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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here's a super cool development, I just received a custom backdrop for my freight yard wall. This is a custom work created by Joe Kunka in collaboration with Norm Charbonneau. The backdrop was created by combining a bunch of different photos of stuff on Norm's layout into a single long view.

It's going to take a bit to get the backing to install it, but I have a preview of what it will look like, Joe created the view by slipping a picture of the yard in front of the backdrop, pretty good match, it looks like a picture of the installed piece!

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I'm blown away with how cool it looks, and I can't wait to get the real thing up on the wall!

My installation method will be to mount it on some thin Formica stock, then use construction adhesive to stick that to the wall. Trying to work over the yard with the bare vinyl backdrop and no backing seems like a recipe for disaster. I'm sure we'd put some wrinkles in it, and that would be a dirty shame! That's why I came up with the idea of sticking it to the Formica first flat on the floor, then handling it as a more rigid piece to mounting on the wall, I think the chance of getting it up there undamaged improves 1,000% over trying to put it up without a backing.
 

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Good idea about using the Formica.
I love the look, just a tad big for scale but it look pretty real. I have thin foamcore I am planning on using on my backdrop. Curious how these men printed photos on paper? ...vinyl?....on a long roll? They must own a sign shop and have vinyl printers, I am guessing...could have been a pretty expensive proposition...better not screw it up! 😁
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The vinyl print was done at a professional sign printer, it's two pieces. One piece is twelve feet long x 46" high, the other is three feet long x 46" high. The break is in the corner obviously.

Contrast it with what it looks like now, and I'll clearly take the cool backdrop over the bare wall! :D
The black track numbers aren't really on the print, he just added them when doing the composite to show what it looks like.

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Looks great! As A cabinet maker I have found Formica doesn’t always stay flat, especially at the edge.I think a sign maker would have a good idea How to install. Maybe vinyl wallpaper techniques would be best. Look at the Formica sheets at Home Depot, you will get an idea of how it curls.
Fred
 

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Very neat. And yes, will look acton better.
Just wondering if it’d be possible to install mirror hardware and slide the backdrops in from one end? That way they’re free-floating for thermal/humidity changes etc? I mean the clear plastic mirror hardware, not the silver metal type.
 

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Yes looks great JOHN. You might want to consider using Marlite, to use as the backing, it’s thin, waterproof and easy to cut on a table saw. i agree with mounting the mirror hardware to furring strips then sliding to in place. Good Luck. marlite can be found at Lowes or HD.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
My only problem with anything but a thin backing is I don't have much clearance between the last yard track and the wall. I didn't plan on anything thick being on the wall. It's a straight shot backing in, but there is at most maybe a half an inch from the standard width cars/locomotives and the wall. That's why anything that it mounts on will have to be thin.
 

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A couple of thoughts:

First, if the wall is reasonably flat or can easily be leveled with joint compound, why not just mount the vinyl backdrop like wallpaper, directly on the wall? It might be a tad more difficult maneuvering the vinyl and wallpaper paste over the existing layout, but I doubt it would be much more difficult than maneuvering and adhering the formica sheets you've proposed.

Second, if you're in no particular hurry, you can probably save more than a few bucks by working with an on-line overseas site like Buy-Backdrop.com. I ended up with a custom four foot by nine foot backdrop printed on polyester cloth (vinyl would have been a few bucks more) for under $20, including shipping IIRC. I used a cropped version of one of their stock backgrounds, but for about the same price I could have submitted my own graphic. It took a few weeks to get it delivered (and this was before the COVID supply chain disruptions!), but the only regret I've had since is not going for a slightly larger (5' X 11') size. Here's a pic of the installed backdrop (it hangs from the ceiling, and is held down by, and can be rolled up on, a plastic pipe fastened across the bottom of the backdrop):
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
A couple of thoughts:

First, if the wall is reasonably flat or can easily be leveled with joint compound, why not just mount the vinyl backdrop like wallpaper, directly on the wall? It might be a tad more difficult maneuvering the vinyl and wallpaper paste over the existing layout, but I doubt it would be much more difficult than maneuvering and adhering the formica sheets you've proposed.
A man's got to know his limitations. In the distant past, I hung quite a bit of vinyl wallpaper when it was still in vogue. However, vinyl was a royal PITA, much more difficult than plain paper or even foil paper. Working over a 3 foot layout and having a 12 foot roll that's four foot wide isn't likely to go well, at least for me! I plan on having one or two helpers to put the Formica up, and I think it'll go a bunch better than me trying to hang the vinyl directly on the wall.
But HD carries 5 x 12 Formica sheets. And a rigid 12' length to match the 12' long print may be the deciding factor.
The 12 foot length the full width is indeed the deciding factor, that makes this a seamless job. I didn't find any other backing that I could get in the correct size.
 

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The shop that did my 8 foot backdrop mounted it on 3/32 styrene sheet, one hundred bucks total. Rigid enough but also thin and able to bend around corners.
 
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