Monday, January 27, 2020


The cap is now on my railroad world.  Terrain rises up behind Cascade Summit placing this important operating point and scene into context with the rest of my railroad.  This was the last major terrain gap--and I do mean MAJOR!  I spent most of the past month filling this space with terrain.  I have covered my basic terrain forming techniques in previous blog posts, so I just kept terra-forming--and not reporting via this blog.  

The terrain for Cascade Summit rises behind roughly thirty feet of mainline track.  With the terrain scene depth averaging around three feet, that made for about one hundred square feet of terrain.  Anyone who has ever done model mountain forming will understand that as a significant area, especially for a crew of one (me).

I began the terrain effort at the wye tunnel.  I attached a styrofoam "bar" to the coved (curved) backdrop in this area to serve as a top brace for the terrain slabs.  I then began fitting foam slabs, beginning with one-inch thick slabs cut to four-inch widths.  half of these slabs needed to be tapered to account for the curve.  As I built up the terrain around the tunnel portal, I realized I needed to make the RR-West end of this assemblage removable so I could retain access to the tunnel portal and the terrain beyond it.  I worked on this area by climbing up on the Pope and Talbot scene below it and squeezing between the joists supporting Cascade Summit.  This was exhausting, with lots of contortions and climbing up and down a ladder.  I validated a goal not quite reached of completing all such work by the time I turned seventy.  I sure am glad this part of the layout construction is done!

Ridge support for wye tunnel terrain installed on the backdrop.

Basic terrain surface formed for the Cascade Summit wye tunnel.  The panel to the left of the tunnel portal is removable.

I next tackled the two ends, again with coved backdrops.  This time the cove was convex, so I needed to form terrain around the curves.  Since these ends reach down to track level and the plywood sub-base, I chose to build them up with layers of foam.  Shortly after laying the bases for both curves, I fit the base slabs for the remaining terrain in place with their ridge backing pieces which I will describe further below.  This helped me form and align the "pyramids" of foam slabs for the curved corners.  I also needed to tie into the existing terrain for Trapper Creek at the RR-East end of Cascade Summit.

Terrain base formed for RR-East Cascade Summit.  Trapper Creek is the gray area on the far right.  The two flat spaces are where the section foreman's and signal maintainer's house and the section gang bunk houses will be located.

Terrain formed at the RR-West end of Cascade Summit.  The base slab for the RR-West end of the scene extends between the corner cove and the wye tunnel panels.

The major terrain sections between the end curves and the wye tunnel were built as removable panels.  As seen in the photo above showing the RR-West end, I used a two-inch foam panel as the base and a 1.5-inch panel as the back ridge against the backdrop.  Triangular braces were attached to both panels for support, spaced where the backdrop vertical support posts were located--roughly on 16-inch centers.  

One area needed special treatment.  The track at Cascade Summit is located on the mountainside along Odell Lake.  At one spot near the terrain indentation used for the wye tunnel, a major rock formation juts out from the rest of the mountainside.  Indeed, the railroad builders had to blast a shelf for the railroad through the end of this rock formation.  I built this area up with additional layers of two-inch thick foam.

The area of the rock formation at Cascade Summit got three layers of two-inch thick foam to help form that rock.  Other areas got a second layer of the two-inch foam.  The rest of the mountainside formation can be seen with the slabs of one-inch foam spanning between the base and the backdrop ridge. The flat spot for the summit water towers is in the right foreground.

Cascade Summit base terrain formation with gaps filled with spray foam insulation.

After a couple weeks of effort, I applied the final foam touch of spray foam insulation filling the gaps.  I then removed the three large panels and finished forming the foam terrain using knives and a Stanley Surform ™ scraper.  I moved the panels to spots on the floor to apply Sculptamold.  As with previous terrain efforts, I mixed latex paint in with the Sculptamold.  This immediately provided a ground or rock color and ensures any open edges, punctures or holes drilled will produce a suitable terrain color and not white--a common problem with plaster.

Sculptamold being applied to the largest of the removable panels--the one with the rock formation, seen in gray.

After several days of setting and drying time, I moved the big panels back to the railroad.  Along the way, I cut hand-holds in their base plates to help with positioning and handling.  The biggest panel--the one with the rock formation--was still a bit wet, as I had to finish its Sculptamold a day after the others.  I ran out of paint--again.  That panel was noticeably heavier than the other two.  I really could have used another person to help carry and lift the panels into position, but a little bit of thought and use of our hand-truck helped me move them around and get them into position.  A key was to lift only one end of the panels at a time.  I also made creative use of the handrails for the Cascade Summit operator platform.

The "rock" panel balanced on the Cascade Summit operator railing prior to lifting into place on the railroad.

Terrain for RR-West Cascade Summit.

Rounding the curve into Cascade Summit RR-eastbound.

The Summit wye tunnel terrain.  Panel gaps will need to be filled as scenery is applied.  The ground area around the summit wye tracks has been filled in with Sculptamold.  The wye was slightly elevated from the mainline, likely reducing the amount of grading needed.  

The train order office and operator village at Cascade Summit with the water tanks on their concrete bases.  I will provide a base to raise the buildings.  Still to come is the beanery, to be located near the water tanks.  The beanery used a retired wood passenger car on the ground.

RR-East end of Cascade Summit with the section gang quarters.  Trapper Creek is on the far right.

Overview of the completed terrain at Cascade Summit, viewed from the RR-West end.