Chinchilla sand and terrain paste


Been doing some scenic work on The Stables. I wish I could settle on a fixed set of approaches for the surface textures, but I seem to be trying out different methods on every new layout.


The yards at Farthing tend to feature a cinders/ash/dirt mix for ballast, as seen in period photos. In the past I’ve used Polyfilla (handbuilt track) or DAS (RTR track). But I wanted a more textured look, so tried Chinchilla sand this time.

I say Chinchilla “sand” because that’s what was available here in Denmark. Not sure it’s the same as “dust”? Anyway, the fine grain meant that extra careful cleaning of the sleepers was needed, and even then I missed some. 

 Hmm. Once wetted and stuck down with a PVA mix it set nicely - but close-ups revealed an unsightly shine from the quartz.


So I applied a couple of fairly thick coloured washes, dispensed as drops from a brush. The sleepers did need touching up afterwards. 

Well, I got my texture and can live with the result, but I'm not completely happy. Next time I may try mixing in some grout or real ash.

For the yard's ground texture I have previously used Polyfilla, but wanted more control so tried a base of DAS, rolled and cut to size. Bacon sandwich, anyone?

DAS on a PVA base, smoothed with a wet finger. 

Antarctic railway. The grey DAS I use dries up white. OK as a base, but a bit too smooth for what I wanted.

So I experimented with terrain paste as used by the diorama and wargaming communities. Got some for my birthday.  I ended up using mostly the AK Terrains Light Earth. Although coarser than Vallejo Sand Paste, I found it takes paint better and dries up dead matt.

I think it's supposed to go on neat, but I found it could be thinned with water to control how coarse I wanted it. My best sable brush, not!


Experiments showed it can be sanded down for more smoothness. Adds a bit of variation. 

In other areas I tried thinning the paste a lot, then stippling it on to add a slight gravel effect. The pastes would be an expensive solution if applied neat over large areas, but with thinning I think their potential increases. 

The whole thing was lightly coloured with thin washes of Vallejo acrylics.


The layout has a slight embankment that separates the yards. This was treated to static grass.


I haven't tried static grass before, what a superb mess you can make! I don't have much hair left, so I wonder… 😄

Although it’s summer I wanted a subdued colour, so used Mini Natur 2mm and 4mm "Late Fall", and a bit of Woodland Scenics 4mm straw. The phone camera exaggerates the yellow, it’s a bit greener in reality. 


Edwardian photos suggests that grass was fairly carefully controlled in yards back then, so I resisted the urge to apply it in patches everywhere.


Lastly I tried working over the whole area with pigments. It helped blend things together. Note to self: This is MIG Light European Earth (P415), now rebranded as Abteilung 502 Light European Earth (2260). Also a bit of Vallejo Pigments Light Yellow Ochre (73.102).


I suppose there’s an un-intended seaside look to it. Shades of Neil Rushby’s Shell Island layout. I wish!

Where it’s at. Now onward with the trees.