If you are thinking of making a permanent circuit this section will be too simple for you. What follows is really for those who are making ‘temporary’ or ‘semi-permanent’ circuits. Here are some ideas for improving the look of your circuit very easily, beginning with the base you build it on.
If you are building your track on the living room/bedroom carpet it may look just like that. The overall appearance can be dramatically changed however if you can disguise that.
Here are three alternatives.
1. Perhaps the quickest and simplest is to buy some green cloth to lay underneath the track to give the impression of a more natural landscape than your living room carpet. If you know roughly the shape your circuit will be you could even put some things under the cloth to resemble hills. (I don’t recommend books as the cloth is likely to follow the shape too much and look silly but you could possibly get quite a lot of old newspaper and shuffle it around to make a more natural looking hill or two.)
2. Quite cheaply you can get hold of some ex-exhibition carpet or flooring used for marquees. (I once found some in a skip.!) It is quite thin but can provide a good base. We used it to cover the floor boards in a loft and it has done a very good job for us, but it can also be used on a carpet, or fixed on to a large sheet of hardboard. (The only problem with hardboard is that it has a tendency to curl up at the edges unless you put a fairly solid frame on the back or weigh it down at the edges with something substantial.)
3. Perhaps rather better and not massively expensive (unless you have a huge space to cover) is flock mat as used by model railway people. This is available in various shades and types. (See our forthcoming ‘Scenic materials’ section on this or go on the websites of Javis or Gaugemaster.) This comes in rolls and is rather fragile on its own but can be glued or stapled on to chipboard to make it last longer and give a flatter and firmer surface for fixing track, borders and other accessories.
I used 6mm chipboard which I got cut to 3′ x 2′, 2′ x 2′ and 1′ x 2′ sizes from 8′ x 4′ sheets by a friendly retailer. Do ask, it saves loads of time and means you can get them in the boot of a medium sized car. More importantly, you can then build up larger areas with small panels and so retain some flexibility as to the size and shape of your circuit.
To prevent the panels warping it is worth giving both sides and the edges of the plywood a couple of coats of cheap emulsion before fixing the mat on.
The normal size roll of flock covers a 3′ x 2′ panel with enough spare to fix it on with a staple gun underneath. With careful cutting it will also therefore do a 2′ x 2′ and a 1′ x 2′ panel.
Here are some pictures of some of the stages.