December 31, 2001
With the landscape features completed we could lay the rest of the track.  We had previously laid the sections of tracks that were under the mountains.  Now we needed to lay the remainder of the track.   We basically followed the same procedure we used when we laid the track sections under the mountain: 

  1. Temporarily install the entire track, laying it directly on the track foundation foam.

  2. Run the locomotive and a few cars on the temporarily installed track and make any needed adjustments.  This involved adjusting the track for smooth curves and tight joints and also sanding rough or uneven sections of the track foundation.  One advantage of using foam track bed is that it will compensate for minor irregularities in the track foundation.

  3. Trace the outline of the track onto the track foundation foam.

  4. Remove the track, keeping it in sections as big as possible.  It is also helps when you remove the track to keep it in the correct layout so you can be sure it goes back exactly the same way it was when you marked off the track bed.

  5. Glue down the foam track bed using foam glue, following the lines traced on the track foundation foam.  Use a ton of T pins to hold the track bed in place while the glue dries.

It doesn't take long to write down how we installed the track, but it took all morning to actually do it.  After the track bed was glued and pinned in place, we couldn't do anything else to the track until the glued fully dried - which meant overnight.  Every now and them we would inspect the track bed and press down any sections that were not fully seated.  This was especially necessary around the curves.  Sometimes we would move T pins from areas that were firmly glued to areas needing a little more help. 

We had been working pretty hard the last couple of days, so we decided to knock of for the rest of the day and do some other things.  Tomorrow the track bed would be firmly glued and we could lay the track.

New Year Day, 2002
We slept in a little latter than usual this morning because we had stayed up to welcome in the New Year.  By mid-morning we actually started laying down the track.  

Just like before, we first laid out the entire track, except this time we laid it on the track bed we had installed the day before.  When the track was all laid out we again ran the locomotive and a few cars, made any necessary adjustments to the track, then pinned it down with T pins.  Then, just as we had done with the track sections we laid under the mountains, we removed small sections of the track, applied foam glue to the track bed, replaced the section of track and pinned it down.  

We repeated this process until the entire track was glued to the track bed.  We would have to wait until the next morning before we could actually run the train on the track to see how well (or poorly) we had done.

While the glue on the track was drying, we started adding the scenery features that would turn a totally white landscape into one with a little more interest.   

The instructions call for applying an "earth undercoat" over the entire layout.   We mixed the supplied earth- colored  pigment with water to produce  a very thin solution, then simply brushed it over the entire layout.  There is really not much way to go wrong here, so it's a perfect job for an 8 year old.   As you can see in the photo, the earth-color pigment really brings out the details in the layout.  Notice how well the roads now show up.

January 2-3, 2002
To complete the scenery, we added trees, shrubs, and ground cover.   The kit doesn't come with ready-made trees and shrubs.  You have to make your own trees and shrubs by gluing various colored clump foliage to armatures (basically a naked tree).  Josh and his mom took on this work while I worked on the ground cover.  

To make a tree or shrub, you bend the branches of a flat armature until it resembles a tree, apply a glue called Hob-e-Tac to the branches, let the glue dry a little while, then stick on various colors of the clump foliage.  Not hard to do, but with over 50 trees and shrubs, it is very time consuming.  We also discovered that the Hob-e-Tac glue doesn't really hold the clump foliage on very well.  By the time we got the trees installed on the layout, we had clumps of foliage that fell off the trees laying all over the layout.  We resorted to hot-gluing a lot of the foliage back onto the trees.

The ground cover worked much better.  The kit comes with several different colors and textures of ground cover to imitate grasses, weeds, and soil.  To apply the ground cover, you just mist an area with a 50-50 mixture of white glue and water, then sprinkle on the ground cover using the supplied shaker.  The instructions give suggestions on where to apply the different colors and textures, but basically you just use your own imagination.  Before misting the area with the glue mixture, we put masking tape over the track to keep the glue off.  After we had all the ground cover and trees in place, all that remained was to attach the electrical wires to the track and add the track ballast.

January 4, 2002
Before we added the ballast we needed to attach the electrical wires  to the tracks.  We had installed the wires before building the landscape features, so all we had to do was solder the wires to the sides of the track.  

After soldering the wires, we began adding the ballast.  This was a simply task.  We just cut a small hole in the corner of the plastic bag the ballast came in and poured the ballast on the track until it covered up the foam track bed.  It took longer to clean the excess ballast from the ties between the rails than it did to apply the ballast to the tracks.  After we had the rails cleaned off, we glued the ballast in place with the same 50-50 mixture of white glue and water that we used for the ground cover.  The instructions say to mist the mixture over the ballast, but we found the spray nozzle supplied in the kit tended to dislodge to much of the ballast.  It took a little (actually a lot) longer, but we opted to apply the mixture to the ballast by using a drinking straw.  We filled the straw by dipping it into the mixture and then placing a finger over one end of the straw while it was extracted.  We would then place the end of the straw very close to the ballast and slightly release the finger, allowing the mixture to gently "flood" the ballast.   This took a while, but it worked great, and we didn't wind up with lots of glue on the track, which would have to be cleaned off.

We were now finished with the basic layout.  Much to Josh's delight, he was finally able to hook up the power pack (MRC Tech 4 220) and run his railroad.  We spent the rest of the day, running the train and testing the track.  We had to add a little weight to some of the cars and we had to solder a couple of loose joints in a some sections of the track, but by the end of the day, the train would run virtually non-stop without mishap.   

In the future we will add some buildings and other structures to the layout and maybe add a skirt around the base of the layout table, but for know, Josh has a train set that is fully functional.

 
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