanding the pastels to make them into a powder, & then applying, is that they are still essentially a powder & therefore absorb the moisture & help the drying process.

    Another thing to try is some coloured charcoal pencils, basically they are the same but good for fine outlines as well as colouring into cracks (or if needed to enhance some old worn grain affects use a Stanley knife or similar to groove into the wood to create them) & again dip the tips into some water & rub into the grooves.

    Another way of creating the worn timber affects is to use a fine hobby saw, & drag the teeth gently along the face, I have an old saw blade that is almost useless for anything other than that, & works well, its how I aged the paddle pup sticks for the stock yards. Using the pencils on such surfaces gives some finer & more subtle changes in colours, sadly hard to pick up with a camera though.



  4. Col,

    I too shaved a little off one side of the crossing for one track that was on a slight curve. So far all traffic in the past week or so has run over it without incident.

    There are a number of good suggestions in your comment although I haven't heard of coloured charcoal pencils before.

    I have puzzled about the difference between weathering powders and powdered pastels. I suspect they are very similar. I have tended to use Isocol alcohol as a wetting agent with weathering powders and haven't yet tried it with pastels, but I suspect the results will be the same.

    cheers Phil