With the completion of the Surroundings Interiors warehouse, I can finally get to work on one of the biggest visual concerns on The Hills Line, the Hill Track. On the prototype, the Hill Track connects the Iowa Interstate’s yard in Iowa City with the Maiden Lane interchange on the industrial spur. On the layout, it serves as my staging/fiddle area where trains begin and end their run.
Since I don’t have a warehouse of my own in which to built this layout, the Hill Track is both greatly compressed in length and hidden from normal view. The backstage areas are working just as intended, but the transition to the on-stage areas needs to be both effective and subtle. That way trains don’t just magically appear when needed at the start of their day.
I started out by reversing my normal workflow for scenery construction, putting down all the ballast and dirt first. Normally I would put down a layer of Scenic Express Farm Pasture static blend as the base for a scene. But since the interchange area is more gravel than grass I wanted to make sure the dirt showed throughout the scene.
Once the dirt and ballast was down and attached, I masked off areas where I didn’t want the grass to go with strips of damp paper towels, then applied some diluted white glue and matte medium to the scene. The static blend was applied with my Grass Tech II, no different than I’ve done for any other area on the layout.
The end result of flipping my process worked, but I would have gotten the same result sticking with my previous methods. Covering everything with dirt before the grass ended up covering my painted foam base, a foam base that was painted so that dirt DIDN’T have to be applied to each scene, speeding the time to complete a scene. Lesson learned.
The few numbers of trees needed for the scene were constructed using my tried and true methods for foliage. However I paid close attention to the shape of the trees, since they would be used to create a tunnel in close proximity to the right of way.
Trees were placed, adjusted, and otherwise manipulated on either side of the Hill Track. Mostly this involved running a series of trains back and forth on either side of the view block to make sure that no branches were caught or snagged by passing cars.
Ultimately this is an iterative process until the scene is both aesthetically and operationally functional. I have no doubt that I’ll continue to add, modify, or remove scenic materials until I’m happy with the outcome. Fortunately even in its current condition, it serves its intended purpose of being the transition point to the visible portion of The Hills Line.