Dolmen-Sylvanau ... Scenery 3

Dolmen-Sylvanau
East end of layout before landscaping.

January 4, 2008

By 2006, landscaping reached the east end of the layout. I had originally intended to model a gently rolling rural landscape, but I missed having some hills with exposed rock faces. I thought about various options, including one or two tunnels. But eventually, I settled on a design with a couple of hills and ridges with a small lake.

Dolmen-Sylvanau
East end of layout after landscaping.

This design has no tunnels, but the hills are big enough that trains can disappear behind them. In Germany, many hills are topped by crosses representing the dominant religion of the country. To be different, I first wanted to place a statue of Buddha on the hill in the foreground. I visited a local Chinese mall, but I could only find small figures of a laughing Buddha, not a meditating Buddha. So I decided on something else. I added a couple of small stones to form a neolithic pagan monument.

Dolmen-Sylvanau
East end of layout after landscaping.

On the ridge between the main line and branch line, I added a couple of buildings, including a church on the prominent ridge overlooking the port area. The church was a gift from my parents who thought there weren't enough churches on the layout. They obviously weren't aware of two other churches already in place.



Loco

The Hills and Rock Faces

These hills were made using the conventional hardshell technique. The overall shape of the hill is formed using scrunched up newspapers and masking tape. Then, a layer of paper towels soaked in hydrocal plaster was added. Hydrocal is a special formulation of plaster that cures very hard. But since it's hard to deal with once hard, a layer of Plaster of Paris is then added.

The exposed rock faces are done using Plaster of Paris and commercial rubber molds. The key step is getting the plaster to the right consistency. What I usually do is mix up a small batch of plaster, put most of it in the rubber mold. The rest of the plaster in the bowl gets poured onto some unfinished part of the hill. Once that plaster is smoothed out, the plaster in the mold usually has set to the proper consistency. The plaster should still be pliable, but it shouldn't pour out if you tilt the mold up. After spraying the plaster on the hill with water, press the mold against the hill. After a couple of minutes, the plaster should be firm enough that you can take your hand away. Give it another 10 or 15 minutes, and the mold can be removed from the plaster.

Note that you don't need to buy more than a couple of molds. By rotating the mold as you progress along the hillside, no one will notice that the same mold was used multiple times.

Painting the rock face might seem like hard work too, but it's dirt easy. Start with four empty spaghetti sauce jars and four tubes of acrylic paint. I use Red Oxide, Raw Siena, Burnt Umber, and Mars Black. Fill the jars half full with water, and add about an inch of each color to the water. Cap the jars and shake vigorously. At this point, there are no points awarded for neatness. Dip a medium sized brush into a jar and splash the color onto the plaster. Repeat with different colors, brushing, and letting the water flow into the various nooks and crannies of the rock face. Keep going until you get the color you want. After the paint dries, you might want to tone down the color using a light gray.

Finally, don't forget to add some talus at the base of the rock.



Loco

Dolmen-Sylvanau
Lake and stone bridge.

The Lake

There are several different techniques for making realistic water. Real water is not an option for several reasons. First, at 1:87 scale, real water doesn't look real. Second, real water will tend to evaporate.

Getting the water right in the lake took a few tries. The first attempt with Woodland Scenics Realistic Water was a disaster. Using a different product ended up even worse. For the third attempt, I went back to the Realistic Water, but did things a bit differently. First, I let the paint at the bottom of the lake cure for several weeks. This ensured that the Realistic Water wouldn't react negatively with the paint. Second, I waited longer than the recommended 24 hours before adding additional layers.

I have more water areas to add to my layout. For the river in the port area, a product like Realistic Water can't be used since the water is at the edge of the layout, not within it. I'll try coating the surface with several layers of varnish to get the desired effect.



Loco