Saturday, January 25, 2014

Repairing the Ballard hill — conclusion

Having progressed well with applying scenic materials, in the way I described to make two coats of ground foam, I was ready to add details. To see a description of my process of placing the two coats, you may read the earlier post 5 at: .
     But at this point in the Ballard hill project, I needed to step back and make sure where I was headed. What about the goal? How did I want this to ultimately appear?
    Part of my reference for what was needed was the originally modeled appearance of this side of the hill. I can illustrate it with this photo (a detail of one which has been used previously in a number of places), to clearly show how this side looked on the layout in Pittsburgh. 

     Note the darker vegetation in the lowest part of the valley which descends from near the ridge top, typical of dry-climate vegetation in places like central California. Again, my understanding of this topic, and my approach, stems from the ideas I developed in that post about vegetation communities, at: . So how do I do this?
     There are two main parts to my detail additions. The most important in creating the typical oak woodland look, with darker vegetation (chaparral and live oaks) in the bottom of drainages, is to use dark green colors of various sorts of Woodland Scenics materials, clumped with Matte Medium. Since these are represented as being some distance away from the viewer, they are and should be fairly small.
     I already mentioned the corresponding detail item in my coastal sage community, representing the chaparral with dark olive-color foliage fiber (see the previous post, cited above). That is mostly the area above my ocean beach.
     I use a lot of Woodland Scenics “coarse turf” for distant foliage clumps. That they are small helps the illusion that the mountain is bigger and farther away. For most of the grassland area, I primarily use the Earth (T60)  and Dark Green (T65) colors, and in some cases mix the two. These should be somewhat randomly scattered, but if you look at real-world foliage patterns, clumping is common, likely areas of better soil or slightly more water. I try to reproduce that look on my hillsides. Here they can be seen, especially on the upper reaches of the hillside, during the process of adding this vegetation, and before any trees.

     The second main part, particularly for oak woodland, is brush and specimen trees. For brush that is reasonably close to the viewer, I swear by the Woodland Scenics “foliage” material (Dark Green, F53), which I can tear off in suitable-size pieces, stretch and make three-dimensional, and glue down with matte medium. That is what makes up the larger vegetation in the photo above.
     I like trees built on armatures, such as the Woodland Scenics soft metal ones, but have used plastic armatures and clippings from natural shrubs also. I add the trees judiciously, and I state it that way because the area I model has a high ratio of open grassland to trees. It is essential to have a few, but would be a mistake to have a lot. I have used a number of commercial starting points for trees, including the Woodland Scenics metal castings, which make into pretty good oak trees.
     I added a couple of trees at the bottom of the hill, and also extended slightly the dark vegetation in the stream bottoms. Here is how it now looks, with structures back in place and Nipomo Street in the foreground.

Not obvious in the above photo are the trees at the base of the hill, one of them a palm tree. Here is another view to show them (click to enlarge).

     Getting this hill rebuilt (my idea that it would be a simple repair turned out to be incorrect) is satisfying, because it is the first thing you see coming into the layout room, and in its former damaged state, it did not give a very good impression. I can now redouble my efforts on new sections of the layout!
Tony Thompson


  1. Tony,

    Looking Good, and even better in person. Thanks for opening Saturday during the OPSIG/LDSIG meet. You do need to update the photo of your beach scene, but then again, maybe not . . .

    John Barry

  2. Glad you enjoyed a visit, John. I will post about the layout tour presently. John refers to the bathers on the beach, who may or may not be clothed on any particular occasion.
    Tony Thompson