It’s all in the detail (on the Mendocino Coast Model Railroad)

The mark of truly great model train layout is the detail. If you can get the visitor to say to his/her partner, “Did you see that?” then you know that you are on the track. Detailing takes LOT of patience, time and most important a vision of what the final diorame might look like. We have two master detailers, Chuck Whitlock and Frank Davis.

Here’s some pics of Chuck at work. Chuck took a small corner of the turntable and saw in his mind’s eye a scene where a broken. non-running railbus the club owned could be used to portray a busy repair scene.

Detail on the turntable at the Mendocino Model Railroad

Look at all the detail it takes to fill the eye…….

Real or a model -a mini diorama of the Mendocino Coast Model Railroad

Looks real doesn’t it?

The start of the railbus repait diorama on the Mendocino Model Railroad Layout

The beginning of the mini diorama

The railbus repair diorama on the Mendocino Model Railroad taking shape

The scene taking shape

Scenic Painting by Club Member Basil Casabona

Basil is a retired scenic painter for the movies. Basil has had no trouble diving into layout, hill and rock painting –  a subject that many model railroad builders are hesitant to try, so he’s offering these tips for taking up a brush.

  • If you don’t like what you did – no problem you can just paint over it.
  • Do a test example before you start on the project
  • Allow yourself to get sloppy with your material; try things like: using more than one color on a surface at a time, letting paint flow and mix, use your fingers and crunched up newspaper to move paint around.
  • Last, never call something a mistake until you really look at it.

Armed with this knowledge, you can relax and have some fun. For ideas, techniques and how-to videos just do a web search for ‘painting model railroad scenery’.

Some things to remember:

  • Nature uses water and wind and gravity to do its work.  Being “loose”as you work helps the look.
  • Paint and washes take time to settle and dry. And they always change in the process. Be patient.
  • Start with a light overall color and then work with darker washes ( these will naturally hang up in the cracks and nooks ).
  • Then use a dry brush and light colors to highlight if needed.
  • When using washes, gravity is your friend.

Again, relax; don’t force a result; have fun………. it’s a hobby!

Rock face created by Basil Casabona of the Mendocino Coast Model Railrod

Rock face created by Basil

The rock face you see in the picture started out life as a two-inch thick piece of pink foam which Basil cut to fit in place. He then took a kitchen knife and “butchered” it. Next a base coat went on concocted from innumerable left-over “bits” of paint. Next came the washes. Each was let dry before another was applied. Each wash was applied from the top and Basil let nature take over letting them “run” down the cliff face and Voila!! The black Basil added to simulate the smoke from the steam engines as they leave the tunnel.

Wiring the Layout and Renewing the Sea Wall

It takes a lot of effort to have the layout operate flawlessly four hours a day. seven days a week, two hundred and eighty days a year. In this picture you can see several projects going on at the same time. Frank Davis is on the floor working on wiring. The sea wall, as you can see is being replaced (in our imagination the layout runs around Mendo Cove -the floor being the sea). The original sea wall was more “artistic” but “the little people” liked to hang on to it and it deteriorated over time so …….. replace in toto.

Workin' on the railroad

Workin’ on the railroad Frank Davis style

The stack of boxes o0f screws are for use on the addition to the west wall. The black “plate” enables us to step on the main tracks whilst working on the next level.


Toenail Ridge before it was

When you enter the western door to our layout you are confronted by a MOW (Maintenance of Way) consist inhabited by thirty plus noisy Minions located at the foot of Toenail Ridge.

Minion atop the Water Tower

Minion atop the Water Tower

The Minions and the Logging Camp didn’t get built till 2012. Here are three pics I found of Toenail Ridge whilst it was under construction.

Testing positions for the Loggers Camp

Testing positions for the Loggers Camp

he Toenail Ridge Trestle

The Toenail Ridge Trestle is in place

Toenail Ridge under construction

A very early stage of Construction for Toenail Ridge

Constructing the Point Cabrillo Diorama

Club member Mike Aplet was the man who had the vision and the skills to build the cliffs of our diorama of Point Cabrillo. He envisaged using Colin Davies prototypically accurate model of Point Cabrillo lighthouse atop the cliffs of the Point with the wreck of the Frolic on her side in the waters below. His material was old growth redwood obtained from a stump cut well over a 10o years ago. The stump was that of a redwood that probably lived for between 800 to 1,200 years.  His main tool was a sawzall. Mike took these pics as his year-long efforts progressed.

Below you can see the model of the lighthouse atop the cliff. This pic shows how Mike cut the pieces of redwood and fitted them together.

Point Cabrillo's many pieces of redwood

Point Cabrillo’s many pieces of redwood

Below you can see the finished sea with a wave breaking on the cliff.

The sea in the cove of Point Cabrillo

The sea in the cove of Point Cabrillo

These two shots are a before and after of the wave.

The sea before painting

The sea before painting

The broken hull of the Froliic was also carved by Mike.

Point Cabrillo cove sea painted

Here the sea has been painted

This pic is a close-up of the pieces that have been fitted together to make up the hull of the Frolic and the wave:

Carving the sea and the hull of the Frolic

Carving the sea and the hull of the Frolic

Here you can see the pieces that form the mermaid’s cave:P

Memsid's cave under construction

Memsid’s cave under construction

This one shows Mermaid’s Cave finished.

Mermaid's Cave

Mermaid’s Cave

Looking down on the cove in this shot. The landscaping on the top of the Point has yet to begin.

Point Cabrillo Cove - a seagull's view

Point Cabrillo Cove – a seagull’s view

The completed diorama. Dark backdrop in place. Cliff top a hive of activity.

Completed Point Cabrillo diorama

Completed Point Cabrillo diorama

Here are three shots of the detail on top of the cliff.

The west side of POint Cabrillo lighthouse

The west side of Point Cabrillo lighthouse

Watching for whales.

Whale watching

Whale watching

Charity book sale.

Charity book sale

Charity book sale

A brilliant piece of work Mike.

Mini Trestle for the West Wall

Club member Mike Aplet built this “mini” trestle. It has been worked into the west side wall hillside to extend the Toenail Ridge line.

Trestle undergoing test

Trestle undergoing test

Another view of the Trestle undergoing test

Another view of the Trestle undergoing test

The “test” engine is an 0-4-0 LGB which frequently works the Toenail Ridge line.


Constructing the base for the Homestead at the base of Three Chop Ridge

In the middle of the pic below you can see a small house and to its left the outline of a tunnel portal:

Wide angle of Three Chop Ridge

Wide angle of Three Chop Ridge

The homestead is sitting on a platform. This platform is strong enough to be stood upon so that we can reach the top of the ridge. The platform was the last piece to be installed of theThree Chop Ridge frame. The pics below show the construction in progress.

Plwood for the homestead platform

Frank Davis bringing in the plywood from which the platform will be cut after preliminary fitting. Tony Phillips is watching.

Scibing the plywood for the homestead platform

Chuck Whitlock scribing the plywood for the next cut. Frank Davis is holding.

Fitting track on the homestead platform

Tony Phillips and Frank Davis helping lay the track on the platform


Northwest corner of the layout aka Three Chop Ridge – More pics by Mike Aplet

Work on Three chop Ridge continues apace as these recent pics from Mike Aplet show. Why is it named “Three Chop Ridge”? Because, it was an archaeological dig on Three Chop Ridge of a Pomo Indian village that, ultimately, led to the discovery of the wreck of the Frolic which in turn led to the opening up of the Redwood lumber industry along the Mendocino Coast.

G Scale model of Three Chop Ridge

Three Chop Ridge in the NW Corner of the layout

Building trees on Three Chop Ridge G scale model train layout

Tree trunks ready for tree tops

Mike Aplet in front of Three Chop Ridge

Mike Aplet in front of Three Chop Ridge. The hill rises some 10 feet from the floor