Building a LEGO Mountain - Part II
← Catch up on Part I here
In the first post in this series we took a look at the mountain build right up to the point where I could go no further because I was waiting on baseplates to arrive. In the meantime, I turned my attention to the lower section and a new retaining wall which would cover the big ugly gap between the two curved Kallax desktops.
I’d been dreading working on this part for literally months. I do occasionally have thoughts like “this would be so much easier if I was into model railways”, and, “what the hell are you smoking?!” and this project definitely exacerbated that. But there’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment when you overcome a tricky building challenge and I wasn’t about to be defeated by a bit of wood (or more accurately, a bit of wood and some corrugated cardboard, as we found out last time).
I’m a big fan of the “get stuck in” method of building. I sometimes make rough sketches but try not to get too bogged down in techniques or measurements until the time comes to actually build. This is probably due in part both to me being lazy and the fact I dont want to feel like I’m just following instructions all the time. But there’s a more pragmatic reason, in that things naturally evolve over time and while you can plan stuff as much as you want, there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty and figuring it out based on what actually works rather than what should. High level plan, with the devil in the details.
After building a couple of sections like the one above, it felt like this was a decent enough approach to extend round the rest of the curve. I am eternally short of swivel bricks so had to use a combination of hinged plates and a bit of good luck to get everything lined up nicely.
Now. Building odd shaped walls and big mountains is one thing. The real challenge is getting them all lined up when they all sit on different levels. As I mentioned last time, using telescoping legs is a great way to allow for minor adjustment in height but it can still be a nightmare getting everyhing levelled out. Obviously this came back to bite me and I had to spend a fair bit of time fiddling with the various legs to get things even. Even then, the combination of hinge bricks, odd angles on the new wall and my masochistic desire to keep everything modular made it doubly frustrating. A couple of slightly warped baseplates certainly didn’t help either!
Nonetheless, after a long Saturday spent with a torch poking around inside the mountain, I had everything pretty much as accurate as it was going to get. The top of the wall clips into the underside of the corner module of the mountain and there are a couple more attachment points along the curve. This turns what was originally a fairly floppy bunch of masonry bricks into a solid structure that doesn’t budge an inch. And more importantly - there is no stress on any element.
After over two weeks waiting for my LEGO Bricks and Pieces order to arrive, I decided to say screw it and press on with the new area, and circle back to the river later. This actually worked out quite well because I can now easily remove the water - maybe it’ll turn into lava or something one day, who knows!
Anyway, the first step was to construct a platform for the other side of the valley. I’m a LEGO purist in so far as I don’t use off-brand bricks, but I have a few exceptions which I know might ruffle some feathers. I don’t mind third party train tracks (TrixBrix is a lifesaver!), I don’t mind cutting up baseplates (LEGO do this anyway) and I definitely don’t mind building foundations out of wood. If I’d constructed this out of bricks it would have weighed over 10kg and used thousands of bricks unnecessarily. Plus it’s a good excuse to get the power tools out and who doesn’t like a bit of that?!
With the support structure in place, it was time to dive back into Grey Slope World and start building up the second peak. As always, you can’t go wrong with a little cave and I quite liked the idea of this one running straight through the corner of the mountain. There’s a little hidden treasure room behind a door in there too. Details!
After a few days on the workbench, it definitely started to look more like a mountain. By this point my blue baseplates had arrived and I could finally get to work on the water. There is only one other stretch of water on my layout, the river that runs perpendicular to the station platform. That was a very early addition to the layout and hasn’t changed much in six months or so and I wanted to go a step further with this new section.
A very talented builder by the name of @allyouneedisbricks has been a source of inspiration since before I’d even started the layout, and I’m humbled to call him a friend now. He’s got some great techniques for adding depth and texture to what can otherwise end up being a flat, shiny expanse of trans-blue tiles.
So I started with dark blue plates to give the illusion of deep water in the middle of the river, gradually fading out into lighter blues and and trans-clear plates toward the edges.
Unless you’re on a canal, water is rarely still - it churns and froths and bubbles as it flows around natural obstacles in its path. Adding small rocks and other bits of debris, followed by trans-clear plates and tiles adds to the effect and really helps to bring the river to life. It’s far from perfect - I’d like to go back and add some more variation perhaps using dark green and black, and white nearer the edges. But for now, I’m happy with it!
Finally it was time to move the new modules into place. First the river, and then the new side of the valley. One of the benefits of having a small LEGO room is there’s less distance to travel when moving heavy mountains from the bench to the layout, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few “oh shit” moments when I nearly dropped the entire thing. It all worked out in the end though and I’m really happy with the finished product.
The next step would be to start work on the “secret project”. Can you guess what it is? Hint: it’s the tower.
We’ll dig into that in Part III. Thanks for reading so far!
Continue reading Part III here →