Scenic work has started with the ballasting. Not the usual style though. Burghmire requires a rather more primitive interpretation of the term than is usually applied. In the early days, Wantage looked quite neat, using ash or similar to give a nice smooth surface. This was when the line used longitudinal sleepers.
In later days, conventional sleepers were used. Latterly the 'ballasting' and the general appearance of the site looked very untidy. The ballast material was still very fine though, nothing like the granite chips we normally see on model railways.
Sleepers are almost completely hidden. There are also piles of ash and other stuff, which add considerably to the atmosphere. Therefore, the ballasting requires its own dedicated modelling exercise, integrated to some degree with the surrounding scenery.
I decided to use lightweight filler as the main material. This not only has the advantage of being very light, but is also easier to work when wet or dry than the gritty, hard alternatives. The first stage was to push an excess of the filler down between the rails. I found that a finger worked best for this. I then used an improvised plastic tool to scrape out the excess. This was made from the spacer on some wall plugs. This was just the right width to fit between the rails. Made of slippery plastic, it was easy to clean with water.
I also used various other metal and plastic tools to scrape the filler out of flangeways and the rail web. Even when dry, the filler is easily worked with files, saw blades and knife blades. There is still quite a bit of work to do, but I am very pleased so far with what I have achieved.
As can be seen from the above photo, I also installed an ash pit outside what will eventually be the loco shed. I wasn't going to bother when I originally laid the track, but recently changed my mind. I applied epoxy adhesive to the outer ends of the sleepers to make absolutely sure they would stay in place. I then used a circular saw attached to a mini drill to cut out the slot between the rails. I made a box out of plasticard and stuck it firmly in place. The epoxy will eventually be hidden under a representation of ash and coal dust. As most of the track is surrounded or covered with platform edges and buildings, the final detailing of the ballast will have to wait a while.
Talking of scenery, much thought has been going into what Burghmire should look like. As far as the railway buildings go, Wantage works OK. The surroundings don't really fit well though. This map extract shows what I mean. The front of the layout is at the top. As you can see, the back of the layout (bottom of the map) would on the whole be a vast nothingness, with little or no atmosphere.
The plan is to tighten up the railway boundary as much as possible at the rear to give the layout a far more claustrophobic atmosphere. I plan to install a tall wall at the back, close enough to the track to allow some low relief buildings behind. I found some wall components on eBay, including pillars from China and brick wall components from Auhagen. They are supposedly HO scale, but actually scale quite well for 2mm scale. The photo below shows roughly where the walls would go - though I shall adjust the height of the walls and the spacing of the pillars.
I have also made a mock up of the loco shed and goods shed from card. I shall have to reduce the dimensions of the goods shed slightly to get it to fit, but I should be able to model the loco shed pretty much as it was at Wantage, though with styling differences.
I thinking of doing the train shed over the platform in the same style as the boundary walls too. I found this delightful photo of a station in Mexico where the main pillars are similar in style to the model ones I have bought. All with the aim of giving Burghmire its own distinctive atmosphere.