Building a LEGO Mountain - Part I

Ever since I started the layout I’ve had big plans for one area in particular. It’s about 4ft square, slightly recessed and a nightmare to work with ever since I decided curved Kallax tabletops were the way to go. Space in my LEGO room is at a bit of a premium so the cut-out section lets me move around the room without walking into a sharp corner every two minutes!

The absolute state of this area before I started the big clearance!
The absolute state of this area before I started the big clearance!

Back when I first started planning things, I had envisaged using this space for a fairground. But as time has gone on and I’ve got back into building MOCs, I slowly started to come up with a bigger, better plan for the space based around a castle and a small medieval village.

Enter the mountain.

The first thing to do was clear and clean the space. I’d been using this area as a dumping ground for most of the year and there were dozens of half-finished projects, table scraps, mini builds and all the rest of it - plus one or two big sets as well. I moved Barracuda Bay and the Treehouse out of the way first, and then disassembled a bunch of old rock modules and station buildings. There is something weirdly cathartic about breaking down old builds. Sad to see them go, but it’s all in the name of progress.

With the surface cleared of debris, it was time to start building up the base of the mountain. I used a bunch of telescoping legs from B&Q (a hardware store for any non-UK folk) which allow for very small adjustments via threaded plastic feet. This meant lining the various sections up into LEGO module heights was a doddle, a lesson I had quickly learnt the hard way when building the main layout.

Starting to build up the foundation layers
Starting to build up the foundation layers

The next step before I could start building properly was to get a sense of the height and scale of everything. I wanted a path running up the mountain which would give access to the upper levels and eventually the castle and other buildings. Just like with the steps at the other end of town, I started with a simple scaffold made of LEGO’s moulded stairs. I’m a big fan of these pieces and used a fair few in the new station bridge, but for this purpose they’re simply acting as a guide.

As with the rock steps down the other side of the layout, I started with a simple framework to judge the height and curve
As with the rock steps down the other side of the layout, I started with a simple framework to judge the height and curve

During the initial construction of the rock walls that support the main town, I went a bit crazy with my grey slope purchases. As a result I had a pretty decent collection of parts to make a start with, but I would soon find out I still had nowhere near enough of the ones I really needed… Still though, with the addition of the freshly recycled old rock modules it was more than enough to make a good start.

It's mountain building time!
It's mountain building time!

People often comment on how fast I build. I can assure you I’m really not that fast - I just forget to go to bed sometimes. Particularly when building big intricate things like this, it’s easy to just completely zone out and what feels like ten minutes quickly becomes ten hours. Looking back at these photos now it’s amazing to see the progression from a “big picture” viewpoint, as opposed to being totally lost in the minutiae of each section.

Humble beginnings - the first section of the new mountain moved into place
Humble beginnings - the first section of the new mountain moved into place

If you’ve followed my @nwbricks Instagram you’ll probably know I have an annoying (and expensive) habit of building full interiors for things that will never be seen. There’s a basement level in the station shops that I would literally have to dismantle the entire platform to get access to, and a fully wired-up secret lab inside a cave behind the signal box. So you know I had to make use of the dead space inside the mountain somehow!

Originally I was just going to have a cave leading into the belly of the beast but I had a full on lightbulb moment when the plans for some bunker doors suddenly popped into my head.

The mechanism is relatively straightforward. The doors are built upside down with 1x4 technic tooth plates at the top (or bottom, I guess). There is a driving gear at each end connected to the input crank and the whole assembly slides over a series of pulley wheels with slick tyres. You can see a little video of the doors in action below. At the time of writing, the interior of the mountain is still totally empty but I will tackle that once I’ve done the outside!

Around the middle of October the new Elf Clubhouse set was released. With work on the castle still waiting to get started (and still, today) I decided to stick the elves up top for now where they will probably stay for most of Christmas. By this time I’d completed the wraparound rocks on the base level and had an interesting experiment in slicing up a Kallax desk.

IKEA continue to amaze me with their design thinking - the desktops are constructed from corrugated cardboard sandwiched between thin sheets of hardboard and reinforced at each corner. I lopped about 200mm off one end using a craft knife, spun it round and screwed the legs back on and hey presto!

Starting to look at bit like a mountain now!
Starting to look at bit like a mountain now!

The next step was to start planning a valley. When I initially started thinking about the mountain, I’d had a crazy idea to build a second peak (shut up Covid) which would form the base of a “secret project” - more on that later. To get this smooth transition I had to build up the back wall a bit, so that it would curve down nicely, hit the valley and then shoot back up again without looking too contrived. At the back of my mind I was also thinking about how to cover up the big ugly gap between the two curved desks, and ultimately decided on a river which would flow into a waterfall at the near edge.

Adding the back wall for the new valley
Adding the back wall for the new valley

At this point I had to wait a couple of weeks for some blue baseplates to be delivered, so turned my attention to the curved retaining wall on the lower section. This feels like a nice point to wrap up, so be sure to check out Part II where we’ll dive into some more details.

Thanks for reading!

Continue reading Part II here →

· build, MOC, mountain, castle