A handy tip I learned from a fellow Sussex Downs 009 group member was this trick for rolling out the clay to a consistent thickness. I used an offcut of melamine covered shelf, with a couple of strips of 2mm card stuck down, but any smooth surface and thickness of spacer to suit would do. A simple knife for cutting the clay and a ruler for when a straight edge is useful, while a damp cloth keeps the clay usable for longer.
As seen in the last post the ground is built up to sleeper height with 2mm card, so 2mm of clay brings the height up to a little under 1mm below rail height. To prevent undulations over the sleepers small lumps of clay are pushed in between them, inside and outside the rails - this can be rough, as seen at the rear of the picture. I lay the clay on a layer of PVA, I don't know if it is necessary but figure it won't do any harm. The embossing is done with simple home made tools...
... here are the tools, as you can see no expense spared!
- On the left a piece of 20-thou plastic allows straight lines of various lengths to be embossed.
- The black piece has two notches for the rails, dragged along the track at about 45 degrees it ensures the clay either side of and between the rails is just below rail height
- The thin black piece is critical - it's 40-thou or 1mm thick, and has another piece set about 1.5mm back from the end - it is simply used to open out the flangeways, by running it along the inside edge of the rail with lip on the rail (it just bumps along the rail spikes ensuring the gap is deep enough)
- The cobbles are embossed with 2mm plastic tube, with the end chamfered inwards to give a sharper edge and a more rounded impression. One tool has a cluster of 7, one a line of 3, or the other end can be used for a single cobble (but that would be very slow!)
- The square(ish) sett moulds were made from 20-thou plastic with a thinned edge, and 10 thou microstrip 2mm wide. Each set is about 2.2 x 2mm, again a large cluster of 9 and 3 in a row were made - partly dictated by the size of microstrip and partly because 3 fits neatly between the rails (about 7mm)
Embossing is then a case of ensuring the clay is level and below rail height, opening up the flangeways, and imprinting the desired pattern with the mould tools. I went for setts around and between the rails, and cobbles (presumably cheaper) elsewhere, The impression doesn't need to be deep at all, and the moulds can overlap previous impressions to help align them or fill awkward spots. In places things aren't perfect, but overall the impression works well. Quayside edging and kerb stones are made to suit. These buildings were simply pressed firmly into the clay to create a small foundation.
An overall view with the embossing complete, the quayside and the road across the back. The rest of the track will be ballasted, and the lane off towards the front will be gravel (sand) for variety. It was tedious, but not as bad as I feared - I think it took about 7 hours over two days, plus a couple of evenings to make the tools.
Hmm, that's a lot of cobbles to paint!
A close-up of the road. The clay can be laid to any gradient including compound slopes as here, while imperfections in the embossing and small bumps add to the realism I think. There's no pavement so I've added a line of setts along the edges, really this should be a gully for drainage but I didn't manage that level of detail!
Finally, a few final areas of landscape have appeared - the river-bank at the end of the quay, and a slope at the back of the fiddle yard. So now very little ground remains level apart from the quayside, the track, and the areas where buildings stand.
I have collected some details to add, both by Langley; some drains and manhole covers which I need to set into the clay, and some bollards for the quayside. These are in two forms - cast round bollards that look like they could tie up an ocean liner, and some well-worn wooden posts. At the moment I'm not sure which I like best.