Saturday, September 29, 2018


As I worked on major terrain forming along the mountain grade of my railroad, one spot in the valley portion of the railroad commanded similar terrain attention.  The Willamette River crossing between Eugene and Springfield was one of my earliest efforts with paint defining a scene.  The bridges were installed five years ago during the early part of mainline construction.
This area also saw some of my earliest artist attempts to both represent the Willamette River and expanding the scene onto the backdrop.  This river crossing also served as the first significant scene for photography as a scene (as opposed to bare plywood and track). With my terrain forming skills well-honed over the past year, it was time to fill in the river banks.

As I noted in my early posts on this scene, space was limited, just as it is almost everywhere on a model railroad.  The early efforts took note of the need to use a shorter bridge than the prototype.  Still, an acceptable solution was found by doing what a railroad engineer would do--order a pair of standard bridges to span the river.  The limited space also impacted the space for the river banks. I extended the cut into the plywood subroadbed on both sides of the river as far as I thought I could.  As I looked at this scene more carefully, I found I could trim a bit more of the plywood, helping expand the river banks a bit more.

Willamette River crossing much as it has been for the past five years. The plywood subroadbed on both sides has been trimmed back a bit more--about an inch or so on the right side in this view.  This makes the approach trestle span a bit more believable.

With the plywood banks cut back, I installed a base for the terrain on the Springfield (right-hand side in the photo above).  I then began filling in the gap with Styrofoam slabs and wedges , starting with the area around the trestle.  With the "fiddly-work" done around the trestle, the rest of the job was fairly straightforward with layers of Styrofoam placed and carved to create the river bank slopes.  Gaps were filled in with spray foam insulation, although that process proved a bit too vigorous.  I had quite a bit of spray foam I had to carve back to the desired terrain shape.

Terrain forming begun for the Springfield side of the river, beginning with filling around the trestle approach.  Note I also angled the edge of the plywood subroadbed to provide a better transition for the eventual covering of Sculptamold.

River bank carved and shaped.  A selection of knives and the Stanley Surformscraper I use for this step.  I find the shreds of foam easier to clean up than the dust mess made with conventional plaster scenery--I have done both.

I mixed three batches of Sculptamold to cover the foam terrain.  I mixed in quite a bit of burnt and raw umber with the tan paint for the lowest level--closest to the river.  I mixed in less and less of the umber as I worked up the banks.  Although this provides distinct color bands right now, it will provide a good base for more detailed scenery later on.

River banks created.

SP9236W crosses the Willamette River, headed from Eugene to Springfield and on toward the Cascades and then California.

I am glad to have filled in the terrain around this important scene on the railroad.  

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Moving down from Montieth Rock (, I filled in terrain the rest of the way to Oakridge, including the mainline crossing of Salmon Creek.  I use the "Pryor" name for this area, as that is un-modeled siding located between Oakridge and McCredie Springs.  Ironically, I originally planned to begin my terrain forming efforts here.  Instead, this major stretch of landscape became one of my last.  The tunnels and trestles of this past year simply "commanded" my attention.  

This relatively simple stretch of terrain went swiftly.  I installed the pink foam slabs and then covered the surface with Sculptamold in about a week of work.  Most of this terrain was my basic sloping hillside, formed by slabs of Styrofoam at my desired angle.  That angle is steeper than most natural ground.  Consider that artistic license to compress the scene within the available depth.

Pink Styrofoam panels installed for the terrain leading down to Salmon Creek in the distance to the left.

I filled in terrain around the mainline bridge crossing Salmon Creek. The foreground terrain awaits bridge construction for the Pope and Talbot lumber mill spur.  Filling in around the mainline bridge allowed the terrain to fill in against the back drop continuously through this area.  I used vertical slabs of Styrofoam for the creek area terrain, as that more easily allowed me to form my desired terrain.

Terrain forming for the mainline bridge crossing Salmon Creek.

I created a small hill on the RR-East side of the creek and then got carried away with terrain forming against the backdrop.  I carried that hill too far into the Oakridge scene. Overnight, I wrestled with this and concluded a change was in order.  I needed to open up the RR-West end of Oakridge more to fit the real scene and, critically, to provide space for Oakridge's Beech Street and the signals at that end of Oakridge.  Quick work with a putty knife and a carving knife removed the offending terrain.  I then formed a new end to the hillside and cleaned up the backdrop.  I patched the basic backdrop paint after the Sculptamold was applied.

Salmon Creek hillside extending too far toward the RR-West end of Oakridge.

Excess hillside against backdrop has been removed and the hill reformed.  A ramp for Beech Street has been formed to ensure I do not forget about this feature!

With terrain formed, I applied Sculptamold.  Most of this used my tan earth color, though some areas, especially around Salmon Creek, received a gray paint filler.  I exhausted my supply of Sculptamold with about six square feet of hillside left to cover.  I had placed an order for more last week, right after the Montieth rock exercise. This order arrived the next day after my major Sculptamold effort.  I immediately returned to complete the scene and take pictures before my regular Tuesday night railroad operating group met.  I also was able to cover additional terrain I had formed in the Salmon Creek area.

Montieth Rock and terrain extending toward Salmon Creek.  Note the pink foam patch still awaiting a fresh supply of Sculptamold.

Finally, it was time to run a train through the freshly completed scene.

SP9236W rounds the curve and starts the climb out of Oakridge as it crosses Salmon Creek.

SP9236 climbs toward Montieth Rock.

I have just a couple of major patches of terrain yet to go.  The missing areas require some other activity before I work on them.  One of those is Cascade Summit, immediately above the just-completed scene from Salmon Creek to Montieth Rock and McCredie Springs.  Evident from the photos here, the open areas for the rear part of the summit scene overhead provide open light paths right now.  Lighting for the "land down under" is one of those "other activities" that must precede terrain work for Cascade Summit.  Meanwhile, my crews can enjoy their trains rolling through more completed terrain.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


My scenery efforts have moved around to my "land down under"--the area between Oakridge and McCredie Springs underneath the upper layer and Cascade Summit.  Specifically, I have covered at long last Tunnel 21, just before McCredie Springs.  I also tackled my significant sculpting exercise--Montieth Rock (also known as "Rooster Rock" but not to be confused with a similar formation in the Columbia River Gorge).  The rock formation over the RR-East end of Tunnel 21 also needed sculpting, as both formations basically are volcanic basalt plugs. Inspiration photos can be found in books, as both rock formations dramatically frame the railroad action below them.  Once again, Joel Ashcroft's excellent SP Cascades website can be consulted:  Specifically, the photo section for Pryor to McCredie Springs has a view of the RR-East face of Tunnel 21 and a couple of views of Montieth ("Rooster") Rock:

I began terrain construction in this area by establishing a foundation. A scrap piece of hardboard was supported by scrap pieces of plywood to provide a level platform for Styrofoam for the terrain.  For Montieth Rock, I cut slabs of three-inch thick Styrofoam, roughly sixteen inches square. These just fit between the roadbed and the wall.  I created a stack of five primary slabs and then cut two more smaller pieces that would form the top "crown" of the rock formation.  Referring to photos, I drew outer rough outlines for each slab. Given the undercut at lower heights of the rock formation, this often meant keeping track of the extreme width needed for each slab.  I cut to these lines using my bandsaw.

Rough outline for Montieth Rock formation.

Studying photos, I began carving the rough form to shape, slab by slab. My photo study revealed an outcropping on the RR-West side (the side showing in the photo above).  I needed to keep that extension while cutting back the main part of the rock.  I also discovered a second spire behind the main crown.  This showed in photos from the steam era, available from the Oakridge Museum.  I found I worked best by carving the foam in several iterations over the course of several days, refining the cuts as I went.  Lacking photos of the RR-East (geographic west) face of the rock, I used my own judgement based on similar basalt plug formations.  I kept it simple.  Most photos of Montieth Rock are shot from the area of Tunnel 21 as that is both the most accessible to enterprising photographers and provides both track level and elevated perspectives.

Montieth Rock sculpted and shaped--ready for its Sculptamold covering.

Turning to the nearby Tunnel 21, it too has a shear rock face on the RR-East side.  I built up this terrain using slabs of Styrofoam oriented whatever way made the most sense to me.  Along the tunnel portals, these were one-inch thick pieces arranged vertically.  Above the tunnel and its liner, I used more of the three-inch thick slabs.  Above this, was a bit more using both a vertical one-inch piece and a wedge cut from a three-inch slab.

RR-East portal of Tunnel 21 with the rock face above it roughed in. Note the many wires behind and above the Styrofoam formation.  The hardboard channel to their left will form a conduit for additional wires for the signal system.

An important consideration for the corner rounded by Tunnel 21 is its use for routing various wires to Cascade Summit overhead.  This currently includes both the DCC power and a 12 volt DC supply for switch machines.  I anticipate adding a dedicated booster for Cascade Summit, so I needed to add cables for the NCE cab bus, a grounding wire, and a power cord.  I also added a paired wire set for planned LED lighting under the upper deck.  Finally, I provided a separate "conduit" (slab-sided channel) for the cabling needed for the planned CTC and signal system. 

As I built up the terrain forms around the room corner and above Tunnel 21, I realized I should cover those wires and the slab conduit a bit. I cut a fairing from a styrene "For Sale" sign (a good source for a sheet of plastic).  I installed this around the wires and slab conduit using adhesive caulk and flat-headed brads.  We shall see how this survives over time.  Meanwhile, I will need to add a bit of spackle over the brads and then paint the fairing.

Sky fairing above the rock formation for Tunnel 21.

The RR-West side of Tunnel 21 needed a gentler slope, though it also had what will become rock faces.  This side of the tunnel extends to terrain behind McCredie Springs.  I used my standard terrain technique for locations like this where I first place a back panel against the wall/backdrop and a front base with slope.  I then filled in most of the space between these two panels with appropriate length pieces cut from four-inch wide slabs of one-inch thick Styrofoam.  The hillside slopes down to the room corner, behind the rock bunker I will locate here.  The lowest portions of the hill were filled in by Styrofoam strips, cut and sloped as needed.

RR-West end of Tunnel 21.  The hillside and rock above the tunnel blend to a hillside behind McCredie Springs, off to the right.

Gaps between Styrofoam slabs have been filled with spray foam insulation. All of the foam has been carved and shaped and is ready for a Sculptamold covering.

Finally, it was time to cover all of the shaped foam work with Sculptamold. My initial plan was to do this in two stages--the primary rock areas and then the hillsides.  In the end, I used that sequence, but spent a long afternoon doing all of the Sculptamold.  I mixed fairly stiff batches of Sculptamold for the rock work.  The vertical faces and even an undercut on Montieth Rock needed that stiff mixture to adhere to the Styrofoam base.  I usually add my gray base paint to the Sculptamold mix for rock work.  Pictures showed the rock faces to be darker and a bit warmer than my base gray, so i added burnt and raw umber to the gray paint and Sculptamold mix.  I probably needed an even darker paint base, but I at least have the rock faces showing a bit differently than the surrounding terrain. The hillsides gradually blend from my gray base toward my tan base away from the rock formations.

Montieth Rock looking geographic west (RR-East) past Tunnel 21.

Montieth Rock and the RR-East face of Tunnel 21.

RR-West face of Tunnel 21 and hillside extension behind McCredie Springs.

Working in this "land down under," I recognize I need to deal with the lighting for this area soon.  I plan to install LED lighting.  I have been waiting for this technology to mature, which it largely has, but the need for it is very evident today!  Meanwhile, I have fleshed out another signature geological feature for my railroad.