TIPS & TECHNIQUES
The Mountains of Lutz
While waiting for our wide-radius turnouts to arrive, Marcia and I
decided to lay out the topography for the Live Oak & Northern-L.A.
Division (Lutz Area).
Our main mountain occupies space on the layout where the main line
tracks narrow due to space limitations between the "Live Oak" and our
well. This area is about 4 feet wide, and marks the division between
farmland and the city/industrial part of our layout. We had planned a
crossover inside the mountain, but the difference in elevation between
the two sets of tracks is too great.
The framework for the mountain has 2x2 pressure treated wood as
center supports, and a pressure treated 1x3 backbone or ridge. Light
rebar has been bent to form the contours of the mountain, and these have
been tied together and to the wood frame with wire. The support posts
have been cemented into the ground for extra strength. The mountain
measures 5 feet tall from the ground and 15 feet in length. A train can
be easily hidden in the tunnel with a timer circuit to give the
impression of a longer run.
I built tunnel portal supports out of pressure treated 1x3's and
spiked them down to their final locations. These portals were checked
for clearance using an Aristo streamline dome car, since this is the
longest and tallest piece of rolling stock that I have. I will have to
scratch build tunnel portals, since I have double tracks coming out of
the mountain, and there is no commercial source for these. I may wind
up building them out of pressure treated wood, or making a mold and
pouring them from mortar mix or stucco.
The framework of the mountain is covered with chicken wire which
Marcia and I twisted and bent to shape before we wired it to the rebar
and wood frame. We then cut up old bed sheets and dipped them in some
real soupy mortar mix and placed them over the chicken wire like paper
mache. (Note: we covered the track in the tunnels with visqueen to keep
the cement from dripping on it during our construction and also ran the
water lines for our water falls before putting on this covering.) This
technique is like the hard-shell scenery used on indoor layouts, but
cement is used in place of plaster. Once the sheets had dried we added
a thicker coat of mortar mix using trowels, and by hand while wearing
chemical- proof gloves. A final coat of mortar mix will be added, and
Marcia will carve her rock texture into this along with adding pieces of
real rock. The entire mountain will be painted with washes of color
using heavily thinned latex paint. Since we are trying to duplicate
specific western mountains, our colors will be more gray to simulate
granite, but we will add washes of brown, green, and purple. The entire
mountain will then receive a black wash to highlight the detail
Remember it is important to study the mountains for the area you are
modeling so that you can get the textures and colors correct.
The mountain has an access door in the back that allows me to climb
in to do any track maintenance. It is made out of pressure treated
plywood, and will be painted to match the rest of the mountain. The
track inside the tunnels will be ballasted to promote proper drainage.
We are going to use the same technique to build smaller hills and
ridges so that our topography blends in with the rest of the layout.
This technique is not new or unique. It has been used by many of our
members to build some spectacular mountain ranges on their home layouts.