Wednesday, July 26, 2023


With acceptable ground (earth) cover at Cruzatte, I moved on to the forest in this area.  My next task after the basic earth application was to apply further covering for the forest floor.  My original intent was to use ground up leaves, but I grew impatient, so I dug into scenery supplies I have been acquiring for years.  In spite of my original intent to not use ground foam, I dove in, using Woodland Scenics fine foam in “Earth” and “Earth Blend” colors.  I began the application by painting undiluted white glue to a strip of terrain against the wall (backdrop).  


Before I applied the ground foam, I installed a band of tufts left over from the coconut mat used for “branch disks” for my Douglas Fir tree models.  My process for creating the disks has me tearing corners off the rough-formed disk to start the rounding process.  This produces lots of small tufts of the coconut mat.  Added to the mound of these tufts were other pieces of mat that were too sparse to use as branch disks.  I had quite a mound of this material to use at Cruzatte.


Initial band of forest floor ground cover applied along the wall at East Cruzatte.  The dark conifer green tufts are remainders provided by my tree making process.  An initial sprinkling of ground foam has been applied as well.


I followed the tuft band against the wall with sprinkles of the Woodland Scenics fine ground foam.  I began with the “Earth Blend” applied in patches and then a more general sprinkling of the “Earth” color.  Note the “Earth” color darkened a bit when it hit the white glue.  It dried/set darker than the raw material in the shaker jug.  


When I started planting trees, I found my first estimate for the width of the forest floor treatment was way too narrow.  I removed the trees, placed toothpicks in the mounting holes so I could find the holes again, and then applied more white glue and then ground foam.


Initial (too narrow) band of forest floor treatment at Cruzatte.


Final broad band treatment of forest floor color and texture.  The ground foam shaker jugs are in the foreground with the “earth blend” color closest to the camera.  Compare the colors of the two jugs to the finished application on the layout above.


With the forest floor applied and glue set, I vacuumed the loose scenic material and began planting trees.  I am glad I chose to form my terrain with foam insulation board and a Sculptamold cover.  Tree installation simply required a brief hole start with an awl and then inserting and driving in the tree spikes at the base of the trees.  The “tree spikes” are a half of a round toothpick.  I often needed to hammer the awl through the top shell using my fist.  The top shell could have a thick crust thanks to the thick coat of white glue used to fix the ground foam and the sanded grout before that.  


Using my fist to drive my awl to form the initial hole for tree planting.


I eventually learned to use higher power reading glasses and extra light to help find the hole I just punched.  


Although old growth Douglas Fir can be 150 feet tall (HO scale about 18 inches tall), I chose to use a mix of 9- and 11-inch tall trees for most of my forest with some 7-inch tall trees around the edges representing second growth.  This is an artistic decision meant to keep the focus on the trains while also dealing with steeper terrain slopes than the natural angle of repose.  


The big hill in my Cruzatte scene opposite the train order station.  I will need to apply something to represent the top root structure to conceal the tree mounting spikes currently visible at the base of the trees.


The forest at Cruzatte.


Water tank vignette at East Cruzatte.


I installed about two hundred trees in my Cruzatte scene and need another thirty or so to complete the scene between tunnels.  The forest I have now installed at Cruzatte  brings that scene closer to the vision I have had for my layout since the beginning—the SP climbing the Cascades through a deep Douglas Fir forest.

Thursday, July 13, 2023


With WOOPS completed for 2023 and the Eugene and Springfield industrial scenes settling in, it was time to return to the mountains on my railroad for the next stage of scenery.  In January 2020, I completed the base terrain around the railroad with one small exception at Salmon Creek.  The terrain formation involved making the basic landform using insulating foam and then covering it with colored Sculptamold.  It was time to start adding a dirt covering.

I considered several techniques for dirt, beginning with actual dirt.  I discarded that as too much work, especially given the size of my railroad.  Further, I did not feel I had a good long-term supply of dirt.  Real dirt requires sifting for size and should be baked to ensure any micro-organisms are dead/inert.  My past experiences with dirt have seen color shifts as the dirt gets wet and mixes with glue.  


I also considered Woodland Scenics ground foam.  I was not entirely satisfied with the color range available.  I may revisit this as I proceed, but for now, I need to get the basic “dirt” covering onto the tinted Sculptamold.


My solution has been sanded grout.  This is available in quantity and in a wide variety of colors.  I selected three colors that seemed to match photos of the terrain alongside the SP Cascade Line.  I selected colors that I name (for convenience) sand, mocha and gray.


Basic sanded grout colors: sand, mocha and gray.


When I did a test application using sand and mocha, I found the colors a bit too intense.  I found simple mixes to provide a better color selection for most applications.  I chose a 1:1 mix of sand and mocha as a good, basic, dirt color.  A 1:1 mix of mocha and gray provided a good transition to rocky areas.  I can see a 1:1 mix of sand and gray will be useful in transitioning to the slide areas under Noisy Creek and Shady Creek trestles (viaducts).  


Earth mixes: sand+gray, sand+mocha, gray+mocha.


I chose my Cruzatte scene as the first area to receive the dirt covering.  Most of this used the sand+mocha mix, though I used a bit of the gray+mocha mix leading to rock areas.  Note to self: get on to the rock castings!  


Beginning the earth (dirt) covering at Cruzatte.  I painted a slightly diluted (with water) mix of white glue onto the surface and then sprinkled the earth grout mix onto the wet surface.


The photos below show my efforts so far at Cruzatte.  In both cases, I stopped short of significant rock areas.  This will be particularly true for very steep slopes leading down to the Wicopee scene below.


Cruzatte with dirt applied.


RR-East Cruzatte with Wicopee below.  The gray expanse of very steep terrain slope connecting the two scenes begs for rock treatment!


Scenery treatments have begun on my railroad!