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The Altamont and Blue Ridge 2
Starting Over: A Comprehensive Project Blog

Page 2: 
Beginning 3/2018

Go to Starting Over Page 1 (7/2015 through 2/2018)

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Backdrop Silhouettes and Lake Bed at East River

Adjacent to the Mountain on the East River Curve there are two lake crossings. I have held off on installing the mountain silhouettes behind these crossing because I have been thinking about exactly how to handle the mountain flats on the backdrop wall behind an expanse of water like a lake. This is to say how to create the distant shore of a 3 dimensional lake in two dimensions on the back drop wall. The sketch below shows my thoughts on this matter: a large, distant mountain silhouette with a low treeline on the shore line in front. The lake floor with its Magic-Water-poured onto a sheet of .040 styrene on a flat surface abe then installed to kind of bend up to the shoreline to create a slightly raised, arrow-straight line of the bank with forest floor and tree canopy above. Having the lake terminate into the wall an inch or so up the wall should help to create the illusion of additional depth, which is what I want here.

Here's the general concept.
Here is the the crossing scene with the far mountain ridgeline installed.
Here the backdrop silhouette work is completed and the rock sides of the lake glued in place. The near shore will be a marshy area at the bottom of a steep slope down from the rounded homasote cutout above. I can now remove the .040 styrene sheet, paint my lake on it, detail the shoreline and lake bottom, seal the enclosure with gloss medium, and pour the Magic Water. Then I'll replace the finished lake in a single piece, glue it down, and tie in the marshy part of the near shore line to the adjoining terrain using trees, rocks, foliage, and ground cover etc.
Here is the completed scene. As it turns out, the shadow of the bridge on the lake helps to add depth, and so does the juuxtaposition of the two fishermen and the small sialboat. If I had it to do over again, I would make the large triangular rock a bit smaller than the one the fishermen are standing on. 

Adding Earth Texture, Ground Cover, Shrubs and Trees
to the Mountain on the East River Curve: 

Now, back to my mountain.  I'll put down a texturing layer on the painted earthen areas. I use a mixture of tempera paint powder and plaster of paris sprinkled over the painted earth sections that have been first sprayed with a solution of equal parts water and isopropyl alcohol. This gives you a really nice, textured, realistic bare earth effect to lay your grass or over ground cover on. You could just glue your ground cover right over the smooth painted surface,, but adding this texturing step really softens the end result and looks more realistic. It is especially effective if you leave spots of bare earth showing through here and there. Warning: the dry paint powder has a tendency to get everywhere and as you later spray over any this, it tends to splatter, so it is good idea to mask off nearby track, structures, and roadways and use a handheld shield to protect rocks and foliage and backdrop when dusting the powder or spraying the liquid etc. This technique is a variation on Linn Westcott's famous "zip texturing" idea popularized in the late 1960s. It is described as follows in Joe Fugate’s masterful “Forum Clinic.” http://siskiyou-railfan.net/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?1270.10
In Joe's words:
“Be aware that the plaster - tempera paint mix darkens quite a bit when you wet it down, so mix up a batch that looks too light to you, then apply it to a scrap of scenery, wet it down and allow it to dry. Once it's dry, check the color. If it's too dark, add more plaster and try again. If it's too light, add more color and try again. Keep track of your formula so you can repeat it later. Generally, you want somewhere between 2 - 8 parts plaster to color, or perhaps 10 parts plaster if you need a really light "dirt". Keep track of the total parts that are color. For example, the rich brown dirt color below has 3 parts that are color, so 9 parts plaster is really a ratio of 3 parts plaster to 1 part color (9 divided by 3 is 3). For reference, here's some simple formulas I use.
Rich brown dirt:
1 part black
2 parts brown
9 parts plaster (3:1 color to plaster)
Tan dirt:
1 part black
2 parts brown
1 part yellow
16 parts plaster (4:1 color to plaster)
Get yourself a tea strainer, spray wet water (water with a few drops of detergent in it) on the bare brown scenery, and sprinkle some of the plaster-tempera mix onto the scenery. Then mist the plaster mix from above lightly with more water from a pump spray bottle. In a couple of hours, the plaster should be dry and set up. If it's still loose, spray it again.
If I want something that looks muddy, I'll soak the plaster good. Or if I want a more dusty look, I'll take it easy with the water.”

After everything is dry, you can use your vacuum to get up any loose powder. You may need to touch up a few spots here and there at this point, but this is easy – just few pinches of the plaster paint powder and few little shots of my water/alcohol spray. Don;t eorry if the finshed product is a little susty to the touch. It will all be well sealed when you apply the glue mix to attach ground cover.

To make my red/brown mix, I use .5 parts red, .5 parts yellow, 1.5 parts black and 2.5 parts brown to 9 parts plaster. To make my dark brown mix I use a darker variation of Joe’s rich brown dirt recipe using 1.5 parts black and 2.5 parts brown and 9 parts plaster.

The truth of the matter is that, the way I do it, the exact color doesn't matter much, because I like to go back over
every bit of exposed earth with a very thin coat using a basic red-earth color latex paint mixed with water to make a thin wash. Then I just lightly dab it on. This gets the red-earth color just right, and it also helps blend the dark earth and the red earth borders.

Once the texturing layer is complete and fully dry, I move on to adding ground covers, shrubs and trees.

erm Here is the mountain with the rock, walls, and track masked off and the texture applied. In this photo the plaster is still wet. It will dry a much lighter color. In this case I got the red earth mix a little on the purple side, but it doen't matter. I'll go back over it with thinned latex paint color wash using my basic red-earth color to adjust the color once it dries and sets up hard. Once set, you can quickly but lightly over-wash this stuff with thinned paint to correct color and then with thinned glue (either white or matte medium) to attach ground cover. But you must be very careful - just lightly dab the fluids on - don't use forceful brush strokes or you will smooth out the grainy texture, and don't spray because you'll want to leave a few spots uncovered so some earth shows throuhg here and there. It's a great effect.. 
Here is the finished earth texturing, ready for ground cover.
ermgc And here is the mountain with the basic ground cover applied. I like the Woodland Scenics fine truf and mixed turf products for this: first fine turf in a medium green, then a dusting of green blend (a WS mix of fine turf made from a variety of greens) and then a few spots of burnt grass and yellow colored fine turf for variety. The forest floor sections, covering the dark-brown-earth painted areas, is made using two shades, soil or earth colored WS fine truf, with a sprinkling of fine turf in a burnt green and then a sprinkling of course turf in a light green. I have left the road uncovered allowing the textured red earth to show, and I sprinlked on a little ballast to simulate gravel. Then, liberally using contact cement, I added the tree line where the mountain meets the wall. Notice I use larger clumps on the lower slopes and deminish the size of the clumps as I assend to the top where I have a thick forest covering the summit. At this point things are beginning to take shape, and the forced perspective effect is clearly beginning to work.
ermb Now I add bushes and shrubs and vines to the rock outcroppins, again using plenty of contacct cement and Woodland Scenics Clump Foliage in three colors and WS Foliage to simulate creeping vines on the rock faces: large clumps in the foreground and generally smaller climps of folaige as I go up the slopes. At this point, I will also add a little more color to the rocks using pastels and washes to emulate mosses, and lichens, and dirty spots. Notice the varriations in the grass color and bare earth patches I have allowed to show thorugh here and there. I have also added a few loose rocks, thickets, and a few fallen trees to the forrest floor areas in perperation for adding my trees. 
ermc Trees: I like to use a variety of tree types in a variety of green shades. Here I'll be using trees salvaged from the A&BR1, so each tree will have to be refurbished with foliage and paint. Before I add my trees, I like to install a few strategicially-placed trees to help me execute the forced perspective. These represent the largest trees and shrubs in any given area, and I can use them as a guide to size the surriunding trees and other greenery.  Also, although I did not do it here, I often give the smallest and most distant trees and shrubs just a hint of gray over-spray to add to the illusion of distance.

Here's the mountain completed. I placed and lanscaped two structures (N scale for the house in the foreground and Z scale for the more distant house in the upper right on the horizon). Finally, I added a vehicle, a few figures, and some cows
ermf Looking up this mountain meadow gives a good idea of the effectiveness of my forced perspective.Every thing gets smaller and less distinct as the eye move up the hill. Note the cows in two sizes - the cows in the distance are goats painted to look like cows. 
ERMCov Model railroading can be a dusty business. While the the adjacent scenery is under construtction I'll cover my completed work with this very thin plastic sheeting. It is light enough to rest on the tree tops without damage.

New Computers and Monitors Arrive

On and off, for the last few months, I have been shopping online for desktop computers to run the A&BR2. I'll need two
since I plan to have a separate 4D Sound systen for the center bench when I get around to it. The two computers will eventually be networked together using a TCP/IP network and running Railroad and Company's "Net" software. Since the desktop models I select will not do much of anything else except run Traincontroller, I won't need alot of computing power or hard disk memory. I need wifi, and I have determined that I want to run windows 10, so at least 4 gig of RAM will be required. Also a 64 bit processor seems best. My current laptop runs TC smoothly with a rated speed of only 3.18 mHz, so anything in that speed range will probably work fine. The least expensive new units with these features cost about $300 or so, and that does not include monitors, keyboards, cables, or mice. I did a little research into used units, and I hit on a Walmart online offering for "refurbushed" HP units with a 64 bit Intel Core processor, 4 gig of RAM, 180 gig of disk memory, 3.0gHz, with 8 serial ports, wifi, a network port, a 17 inch monitor, all the cables, a keyboard, a mouse, and free shipping for $134 each. This seemed impossible to beat, and even though I would have prefered a wide screen monitor configuration, the rest fit the bill exactly. So I bought two. They came yesterday, and they work great! I've already set them both up, naming the one that will control the perimiter mianline loops "Main" and the one that will eventually control the center bench section "Terminal." I then downloaded TrainController Gold 9.0, Train Animator, and 4D Sound onto both computers, installed Norton Antivirus, and copyed my Railraod and Company "Documents" folder with all my yrrgs, yras, wavs, jpgs, and my custom exe files onto both.

I am out of town for few days, but when I return, I'll install my 7.1 surround software on both machines, and take them down to the train room and get both running the current layout using Traincontroller 9.0 and my current yrrg file. Then I'll set up a TCP/IP Network, and put one of then aside until I am ready to wire up the center section of the layout years from now. I'll use the other to run the current layout while keeping my lapytop up to date so I can work away from the layout as well. My ultimate plan calls for a custom made control desk with these monitors, keyboards and mice built in. 
Two refurbished HP desktops: 64 bit, 4 gig or RAM, 180 gig memory, 3.0gHz, with 8 serial ports, wifi, network port, 17 inch monitors, keyboard and mouse. Total cost delivered: $268!
cb Here is a preliminary sketch of the proposed controll desk that will house the monitors and keyboards.

New Computers Up and Running

Both of the "new" computers are up and running and I have installed TC 9.0 and 4D Sound on both as well as the drivers for my surround sound box and for the servo controller, and I am running schedules complete with sound including all train sounds and a number of stationary sounds as well, I am also running all lighting effects including HUE light sunrises and sunsets. This took a little time, but both units seem to be working great.

There is one small glitch. The sound positioning widow in TC On "Main" has somehow been corrupted. I suspect that this is a Windows problem for I had to fool around with some display settings to get my switchboard to display correctly on the 17" monitor. This problem does not show up on my laptop, nor on the other "new" HP unit, both of which work fine running exactly the same software and data files. I am working on the TrainController online forum to get help clearing this up. In the meantime, it is not really too much of a problem.

Note: 3/29/2018. I preformed a Reset of Windows 10 on "Main" today. It took all day, and it failed to fix  the Sound Position Window problem. I guess the next step is a full "clean" Windows install. Whew! I think I'll just live with it for a while. Everything else seems to work, and I can use my lap top or the other HP desktop should I need to adjust the sound position of one of the blocks. In the meantime, I'll do some reading, and see if I can't find a way to reset the display without having to re-install Windows.

Note 4/1/2018. Another Easter Miracle! After quite a bit of fumbling around I finally fixed the problem. It was the zoom sizing for the display, which is what I thought was wrong at first. However, problems arose owing to the fact that windows has two different "Change Display" screens, one for the user's personal settings, and one screen that works system wide called "Change Primary Display Settings." Everytime I asked to go to the "Change Display" screen, Windows would take me to the user screen without mentioning the existance of the other option. This option was not mentioned in any off the microsoft docmentation or service papers I read. I finally found it more or less by accident, and resetting the zoom there immediately fixed the problem. It is getting more and more difficult to navigate Windows settings!

Creating A More Complex Lake at Westridge.

With the success of the little lake bed at the East River Curve, I now feel confident to try something a little more ambitious, so I'll turn my attention to creating the larger lake bed on the other side of East River Mountain at Westridge. With three bridges already in place, this will be a little tricky, but I have a good plan, which I devised after consulting by phone with Dave Williams the inventor of Magic Water, and a very nice guy. Having the far shoreline terminate up the backdrop wall by 1/2 inch helps to enhance the forced perspective, but this, as well as havng to work under and around the bridges, dictates that I can't pour my Magic Water in place on the layout. I'll have do this in sections, re-assemble the sections and glue them together on a very flat surface, make the pour, let the whole thing dry, and then cut them apart again, and finally reinstall the pieces on the layout. Part of the trick here is to take care to hide the tell-tale seams where the cut were made beneath the bridges or behind the raised roadbed causeway.
s1 Here is the area in question. I plan a deep water lake along the back wall joining the wall about 1/2 inch up and resting on the homosote strips I have installed just beneath the styrene strip with the tree line photo on it. There wil be a deep water inlet (cove) beneath the two crossing bridges and terminating in a rock face around the cork area in the lower right corner of the photo, and I plan another shallow swampy wetland cove under the wooden tressel terminating near the edge of the plywood to the left-center of the photo.

The plan is to layout the water feature in place on four sections of .040 styrene, taking care that they join with nice straight edges. Then I'll mark the outline of the lake and the exact joint locations, remove the sections, place them on a flat bench, tape them back in place and then glue them careflly together using plastic cement to form a single piece. Next, I'll glue a .080 sytrene barrier along the long  back edge where it will join to the wall using thin plastic model cement. And then I'll create the shoreline by molding about 1/4+ inch high sculptamold barrier all the way around.

When the sculptamold is dry, I'll seal everything up well (the brrrier strip, the homosote shoreline and the sheet styrene joints) using thick gloss medium. Then I'll paint the lake bottom, detail the lake bottom arond the shore, and pour my Magic Water. Finnally, I'll use a very sharp razon knife to cut the sections apart again. and reinstall them in place on the layout. I have taken care to make sure that the cuts will be masked from the viewer's eye by the bridges and the roadbed causeway, and if I am careful making my cuts they will be pretty much invisable anyway. I tried this last week on a little test lake I made when I first began to experiment with Magic Water. I could detect a fine line where the Magic Water was cut, but it was subtle indeed.  
s2 Here are the four .040 styrene sheets in place. Note: I have left about 1/8" clearance under the tressel pilings.
s3 Here the styrene pieces are removed and reassembled on a flat place on the bench top.
s4 And here they are glued back together and a .080 sqaure strip of styrene barrier added along the back edge (it does not show up in this photo,) and with the low sculptamold shoreline molded all around. 
s5 Now the whole thing is sealed with gloss medim with extra attention to sealing the sheet styrene joints. It is then painted with flat latex paint in two shades of green: a deep green for deep water and a ligher, dustier green for the shallows. (The color gradations do not show up in the photo, and they are indeed subtile, but still, they are clear to the eye.) Then the shoreline in-water and underwater detail (rocks, dead trees, gravel, some in-water plant life in the swamp etc.)  is added and, after careful mixing, the Magic Water is poured. This took nearly 48 hrs to fully dry.

I calculated the area of the lake (~308 sq inches) and since I know 18 oz of  Magic Water will cover ~244 quare inches .125 inch deep. I calculate 12 oz will cover my 308 square inch to a depth of about .074 inches.That's a bit over a 1/16 of an inch. Remember I have a .080 strip styrene barrier in the back, so 12 oz  ought to be about right. I just need to make sure the entire thing is super level. Notice I have surrounded the thing with .040 sheets of styrene, which I can use as shims should there be low spots that want to overflow after the pour. This stuff stays liquid for hours, so making these kinds of adjustments, if need, is easy. 
s6 Finished lake and wetland.
s7 Another view.

The Mountain at Westridge

The plan now is to turn my attention to the mountain covering the trunaround loop at this, the Northeast end of the layout. Once that mountain is complete I can layout and build the little town of Wastridge, which will lie in a valley between my two completed mountans and overlook the newly-created Lake Merley.

As with the recently-completed mountain in the corner, east of  Westridge, I'll begin by making a rough sketch of the topography indicating the approximate location of all features. Then I'll position the tunnel portals and fill in with more bracing on the homasote framework in order to more fully support the
flimsy screen covering and to supply level places to attach rock outcroppings, roadways, structures etc.

wmf Here is the completed frame with tunnel portals and highway roadbed in place and little shelves for rock faces running  just above the base and near the rocky summit. In between, there will be a large, relatively flat, undulating mountain pasture, and two level pads: the lager pad for a z scale barn, silo, and farmhouse; and the smaller closer pad for an N Scale aluminium grain storage silo - again I'm working to force the perspective, and I hope to make the very top of this mountain appear very distant indeed. Most of the town of Westridge will be built on the hatch-top, which will cover te void  on the right in this photo.

One of the things I like to o while roughing out a large scene is to place any structures on the sufaces I am preparing for them to see if everything fits and looks in scale and convincing. In this case when I placed the housem barn and silo on the pad I had prepared for them, they seemed a little crowded, so I added another separate pad for the house a little higher up the slope. You can see it in the following photo.
ws Rock faces screwed or glued in place, plastic screen "skin" installed, hiway surfaces installed, homasote modeling in process. Notice the narrow strip of styrene running along the slope from the highway up to the farm pads. This supply a level base for a little gravel/dirt farm road and I can modle in a little cut and fill as I apply the sculptamold. Again the force perspetive is already beginnng to work.

wmo Initial base paint job
wmgc Plaster/tempra ground texture applied and over-wash earth tone paint applied- ground cover applied, and rocks dry-brushed with light gray and then very lightly with white.
Shrubs and trees installed to complete my second mountain scene.