This page is one in a series on the buildout of an N scale model railroad depicting the BNSF Scenic Subdivision in Washington state in the Cascade Mountain Range. You can find the main table of contents for all the articles in the series HERE.

Welcome to Model 160 and we hope you enjoy the project!


So after getting the track down and tested, I decided that I was going to ballast the staging yard. It seems useful to have another place to take photos and ballast and a few details would make things look a whole lot better. Plus I’m thinking of have a couple different backdrops with flats and other things to give more scenery variation to take photos. We’ll see how that plays out, but the next step is ballast. But first I need to get some weeds down so I busted out the static machine, some Silflor grass (mix of late summer and beige) and a shop vac with a paper towel over the end to vacuum up the static grass that doesn’t stick (a lot in this case) so I can reuse it. I dabbed Matte Mod Podge down in areas where I wanted  weeds and applied the static grass. I usually worked in 12″ x 12″ sections or the glue starts to set up too much. This is what it looks like after vacuuming but before the glue dries:


Not very attractive right? Until the glue dries it isn’t from this angle, but if we get down to track height…


For ballast I had some Arizona Rock “yard mix” which I’ve always thought looked too grey. I mixed it with a cinders mix and things got better. I didn’t want to use a ton of this stuff if I didn’t need to and I was lucky that a sprinkling from above gave a nice thin coverage that worked well. I went over the track with an edge brush which works great:


I also decided to add a few drops of dark grey and black umber to the glue/water mix I use to seal the ballast. I always use a mist bottle with 70% alcohol over the area that I’m going to glue first and that makes things much easier with the glue soaking right in. Once it was set up the yard started to look more like this:


Next up is to add some smaller weeds. I used this process:


I just spent some time researching new scenery material and there are newer flocks that are extremely fine available now (when they are in stock!) that I’ve ordered so I can try them out. More on that when I get the material. 🙂

Now our weeds look like this:


And lastly, a quick shot of some equipment for scale and reference:


Overall I’m happy with how things turned out. I think there is still lots of room for more improvement and details but what amounted to not a whole lot of work made a nice difference in how things look.  While this was all going on, I printed out a tiled n scale version of the Google Earth image of the Cascade Tunnel eastern portal entrance and temporarily taped it up to some pink foam. I’m a visual person and wanted to see how what I drew on the computer would translate on top of the real thing:


In Photoshop I also overlayed the n scale track plan I had drawn on the computer ( faded green track graphic running left to right on a curve above). After looking at this, I decided that I needed to ease the curve going into the tunnel and move the Nason Creek bridge out a little more. This in turn will give more breathing room for Route 2 which will disappear around the bend/trees on the layout. Consider this stage I of many visualizations I do to make sure this flows and looks right. I may have a problem.  🙂


Next up is benchwork for the Scenic Sub. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!



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Scenic Sub Project Part 1 Scenic Sub Project Part 3