December 28, 2001
Now that we had laid the track sections that would be
inside the mountain we can start building the mountain and other
The first items we installed were the profile
thick pieces of foam go around the outside edges of the base and, when
cut, form the profile for the mountain and other land features.
The pieces are attached to the base with a low temp glue gun.
The tall pieces that form the mountain profile are held together and
reinforced with interlocking foam pieces that are hot glued in
place. The profile boards seemed rather flimsy when we first
started to install them but after they are all up and hot glued
they're surprisingly sturdy.
Next, we cut and fashioned the pieces that would form
walls and the tunnel portals. The tunnel walls are cut out of
1/4" thick foam and the tunnel portals out of 1/2" thick
foam pieces. The tunnel portals have to be cut fairly exact, but
the kit includes patterns for the portals, so it's fairly easy.
There are no patterns for the tunnel walls but they are simple
rectangles and the dimensions are given in the instructions. The
tunnels walls are a little tricky to install because they curve to
match the curve of the track. The hot glue alone won't hold them
to the curve, so we used Elmer's white glue to glue them to the sides
of the track foundation and held them in place with lots of T pins
until the glue dried (overnight).
That's about it for today.
we will hopefully finish up the foam work and move on to creating the
mountain and landscape features. We are looking forward to
completing the foam so we don't have so much clean-up work to do after
we quit for the night. I don't know that I mentioned it before,
but I was sleeping on the couch hide-a-bed that's in the same room as
our layout. So, each day, after we finished working, we had to
clean up the room so I could open up the couch when it was time for
December 29, 2001
Now that we had the profile boards glued in place, it
was time to cut the boards to form the profile of the mountain and
surrounding landscape. The kit comes with full-scale templates
of the profile, so layout was simple - just cut out the templates, pin
them around the perimeter of the boards, and trace the profile onto
the boards with a marker. The kit comes with a grease pencil for
marking the foam, but we found a Sharpie® permanent marker works
To form the profile you simple cut the boards along
line. The kit recommends using a "foam cutter" for
this job. I'll admit a foam cutter would probably be faster and
it would have definitely been less messy, but we didnt' want to spend
$35.00 for a tool we would likely only use once. So, we opted to
cut out the profile with a saw.
We first tried using a keyhole saw with a metal
but it was difficult to cut the tight curves in the profile and the
teeth weren't really fine enough to smoothly cut the foam. We
decided we needed a coping saw to do this job.
Coping saws have very fine toothed blades and are able to cut very
tight corners. Besides, they cost under $10.00 and it's a tool
that would be useful on other future projects. (In short,
it was a good excuse to buy a new tool). We went to the local
hardware store and bought one. It worked great (although it's
still messy) and in no time we had the profile cut out.
Next, we cut out pieces of 1/4" foam to use as
roofs on the
tunnels. When the roof pieces are installed, the track section
inside the tunnels are practical in- accessible, so we hoped we had
done a good job of laying the track in the
tunnels. The only foam left to install were the pieces
that would provide the 2 level areas where buildings would be
located. The plans don't provide a lot of detail on building
these level areas, but after a little trial-and-error, we soon had the
2 areas hot-glued in place. We were now finished with all
of the foam work.
Before we could start
adding the landscape features we
needed to run wiring for the track. In our rush to get the
mountain built, we almost forgot about the wiring. We could have
done it latter, but now is the perfect time because we can run the
wire between the foam pieces on the top of the table where they will
be out of the way and hidden. We used some 18 gauge solid copper
wire that I have had for years. I found the partial spool of
wire (over 100') in a field that had been recently worked over by an
oil company seismograph crew. I assume they either lost it or
threw it away. Anyway, it was perfect for this job. We ran
a set of wires to two different sections of the track, one to the
section of track at the front of the layout and to the section of
track at the back of the layout. This should provide plenty of
juice for this small layout. We then spliced the two sets of
wires together so that we only had one pair of wires to hook to the
power supply. We drilled a hole through the bottom of the table
near the front left hand corner and ran this pair of wires through the
hole and left about 2' of wire hanging out of the hole. We would
cut of the excess after we hooked up the power supply.
Now we can actually start building the
mountain and other landscape features. The layout kit calls for using crumpled
newspaper to make the
foundation for the mountain and other landscape features.
This is really easy to do and it is one of the jobs that is well
suited for an 8 year old. There's really no way to do it
wrong. Just loosely crumple up sheets of newspaper and stack
them around until you like the look. We used the Grand Island
Independent, but I suppose the New York Times would work in a
pinch. The only time you have to be concerned about how
the paper is arranged is if you want to form a mountain stream.
But even this can be done after all the paper is in place and you
start applying the plaster cloth.
The final step in
mountain building is to apply the plaster cloth over the entire
layout. Before we began laying the plaster cloth I must admit
that we were a little concerned about the strength of the newspaper
foundation. The paper is is very loosely waded and just kind of
lays in place - not packed solidly. But that's how the
instructions said to do it, so we
trusted it would work. It was getting late and we were getting
tire, so we decided to postpone applying the plaster cloth until
December 30, 2001
Today we turned what looked like a haphazard pile foam
newspaper into a very realistic looking mountain layout. The
secret to this trans- formation is the application of plaster
cloth over the entire layout. Applying the plaster cloth is
fairly easy but somewhat messy. Also, you can only work with
strips about 1' long, so it goes kind of slow. The cloth
is so limber after you soak it in water that anything over about 1'
long is near impossible to work with. The kit comes with a very
generous supply of plaster cloth, so we overlapped each piece quite a
bit. The general procedure is: soak a piece in water,
loosely lay it over the paper, then smooth it out and spread the
plaster with your fingers letting the cloth drape into the various
nooks and crannies created by the paper wads. At first we tried
to smooth out the folds and creases in the cloth, but soon discovered
that these irregularities actually made it look more like real rock
formations. Once we stopped trying to be so careful and
meticulous, the process went a lot faster and the results looked much
Like I said, once we got the hang of it, laying
the plaster cloth went much faster. By faster, I mean faster
than when we first started. I don't mean it went
fast. In fact it took us all day. Next is laying the rest of the
track and adding the scenery. We'll describe that in the next episode.