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Building a Mountain (To see the most current update, just scroll down)

Since there are a lot of guys watching this blog, I thought it would be interesting to open up a new post and show  my step-by-step process for building a large mountain.  I anticipate a lot of elements to this mountain; deck bridges, tunnels, rock ledges, etc.  I know guys like to see the process.  I sure do!  I may not get it right every time, but I'm not afraid to experiment and re-do if necessary.  So, follow along.  Here we go!

First up is basket-weaving the support.  I have a wooden flag pole set into the benchwork for an elevation gauge and a place to work to.  I think it will get removed as I progress.  I need to be able to stand up inside this mountain to service hidden track and that is why it will be hollow and high.  LOL  I built the tunnel framework to hide and protect the track.  Not sure what kind of topping to give it.  I anticipate I'll need to remove it easily.  I'm thinking cardboard, tied around with shoelaces.  It's constructed of insulation board and the inside is black.  Any suggestions for the "roof"?

Hey!  It's a start. LOL

SEPT 23:  I can definitely stand up in this beast!  Time to step back and sleep on it and connect it to the wall tomorrow.  Then I'll decide if the basic shape is okay or not.  If not, I'll re-weave it until I'm satisfied.  I already think I don't like how the one side seems to cave in.  But first I'll connect it to the wall, then be judgmental of it.

OBTW:  One thing I've learned.  If you are standing inside a structure like this - building it, using a hot glue gun and wearing flip-flops; be very careful of glue drops.  Hee-Hee-Hee

SEPT  24:  I'm pretty much done with the webbing on the mountain.  Those strings you can see on the first pic when  you look at it enlarged, are anchored to the wall.  I'm pulling the webbing on this side out a little bit.  This week-end, when I get plastered, I'll cut the strings and see what happens. LOL  There will be more webbing of course, as I roll this down to the other track levels.  But I do one thing at a time, so next up will be to do the hard-shell on this part.

Hmmmmmmmmm.  I think I'll elevate the right hand edge of this mountain at the upper tunnel port - rather than rolling it down is it is right now.  I think it would make this mountain look a little less like an igloo.  LOL

SEPT 25:  I got plastered first thing this morning.  Now I have a fan on it to dry.  I rolled the mountain edge over as I mentioned above to see where it would go.  I have the excess cardboard strips bundled up.  Next up (after it dries) will be to texture it with my "oatmeal".

I guess I've found the upward limit for my mountains.  Rafters and reach. LOL  It was all I could do to get the plaster-soaked paper towels at the very top.  Once this mountain is done getting decorated, I don't figure on fiddling with it up there at the top too much.  There are a few rough places that the "oatmeal" will fill and even out.  That process will take a while to to build the texture I want. 

SEPT 26:   I have two sides of this mountain textured with my "oatmeal" mixture.  I'm refining the "recipe" for it as I go along.  I have it to the point now where it's creamy smooth.  It sticks a lot better when applying it and I can spread it out thinner to cover more area.  It doesn't need to be thick, unless I am simulating a rock out-cropping or something.  I'm leaning towards calling this mountain "Sandy Hill" because there won't be any rock faces or hardly any vegetation on it.  It will just pretty much get painted and further textured with sawdust.

It looks a little moon-like right now with all the wet and dry "oatmeal" covering it. LOL

SEPT 27:   The "oatmeal" mix now covers all.  Dry time is needed, so painting will probably take place tomorrow.

SEPT 27:   Judging from the number of visits to this blog, I would say that most guys like to see the process as well as the finished product.  I know I sure do.  To that end, I am putting up some pics of today's work.  I'm not done painting and decorating yet, but I think it's interesting to see the transformation taking place.

I have some touch-up work to do and trees to plant.  

Sept 28:   Today's work saw some clean-up and trees planted.  Also the fascia board has been installed all around and webbing to close in this part.  The webbing will continue tomorrow.  There will be a deck bridge on the upper loop crossing over the lower loop.  I don't want to add any more detail to this part yet until all elements including track are installed.

Sept 29:  Today's work put more fascia and webbing up.  I'll be happy to have all this subroadbed closed off at this area!

SEPT 30:  This morning, I finished with the webbing and fascia.  Next up will be to get plastered.  LOL

SEPT 30:  I got plastered this afternoon.  Mercifully, it needs some drying-out time. LOL 

SEPT 30:    I've been in a funk for a couple days when this mountain didn't show the kind of detail that I had in my head when building it.  Then it occurred to me that the problem wasn't technique so much as lighting.  Here is what I see with the "wrong" lighting.  

 And here is what I see with the kind of lighting I had in my head while building it.

I need an overhead spot.  That and some shadow underpainting to show depth.

OCT 1:   I had a huge helping of "oatmeal" this morning.  I mixed it up richer than normal so that when it dries, it will be harder, since there could be some pressure on this front part.

OCT 2:     We got all painted and some decorations done.  I repositioned a light overhead to give more contrast.  It's only florescent, but I think I should go to one bulb instead of two.  The top is washed out some. The roadbed has been graded and there's a work crew finishing up.  LOL  Next up will be to lay down some track.

OCT: 4     I'm now in the process of laying down some track with the aide of my little helpers. LOL

OCT: 5    It took a couple pots of coffee and the threat of floggings, but we got the work crew out again today.  They are busy securing a sign to the side of Sandstone Mountain.  They also built a retaining wall and put up some fencing.

Handmade Turnout

What makes this segment noteworthy is the hand-made switch, or turn-out if you will.  I made it out of vintage Flyer rails.  I didn't know if that was possible.  I knew it could be made from solid rail stock, but I didn't know if one could be made from vintage hollow rails.  It can.  My original inspiration for the design of a faux-open frog is from this source: - scroll down about halfway.  With vintage rails, it's a very tricky and difficult process, but it can be done.  Cars roll over this turnout more smoothly than any of my old vintage Flyer switches.  I'll use a DPDT toggle switch to dynamically power up the frog and insulated inside rails.  The outside rails are contiguous, so they are good to go - electrically.  The next problem to work out was how to move the frog from straight to divergent route.  I ruled out any method that would use something not available to me back in the 50's.  I solved that by making it a manual turnout.  I made up a switch stand from brass rod and styrene (for the flags).  I simply "plant" the switch stand in one hole for one direction and the other hole for the other.  Simple AND it locks the frog firmly in place.  Okay.  Now for the pics.  If anyone has any questions about this, please don't be shy.

OBTW, I used a perspective trick with the evergreen trees.  I planted taller ones low and shorter ones up higher.  Well, anyway it's supposed to work.  LOL  Next project will be to make a HUGE mountain for the doggie bone end, with tracks running through tunnels on both elevations.

Completion of Beacon Hill

Done!  Time to move on to the next vista.  Here are the best shots I can take of this project.

Construction of Beacon Hill

I think I have the basic shape I want (pic below).  Now I'll put a few more rocks on the face, put a fan on it and let it dry overnight.  Tomorrow, I'll try painting it all up.  The clouds will have to be adjusted now.                                                                          

UPDATE !:  Sometimes it's best to just step back and let it dry, then look at it again fresh and make ajustments.  The other thing I've found is to take a pic.  Bad places will jump out in the pic!  I believe I have kept to my concept of slowly increasing the amount and variety of vegetation.  Next up will be to roll the scenery down to the next level of track.  That will permit me to lay track on the upper level.  I lay track last.  In real life the land comes first.  Then comes the grading for the roadbed.  Then the track goes down and lastly, the track is ballasted.  I try to follow that when I build.  That keeps the track from getting messed up and the ballast is fresh and covers the scenery.


UPDATE 2:  I have to buy an airplane beacon top and build a beacon for the top of this mountain.  The electrical leads are there for when I do.  I spent the morning tweaking the track gauge so that a variety of my loci will run well over the track.  I also had to drill down through and blast off a couple rock faces that were overhanging the track.  I added a billboard.  It was my ticket to the Vette show in Carlisle, PA one year.  Next up will be to roll down the scenery to the next track level.


UPDATE 3:  The "oatmeal" and rock faces are in place.  I really try to embed the rock faces into the "oatmeal" so that they are a part of the terrain and not look at though they were just stuck on.  Next up will be the paint job.


UPDATE 4:  Yet another section of this vista is completed with the track hand-laid and ballasted.  I painted the sides of the track rails flat black.  Most guys would paint them a rust color, but of course I have to be different.  LOL  Next up will be to roll the scenery down to the lowest level and hand-lay a double track.  OBTW; I'm not sure where that K5 is going with a caboose in tow. LOL 

UPDATE 5:  The plaster hard shell is complete and the "oatmeal" is applied.  The station platform is on the left, where the road comes up from a lower level.  I won't be able to paint it all until at least tomorrow.  It will be nice to lay down the track and have this section closed off and finished for the moment.  I'm getting a Flyer revolving Airplane Beacon for the top of the mountain.  I plan on cutting it in half and just use the top half to make it a little more real.

UPDATE 6:  I have the lower part painted and such.  I used screened-down gravel that I harvest locally and screen down.  When I need more, I take back the over-sized gravel that I don't want and bring  more "raw" gravel back.  Anyway, I used gravel for the Wayside Station parking lot and access road.  The gravel is still wet.  It should dry a little lighter.  Next up is to lay down a double-tracked mainline.