Originally, I had no intention of building a trestle, but two factors induced me to take on the project: First, my youngest granddaughter had asked me to include a "tall, spindly trestle ... with a waterfall .... and an alligator". Second, in preparing for the National Model Railroaders Association achievement certificate in building structures, I had to construct a bridge or trestle. And so the die was cast, and Tori's Trestle became a reality.
Part 5 of this series of articles ended with the making and painting of the plaster rocks that form the backdrop for the trestle.
From this photo you can see where a mountain stream will carve through the hills above the ravine, crashing down into a rocky pool below, and flowing out under the trestle. The next step was to carve out the stream bed under the trestle and line it with plaster. The lining is critically important for the next step, which involved mixing and pouring a two part clear resin call "Magic Water". The resin has a tendency to creep into any hole or crevice unless it is carefully confined.
Above you can see the creek bed where it has been gouged out of the pink foam base, lined with plaster of paris, and colored earth brown for convenience in working with the plaster. I then painted both the upper and lower creek beds with acrylic paints, using several shades of green. The darkest green was used for the deeper places and the lighter shades for the shallows.
With the creek bed painted, I added several small stones to suggest boulders that have broken and fallen off the cliff above the stream. I poured the Magic Water, and then discovered that not only does it creep into holes and crevices, it also creeps up and over small pebbles and rocks in the creek bed! Notice the resin on the sides of the stones.
Fortunately, I discovered (serendipitously) that the resin covered rocks can be painted with acrylics. A careful brushing of slate gray acrylic on the rocks left them looking even more realistic than when I started. Phew!
So far, I had a fairly good looking stream at the top and the bottom, separated by 80 feet of vertical cliff. Obviously, I needed a way for the water to get from stream A to stream B -- in other words, a waterfall! I decided to make my waterfall out of DAP 3.0 clear acrylic caulk. The technique is fairly simple. First, a frame is made from a sheet of clear plastic (I used acrylic sheet from Home Depot) cut to size. The upper end of the clear plastic is heated (in my case with a heat gun) until it becomes soft and flexible. It can then be bent to suggest water pouring over the top of the cliff.
Once the clear plastic support is finished, the next step is to construct the rushing water. Beads of caulk are laid out side by side on a sheet of waxed paper using a caulking gun, then mingled together to the proper width with a toothpick, and allowed to dry for at least six hours. Be sure to lay the beads of caulk at least 1/2 inch longer that the height of the waterfall. The caulk is then peeled off the waxed paper and fitted to the clear plastic form. (Be sure to wear latex gloves for this step, in case the caulk isn't completely dry.) If you wish, you can secure the caulk to the plastic with ACC.
The waterfall can then be adjusted to the available space and glued into position with caulk or ACC cement.
But wait! We're not finished yet! We need to add rapids to the rushing waters at the top and bottom of the waterfall. There are several ways to do this. You can use "Water Effects" by Woodland Scenics or you can use a heavy gloss gel from AC Moore or Michael's art departments. I tried both and found little difference between them. The heavy gloss gel seemed to hold peaks better when stippled on the water. Both materials dry clear, so to get the effect of foaming water, I mixed my gel with a small amount of titanium white acrylic paint. The mixture was stippled around the rocks to resemble rushing water.
The finished product is beginning to look like a waterfall!
The rock face and falls look pretty good, but the scenery around them is lacking in .... well, scenery! I planned to use a new product called "Fusion Fiber" for the ground cover. Fusion Fiber resembles Sculptamold, but according to the manufacturer, True Scene, is easier to apply and color. You mix the fibers in a container of water and acrylic paint (I used earth brown) until it forms a squishy mass. The fibers can then be troweled over the base with a putty knife. The major advantage of Fusion Fiber is that no glue is required to add ground foam, clump foliage or even trees. The stuff is sticky when wet. If it dries, just spray with a little water and it becomes flexible again. Here I have applied the fiber to the hill top above the falls, and sprinkled it with several shades of ground foam.
The addition of some homemade lichen trees makes the scene even more realistic.
Reassured that this fiber stuff would really work, I began to smooth it on over the plaster cloth base under the trestle and up the right hand hillside. I applied a coating of Woodland Scenics blended ground foam over it all. A Noch briar patch was used at the left hand tunnel mouth for scenic interest. At this point I still have to cover the ground under the trestle supports, but here is the result:
We're not quite finished yet. An 80 foot waterfall creates a lot of spray. The bottom of the falls should be clouded in mist. To create the misty effect, I used imitation Halloween cobweb material from my local party store. A small amount teased out over the bottom of the falls gives just the right impression. A brief spray of clear Krylon spray fixed the spray in place and gave it a little sparkle.
To the left of the falls is a small, quiet pool. This would be the natural lair for my granddaughter's beloved alligators. I wanted to highlight the pool with vegetation, using Noch's new laser cut ferns and cattails. These are fun to apply. You just pop them out and fold them together between thumb and forefinger, add a spot of ACC and presto! If you look carefully, you can make out a gator hiding next to a bunch cattails, while its sibling suns on a rock at the foot of the falls.