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The Rogue River

Grants Pass is probably most famous for the spectacular Rogue River which runs through it. Since it wasn't on my master plan (because there was no master plan) I hadn't thought about how to create a river on a piece of plywood. When I decided to include it, at first I was going to use paint and texture to simulate water. But I realized that such a large and important piece deserved more.

The foremost challenge was creating the needed depth. I resolved that issue by placing a 4' x 8' x 1" sheet of pink foam (the brand name is Foamular) on top of the plywood base, raising the town and surrounding neighborhoods. I was then able to carve out the river area. I also added a small pond in the park and there's a good chance that I might use the "excavating" technique in a later expansion elsewhere on the layout.

Here's a time when those individual
removable modules were very useful...

Raising the Town
A 4'x8' piece of foam was inserted, raising the town by 1" to accommodate the river.

River of Foam
Creating the river banks out of foam...

The river area
...then the foam gets covered in
plaster and the river starts
to take shape.

Water Surface Testing
Testing surface effects on a piece of clear styrene taped to a black
background - quick and cheap.

Water Tests
Each plaster or plastic square was
used to test mulitple products
and techniques.

With very little experience modeling water, I spent a year (on and off) in research and testing, watching videos and trying dozens of products and techniques (see the pictures above). But by the time you read this, I will have discarded most of my collection of water tests. (It's like throwing away your old homework after you graduate.)

In March 2021, using results from all those tests, I prepared the riverbed and added the "water" and surface texture. (After the riverbed was painted and landscaped, it actually started to look like a river even before the first drop was added. Kind of neat!)

I used three layers of Woodland Scenics Realistic Water (waiting 48 hours between pours!), a bit of Moss Green tint in the middle layer, Mod Podge gloss for most surface texture (blowing through a straw in some areas to attain a water ripple-like pattern) and a bit of Woodland Scenics Water Waves and Water Ripples for a rougher, rapids-like look in a couple of spots.

River Bed
The painted and landscaped
riverbed, ready for water.

A custom corner shelf, drop cloth
and other protection while I pour
the river with the layout in place.

Rogue River
The completed Rogue River.

Water Products
The products I used for the
river are in front, the ones I tried
but didn't use are in back.

Rogue River
The beautiful Rogue River in GP...

Downstream Rogue
...and downstream.

If you would like more details about my water modeling techniques just let me know.

Reinhart Park

Reinhart Volunteer Park, along the Rogue River, is a large recreational area containing multiple sports fields, tennis courts, a number of picnic areas and several miles of walking/biking paths.

I had originally intended to place a small sports field or two on the property, but realized I had nowhere near enough space to do that. So to keep the park a proportional size, I decided instead to make a simple area containing just a few familiar tidbits like the pond, bridge and overlook.

The Park and River
The river was dry in this
early park picture.

The Park and River
Another shot of the park.

The Park and River
The completed park and river.

Rogue River
The Rogue, south of town.

Taprock, Jet Boats and the Caveman Bridge

Taprock is a locally famous restaurant on the Rogue River. It's a large, dynamic-looking structure that sort of resembles a ski lodge. The views of the river, either from the dining room or the deck, are fantastic.

The kit-bashed building that I created is much smaller than it should be, but the major features, colors, landscaping and location (not to mention the sign) make it easy to identify.

Any depiction of Grants Pass and the Rogue River isn't complete without the famous Hellgate Jet Boats. They start the trip at a dock behind Taprock. (Check out the pictures below.) By the way, if you're going to be in this area during the summer months, they are well worth the adventure. (Think of me when you jet down the river!)

Although finding an "off-the-shelf" solution for the boats was unlikely, I got a couple of HO scale row boats and built a new interior more closely resembling bench seats.

Adjacent to Taprock is another popular landmark, Caveman Bridge. Its unique arches were a challenge, but I made a jig for my band saw and created them out of thin MDF (medium density fiberboard) pretty easily.

Taprock planning
Taprock in the mock-up stage.

Taprock Kit
Here's the laser cut kit that I used
(heavily modified) for Taprock.

Taprock construction
Under construction.

Caveman Bridge Construction
Cutting the arches for Caveman Bridge.

Taprock and Caveman Brdige
Taprock and Caveman Bridge
take their places.

Jet Boat Construction
Jet boat construction.

Taprock Dock
Taprock, Caveman Bridge
and the Jet boats.

View of Caveman Bridge
A view of the Caveman Bridge
from Taprock's dining room.

Google satellite view of Taprock.
That's the 7th Street bridge.

Redwood Empire Sign (a.k.a. Redwood Sign)

It's never been my goal to model the entire town. But there are several landmarks that I thought would add interest and entertainment.

The Redwood sign is a locally famous artifact erected in the 1940s and has recently been repaired with new neon. Since I was making the sign during the refurbishment, I decided to try and illuminate it and I accidentally found a way to create a neon light effect.

I made a small frame out of styrene pieces and placed a small box behind it. (It sort of looks like an old television.) It was easy to recreate the sign in Microsoft Word using white type on a black background. After printing it on photo paper, I cut it to the size of the sign, put a small light behind in the box, and realized it looked pretty good.

But in my first test, light bled through the solid black areas a bit, so I knew I would have to make some type of mask.

Using an ultra-fine Sharpie, I drew boxes around the words and blacked out the large solid areas. But because I was afraid the ink would run, I left a little space between the letters and the lines. This turned out to be the key to attaining a "glow" around the words.

Sign lamp
Looking like an old television, I made
this little light box out of styrene.

Masking the sign
"Masking" the see-through parts of
the sign. A lamp under a glass table
stands in for a light table.

Redwood Sign Lit
The lit Redwood sign.

Real Redwood sign
The real sign.

6th Street
A view down 6th Street.


At the end of 2021, not long after the famous Redwood sign pictured above was refurbished, a car hit it.

Well, in a case of art imitating life, my kitty recently happened to jump onto my layout and knock a car into the river taking out a tree in the process. (I decided to leave it like that.)

River Crash

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt in either event – not even the kitty.


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