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

Page 3: 
Beginning 3/7/2019

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

Go to "Starting Over" Page 2 (3/6/2018 through 3/6/2019)

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Northwest Bench: Planning Overview for the Town of Fitzhugh and Fitzhugh Mountain:

Last year, when I roughed in the bench top topography on the Northwest bench for the town of Fitzhugh and the two adjacent mountain frames, I had a pretty good idea regarding how I wanted this area to look: a small town between a large finger of a lake and small, flat industrial area with two imposing rocky mountains bookending the scene.

ft Here is my rough topo of the town of Fitzhugh and the mountain at the turnaround end of the Northwest bench sketched onto  XCAD printout. The town will be built on a flat plateau at a level of 2.25 inches above bench zero between two mountains. On the South side, it will be bisected by a deep cut at bench elevation +0 for the double track mainlines, which will be spanned by a roadway bridge, and will ascend the grade past the industrial area and around the turnaround curve up to the depot and the other side at elevation 2.25. Most of this curve will be hidden in a tunnel through a large mountain (max elevation +14). the track in the tunnel will be accessed both through a large opening behind the backdrop wall and by way of a removable hatch. On the North side of the town along the backdrop wall, the terrain will rise abruptly up up to elevation +4 the backdrop mountain cuts-outs.

Tunnel Portals and Portal Retaining Walls

To begin work on the North bench, I first worked on molding, framing, and installing tunnel portals and portal retaining walls in both mountains at Fitzhugh. I use homasote cutouts to fashion screw-down, slightly oversize,
portal frames and then glue plaster cast portals to the frame. The plaster castings are made using latex molds that I made years ago using Chooch resin tunnel portals and walls as masters. Here I will need both double track and single track portals. Before the portal glue was fully set, I ran trains to test clearances. I always like to get the portals adjusted and firmly set before I proceed with work on the mountains.

fri Here is the rough-in of part of the town site and Fitzhugh Mountain. The first step was to set the tunnel portals and portal retaining walls. You can see one of my homasote double track tunnel portal frames installed  in the upper left center of this photo. The lift-out hatch base with part of the mountain frame attached to the top is the rhomboid homasote piece in the upper center, and the flat area to the right of that is the industrial section with its siding.  The town site is partially visible in the foreground with its deep cut for the mainline. Here I have temporarily set  the platform in place so I can do some detailed street and structure  planning after the mountains and the lake are complete. 
fp Here are the portal castings and their latex molds..
fpi Two portals and their retaining walls installed,clearance tested by running trains, and adjusted. Because I use a slightly wider track spacing on curves, the double track portals have to be broken in two at the top in order to make a slightly  wider opening. The resulting gap at the top is easily patched with Sculptamold, which can be molded and scribed to match the stone work for a totally seamless repair.

Constructing Fitzhugh Mountain

I'll begin by adding additional framing to the homasote rough-in. Then I'll install all the exposed rock faces, and tack on the plastic screen; next the Sculptamold, initial painting, ground zip texturing, ground color adjustments and enhancements, and finally ground cover, shrubs and trees.

fm1 3/10 Here is the mountain with the additional framing and the rock faces installed.In this photo the hatch is removed to facilitate work on the stationary frame. Next, I'll replace the hatch and reinforce the mountain frame on top of the hatch.Then, I'll be ready for the screen and the Sculptamold.
fm2 3/11 Here it is with the hatch in place and the screen tacked on, ready for Sculptamold.
fm3 3/13 Here is the completed application of the Sculptamold. Now the base coat of paint. 
fm4 3/13 Here it is with the base paint coat completed. The rock faces are painted a dark gray, and when dry, they will get several dry brush coats: first a lighter gray, and finally touches of white for highlights. The grassy areas get the red earth under coat, while the forest and brush areas get dark brown earth color. All the earth areas will get "Zip" texturing (powdered plaster of Paris mixed with a blend of colored tempara powders. This will give a highly realistic ground texture,  and I'll allow patchs of the earh undercoat to show thorugh in spots. For the exact method, see my post of  3/12/2018.)
fm5 3/14 Here is the texturing complete, the distant forest on top glued in place, and the light gray dry brushiung of the rock faces. Next comes the ground cover and the white dry brush highlights ob the rock faces. 
fm6 3/15 Ground cover applied and white dry brush highlights added to rock faces. I'll now install a thin flange to hide the joint running up the meadow - a piece of .015 styrene tacked to one side and painted, textured, and ground covered just like the meadow - maybe a few small shrubs - and it should disappear.  Then I'll extend the distant blue mountain cutout on the left and articulate the tree line in front of the patch. Next I'll work on the landscape around the rock faces always with an eye to forcing the prespective - larger bushes around the near rocks - smaller bushes around the rocks higher up the slope will help.The real effective forced perspective will come with the addition of multiscale trees getting samller and perhaos slightly grayer as they get higher up the slope.
fm7 3/18/2019 Here is the mountain with the shrubry added.
fm8 With the trees in place, the forced perspective really works. Here is a view up the same slope. Notice the small trees lining the base of the distant rock face to the left, the even smaller trees that form the tree line at the top of this rock face, and the clump foliage tree line of the very distant forest at the top of the slope to the right. I like to use two types of trees in sizes from 7 to 1/2 inch tall: treesw made by glueing vairious colors of clump foliage to Woodland Scentics "tree armatures," and trees made by gluing coarse ground cover in vatrious colors to  Scenic Expresses "Super Trees" material, a dried organic product made from some kind of artic shrubry. I use 3M #77 all purpose spray adhesive, let the bare tree forms get really tacky, and then press clump failage onto the armitures, or roll the Super Trees  in coarse turf material in a variety of colors. Then I give each a quick light coat of hair spray and highlight with light green, light gray, or yellow spray paint. 
fm9 Completely done. This really worked out well. Now on to the other mountain

Constructing the Mountain on the Fitzhugh Curve

I will follow the same path to create the mountain on the Fitzhugh Curve.
fmc Here is my rough topo sketch, with elevations penciled over an XCAD printout.
fcs Here is my rough sketch of the mountain and the lake.
3/24/2019 Here is the fame. I am in the process of adding more cross members to completely support the screen.There is a criscrossing  network of track under this mountain, so an ample access opening in the backdrop wall is essential.
am2 3/25/2019 Here is the completed frame with the rock faces tacked in place. Upon completely this, I again ran trains to check clearances. Things often shift when augmenting the framing.
am3 3/26/2019 Screen installed. Note the terrace for a distant  N scale house.
am4 3/27/2-19  Sculptamold applied.
am5 3/28/2019 Base paint coat.
am6 3-29-2019 Ground cover and tree line completed,
am7 4-1-2019 Altamont Mountain near completion: rock face dry brushed and landscaped, trees installed, and forced perspective achieved using a Z scale house surrounded by  a grove of smaller trees on the prepared terrace about half way up the slope and a gravel drive that disappears in to the distant forest .

Creating Altamont Lake

With with the Altamont Mountain complete, I can now tackle the adjacent finger of the lake that will lie at the base of the great smooth rock face. Unlike all the other water features I have built on the A&BR2, which have been, painted, and poured on sheet styrene and then installed, this one will be poured in place owning to the large stone footing that support the traversing steel viaduct. The strategy is to first add the necessary homasote forms to support the screen/homasote slopes down to the shoreline, and then to seal all the way around the lake with Sculptamold and a heavy coat of gloss medium at the seams, then detail paint the shore and the lake bottom, seal again, and finally pour the Magic Water. 

al1 4/4/09 Here is the screen and the supporting forms. Notice the long piece of homasote along the track roadbed. This will support a low stone wall, and it abuts the lake below so I can seal the edge.
al2 4/4/2019 Here are the homasote banks and shoreline that are sealed all the way around the lake. The lake will be between 1/8 and 3/16 of an inch deep, so when the Sculptamold dries, I will  seal the shore line up to that level all the way around with a good heavy coat of gross medium and then paint the lake a dark green with lighter green shallows near the shore and my red earth for the shore line.
al3 4/5/2019 Here is the painted lake bed. When the paint dries, I will seal the edges with gloss medium again, add a few underwater stones and reeds along the shore, and I'll be ready to pour. 

I encountered a serious problem after the pour. As careful as I had been sealing the edges, I missed a spot and about half of my Magic Water leaked out onto the floor before I noticed it and repaired the leak. Repairing a leak like this from the outside of the enclosure can be tough. I used modeling clay to seal along the leaking joint, but I fear that, since the leak was along a homasote seam, that the underside of the homasote will wick up even more of my lake before it drys. The drying time here is about two days, so all I can do is wait and then make a second pour on top of this one to replace the lost fluid. Pouring multiple layers works fine with Magic Water. In fact it is recommended for deeper pours.

4/7/2019 - The first pour is now dry, and it looks good. Although the small rocks on the shore to the left are not fully submerged as planned, the whole thing looks fine, and I will not bother with a second pour to replace the leaked-out Magic Water.
al4 Here is the  finished lake.

Laying out the Town of Fitzhugh

While my lake is drying, I can move on the the town of Fitzhugh. As I have mentioned before, I feel it is best to have the bulk of the structures for a town scene complete before laying out the scene so they can be used to fashion the look of the town. Fortunately, I still have a lot of town buildings salvaged from the A&BR1. I spent a little time shuffling them around on the town site trying to get the look I wanted and making plans for handling the walls of the deep track bed cut that divides the town into two parts.

fl 4/7/2019 Once I have  achieved the look I want by shuffling the buildings around, I can trace the footprint of each structure onto the homosote, draw the streets and sidewalks and mark the location of any lawns etc. and thus graphically layout the town to scale right on the homasote surface. (Notice I have covered the lake with newspaper to prevent dust from sticking to the tacky surface while the pour is curing.) 
fl2 4/8/2019 With the town plan sketched on the homasote, I removed the buildings and cut the .040 styrene street and paving sheets to size, and installed the bridge. 
fl3 4/10/19 The styrene sheet streets and paved areas are next laminated with 220 grit sand paper, spray painted gray with black and white misting, and glued down.  Next, the buildings are replaced, re-traced on the road surface, and again removed, Center lines, crosswalks  and sidewalks are installed. Center lines are applied using 1/32 inch white graphic art tape. Crosswalks are created using 3/32 inch graphic art tape. I have also pasted down labels for the LED lights.
fl4 4/13/19 LED lights installed power by the switched 12 volt bus. Again using multiple circuits in parallel each composed of 4 5mm bulbs and a 640 ohm resistor in series.
fl5 4/16/19 Here are the terminal blocks for the Fitzhugh LED lights mounted below a  signal control card  connector on the wire mounting board.
fl6 4/20/19 Before I go on with the town layout, I'll complete the section of track-side scenery behind the town, between the depot and the backdrop wall, so I do not have to reach over the delicate town to do this work. Here is the Sculptamold painted and ready for ground cover. 
fl7 4/22/19 Here is the nearly finished back section.
fl8 4/24/19 Again, working from the back to the front of the bench, I'll complete the church yard section to the right of the newly complete track-side section and slightly behind the town.
fl9 4/29/2019 Finally, the buildings are again replaced, and I am ready to work on the walls of the cut, do some landscaping, plant some trees, and install details like figures, and vehicles and telephone poles etc. Here is the left half of the now nearly completed town of Fitzhugh, 

The Fizhugh Industrial Area

With the both mountains and the town of Fitzhugh and the area next to the backdrop wall finished, the northwest bench is nearing completion. All that remains is the industrial park on the east side of town at the base of Fitzhugh Mountain. The space alloted for this scene is a fairly large and flat and is bounded by the mountain, the town, and the loop of the double track mainline track as it begins its loop into the tunnel under Fitzhugh mountain.

The central industrial feature here will be a gravel company. I have already purchased the Walther Cornerstone kit for this rather massive structure, and using the diagram on the box, I sketched the footprint of the structure onto the homasote and installed an 1/8 inch cork pad, an Atlas Code 55 #7 turnout, and a siding track parallel to the already installed Fitzhugh industrial spur, again using the specifications on the kit box to inform track layout and spacing. In addition, I have a number of commercial structures salvaged from the old A&BR1 including a fuel oil distributor, a freight house, a stock yard, and a grain elevator. I placed these buildings on the layout and sketched in the footprint of each onto the homasote, and at the same time I sketched in the route of the main highway that will pass through the center of the industrial park and cross the mainline line loop. I also order a crossing gate from New Jersey International.

Here is the industrial area laid out with structures, an 1/8 inch cork pad for the gravel company, the new siding, and the roadway outline. There will be two small forested hillocks poverthe open spaces in the homasote, one to either side of the grain elevator. I still have a large open space between the roadway and left hand forest. I'll decide what to place here later after I get a feel for the rest.