Following is a small batch of pictures (close-ups) I took mostly for myself — to get a look at things and make note of what might need to be addressed, etc.
I've already mentioned the bog's rather "abrupt" trackside edge. This would have been relatively simple to fix had I noticed it before I poured the EnviroTex® water . . . but, alas, I missed it. The pour is the last thing you do in this process, and all the detritus and plants and things have to be secured in some fashion (or they'll float up as the resin is curing). Once everything is in place and you begin to do the pour, it's just too late to make any changes.
I'll point out some additional boo-boos the photos brought to my attention, and philosophize a little about the hobby in this post.
Here's a hint for beginning modelers: Watch your track spikes. As we look down toward the bog, at track-level — and this shot isn't all that bad — what screws it up are the two track spike-heads clearly evident beyond the crossing. I'll slap a little light gray over these in due time but the point is that this kind of thing should be avoided. Why are they here? Well, for the most part I use small brads to secure my track to the roadbed, and the ballast covers them up. But once in a while I use something that goes a little deeper into the sub-roadbed (in this case the Dow-Corning pink insulation I use) because I'm using Atlas flexible track, which sections are three feet long, and so I need slightly longer nails at times to more firmly secure the track on curves . . . and these nails or brads have larger heads. You really don't notice them from the slightly elevated view we generally have, but at this level they stick out like the proverbial sore thumb(s).
What I get a kick out of in this photo is the reflection of the gondola in the "water," at bottom right. What I don't like is that my ballasting leaves a little to be desired, more often than not. Fact is, ballasting track is a major P-I-T-A. It's tedious and boring, but it has to be done. Commercial track is available that is "pre-ballasted" but it looks so toy-like as to be almost funny. The next time you're around any railroad tracks take a close look: the ballast (which is busted-up slag that comes from blast furnaces, btw) will generally be up to the level of the tie itself. It won't be on the tie but will be level with it. Here too much of my ties are sticking up above the ballast. To fix this will require an afternoon of additional tediousness. Can the solution be a thing as simple as paying more attention when first putting down the ballast? Yes, but who wants to do that? You want to get it over with . . . and you say, "I'll tidy this all up later."
Who looks that close? is a good question, too. But the person who asks it isn't a model railroader, probably.
They're those who say, "Oh, look . . . toy trains . . ." I've written previously about so-called "rivet-counters" in the hobby and have said I'm not one of them. But the slope is very slippery, to be honest. And, believe it or not, while there aren't arguments about this in the hobby (the kind that end up with people standing with pistols at ten paces), there are discussions about it. It's the debate between the "I'm-having-fun,-leave-me-alone" crowd versus the "If-you're-going-to-do-it,-do-it-absolutely-right" crowd. When you sit for a few hours or a few days making something from scratch — something as minor as perhaps a fence that you could just as easily purchase commercially for a few dollars — you begin to think about a few things. One of them is to question your own sanity. But if you find the activity enjoyable you can get past that. The next question is about the fence itself: what does a fence (a wood one, say — a picket fence) really look like? Can I do this to some more or less realistic degree in 1/87th scale? What do I remember about these kinds of fences? And so on.
The "reeds" need to be more various in color. The dusting of the pines (a dry-brushing with one color) needs to be addressed. I'll take a darker green and go over the places I've already lightened . . . perhaps with a brown or a black and a light touch.
The ballast at the far right of this photo is close to being good; that in the middle much less so. Do you see it?
A few things . . .
I'm going include the same photo but in black & white, next. Compare and contrast, as the saying goes. It says a lot, including how we see the world, or how we imagine it in our memory. And the devil is in the details, yes?
The blue CSX gondola here is what's known as a "shake-the-box" freight car. This means you get it at the hobby shop, bring it home, and it's ready-to-run. A car like this will cost about $15 to $18 and these days comes with a knuckle coupler and, often, metal wheels. (Metal wheels are the modeler's savior, but more about that another time.) The car even comes with the four rolled steel coils — bonus. But its details — grab-irons and ladders and so on — are part of the mold, and while they're no doubt in scale they're not very realistic.
On the other hand, the Erie Lackawana gondola is a kit. It comes in a box in pieces and you have to assemble it. The pieces are myriad, including grab-irons. It's not rocket science to put one of these kinds of kits together, but it takes about an hour or two and, in this case, I added my own grab-irons (even though the kit supplied them — the ones I use aren't plastic but metal; you buy little packages of them for a few dollars). Now, if I'm not a so-called "rivet-counter" why would I do this? (And when I put my own grab-irons on a car the distance between the car surface and the grab-iron is without doubt out of scale.)
I do it for contrast. I'd rather have an observer feel or sense that the grab-irons and ladder stiles are "realistic" to them — have depth and contrast — than not. Few people are going to pull out a micrometer and measure.
Next: color. The EL gondola has been "weathered." I use powered chalks for this. I bought a set of weathering powders from a guy in Southern California and they are the best, though a bit pricey. His powders seem to "stick" or adhere to surfaces better than home-made. (I make these by scraping a knife blade over commercial chalks, shaving them onto a piece of paper and dumping the shavings into little containers.)
No freight cars in the steel mill environment are "clean and shiny." They're old; they're beaten-up, abused: most of them are a mess, frankly. Toys are clean and shiny. Will I get around to "dirtying-up" the CSX gondola? You can bet on it.
Here's the same photo in black & white —
The CSX car doesn't look so bad here . . . though it will need a good dose of weathering, eventually, regardless.