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Top Level Done! Adding Details

The removable top level of the 2’x4’ N scale model railroad project is complete! I added catenary poles, street lights, road striping, street signs, vehicles, people, installed the structures, and painted the trim of the layout section. I also added photos for store interiors on the bottom level of all the structures.

►Interior Structure Photos:

►Kato catenary poles (ones I had):

►Kato catenary poles (single track):

►Here is the controller I used from Z Track Center:

►The building kits I used:

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You can watch the full video below, but here are some images of the completed top level. I've also included the transcript for this video below the video if you want to read that instead.

Here is the original video transcript before editing:

Ok, so to complete the top level of the layout, I needed to work on lots of details and get the structures installed.

The details I wanted to add were poles to support the overhead line of the tram line, although I didn’t plan to actually add an overhead wire, road striping, signs, street lights, vehicles, people, and additional trees and vegetation. I also needed to paint the perimiter of the layout section.

So, I started off with some Kato catenary poles. These are all for the unitram line, and so these poles are for a double track line. I used my nippers to remove all the poles from the sprues, and then nipped off the support arm on one side of the pole. I saved those since I planned to use at least a few of them. I sanded the cut edges, stuck them in a piece of scrap foam and painted them with a gray spray paint outside.

While that paint was drying, I worked on some of the road signs. I have some Tichy (Teetchy, titchy, ticky) signs as well as some blair line signs. I started with the Tichy signs, and nipped the top part of four signs off the sprue, but left the other end attached. This way I could paint them easier. I put those aside for a minute, and decided what other signs to use. I cut out some speed limit and railroad crossing signs, and then used a few poles from another blair line pack. I glued the poles to the back of the signs, and then sprayed them with some accelerator so the super glue would set instantly. I put all the signs on a piece of paper towel, and then mixed up some silver and gunmetal paint to use on the signs. I painted all the poles as well as the backs and sides of the signs with the paint, but you could also use a silver sharpy type marker instead.

I set those aside to dry, and moved on to the most dangeous and risky part of this operation: adding road striping with Woodland Scenics road striping pens. If you have used these before, you know that they can work great or be a total disaster. If you follow the directions exactly they usually work pretty well. The main key is to never depress the tip for very long and don’t depress the tip while you are actually applying a road stripe or you can end up with a puddle of paint.

I started with a straight section of road and used a ruler to make two parallel yellow stripes in the middle of the road. That went pretty well, so I moved onto using a flexible ruler (also a woodland scenics product) and bent it to help draw a white stripe at the start of a street parking area. Then I used my straight ruler and a vehicle to mark out additional parking spots.

Next, I bent the ruler to match the curve of the road and did the center line stripes for the first third or so of the road. I then moved to doing the remainder of the curved part of the road. And…that didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it. So, after adding the straight stripes at the end of the road, I simply painted over the road area that needed the stripes redone. I also scrubbed on some of that paint on other areas of the roadway to help blend it in with the part I wasn’t repainting.

While that was drying, I worked on adding some had rails to one of the stairways. These were simply from a Walthers warehouse kit, which is where I also took the stairway from, so the handrails matched the strairway perfectly. I used one along the road as a guardrail, and the other along the stairs as an actual handrail. I painted those with a silver sharpy marker, poked some holes in the scenery for the poles, and then glued them in place with some super glue. I think they turned out really nice.

I eventually got the remainder of the road stripes repainted, and then moved on to installing street lights. These lights were ones I picked up off of eBay several years ago. They have LEDs in them, but I just nipped off the wires since I didn’t plan to have any operational lights on this layout. I did use a silver sharpy marker on the plastic parts of this street light so it would better match the silver metal poles, but otherwise just drilled holes where I wanted each light and glued them in place with some super glue.

With those in place it was time to move on to installing the road signs. I had some speed limit signs, signs indicating a curving roadway, and the railroad crossing signs. I simply drilled small holes and glued each sign in place. Adding details like road signs really goes a long way to improving the realism of a scene and is a lot of fun too.

Once the signs were done, I worked on the catenary poles. Now, the Kato pole set comes with different length arms since some are designed for curved track and some for straight track. So, I tested out different poles to see which would work best in each spot so the part of the support arm carrying the wire would be right over the center of the track and the pole would be far enough from the track to not be hit by the tram. Then I drilled holes and glued them in place. Now, in two spots, since there was a concrete wall nearby, I simply glued a couple extra support arms directly to the concrete wall since I figured crews might utilize that existing support structures where it was avaliable.You can see here how everything looked with all the poles installed.

Next, I worked on painting the sides of the layout section. I just mixed flat and gloss black paint to give a semi-gloss black paint and applied that all around the back of the layout as well as the edges on the front side. This helps to really finish off the look of the layout section.

The last big step was getting the structures installed. Previously I showed how I added window blinds and such, but I still needed to add interiors to the lower storefront windows. In the past I’ve used Roomettes kits, but here I decided to just use photo inserts. In the past I’ve just printed some out, but I came across this Etsy store that has photo packs of store interiors as well as window blinds and curtains you can use. I picked up a store interior pack and, then cut out appropriate interiors for my structures. I simply put some glue on the edge of each photo and stuck them in place. Most will fit with a bend like you see here. I also cut out and stuck a block of foam into the interior of each structure to help glue the structure in place. I scored the foam so the glue would have something to bite into.

I ran a thin bead of super glue around the edge of each structure, then put a big glob of hot glue in the middle of each structure on the foam, and then stuck each building in place, holding it firm until the hot glue set up a bit. I then repeated the process for each remaining structure.

Next, I glued on a couple dumpsters behind some of the top level structures, and then glued on several vehicles. I tested the tram to make sure things still ran good and then moved onto finishing up the scenery. I used some Woodland Scenics Fine Leaf Foliage for a few trees that I tucked in behind or between some of the structures. I didn’t want to add too much to this level since anything near the edges would end up getting broken off at some point.

The last step was to add some people. I added a bench along the sidewalk on the lower level with four people there, and then glued on several additional people elsewhere on the layout section. All of these figures are from Woodland Scenics figure packs.

Anyway, with that, the top level of this layout is done! Yes, I might come back and add a few more details that are missing, maybe a few more weeds or bits of trash or things like that, but overall, I think this part of the layout looks largely complete.

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No devil in these details, just down home REALISM.....!

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