Distress Modeling in N Scale

Distress Modeling in N Scale

Wrightsville Port, my N Scale model train layout, is primarily a freelance layout, and given I do not have to stay true to any prototype, I can take extreme artistic liberty about what I want to put on that layout. However, I have always been disciplined about certain ‘givens’ – the atmosphere would have to be authentic to a small, sea-side town where the port is basically an essential lifeline. The place should ‘feel’ like a real place and there should be strong doubt in the mind of the observer that this whole thing is literally is a figment of my imagination (and of course Ian Rice’s!).

My experiment to achieve this was to build ‘stories,’ and give each element a character – whether it is the actual tiny humans who live rather a ‘static’ life in this tiny little world, or the buildings, the vessels and even the cranes – all of them have their individual story. It is very much like movie – it is not real, but it sure seems like it!

When it comes to a sea-side port town, weathering is a BIG part to bring that authenticity in the atmosphere. I have put decent amount of weathering in most ships and cranes, the loco and rolling stock have their fair share of rust in them, the waterline that you see in a port during low tide has been recently repainted with a lot of care to bring the right colors, but I desperately needed something else to bring that ‘depression’ in the atmosphere – a heaviness in the air while life in general goes on. And nothing breathes heavier than an abandoned, distressed and dejected building that has taken its refuge on the lap of the nature.

So I turned towards my Model Power ‘Coverall Paint’ building, the only off-the-shelf, ready to use building that I have on the layout. During my past moves most of the piping was already gone. I even salvaged some of the parts from this building to make my pneumatic grain handler and a small water tower, so the building was already somewhat distressed. But this time I took things further – I took my drill machine and drilled a few random holes, and then took a saw file to make those holes extremely irregular to simulate broken walls. Then I opened my new pack of Deluxe Materials’ ‘Scenic Rust’ and rusted the hell out of all metal components. Provided heavy weathering with shades of brown and grey, and put varied degree of black enamel wash to bring out the details of the stone structure. Also, walls near the ground received dark green wash to simulate moss. As you see in the photo below, the main attraction is the broken chimney, and we’ll see why in the next stage.


Scenic Rust by Deluxe Materials was used to create the rust effect on the metal parts. The results as you can see is truly amazing!


After the first round of weathering treatment.

Next it was time to bring the nature to play its role. I used variety of materials for this stage. For the shrubs and bushes, I used Fiber Cluster foliage – just took them off from trees that are too poor quality and placed them around the factory. More weathering was added to the floor before adding them. I also used fiber clusters of different color to simulate the climbers all around the building. The smokestack received a little special treatment for a little more dramatic impact – I made three holes in the smokestack and the middle and I decided to put plants in the middle and the top hole – a healthy and green one for the middle and a dried one for the top. The main attraction of modeling these plants so much higher was to show the intricate root structure that you generally see in such growths. I used dried roots from the dead flowering plants (that I carefully preserved for a few months for the same purpose) to simulate the expose roots, and I couldn’t have been happier with the results.


Shrubs, bushes and climbers are modeled using fiber foliage, real roots of dead flowering plants were used for the exposed roots of the plant in the smokestacks hole

Also, in the meantime, as you might have noticed I have decided to remove those plastic looking, out of scale fence. I wanted to use metal chain link fence with barbed wire on top to give a more authentic feel to the building. I have about 8 inches of that left, so I’d just cut them in appropriate length and glued them on two sides of the building:


Heavily weathered, chain-link fence with barbed wire

The last thing needed to complete the scene was a good looking tree. I did have a tree at the corner of the building, but that tree did not have the level of detail required to justify a place in this scene. So I build a new tree using Woodland Scenic armature and Scenic Express Super Tree branches. Also used Woodland Scenic coarse turf for leaves. I am thinking of making an instruction video of how to make really awesome trees in N scale using this method – please subscribe to my YouTube channel to stay tuned.


Before signing off, here are some more shots of the completed scene:





And finally here is a before and after shot for a comparison:





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