For years, there was a huge hole in the backdrop where the closet doors used to be. Recently, Louis-Marie built a removable MDF panel to fill this void. Last evening, it was time to cut the holes for the track and to finish the job once for all.
The new holes were cut to fit a the largest passenger car we "could" use. A 1/4 inch gap clearance was kept between the car shell and the backdrop. I know, this is quite minimal, but I wanted the hole to be as small as possible to be easier to conceal later. I've seen too much model railroaders struggle with this classic riddle.
As stated recently, I don't want to add an overpass to hide the holes. In fact, the more I look at this scene, the more I think I shouln't even install a grade crossing near the staging. Only tracks disappearing into the backdrop.
Putting the backdrop in place really helped me to visualize better the future scene and I see only a double track gently curving with a parallel road... On the prototype, the grade crossing and overpass are several thousands of feet away from the bridge. Why loose the nice proportion to cram stuff that will need countless hours to build. I was recently reading (again) about Tom Johnson's INRAIL layout and he also came to the same conclusion his layout was overcrowded with repetitive grade crossings. He took the bold approach and wiped out about 50% of them. Yes, it was a shame in some sense because his grade crossing scene are masterpieces, but in the end, the layout gained more scenic coherence.
Seriously, this hobby takes a lot of time and mine and getting very limited as I grow older. I prefer to put my effort on what the railroad really needs than waste time and material over fancy useless stuff. What does it means? It means building a convincing model of the cement plant should be a top priority over many other structures. I really want a linear feeling with this layout. The idea that your train is dwarfed by the scenery. I came to appreciate the fact a train can travel a scene which is long enough that you can: 1) see the train crossing the scene for a long period of time and feel it is a long piece of track 2) the entire train is visible in one scene (no more caboose in the countryside while the locomotives are already exiting a urban scape).
That said, I'm more than satisfied with the new backdrop panel. It does its job wonderfully and when you operate the trains, you don't feel they enter a hole. This is because when you look at the layout from the tracks, you almost don't see the holes thanks to the perspective. I was unaware of this when I designed the layout, but it was really a good idea.
The next step will be to had small "backdrop" behind the backdrop to make sure we don't see what lies behind the scene. We experimented with some scraps of blue sky MDF planks and it is really convincing. When those block receive a similar amount of lighting than the real backdrop, they vanishes into the sky. Now, imagine the scene with trees and telephone poles... no longer our attention will be drawn by the holes.
Oh... should I mention I feel the returning loop is quite useless. Since it was built, I almost never used it at all. We never run continous trains. The staging is mainly to build and remove trains from the layout. I wouldn't be surprise if we remove it in the future. You know how I love them!