Layout fascia

We all rightfully pay a lot of attention to the top surface of our layouts, but there are also the sides to consider. Now that I have completed the vineyard part of my layout, it was time to finish the sides of the layout in that area too.


Terraced vineyard

I have an area in the corner of the layout that represents a terraced vineyard, and for years it has been an ugly chunk of polystyrene, painted brown. I got around to adding the stone walls, vegetation and the vines.

Here are the steps I used to create the vineyard.

As usual, it started with a plywood base as a foundation

On top of that I added layers of Styrofoam, cut so that it made a set of terraces. I cut the 'walls' at a slight angle so they are not 100% vertical.

I wanted to make some stairs between the levels and had some Faller steps left over from building an escalator. They were very uniform so I cut some grooves in them to make them look as if they were made form stone, and then painted them. From left to right, virgin steps to completed steps.

I then cut a 45° slope into the layers...
just wide enough for the steps to fit in.

Once I was happy with the shapes, I glued them all together with wood glue.

I added some plywood to the side of the layout and filled in little gaps with plaster. I painted the whole hill with cheap brown poster paint and let it dry for almost 4 years.

While that was drying, I built the lake on the other side of the tracks

I put grass on each terrace by painting on some diluted school (PVA) glue and adding Woodland Scenics Fine Turf

 as well as some static grass (without using the applicator, just sprinkled it on).

Then it was time to add the walls which were printed on paper and cut into strips just higher than the walls. I glued them on with white glue.

The edges of the walls were grassed over. (It probably would have been better to do the walls first.)

Walls and grass done.

I added a bit of coarse turf and very small weeds at the base of the walls.

I made the grape vines as described here. Planting them in rows was pretty easy, I dipped each one into some glue and simply pushed it into the Styrofoam, ensuring that the tops are the same height and that each one touches the previous one. At the ends of some rows, I had to drill the hole where a vine had to go through the plaster I had used to fill in gaps.
The white blobs of glue at each base, soak in and disappears before it dries.

Some terraces are wide enough for two rows, some just one row...

There are about 648 vines in this corner!

The bathers hardly pay any attention to the E10 rolling past in the background.


Making a lift-out section

When I was making my large valley, I had to come up with some way to be able to work on the valley both while building it, and afterwards. I initially thought up a rather hair-brained scheme of trying to build a support system that would allow me to climb over the layout and reach down onto it, but sanity prevailed and I decided it would not be practical.

I decided to make one section that can be lifted out, carefully positioned so that once removed, I would be able to reach everything from that spot. To make my life easier I decided not to have the river running through that lift-out section as I was concerned about hiding the joins that would cross the water of the river.

Fortunately, I also realized that most of the work on the lift-out section needed to be done first, so that I could work on making the landscape from where the river would be, then take it out to complete the river.

As a result, I worked on three areas of the layout in parallel, the lift-out section, the river valley, and a hill next to the other two parts. This describes how I made the lift-out section.

The first step was to make a plywood base that fitted over some of the benchwork framing.

Making a valley floor

My layout features a rather large valley running through one area which has very little access for doing landscaping. I therefore decided to make the upper valley floor as a separate section that could be landscaped and then moved into place when mostly done.

This hole in the layout is what had to be filled with the valley section.


Making a culvert

When I was creating my lake, I needed a substantial source of water coming into it so that I could justify the water going out through the weir, so I constructed a culvert under the mainline. This shows how I went about creating the culvert.


Outdoor signal with wi-fi control

A few years back I created a replica of a German signal which stands outside our house. It was manually controlled by four switches in the base. Some folks were surprised that I had not made it fully automated and controllable from my phone, so to appease the underwhelmed, I have now done so!

I replaced the four toggle switches with an ESP8266 processor which drives an array of relays that switch each light on or off as needed.

An app on my phone allows me to pick any aspects for the main signal and the distance signal.


Mobile phone layout control app

I have always liked the idea of being able to control my layout from anywhere in the room. As technology has changed over the years I have implemented this capability in various forms.

First there was a PDA version (2005) that worked very well, but the hardware became redundant.
I then redid it using HTTP so it could be controlled from any browser. This works pretty well but I never got around to making the images update without doing a full screen refresh. I also added the capability to control things by voice, but that is not conducive to cab control.

Now that I have found ESP8266 and Blynk technology I have implemented a third system that runs on Android or iOS which I present here.

There are 6 tabs in the app and the most interesting tab is of course:

Cab control tab