Deep breath. How bad could it be to put scenery over the staging tracks?
Ok, it's done. I finally started building the scenery along the Alma siding, turning the corner curve at Alma from a place to see benchwork and the back wall into the beginnings of a hillside. In the process, I started covering up the hidden tracks below; they haven't been very accessible with the benchwork in place, but the scenery really cuts access further. Still, it's a necessary step. I've got hidden trackage, and that means it's got to be hidden at some point. The track below sometimes needs cleaning (and I think I've got enough access), but it's been running reasonably well so I don't think I'll need to do trackwork there any time soon. And even if I did, at worst I'll have to tear up some scenery to get some space to work, and that's not so bad, right?
On the other hand, I still remember that really cool cliff face I had on my teenage model railroad that came out so beautifully... but the 50' and longer cars I was trying to run kept bumping into the cliff face because of insufficient clearance. I rebuilt that cliff face, but it never looked as good as the first one...
For the Alma hillside, I used the same techniques as before. My backdrop is 1/16" styrene sheet, bought at the local plastic supply store (Tap Plastics) for less than $2/square foot. It cuts easily, bends nice, and takes paint fine. The scenery is white beadboard foam, cut with a hot wire tool and various knives, and glued in place (carefully and quickly!) with hot glue. The actual scenery surface is Sculptamold, a plaster/paper mache mix.
The space underneath is cramped; here's a picture directly below that scenery showing the Alma tracks, then the Vasona Junction wye, (in the shadows) the tracks heading towards the San Jose staging, and finally in the foreground the exposed San Jose staging tracks. Getting the backdrop in place behind Vasona Junction will be a bit of a challenge; it'll be attached with Velcro so I can still get to the tracks behind if necessary. The lower backdrop will lead under the Alma deck ; there's probably only a 5" wide area underneath the other level, but I think I can model Winchester Road and orchards as both arms of the wye dive through the backdrop.
I had two hitches with this project. First, my can of blue sky paint was old, and while it looked good in the can, it didn't have enough acrylic binder to stay on the backdrop. Instead, it just dripped big blue drops on all the scenery. Mixing the bad paint in with the white base fixed the problem before everything dried. Also, as I finished putting in foam scenery downhill and to the left of the new hill, I realized I still had a C clamp holding the Alma shelf to a support. My cordless drill and some contortions got that permanently attached, and now I've got another C clamp available for projects. Glad I saw that while I still had space for the drill!
Next steps: Start putting in ground at the Alma hill, then start building the scenery downhill from this scene to the far end of the Alma siding. It'll be fun to see what happens with that scenery. There's going to be a crossing of Los Gatos Creek, and there's also a (currently unused) switch for a long spur/branch that could lead to a space above the helix about six feet away. I've occasionally thought of industries there - perhaps a mine site and small town modeled after the mercury mines one ridge over at New Almaden, or (more prototypically) some minor oil drilling sites. Oil's actually been found in Los Gatos Canyon, and there was a spur at Alma in the SPC days to serve the production from Moody Gulch. Check out the USGS report for more details about the oil well in Los Gatos and the potential for measurable oil underneath Cupertino and Saratoga. Make sure you get mineral rights when you buy land in those towns!