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I Built a Working Train Hat!



Well, are you looking for a crazy hat idea or just looking for a way to draw the most possible attention to yourself at a train show? Try running a train around your head!


This is both a hat and a small T Gauge train layout you can easily keep on a desk or small table. Because T Gauge trains have magnetized wheels, they stay on the track really well. So, you can move your head around and the train won't actually fall off. I built this train hat to wear around train shows and maybe I'll wear it around on Halloween this year too.



So, anyway here's a closer look at this little t-gauge layout here I have on my hat. I do have a little tunnel on the backside here that I thought was kind of fun. Anyway, I have this removable top section here where the battery-powered t-gauge controller sits. There's a little hole on here, and that keys into the speed control knob and is held on by some velcro. This way, you can set your speed and direction, turn it on, and then cover it up so it looks a little bit nicer when you're operating it.



Okay, so let's go through the steps of actually building this little hat layout. First, I found a hat in my closet that was about the right size to fit a loop of t-gauge track and I used that for the actual base of the hat as well as a guide for cutting all the foam pieces.



So I laid the hat on a piece of foam, traced around it, and then used a bendable ruler as a guide while cutting around it. I could have used a hot wire cutter but I decided I wouldn't be able to actually keep the curve as smooth since it wasn't a consistent radius all the way around.



The next step was to cut a hole in that first layer of foam that was going to be big enough to fit around my head. So again, I just used the hat as a guide, making marks with a sharp knife and then cut that hole out so the interior part of the hat would fit inside of it. I then cut a 2" thick piece of foam to size and cut a hole inside that piece as well. I glued that 2" thick foam piece to the bottom base of the hat and then took a half-inch piece of foam and glued that on as well. That piece basically served as the part that would rest against the top of my head and serve as the base for the controller. The final layer of foam was actually the interior of that first two-inch piece of foam that I cut out earlier. I cut out a hole for the controller, and then glued that final layer of foam onto the hat.







The last step was to add another layer of foam to the base so I could raise the track up a bit and have a bridge. So, I cut a piece of half-inch foam to raise up the track a little bit more and allow me to have a bridge in the front of the layout. I also built up some areas in the back to eventually serve as a tunnel.




So, with all the foam construction done, I put a bunch of tacky glue on the actual hat, stuck that into the foam base, and then trimmed all the foam bits here and there to make it as smooth as I could all the way around and get the overall shape roughly like I wanted it. I did carve a bunch of score marks into the central mountain area just to provide the sculptamold something to grab onto better than the smooth foam.




Once that was done, I mixed up my sculptamold and just spread that all over the entire mountain area of the layout as well as the back tunnel area. Once that was done, I actually put it outside in the sun so it would dry pretty fast and so I was able to come back the next day and do the painting.




I painted everything using several paint washes. First, I took some brown paint and water, about 25% paint to 75% water. I then spread that thinned paint onto the scenery with a brush. You want to use washes and not just straight paint because this gives you variation in color texture as the amount of paint that absorbs into the sculptamold will vary depending on how heavy the paint was put on in that spot and so you get a lot of color variations which look more realistic. If you just paint everything on full strength, you're going to get a pretty uniform brown color that won't look as realistic.



Once that brown paint was on, I mixed up and applied a wash of gray paint. Then, once that was dry, I followed that up with a wash of black paint to kind of help accentuate all the little nooks and cavities in the sculptamold and give more depth to the rockwork. Finally, I came back with a light gray paint gain and just dry brushed highlights onto the layout. I got almost all the paint off the brush and then very gently swept the brush across the sculptamold rocks to highlight those areas sticking out the farthest with light gray paint. This gave the effect of sunlight on the rocks and really kind of helped bring them a little bit more to life.





At that point, I decided it was a good time to get the simple wiring for this project completed. So, I drilled a hole from the top of the hat down into the middle open area and then drilled the hole from the side where I wanted the wires to connect from the track into the middle area as well. And then I tried to fish the wires through that hole in the side but I had to cut a hole in the fabric of the hat itself so I could grab the wires out of the one hole and then fish them into the other hole that went up into the top of the layout where the controller was going to sit.



So, with that done, it was time to put the track back on the layout and figure out my little bridge area. So, I just took scrap pieces of styrene that I had and used those to build the bridge. The base of the bridge was actually part of a roof from a Walthers kit that I didn't need, and so I used that as the underside of my bridge and I just cut that out to fit the track radius in that area. I needed some supports for the bridge so I used some pieces of a smokestack in one of the kits that I didn't need, and then I just cut those to size so I could glue them to the bottom of my bridge. I needed sides to the bridge as well, so I found some pieces of 90-degree angle styrene strip that I had in my box of styrene scrap bits and I glued those to the side of the bridge and then I glued another piece of styrene strip on top of that to add a little bit more elevation to the side of the bridge. I glued everything together, glued on the legs, made sure everything fit well, and then all I did was cover it with a layer of gray paint and I called it good.




To actually glue the track down I just use tacky glue once again. I put a bead of tacky glue around the layout, pressed the track into that, and then added some weights to make sure it would bond very well to the layout.



The next step was to ballast the track. Now, T Gauge track is really small, so trying to use N-scale ballast just wasn't going to work. So, I was trying to figure out what the best way would be to ballast this very small track and so what I came up with was to use tile grout. We had remodeled our house last year, and I had a lot of leftover grout from the various tile projects we did. I found a pewter color that I thought would look pretty good for this little layout project and decided to try that. I poured some into a cup and basically applied it like I would any other ballast, pouring it on, smoothing it out with a brush, and then spraying it down with some alcohol, and then eventually soaking it with a diluted mix of matte medium. Technically, since it is grout, you could just spray it down and it would harden by itself since it already has the adhesive binders built into it. But because it was a very thin layer on the track, it potentially might crack off easily over time, so I still felt it was a good idea to soak it with that glue mix as well just to add a little bit more strength.




I also at that time added a dirt and rock mix along the base of the cliffs all the way around the layout so that when I soaked everything with glue I could attach both that and the ballast at the same time. Overall, I think everything turned out really well like this and I actually almost kept it as a desert theme instead of adding foliage and trees because I did like the look of just the rock and the cliff and the ballast as it was.


So, at this point, it was time to start doing some of the fun scenery work. I painted glue where I wanted to have the foliage materials attached and then sprinkled on layers of ground foam all around the layout in those areas using three or four different shades of ground foam. Once again, I sprayed everything down with some alcohol and soaked it with some diluted matte medium to help really secure it in place.




Next, I started working on the hat lid. I did the same thing, covering everything with ground foam and then I used little bits of Woodland Scenics Clump Foliage to model the trees on top of that lid. The actual foliage bits themselves are pretty small but they weren't really small enough so I basically tore each of those into two or three pieces and then I applied those to that piece of foam so it would kind of give the right scale of texture for those trees. I got everything covered with a good layer of foam and soaked it with a diluted mix of matte medium, and set that aside to dry. This wasn't going to be enough foam on there but I couldn't do it all at one time because the it did have a rounded shape. And so at some point, foam would start rolling off and so I needed to basically get that first layer glued down and then come back and do a second and third layer of ground foam and foliage to kind of build everything up and get full coverage on that rounded shape.



I did the same thing with the actual layout itself: taking little bits of clump foliage and gluing them onto the layout. I painted glue on the layout first, attached all the bits of clump foliage, and then I just worked my way around the layout adding the little tiny bits of clump foliage everywhere that I thought would look appropriate, including a ring around the top.




Next, to add more texture, I took some light green Fine Leaf Foliage from Woodland Scenics, tore off tiny bits, and stuck those into the foam everywhere. So, I didn't really use that much material, but I covered the entire layout with little bits of fine leaf foliage embedded into the clump foliage that was already in place. I've used this technique before and it works really well because the clump foliage basically provides it a way to support itself, so when you're using little pieces like this you're not trying to drill little tiny holes for each piece of fine leaf foliage. And, they're less likely to break off because they do have that soft cushy foam underneath it, so it does help provide a little bit of support as well and it ends up working pretty well. You are basically creating the illusion of extra texture there, and the combination of that clump foliage and the fine Leaf foliage kind of embedded in there does make it look really nice in terms of providing the right scale of texture that you want for a small scale forest.




And so once I had all that in place I just went through again soaked everything with alcohol and a diluted mix of matte medium to make sure everything was securely attached.



Next, it was time to paint those bottom sides, basically the brim of the hat, all the way around. So, I mixed up some brown and gray paint, painted that on there, and then I actually just added a bunch of glue in there as well and painted that on there to basically serve as a colored glue mix on that part of the layout. And then, I just took a mix of ground foam again, pretty much what I used elsewhere on the layout. It's different earth shades and green colors that I have in different bags in my supply of ground foam. I mixed a bunch together and then just sprinkled that onto that glue and paint mix all around the brim of the layout until I had everything well covered. Then I went through and soaked everything with that diluted mix of matte medium once again because I really wanted this to be very securely attached, being a hat that would get worn around, and I didn't want to have it kind of wear off over time very easily.




The last thing to do was to work on the waterfall. I used a gloss gel medium, applied a little bit of turquoise blue color to give it a little bit of color so it wouldn't just be totally clear, and then applied that to the layout using a brush. I had to do this in a couple of different layers to build it up over time to get everything fully covered so it looked like actual deeper layers of water.





For the last batch of gel medium, I actually applied some snowflake material and applied that mix to the layout to make it look really frothy and foamy. I ended up overdoing things and while it worked okay for the waterfall, it was a bit too much for the river below the waterfall. But, it looks okay for now. Anyway, I think improving the waterfall will be another project I'll try to work on in terms of painting it to look a little bit more realistic. But, for now, it's okay and I didn't have time to do any additional work on it before getting this video out.


Anyway, that was pretty much it for building this hat.


So, anyway, this was a very fun project to do, and it didn't take very long to build. I did the whole thing on and off in about two weeks, so a pretty quick build. So, if you haven't looked at T gauge trains before, this might be a reason to do so. Hopefully, a few more of you will get some crazy ideas of what you could do with these little trains.





You can watch the full video of how I made the train hat below:



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rjcsue
rjcsue
12 set 2023

What can I say, Steve, hats off to you?

Mi piace
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