Category Archives: Tunnel

Tunnel Project Complete!

The tunnel project, long in the making on the Mini-Layout, is officially complete!

There are, of course, several minor touch-up items to address, such as fixing paint issues in the tunnel lining, adding some color washes to the painted-on rocks, and cleaning the rails on the tracks.

The easiest way to chronicle this is with some before & after pics.

So, here is as close to a “before” as I have, where I was test-fitting the portals and the tunnel lining:

Test-fit of tunnel portals and lining.
Test fit of tunnel portal and lining.

Here’s a photoshopped version of the above picture, showing the “vision” for the tunnel.  I even included the new paint scheme on the train…

Photoshopped vision of completed tunnel.
This is GIMP, not Photoshop!

And finally, here is the finished product.  I did my best to get the same camera angle and train position.

The finished tunnel.
The Finished Tunnel!

A long shot of the whole hill.

Long shot of complete hill.
The front side of the hill.

And one more:  the back side.

Back side of the hill
Back side tunnel porta.

Here’s a 100+ photo slideshow of the whole project.  And here’s a thread on chronicling the construction process.

The whole project has taken just over a month from conception to completion.  And the good news is that it’s finished just in time for the arrival of the Traveling Car!

Oh what a difference a little detail makes!!!

A little scenery makes a big difference

Now that we’ve got the basic landscape done, and a stock of trees at hand, the kids and I were able to make significant progress on our tunnel project tonight. Here’s a shot of the tunnel as is. Still to do: plenty more trees and ground cover, adding more campers atop the cliff, and starting on the landscaping at the base of the hill.

We’re also trying to decide what to do with the back side of the hill, in order to make it an interesting photo op.

A few notes here.  First, you can tell that as foreground trees, the Woodland Scenics are far superior to my bamboo skewer trees.  That’s OK.  It’s exactly what I expected.  However, the new thing is that I now realize this scene has a lot more foreground than I thought it would.  I’ll go ahead and use the skewer trees for now, but I may “upgrade” them later.

Second, I don’t recommend using the “Great Stuff” in the blue can.  It cures to an open cell foam that is too squishy to firmly hold a tall tree.  I had to sink the pines below the bases of their trunks to get them to stay put.

The forest ground cover is actually crushed leaves from my front yard that I dried out and ground up as best I could.  I think it would look pretty good in HO or O scale, but it really needs to be ground a little finer for N scale.

I’ve found a good use for spare clump foliage from the Woodland Scenics kit.  It makes fine bushes and brambles alongside the rocks.

If you look closely at the cliff high on the hill, you’ll see a lone hiker enjoying the panoramic view of our kitchen.  He’ll soon be joined by two friends, and they will be setting up a campsite up there.

Here are a couple of additional pictures:

Closeup of hiker on the cliff above the tunnel
Closeup of hiker
Closeup of tunnel and cave
Closeup of tunnel and cave
Layout before landscaping project started
Where we came from

More Trees

I took a second stab at making bamboo skewer trees.  This time, I used Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf instead of Fine Turf.  It’s a bit harder to work with, but the results are significantly more tree-like.  With the fine turf, I was able to pour some in a sifter and sift it onto the glue-covered polyfiber.  Nearly all of it stuck on the first try, and most of it stayed on the tree.

With the coarse turf, I couldn’t sift it.  I had to pinch small bits between my fingers and hand-press them into the polyfiber.  Lots of it would fall off initially, and I fixed this by spraying the turf with glue after pressing it on.  I think the results are pretty good…

Bamboo skewer tree made with coarse turf
Coarse Turf in Light Green

The second tree, I got in a rush applying the polyfiber to the stick, and it kindof fell apart on me.  I think it’s salvageable once the glue dries, though.

Bamboo skewer tree with dark green coarse turf
Coarse Turf in Dark Green

The glue is still wet on that one!

Here’s a shot of all four trees together.  I think the coarse turf looks better for a mature tree, but the fine turf would work very well for, say, a manicured bush.

All four trees together
All Four Trees Together

A cheap way to make background trees…

Jerry (“Cox 1947”) on posted a great little tutorial on how he makes trees out of toothpicks and  foliage clusters.  Since I need a LOT of trees to cover my hill for my tunnel project, and I’m on a tight budget, I jumped right on this idea.

However, since my forest is mature, I needed significantly taller trees than Jerry’s.  So, based on an amalgam of other tree-making techniques, I made a few changes and came up with this…

First, I got some bamboo skewers:

I cut them roughly in half, giving me 6 inch long sticks. Next go-round I’ll break them at the 5/7 inch mark to give a bit of height variety. Then I spray painted them brown, and tried to mist on some black. Lesson #1: You can’t “mist” on Krylon rattle-can with the cheap spray head. You might be able to do it with the directional head. This would look FAR better done with an actual airbrush, or with some other paint technique.

Next, I took some aquarium filter fiber (basically fine-mesh polyfiber) and spray painted it black. Lesson #2: this is really hard to do successfully. It takes (and wastes) a LOT of paint. I think next go-round I’ll just fork over for the black stuff from Micro-Mark.

After all the paint had dried thoroughly, I coated the upper 1/2 to 2/3 of the sticks with white glue, took a section of the polyfiber and wrapped it around the stick, pressing it into the glue a bit. I could have dressed it up a bit here, but I didn’t. In the photo, you can see how some parts of the fiber didn’t get blackened fully.

I let that dry overnight (because I was busy!). This evening, I sprayed both of the trees with Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement and then I held the tree over a pan while I sifted Woodland Scenics Fine Turf (“Green Grass” color) over it. Lesson #3: This is really a two-man job. For the second tree (the one with more fiber on it), I had TwinBoy rotate it like a pig on a spit while I focused on the sifting (I used “Weeds” color on this one). This worked much better, and he enjoyed it.

I think the Coarse Turf would look a bit more tree-like, but I didn’t have any. This came out pretty good, though, for a background tree. Here’s a couple of shots of the finished product, with a GP-40 for scale reference.

The first one is with some side-lighting, but no flash. The second, I added flash.

I’m still working on my camera technique. You can see in the flash shot how the tree on the right didn’t get as good coverage because I was trying to do both things at once. The left-hand tree came out better.

The white bits are wet glue. I’ll have to give them a good shake tomorrow to confirm how much of the turf really adhered to the polyfiber.

These are going to be filler/background trees on the hill over my tunnel. I don’t think they’d do all that good as a foreground tree, but as background filler I’m fairly pleased. They’re extremely cheap to make (i’ve got enough skewers for at least 200 trees, for about a buck!), will fill in the canopy well, and there’ll still be trunks if anyone looks closely.

Things I’d do differently next time (lessons re-capped):

  • Don’t try to “airbrush” with a rattle-can.
  • Maybe used textured paint on the skewers.
  • Cut or break the skewers at varied lengths (this was the plan all along).
  • Skip spraying the polyfiber and just buy the black stuff.
  • Spend a little more time shaping the polyfiber.
  • Use a helper (I’m lucky – I have two!) when sprinkling the trees.
  • Use blended or coarse turf, instead of fine turf.
  • Maybe mix in a little brown turf, like Jerry suggested.

Many thanks to Jerry for providing the toothpick technique that inspired this (I don’t think I invented anything here, just made his trees taller), and to “ddold” (also on  for suggesting the skewers. I think it’s going to work very well for my forest.