Cameron’s finished his layout…

Here’s the latest missive from Cameron!

“Ground Cover.

With all the dusty bits out of the way I tried to convince my wife that the layout needed to be inside the house to be completed properly. This took some careful negotiations. Two months later with the help of a few local lads it was lifted through the second floor window into the study. Another two months later and she was talking to me again. Patience is a virtue.

I got straight into the roads, cliffs and ballasting. Some useful techniques picked up along the way were as follows.

I found a great technique for this.
1. Spread a good thick plaster mixture over the cliff surface. (I used some cornice cement from the hardware) 2. Crumple up some aluminum foil and push it onto the cliff surface.
3. Once dry peal off the foil and bush the surface horizontally with a tough scrubbing brush.
4. Colour using light washes of diluted acrylic paint. I used burnt umber, burnt sienna and yellow ochre. Allow to dry between each coat. Start with very light washes.

Step 1- One coat of acrylic grey paint sprinkled with fine sand while still wet.
Step 2 – another coat of paint.
Step 3 – A light wash of diluted ‘burnt umber’ acrylic paint over the parts of the road that get the most tyre wear.

Rail crossings.
The rail crossings I made myself from pieces of styrene plastic with either a fine sand grit surface or scored to give the impression of boards. The pieces between the tracks are fixed wit BlueTac just in case they foul future locos or rolling stock.

I lashed out and bought some proper ballast. There are plenty of free alternatives that would probably be fine to use. At the end of the day I didn’t want to take any chances with such a crucial part of the layout. There are lots of good guides on how to apply ballast. The method I chose was as follows:
1. Working in 2ft long sections sprinkle it over the tracks 2. Brushed it down with some wide artists brushes and shape it until it looks right.
3. Wet it with alcohol using a spray bottle 4. Soaked it in a 50/50 mix of water and PVA glue.

No great tips here I’m afraid. Glue it down and once dry spray it with 75/25 mix of water and PVA glue.

I did, at one stage, try to make my own ground cover using a kitchen blender and an old foam mattress. While I didn’t manage to get any decent ground cover out of the process I did manage to generate a thin ribbon of white smoke from the blender. There is now a distinct lack of blending going on in our kitchen.”

A big thanks to Cam for a great ‘how to’!

Keep the tips rolling in everyone.

Latest ‘ebay cheat sheet‘ here – thanks for all the comments. Hope it saves you lots.



27 Responses to Cameron’s finished his layout…

  1. Well done Cameron

  2. PETER BENSON says:

    great layout well done peter

  3. TOM says:


  4. Nice layout, great step by step on how it was created.

  5. Ralph says:

    Looks great Cameron, I cannot imagine why anyone would not want it in their house. 🙂

  6. Bob O says:

    Cameron……Very nice…not crowded!!

  7. Will what can I say but utter admiration for your layout Cameron
    .Despite all your trials and tribulations with the kitchen blender!!!
    More power to your elbow ,andall that drives it I say.
    Like you I am in the middle of an N gauge layout , which by my calculations will be finished towards of the end of THIS year.In the meabtine best regard from Bernard

  8. the layout has turned out very beautiful. hope i can make mine half that good, thank you for the tips and the photos, mine is ho gauge,

  9. lindsay.odell says:

    nice cleen layout just asi like them well don cameron keep it up

  10. MIKE says:

    WELL DONE Cameron Only to have all that room for my N scale layout

  11. jim says:

    Cameron it looks great.

  12. fred says:

    not only did i smoke a blender making ground cover out of foam i sheared the screw in half on an electric meat grinder.

    that foam is tough

  13. Bob says:

    Job well done very nice compact layout, and the scenery very good,give your self high fives.

  14. Kaustav says:

    Very well done Cameron – it looks really good! 🙂

  15. paul Otway says:

    Looks great!

  16. Alan Meyer says:

    Does anyone know where I can get an Elesco water heater for a kit-bash I’m doing on a USRA Mikado to make it a CN / GT

  17. Alan Meyer says:

    Cameron your lay-out is looking fantastic!!

  18. Duncan says:

    Thanks, Cameron. A tip for future use; tea leave make good ground cover. different blends produce different sizes and colours or sift them with a simple kitchen sieve. Scatter over pva coated areas with a small sieve, and paint with thin washes of acrylic when dry. Bigger pieces can be used for the rough edges.

    grind up foam for use on trees etc, first soak in 50/50 acrylic paint with a dash of washing up liquid. Dry thoroughly then use a chese grater/ wood rasp to shred. Wear gloves, it can be hard on the finger tips. Ten grind the shreds under the side of a brick on a piece of rough concrete slab. Hard work but gives nice trailing tendrills of leaves and larger lumps make good bushes.

    For grass or flower vegetable beds, cut strips of old fluffy towel, soak in paint and dry out. Two strips glued side by side makes a good hedge. D/

  19. patrick says:


  20. Tuscan Joe says:


    Really really nice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have found using chunks of kitty litter on top of the mountains looks like

    strewn rock. it adds a nice rough gravel look!!!!!!!

  21. Steve says:

    Well done Cameron, not only a fantastic layout but nice clear discription in the HOW TO

  22. Brian Clauser says:

    Thanks for your time to show us a great project.

  23. Daniel Marso says:

    Nice layout Cameron, what were you using on your ballast? PVA ? I don’t
    know, can you explain?

  24. Daniel Marso says:

    Cameron, I have used non – clumping Kitty litter for ballast with pretty good results.

  25. Jack says:

    Really good layout shoud give yourself a pat on the back well done .

  26. john andrew says:

    For those of you that use a blender for cutting foam into small pieces try old foam out of a piece of furniture ,bed ,seat whatever it seems to chop up much easier into small pieces I’ve had smoking with smoking blenders great layout john A

  27. John says:

    We’ll done.
    I work in Z. Scale. Very challenging but rewarding. I. Am in a nursing home and have a small corner to work in. It keeps me busy. Everything is on the cheap but we’ll see how it turns out.

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