Saturday, January 14, 2023

Layout origins, Part 4

This post continues the saga of rebuilding the hill at one end of the layout, which had been cut down for moving to California. This hill separates the Shumala and Ballard sides of the layout. In the previous post, I showed the reconstruction of the hilltop and, especially, the damaged and partly missing hillside that faces toward the town of Ballard. You can see that post here: .

My first task, after what was shown in the post just cited, was to improve the contours of what I had created with Plaster Cloth from Woodland Scenics. I used my preferred paper mache products, both Sculptamold and the taxidermists’ mixture, Brandt’s. After a couple of iterations, after each of which I made further refinements, it looked like the photo below. Note there are still some unrepaired areas.

Next I wanted to re-locate the tunnel portal and blend the area around it with the hillside work already completed. I followed the same sequence of Plaster Cloth and paper mache.

Once these contours were all satisfactory, I painted all the fresh surfaces with my usual medium brown dirt color, and began to add Woodland Scenics ground foam, in colors to match existing layout areas. Next, I supplemented that with vegetation in the bottoms of gullies, where water lingers the longest in this Mediterranean climate, with its long, dry summer. This is a familiar scenic feature in coastal California.

One very evident feature here is the two rock outcroppings on the hillside. These are plaster rock castings and were placed early in the process, but are less visible in the white/gray surfaces in photos above. For more details on all this work, you can consult: .

But the scene still needed some larger trees at the bottom of the hillside, since it’s much closer to the viewer. With those added, and the large buildings that go in this area also placed back in position, the hillside becomes more of a backdrop, as originally intended. 

It may also be interesting to compare this hillside appearance with the version that was on the Pittsburgh layout, shown in the top photo of the Part 2 post in this series; see it at: .

Finally, I want to show the trees that were added at the base of the hill, a valley oak and a palm tree. You can see them above, but not very clearly. Here is a different viewing angle, also showing Cienega Creek winding away from the hillside.

It was a bit of a slog, getting all the repairs and contour re-creations done to re-establish the hill as it ought to be, but it’s now been in service several years, and rarely needs further work. As a vital scenic component of the layout arrangement, I’m always happy to see it doing its job.

Tony Thompson

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