BY WERNER MEER US-RAILROAD-SHOP KILCHBERG
added: 10/16 / updated: 2/19
|HO Scale: Sullivan's Curve by Bernard Frontanau (France)|
This outstanding Sullivan's Curve Diorama was built
back in 1992. The radius in the curve is 110 cm.
It reflects the god old days before 1966 as Southern Pacific built their Colton - Palmdale cutoff. In other words, it is single track around the curve of Santa Fe with trackage rights of Union Pacific.
Please read additional information at the end of this page - just scroll down!
|Part 1 = finished Diorama / Part 2 = construction of the Diorama / Part 3 = the real Curve as it looks today|
Through the extensions of my Sullivan's Curve Diorama
on the West Side (Part 4) and on the East Side (Part 5), the time has come
to find a matching name to my expanding layout. Since it's a fictitious ATSF
(now BNSF) line situated somewhere in the southwest, I decided to name it:
the "BNSF DESERT AND SIERRA SUB", also known as
the "Southwest Scenic Route".
A "could have been" Santa Fe subdivision that is also used by the Union Pacific which has trackage rights over the line.
So I'll be able to run a variety of companies I like, Which are ATSF, BNSF, UP, SP, SSW, D&RGW, BN, and so on. It will be an "extended" modern period with interesting and colourfull lashups.
Now I just have to name the different points of interest the trains will encounter on the BNSF DESERT AND SIERRA SUB.
|Part 4 = West side extension of Sullivan's Curve / Part 5 = East side extension of Sullivan's Curve|
(for bigger size photos please click on 4-digit number under each photo)
|Part 1 = the finished diorama in 2016|
|Overview of famous rock formations named after photographer, Herb Sullivan - 7658|
|a Santa Fe EB train is passing the curve - 7561||very realistic landscaping (real or scale) - 7564|
|dirt road for access to tracks - 5519||7540|
Photos copyright by Bernard Frontanau
Scale: Sullivan's Curve by Bernard Frontanau (France)
|This outstanding Sullivan's Curve Diorama was presented at the 8th Convention for American Railroadfans in Switzerland in October 1994. We were pleased as Bernard Frontanau presented his "one of a kind" masterpiece again at the 10th Jubilee Convention in 1998. Within these 4 years, it was completly detailed as you can see above.|
Scale: Sullivan's Curve by Bernard Frontanau (France) - Part 2
The construction - how to do
It all started with Herb Sullivan, and others' photos
in the late Chard Walker book, "Cajon, rail passage to the pacific".
That led me to draw plans and sketches for my diorama. The original 10° curve translated to 195 cm radius in HO ! Using selective compression, I found a radius of 110 cm to be impressive enough. I built 4 portable modules to compose the diorama.
|My first drawing of the curve. The center module holds the famous rock formations - 8310||The foundation is an "open grid" of 2 x 4 cm. On top glued layers of styrofoam are roughly shaped to build the terrain contours. This is the main module. - 8312|
|Plaster carving is on its way. - 8313||Plaster work done. - 8314|
|Adding ground cover . . . . - 8316||. . . . and vegetation. - 8319|
|The main module is completed, still to come: track and ballast. - 8337||
The wooden grid for the module west (left) of the main
|Track support (18 mm plywood) and contours (10 mm plywood) added. - 8326||Again the terrain is built with styrofoam and shaped with a wood rasp to match the wooden contours. In this case I used tough cardboard for the slopes, it could be made with styrofoam. - 8327|
|Ground cover (different sizes of sifted sand) . . . - 8329||. . . . and vegetation added. - 8332|
|At the foreground the east (right) module is on its way. On the left the start of the small module that will support a rock formation is visible - 8333||The small module almost done. - 8334|
|Styrofoam stage of right module. - 8339||Installing code 83 flextrack with progressive superelevation. - 8340|
Photos copyright by Bernard Frontanau
|Sullivan's Curve - the real thing (2010 to 2014) - Part 3|
|May 2010 taken from the air already with BNSF third Main Track in service by W. Meer|
|May 2010 We are standing near the UP Track incl. Canyon siding (below are BNSF tracks) by W. Meer|
|June 2011 from left: BNSF MT-2, MT-1 and above UP track w/Canyon siding by W. Meer|
|May 2013 The Rocks rest in piece as there is no train around by E. Hänseler|
|December 2014 BNSF EB Cristmas Train on BNSF MT-1 going uphill by G. Trüb|
|May 2013 as seen from the left side. Below BNSF MT-2, MT-1 and above UP track w/Canyon siding by E. Hänseler|
|May 2012 UP SB on former SP track by M. Frei||May 2012 Two BNSF intermodal trains by M. Frei|
BNSF DESERT AND SIERRA SUB
Hereunder you'll find an introduction about my vision of my layout and informations
about the "how" and "why".
When I decided to install permanently my Sullivan's
Curve modules and use them as a starting point for the layout, I knew from
the beginning that I had no intention to build an HO model of the famous
Cajon Pass where the real Curve can be found. I cannot fill a room with the
same kind of scenery, I get bored very fast. I like scenery variety and the
challenge to blend everything logically to end up with a believable
miniature geology. These are the reasons that led me to build a model
railroad with freelance scenery and some "real" settings
The "BNSF Desert and Sierra Sub" also called "Southwest Scenic Route", is a "could have been" ATSF, now BNSF line situated somewhere in the Southwest. Through trackage rights agreements the line is also used by UP trains. Ultimately it will be a double level layout which will figure the continuous mountain climb of a railroad from a small settlement in the desert, through spectacular canyons and desert scenery, and finally accessing to a high mountain pass in the sierra. The progressive transition from desert to high sierra scenery is my main goal.
Westbound trains will appear at the lower level, will stop to add the necessary helpers, and will highball for the horrendous climb lying ahead. At summit the helpers will come off the trains and either go back downhill for their next assignment, or wait for especially heavy eastbound trains and help them with braking power on their descending run. The westbounds will then disappear from the scene. A hidden helix will connect both ends of the layout to provide continuous running and allowing for example full and empty coal trains to always run in the correct direction. Long trains at very slow speed fighting gravity and snaking through beautiful scenery is for me the ultimate thrill, eventhough there will be (very) little switching possibilities. Amtrak "Desert Chief " will provide both east and westbound passenger trains on the line. With just a few exceptions I add the modules only when they are completed except for the track. I like to work on sawhorses in order to have access from all sides during the building phases.
Following a plan I drew on paper at a scale of 1 meter being 4 cm, I start with a 2 cm x 4 cm open grid, I then add a 10 mm thick plywood fascia cut to the terrain contours I wish to create. I put this fascia only on the aisle side of the modules since the rear isn't visible. I sometimes use 3 mm "Isorel" where a curved fascia is more convenient than an "angled" one. Subroadbed is 18 mm plywood. Minimum visible curve radius is 90 cm.
I then fill up the grid with styrofoam to build up the terrain, and shape it with a rasp to match the fascia contours. I use normal building plaster over the foam to create the rock formations which are carved after the plaster has dried for about 24 h with chisels and other tools to obtain the desired effect. The final rock texture is given with the use of a wire brush. The groundcover is inexpensive sand and stones I sift in various sizes myself. It is spread over a layer of undiluted carpenter glue. After drying I wet everything with water in which I add a few drops of dishwashing detergent as wetting agent, this followed by a mix of 50/50 glue and water plus a few drops of the same detergent. After drying it is as hard as concrete. I color the plaster with watercolors applied with a brush and the groundcover with an airbrush. I use india ink mixed with water to darken some areas, and highlight rock faces and groundcover with drybrushing. Some rock formations are created with slabs of styrofoam I carved and then colored. This is a technique I wanted to try.
I use thyme branches for the trees and different commercial products for grass, bushes, and foliage. Ocotillos are made with very fine copper wire. Yucca "flowers" are finely ground white styrofoam. Lightning is provided by 5 watts LED spots, I choose them with a colour temperature of 4000 kelvin and a 100° light angle. It isn't too white neither too yellow.
Finally I would like to give a tip of the hat at Mr Lucien Wiss my friend and a great artist. He was a great inspiration and I learnt a lot watching him at work. - Bernard Frontanau
(for bigger size photos please click on
3-digit number under each photo)
Part 4: West of Sullivan's Curve by Bernard Frontanau (France) - Part 4
BNSF DESERT AND SIERRA SUB
|Here are photos of the first diorama West of my Sullivan's curve. Photos of the building steps showing how I handled the scenery transition to be "geologically realistic". The grid is 2 x 4 cm, the track support is 18 mm plywood, and the fascia 10 mm plywood.|
|West end of sullivans' Curve module 025||On this photo you'll notice the slight winding nature of the track support to get a more interesting effect. 031|
|new part at left and old part at right 033||Test fitting the module. Later I slightly cut down the highest part of the fascia. 035|
|Here you can see part of an old diorama I built in the 80s. It was discarded but I saved a few pieces to be inserted in future projects. It is a small drywash with abutments and bridge. I had to cut out a portion of the subroadbed to make it fit. 037||This is the plaster phase for a cut through a rock formation. 038|
|This photo shows the now inserted dry wash. 043||The expending scenery west of it with some hoodoos also called "the twin mushrooms" by the railroaders. 046|
|On this photo you see how the lower rock strata matches those found at Sullivan's curve. The angle of the stratas helped me to build a logical scenery transition between the two dioramas. 064||Slowly progressing scenery west of the dry wash. 068|
|This is the virtually finished scenery at the transition. Fascia isn't painted yet. 072||Here, the swallows nests are visible in the cracks between the stratas 074|
|Guardrails have been installed on the short bridge. 151||I used Peco code 83 American for the mainline and bulk code 75 for the guardrails. 152|
|The finished diorama. Pencil traces on the backdrop mark the painted "horizon" I added later on. 220||221|
|The rock formation at left is carved styrofoam, a technique I wanted to try. 241||242|
|Temporary placing the next diorama at the open grid stage. When I am sure it fits I put it on sawhorses, it's easier to work on it from all sides.|
|With the fascia installed. 110||Subroadbed with room for a future bridge. 113|
|On this one I began a project to test my skills. I chose the widest part of the diorama which correspond with the corner of the room in order to build a road in " forced perspective ". This to give that feeling of wide open range typical of the american west. I knew it would be a great challenge. 121||
There you see the beginning of the road full scale at
the fascia and slightly narrower at the future RR crossing.
I gave a rollercoaster shape to the road to make it more interesting. You also see the bases of future " mesas " that will restrict the viewing angle to avoid destroying the wanted effect. 123
|124||carving styrofoam to create the mesas. 127|
|138||A view from the rear looks terrible ! Isn't it ? 143|
|A closer view of the carving work. 145||The almost finished mesas temporary in place. I left them removable until I can hang the diorama at the wall. They will be easier to install afterwards. 165|
|Carved styrofoam in the background, carved plaster in the foreground. 173||The building was built years ago by Lucien who gave it to me. I added a lot of weathering plus an old car kit and some details. 179|
|Building a bridge over a dry lake. 212||The abutments are made out of plaster of Paris. 210|
|After fixing the painted backdrop, the module is in place and the mesas added. 222||Lots of details are still to come. I added a LED strip to the rear for future effects. 223|
|Slowly taking shape. 225||227|
|233||Still waiting for the "track layers". 238|
|Completed scenery with the typical "tourist trap". 359||The forced perspective: There is only 82 cm from the fascia to the sky backdrop. The van in the distance is N scale. I planned everything to have the top of the road slightly below my own eye level. 364|
|Homemade ocotillos and blooming yuccas. 366||Vestiges of the old narrow gauge trestle, first line to conquer the sierra. 368|
|371||On the right my "attempt" to make smoke trees... 375|
|428||a Santa Fe freight is passing the road crossing 426|
|Blooming yucca between the cars. 377||The "Tourist trap". 378|
|Latest acquisition to attract the passing by tourists. 608||609|
|This is the temporary end of the westbound scenery. 793||713|
|Perfect illusion of an endless road striking toward the horizon. - 424|
|Special light effects (early morning or late evening or night) are getting a very realistic view.|
Part 5: East of Sullivan's Curve by Bernard Frontanau (France) - Part 5
BNSF DESERT AND SIERRA SUB
|Here are photos of the second diorama East of my Sullivan's curve. Photos of the building steps showing how I handled the scenery transition to be " geologically realistic ". The grid is 2 x 4 cm, the track support is 18 mm plywood, and the fascia 10 mm plywood.|
|Below, you can see photos of the freelance scenery I built east of the curve. You'll notice the tunnel which is placed stragically between a curve and a countercurve, in order to be fully appreciated from the aisle. The portals are inspired by the ones which once stood at Alray (Cajon).|
|On this photo the end of the module closest to the camera will be the interface with the Sullivan's curve module. Notice the "stepped" frame to accomodate the 3 % downgrade to the right.. 279|
|Test fitting the module. 281||282|
|Making molds for the tunnel portals. 314||316|
|Plaster of Paris portals gently drying. 317||Building the tunnel becomes a challenging puzzle. 318|
|A piece of track is installed, ballasted and weathered before carrying on. 325||330|
|337||The aisle side will be on the right. 342|
|Future underpass for a dirt road. The metal culvert is made of aluminium cake container. 435||436|
|450||Module installed, the interface is still visible in the distance. 454|
|458||Another culvert with "homemade" retaining walls. I love that. 465|
|Tunnel view from the aisle. Note the scenic curve-counter curve. 511||512|
|471 is the start of the next module. I used 3 mm isorel (masonite ?) for the fascia instead of the 10 mm plywood.|
|This time I chose to put the styrofoam and cut holes to install the risers and screw them to the grid, . . . 475||
. . . instead of filling the foam around the
Result: A WASTE OF STYROFOAM, so no more. 476
|This module marks the end of the eastbound scenery progression. In a not too far future I'll show you what's going on at the lower level, with, for example, a replica of the Santa Fe's "spider bridge" in New Mexico. Bernie.|
|More photos of the BNSF DESERT AND SIERRA SUB will be shown in the future - just check back !|
go back to Diorama main page - click here
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