No. 118: The Ackley Layout – North Side Scenery Refresh

Last time I explained that I took apart the layout and moved it to the other side of the room.  While the layout is still in pieces, I’m refreshing scenery and backdrops and fixing other problems so when the layout is reassembled it’ll be better than ever.


Above.  I started with what I call the “north side” of the layout–which, when viewing the layout–is the right half of the 16-foot layout.  To begin the refresh I removed the backdrop and then removed all the buildings, trees and details, and then made a plan to remove scenery.

Below, here’s the north side with everything removed, ready for a face-lift.


The first thing I did was sand down a lot of problem areas.  I sanded down all the parking lots and structure lots, removed some static grass, and also sanded down the new highway crossing that I just finished decaling last month.  

I didn’t mess with the track and the bean fields, or anything otherwise important.  I focused instead on the areas that had poor paint or finish.  


Here’s another view of some of the cleared areas.  The front of the layout is on the right.  Being able to access the layout from all directions was a big plus.


Next I vacuumed the layout and got it all cleaned up, and then mixed a batch of plaster with some water-based paint added.  I applied thin coats of plaster on all the problem areas.


I applied the plaster to the parking lots, roads, and structure foundations, and other areas that needed attention.

For example, here is one of the dirt road crossings, which I felt needed a little leveling.



Above.  Here’s the north side, after the plaster was applied, ready for sanding, repainting, and a static grass refresh.

Below.  After the work was done, here’s the view after a new coat of paint and some more static grass.  Yes, I know–it kinda looks like a golf course.  When the buildings are re-installed and trees are up, and some areas are tweaked, I think it’ll look great.


Here’s another view of the completed work.  I ran out of my preferred static grass–Silflor Late Summer blend–so I made my own blend using Silflor Summer and Burnt Grass.  I think the new color is a little more rich.


Here’s a closeup of the mix I used.  I’ve got lots of different lengths all mixed up. 


While things were drying I refreshed the backdrop.  I added a little paint here and there, and added some houses to the backdrop where they exist in the real world.  I took a bunch of photos of houses in Litchfield, Illinois last summer and added them near the roads.  Ideally these areas will be obscured by trees so getting the backdrop perfect isn’t too important.


I also moved the cannery to make room for an addition.  The addition is the cannery’s heating and/or power plant, which I discovered existed with the help of photos from the Ackley Heritage Center.  Doug Harding found the photos and sent them to me last year.  I cut into the plaster parking lot and moved the building “forward” about ten scale feet.  Building the plant will be a lot of work.  For now I’m just making space for it.  The whole building will get a face-lift as part of the refresh.


This weekend I completed re-decaling the road, and adding details.  I want to add external piping at the Standard Oil place below, but I just can’t seem to find the time to get it done. 


Below.  The Highway 20 scene is looking good without the backdrop.  More details are going in every night.  Hopefully the backdrop will make everything look complete.  

I ordered one of the Walthers stock yard kits and am going to put that in the empty area behind the NYC auto car.  It was out of service by my 1950 modeling date, so I’m going to model it abandoned.


Meanwhile…across the pond, my buddy Jim DuFour is doing some heavy duty work on his B&M Cheshire Branch layout.  He sent a long e-mail with a bunch of photos.  He has removed the backdrop from a portion of this layout and is replacing track, roadbed and a bridge scene.  Jim is an inspiration, and if he can do it, we can too.


Here’s hoping you guys have a great week!  – John G







4 thoughts on “No. 118: The Ackley Layout – North Side Scenery Refresh

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