Landscape Takes Shape

There’s nothing like a little foam insulation to get in one’s way. The project was designed to sit on two inches of insulation, which, in theory could be carved and shaped into a suitable desert landscape. True. Yes, it is possible. What no one ever tells you is the difficulty in getting wires THROUGH the foam and to the bottom of the layout where one can actually do something useful… like attach them to circuits and such. Hint #1: do not glue down your insulation board until AFTER you drill holes through the whole table at the appropriate spots.

Here is the electrically active layout with a test loco on board just to make sure that power and DCC signals were making it to the whole shebang….

Got my DCC working

With that tested out, then it was a simple matter of using project adhesive to bind it all together into one unit. Wait… hold it… switches also have wiring. Right. Have to drill for them as well.

Now that all the electricals were tested out, it is time to make a desert landscape. I opted to keep this whole thing extra-light-weight and use foam as cores for the hilly landscape then a healthy slathering of Sculpt-a-Mold to fill in the contours, gaps and such. The most difficult part, and the messiest, was the cutting of the foam board: little pieces go EVERYWHERE, so have a Shop-Vac handy. Really. I mean it. Static charge also makes those little particles stick to…well… pretty much everything. The more you clean up, and the sooner you do it, the better off you’ll be in the long run.  Here is a hill being made:

Hill Making

Yep – layers of layers on layers. I used a rasp file to hone out the shapes and make the layers fit into one another so less Sculpt-a-Mold would be needed in the end.

Blue insulation foam is great, but also a bit pricey. I opted to go with cheaper and messier styrofoam for the rest. Now you can start to see the layout take some shape. Before gluing it all down, I did many test runs with full trains to see that the tunnels were allowing enough room for my consists.

A Landscape Emerges

It was at about this point that visitors to the basement began to wonder about the layout: what’s that? A layout in Antarctica? 😉 Well….. no…. just wait and see!

The backside is something I am quite happy with. The “front” is a yard scene complete with intermodal yard, a factory and such…. all the switches are there. The back is a simple long sweeping set of curves through desert back country. I like how the foam can make it multidimensional over a dry wash.

Dry Wash Gully

Now it’s getting easier to see the layout in action. Here’s a short video of BNSF rolling through the yard side. All is smooth as can be.



About johnb

- Director of Grainger Observatory, Phillips Exeter Academy. - Variable-star-crazed astronomer, but have done research in other areas. - Drummer, archer, pilot, chef, friend, pet owner, husband, father, Train-nut.
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