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Construction & Scenery

The layout is housed in a 30x30 ft. square building, with internal dividers that create aisles for separation of various scenes. Four skylights provide plenty of natural light in daytime, and fluorescent lights on the 10 ft. high ceiling provide the light at night. The railroad structure is cantilevered out from the interior walls using 1x4 or 1x3 supports. The structure along the outer walls of the building is built using 2x4 legs and 1x4 supports. Track work is on 1/2-inch plywood with 1/2-inch Homasote subroadbed.

The track plans for the lower (42 -inch) and upper (58- inch) levels are shown in Figures 1 and 2. There are staging yards on each level, one above the other, referred to as Chicago on the upper level drawing and Los Angeles on the lower level drawing. The two levels are connected to each other in the middle of the main line by a long tunnel and a helix in a mountain, resulting in only a 1.5% grade.  At the other end, a double track 2.5% helix connects the two staging yards, allowing trains to return to their starting positions for scheduled operation. This clearly applies to scheduled passenger trains.

Code 100 Atlas Flextrack is used throughout, as are Peco switches except for older Atlas No. 8 switches from the 50's, used on mainline passing tracks. Homa-bed roadbed is used on all mainlines and the track is super-elevated where appropriate.  Ballasting has been done using a variety of materials: Woodland Scenics, Arizona Stone, John's, and natural dirt. 

Scenery is eclectic, in that I wanted to have a variety of scenes reminiscent of various ones I have experienced in the past.  The walls and terrain allow the viewer to see different scenes separately. For example, the lower level main line starts out passing through a desert scene with orange groves ( Anyone remember the orange groves on the Museum and Santa Fe RR at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago?)  Then thru rock formations to arrive at the town of Mineral Springs with its local oil refinery and a limestone mine and cement plant. After a lengthy run thru arid rock country it arrives at a farming community, Abba, and finally passes the River City Country Club golf course before crossing the river and passing the industrial end of River City with its American Steel mill. After stopping at River City station, the line leaves town and enters a series of tunnels and bridges, eventually emerging on the upper level at the western town of Roundup, a cattle shipping point. Crossing high desert, the line passes Iron Hill, with its iron ore mine, and then arrives at a high plains town of Plains, with its John Allen switching layout.   Leaving Plains the tracks pass the Rich Bros. cattle and oil shipping siding, and tunnel into the Ruby River valley, where they follow the river for a long way. Finally, the line emerges from the valley into the snowy lumber and coal industry region of Black Rock, and eventually on to Chicago.

Scenery is supported on a variety of bases, including traditional screen wire, cardboard strips, crushed newspapers and foam board all covered by plaster-soaked towels. Extensive use was made of plaster castings made using rubber molds made by Carl Winkler from rock formations at Picacho Peak, near Tucson.

The scenery along the 30 ft. wall behind River City was built up using Lee Nicholas� method. Garbage bags were inflated and layers of plaster impregnated paper towels were used to form the basic shape of the hills along the 30 foot long wall.  Foam board was used to build up the city foundation.  Because a long run of single track was hidden behind the hills, access had to be possible, so three segments of hillside were made removable. 

The buildings in the River City Cityscape were kit bashed from Bachmann�s Spectrum Citiscenes series, including the Trade Tower, the Metropolitan Building, the Ambassador Hotel, the Savings and Loan, and the Variety Store.  Additionally, other buildings include several from Magneson and Walthers.   A mirror at the end extends the view.  The backdrop includes printed material from Backdrop Warehouse and Realistic Backdrops by DQCI, layered out from the wall, with a highway tunnel, a la Pittsburgh, carrying traffic under part of the city.

The River City diesel shop was scratch built from plans by Russell Porter in the February, 1952, Model Railroader.  The coaling station was scratch built from plans by Eric Stevens in the Oct., Nov., Dec, 1951 and Jan. 1952 issues of Model Railroader, using balsa, paper, and some commercial detail parts.

The dock beside the Walthers� Blast Furnace was modeled after the dock pictured on page 77 of the book Union Railroad in Color, by Richard Borkowski. Plastruct rectangular tubing was used to make the steel piling.  EnviroClear Lite was used to make the water. The paint for the river was gloss Basalt accent paint from Ace Hardware. 

The Ruby river scene is only 16 inches deep, but took 6 months to finish. It used bulk pine trees from Faller and Busch, planted with hot glue, and Woodland Scenics water. The river has rubys from India, purchased uncut in bulk at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, along the bank.

The American Steel Company is located in River City and is described in detail in the April, 2012 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

The fascia on the layout was designed by Ann Geiger and was made by gluing unpainted, textured, wall paper on the hardboard and painting it with semigloss paint. She also sewed the pleated curtain all around the layout and ordered the rug installation.


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