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Over a period of about six months I had designed and half built 3 new layouts, with each one if completed, to be displayed at local and interstate model railroad exhibitions. The main criteria for all these designs was that they operate automatically or with the minimum of input and the layout feature tall trees and log loading facilities. I would much prefer to be building and demonstrating model building to the visiting public than operating trains. But not one of them seemed to work and I couldn't put my finger on what I was doing wrong. It seemed the more time I spent at the drawing board (a computer screen) the more the layout didn't work. What to do?

The trees in Cannibal Creek are built using the age old method of shaping a balsa trunk and staining it to the colour tree being modelled. I then use pieces of "Statis", which is a local plant. That's the local name for it and I'm sorry I don't know if you have it in your part of the world and what it's called. It's the dried flower head that is used. These are cut to branch length, a hole poked into the truck and the branch glued in. Once the whole tree is complete, I sprayed the branches using a cheap can of adhesive spray and while wet roll the tree in course green ground foam. When all the trees are complete I sprinkled "Woodlands Scenics" fine green foam from above to form highlights. All the trees were then sprayed with a white glue/water mixture. The big trees take about  4 hours to complete with  the smaller ones about half that time.

The had fitted the trees with headless nails in the bottom of the truck so they could be stood up in an old door I used as a spare bench in my workshop, with the intention of adding the final layer of green flock and a spray of water/glue to hold all the foliage on. This is especially important if the layout is to be moved to and from exhibitions. Having completed this final task on the trees, I was standing back admiring the trees when I thought I might start adding the structures to see how they looked with the trees. I then started to move the trees around into a forest scene with the building included. This was starting to take on the appearance of a layout, so I grabbed some track I had and laid it into the scene, along with a curved trestle, as can be seen opposite.  As well, I added the three bunk houses, two offices, two donkey engines and one portable log loader that I had built. I Finally, I stood the back scene up behind the scene. Low and behold, I had designed a layout on the spot in one to one scale, and it worked (in my opinion) perfectly. It was exactly what I wanted and filled all the requirements I had listed for a layout.

I then drew a line around what I had laid out, which became the outer edge of the layout, as can be seen opposite. I used this mock up to transfer measurements, building, track and tree locations to the actual layout.

Because the layout is only six feet long, I wanted to divide the layout into three distinct scenes, with the trees screening each scene from the other. Also the angled ends enhance this division. Below can be seen the three scenes which run left to right in the layout.

Above is the plan of the layout / diorama