Click here for part II
Click here for part III
All of the final touches are in and the sound is turned on for Big Thunder Creek. Does that mean the scene is finished? Well, there's always more to add but we'll call it done for now!
Welcome to the fourth and final post chronicling the build of Big Thunder Creek. Its been a fun and rewarding project that has brought a lot of life to the layout. In this installment I'll add the finishing touches to the scene, including some animal life, an old cottonwood tree, and the sound effects of birds and rushing water.
The CottonwoodThroughout the desert Southwest, the majestic cottonwood has always been a welcome site. Cottonwood trees only grow near reliable sources of water like springs, creeks and stock ponds where they provide shade for weary travelers and habitat for wildlife. The bright green of a cottonwood grove can be seen for miles across the desert and always means life-saving water. When planning Big Thunder Creek I knew that it simply would not be complete without at least a representative sample of the cottonwood.
A Fremont Cottonwood in fall color beside a desert wash. Even if there's no water visible on the surface, a healthy cottonwood means that water can be found just below ground.
Cottonwoods have gray bark and distinctive branching trunks. I created mine using yard clippings from our paradise trees and Super Sage tree material from Scenic Express. The paradise tree clippings do a good job of representing the twisted trunks and thick branches of a typical cottonwood, while the sage is perfect for representing the smaller leaf-bearing branches and twigs. Paradise branches were trimmed and cemented together and a pin was cemented into the base to make it easier to plant on the layout and to work on at the bench. The Super Sage was soaked in diluted matte medium to make it pliable (as per the instructions) and then individual sprigs were cemented to the trunk and branches with fast-setting ACC.
The finished cottonwood and environs. The challenge here was to build a tree of realistic size that didn't completely overpower the rest of the scene.
Critters and Other DetailsWater in the desert attracts animals like a magnet, and while much of that illusion will be conveyed through sound effects, I wanted a few representative critters that would be visible to viewers.
The ducks and turtle in their natural habitat of Big Thunder Creek. For the record, the ducks are named Donald and Daisy.
Why did the armadillo cross the train tracks? To get to the creek of course! This little guy is a white metal casting from Wiseman Model Services.
More greenery along the creek. This small hill between the bridges was created to help separate the creek from areas to the right. The cacti are excellent plastic castings from Pegasus Hobbies.
An old Indian trail winds its way down to the creek from the mesa and a pair of Ute braves have stopped to pay their respects to Thunder Falls. The figures are from Woodland Scenics.
Adding SoundAs I have on previous projects, I turned to ITT Products when it came time to add sound to Big Thunder Creek. I wanted an ambient effect with the roar of the waterfalls coming from an upper speaker and babbling water and bird sounds coming from a speaker near the layout fascia. Their small sound modules are perfect for adding spot sounds like this to specific locales.
Here the two sound modules have been mounted to benchwork below the layout in a relatively easy to reach location.
The best way to demonstrate the sound modules is with a video. To wrap up the project, here's a short movie on the sights and sounds of Big Thunder Creek. Enjoy!
Thanks for coming along for the Big Thunder Creek project. I hope everyone enjoyed the journey. Of course, there's still lots to do on this side of the layout with Thunder Mesa Mill and other structure projects waiting in the wings. We'll see what I'm in the mood to tackle in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime, thanks for checking in, amigos. Adios for now!