High Sierra

Assembly Instructions

 The High Sierra layout provides a no-mess method of building a scale model train layout.  The hills and grades, roads and rocks, fields and streams, are all molded into a rugged sheet of polystyrene.  The track roadbed is textured to simulate ballast and is designed to accommodate standard sectional track (Atlas SnapTrack), or with some modification, the type with the molded roadbed attached (Kato Unitrack and Atlas True Track™).  You'll also notice grooves molded into the roadbed indicating the centerline for the track and the track joints (more will be said about these later).  In addition to the choice of track, you also have a choice for the bridge across the ravine at the rear of the layout: the Walthers Timber Trestle, built according to the plans on page 4, or the Kato Unitrack Truss Bridge.
 The High Sierra can be operated on the floor, on the kitchen table or large coffee table.  When your run session is completed, you can store the High Sierra under a bed, in a closet, or hang it on the wall.  If you want a more permanent layout, a supportive frame can be constructed of light pine 1" x 3" or 1" x 4" lumber.  Legs can be fashioned of 2" x 2" pine.  Your hobby dealer has several good books which illustrate various types of table and benchwork construction techniques.

Repairing Cracks or Damage to the High Sierra
    Virtually any kind of crack or breakage is easily repaired. For cracks, simply apply glue to the inside surfaces of the crack and press back together until the glue has cured. If a piece of the layout has been removed (wrongfully cut or drilled, for example), sheet styrene (purchased at your hobby dealer) can be cut to size and glued into place. Bondo automotive putty and Green Squadron model putty can also be used.

The Basic Steps
 First, take inventory of all the parts contained in the High Sierra carton. These should include the following:
 A) Support pan, B) Main layout,  C) Instruction packet with  D) Bridge tabs (black plastic), and E) 4 plastic angles.

 Now, follow the steps outlined below and you'll be running trains in just a few hours (details for each of these steps will be found in the pages of these instruction sheets):
  1. Buy the track items listed in the Materials List on page 2 of these instructions
  2. Glue the track to the Support Pan (Item A)
  3. Install the Support Pan under the Main Layout (Item B)
  4. Glue the Bridge Tabs (Item C) to 2 bridges (Atlas Warren Truss or Plate Girder bridge)
  5. Purchase and build either the Walthers Timber Trestle kit or the Kato Truss Bridge
  6. Glue the remainder of the track to the Main Layout
  7. Connect the power supply and run trains

 If you have purchased an unpainted version of the High Sierra, wash all the surfaces which are to be painted in the future with warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Acrylic paints may be used but not thinned too much since water based paints tend not to adhere to the plastic surface. Remove any paint that may have been applied accidentally to areas that need to be glued.
 Perform all the work on your High Sierra layout on a solid, flat surface.  If the layout is not flat while you are laying the track, the bridges may be inclined to buckle or break when the layout is placed on a flat surface.

Let's begin...
 The High Sierra was designed specifically for any sectional track matching the sizes and radii of Atlas Snap Track.  Kato Unitrack™ can be used but it will require some modification. Follow the track plans (below) for proper fit.
 Atlas Snap Track is offered in a variety of easy to use sizes.  Straight sections range in length from 5/8 inch to 5 inches.  Full length curved sections are available in three different curve radii: 9-3/4", 11", and 19".  Half-length sections are also available and are specified on the track plan as 1/2-9 and 1/2-11.
 Kato's curved sections match the Atlas curves as far as radius is concerned, but are made in differenct degrees of a circle. Atlas offers 15 and 30 degree sections, Kato offers 15, 45, and 90 degree sections. The Kato roadbed will also have to be modified for curved sections that connect to turnouts.
 The plan calls for standard turnouts (switches).  Electrically operated remote turnouts can be used provided they are dimensionally the same as the Atlas Snap switches.

Materials List and Track Plan
Purchase your track assortment according to the list below and be certain to have all the pieces on hand before starting the track laying procedure.   The following is a list of all the Atlas track sizes and bridges you will need to bring your layout to life.

Straight                            Curved                                        Turnouts (Switches) 
26 #2501 5"                    28 #2510 9-3/4" radius                  5 #2702 Left-hand (manual) 
  7 #2509a 2-1/2"             7 #2511 1/2 9-3/4" radius                     (remote is #2700) 
  7 #2509b 1-1/4"             3 #2520 11" radius                       3 #2703 Right-hand (manual) 
11 #2509c  5/8"                2 #2521 1/2 11" radius                          (remote is #2701)

Bridges (front of layout)            Bridge over ravine                   Miscellaneous 
2 #2546 Warren truss bridges     1 Walthers #933-321                  6 #2536 End bumpers** 
             or                                           Timber Trestle or        2 #2538 Terminal Rail Joiners               
2 #2548 Plate girder bridges       1 Kato 23-042 Truss bridge

** Using the end bumpers is optional.  Some model railroaders  prefer a more realistic bumper, such as the Peco #841, which is installed at the end of a standard straight track section. Piles of old ties can also be used as bumpers at the ends of sidings.

 The basic track plan and the support pan track plan on page 5 show the proper placement of each section of track.  The guidelines marked in the surface of the layout are to be used as guides only  --  follow the track plan as the final authority.

Notes on Laying Track
 The easiest and quickest means of installing track on the High Sierra is to attach it to the layout with glue ("Zap-a-gap" is a readily available brand of super glue that works very well for this purpose).  Atlas and Kato brands of track have tie strips or roadbed molded of polystyrene  which makes them compatible with any model glue sold at your local hobby shop.  Since the layout is also molded of polystyrene, the glues will bond the track quite securely to the layout.
 Start by placing all the track sections in their appropriate location, connecting them as you go, then holding them in place with short pieces of masking tape placed across the rails.  Once the track is in place, double check your work, making certain that all connectors are properly installed and all rails are properly aligned.  A misaligned joint will always derail your trains.  With the tape holding the track securely in place, start applying the glue by dripping it between about every fourth tie.  Work only a couple of  sections of track at a time, using your fingers to apply gentle pressure to the tops of the rails to ensure a firm contact between the bottom surface of the ties and the roadbed.  Fortunately, model glues formulated for use with styrene cure very quickly, so you need only to apply  pressure for 30 to 60 seconds.  Using a chemical accelerator such as "Zip Kicker" speeds the curing time dramatically.  Ask your hobby dealer to recommend one of the many brands available today.
Use Atlas #2539 Terminal Joiners to make electrical connection in at least one location on the layout. Multiple block electrical systems will require one set of terminal joiners in each block. Consult one of the Atlas wiring manuals for further details.
 Do NOT glue the turnouts to the layout.  The smallest spot of glue can damage the turnouts, making them inoperable.  Glue down each section of track connected to the turnouts and let the turnout "float" between them.  If, several months in the future, a turnout should fail or break, it will be much easier to change if it isn't glued to the layout.

Where to Start
 It is time to decide on the style of bridge you wish to use for crossing the ravine at the back of the layout.  The Kato truss bridge comes pre-assembled and requires only the removal of the foundation blocks at each end (use a razor saw or sharp utility knife to carefully pry the blocks away from the bridge).  The Walthers timber trestle is a kit which should be built ahead of time, and built according to our special plans on page 4 of these instructions.
 The track will installed first on the support pan. Only after the pan is installed should the rest of the track be glued into place.
 Before laying any track, test fit the support pan (Item A) into the bottom of the layout. The roadbed surface of the support pan must line up with the roadbed outside the tunnel portals.  Minor sanding or carving may be required at the tunnel portals to help smooth the transition of the roadbed from the pan to the layout.  DO NOT INSTALL THE PAN YET.  Once the fit and alignment are assured, proceed with the installation of the track on the pan as outlined below.
 While closely following the Support Pan track plan on page 5, install each section of track along the molded-in center lines (cross-hair marks indicate the joints for the placement of the curved sections).   DO NOT glue the last section of track at the ends of the pan (marked with arrows on the track plan) so that adjustments can be made, if necessary, when the support pan is installed under the main layout.    
 The support pan is installed by carefully slipping the loose track ends through the tunnel portals of the main layout and pushing the pan up and into the "alignment shoulders" molded into the layout at each end.  The pan can now be glued into place. This will make the layout stronger and more rigid.  Sometimes minor warpage occurs during the molding process, requiring you to gently push various parts into place and to hold them tightly until the glue has cured. It is recommended that you use small spring clamps to hold the parts in place during the curing process. Do not turn the layout upside down for this procedure. It may become distorted and once the glue has cured, you will not be able to straighten it easily. Standing the layout on end so that it and the pan are vertical to the floor, you be able to align the parts and to clamp them in preparation for gluing. Apply the glue first at the points marked by the arrows (above), and at the black dots on the Alignment Shoulder areas. There are shoulder areas at the back of the layout which should be glued also. Drip the glue into the joint of the areas to be joined. after these have cured, place the layout right-side up on a flat surface, and drip glue into the joint between the tunnel portals and the support posts (left). Press down on the layout to align the roadbed surfaces until the glue cures. Adding weights temporarily will make this task a bit easier.  Even when using super glue, it is advised that you allow this completed assembly to cure overnight to assure a solid bond.
 Once the support pan is installed, the loose sections of track at each end (four sections in all) will protrude from the tunnel portals.  These will be glued down after the rest of the Main Layout track has been installed. Four plastic angles are included in the instruction packet. These are to be used as
reinforcement at the support posts. With the layout upside down, glue the short pieces of 90 degree angles as illustrated (right). These will make the layout even more rigid and provide added support at the tunnel portals.
 After installation of the support pan, you can begin laying track on the main layout.  Start securing  track with masking tape at the tunnel portal at the far left, marked X on the track plan, and work your way to the front of the layout, including the sidings and switches.  Continue laying track to the portal marked XX.  Again, double check all joints and connectors, then glue the track to the layout.  BE SURE THAT ALL TRACK CONNECTORS AND RAILS ARE PROPERLY ALIGNED BEFORE APPLYING THE GLUE. DO NOT GLUE THE TURNOUTS.  THE SMALLEST DROP OF GLUE IN THE MOVING PARTS WILL DESTROY THEIR OPERATION.
 Now, start laying track at the tunnel marked Z on the track plan and continue around to tunnel ZZ.  Double check all joints and connectors, and glue the track into place.
 All sidings are to be installed in the same manner, including the long siding up into the mountain.  When you get to the ravine, you will install the bridge you have chosen -- the trestle or the truss bridge.
Electrical Connections
Using the Atlas Terminal Rail Joiner, make your electrical connections at the rear of the layout, on the support pan. Drill two small holes on each side of the track near the Rail Joiners and feed the wires through to the underside of the layout. Putting a connectors on both tracks maximizes the current to the entire layout.

Building the Trestle
 The Walthers Timber Trestle kit can be built as a straight or curved trestle.  The High Sierra layout requires the straight version.  For proper fit on the layout, it is important that you follow these instructions.
 The vertical supports of a trestle are called "Bents."  In the Walthers kit, the bents are fabricated of two injection molded parts which must be glued together. Each of the parts is numbered and as you combine the parts, they are then referred to alphabetically.  (Parts #1 and 7 combine to make bent A, parts #2 and #8 make bent B, parts #3 and #9 make bent C, parts #4 and #10 make bent D, and parts #5 and #11 make bent E.  Bent F is a single piece which needs no additional work.  You will need none of the A bents, one B bent, and all of the others, C through F.  The single "B" bent needs to have its lowest (widest) section cut off so that it matches the four "C" bents in length.
 Remove the necessary parts from the sprue and clean off any flashing which may remain on the parts.  Some flashing seems to occur on the surfaces which need to be glued, so be careful to clean them off the part.  Glue the bents together according to Walther's instructions and set them aside, sorted by size.
 Assemble the top track support timbers by gluing the two halves of the straight sections (parts #12 and #13) together. After the glue has cured, cut this assembly to 9-7/8" long.   Tape this assembly upside down to a sturdy work surface (a piece of glass works very well for this procedure).  The cross timbers should now be on the top of this support assembly, and it is to these cross timbers you'll be attaching the bents.
 Glue the bents to the top support according to the diagram below.  The narrow part of the bent will be glued to the support, while the wider part points up.  The assembly pattern for the bents is illustrated below.  The horizontal timbers can now be glued to the bents.  TIP: Use Evergreen .040" strip styrene instead of the individual pieces included in the Walthers kit.  Glue the strip in a continuous span across the width of the trestle.  This will proceed much faster, and neater, than trying to install the small individual timbers.  When the trestle is completed, paint it with a flat brown paint. Be sure to cover all sides of the timbers (this task is easiest with a spray can or airbrush).  When the paint has dried,  test fit the trestle to the layout.  The top track support timbers should line up with the roadbed.  Trim if necessary and glue the trestle to the foundations molded into the layout.


Pattern for bent assembly                                                                      The finished trestle

Paint and Scenery Tips
 Your hobby dealer can supply you with a variety of paints in a wide range of colors and finishes.  They can be brushed or sprayed with an airbrush, or sprayed straight from aerosol cans.  How and where you apply the colors is entirely your choice.  Generally, a dull or matte finish paint will give the most realistic results.  Glossy rocks and grass are not natural looking.
 Buildings, trees, and bushes are easily attached to the layout with styrene glue or super glue.  Woodland Scenics, makers of a wide range of scenery materials, offers tree kits which are quite realistic and very easy to make. To realistically "plant" a Woodland Scenics tree, drill a small hole the size of the pin molded in the bottom of the trunk (usually 1/16 inch).  Place a drop of glue on the pin and insert it into the hole.
 Browse through your local hobby shop and you'll find large assortments of  detail accessories, all designed to help make your layout more realistic.  The addition of signs, barrels and crates, cars and people, can bring your layout to life.   Some model railroaders install "sky boards" on the back of their layouts.  This is a flat piece of masonite or foam core board which is painted sky blue and dotted with white clouds.  There are also commercially printed backgrounds available which can be glued to a sky board, adding a great deal of depth and realism.
    Water is always a challenge. Several products are on the market which allow you to create realistic water in ponds and streams. One of the most popular is called Envirotex, a 2-part resin compound sold in arts and craft stores. We found it best to pour it in layers of 1/8 inch or less to avoid shrinking or cracking. It cures to a high, transparent gloss and is said to be equal to 50 coats of clear varnish. Another popular, and easy to use, product is Woodland Scenics' E-Z Water. It is comes originally in small pellet form and when the pellets are heated, they turn to liquid. The fluid is then poured into the pond or allowed to flow down a stream. Again, it is recommended that you build up the depth of the pond by pouring thin layers of 1/8 inch or less.
    Adding details around the shore line of ponds and streams also adds realism. Before pouring the simulated water, glue twigs along the banks of the stream to simulate fallen logs, and place rocks in the stream and along the shore of the pond. After pouring the water and allowing it to cure, glue clumps of weeds and grass texturing material to the areas surrounding the water. Experiment and have fun with the scenery activity for there really is no right or wrong way to do it.

About the Bridges at the Front of the Layout
 The elevated track across the front of the High Sierra layout is designed to accommodate the Atlas Warren Truss or Girder Plate bridges.  Use one of each, if you wish.  In the instruction packet are four small pieces of black styrene (Bridge Tabs) cut to fit into the notches molded into the bottom of the bridges.  Glue one of the tabs at each end of each bridge and allow the glue to cure thoroughly before proceeding with installation.   To fit the bridges tightly into the abutments, trim small slivers from each tab with a sharp razor knife.  Once the track is in place, up to and across the bridges, glue the bridge tabs securely to each abutment.  Do not attempt to move the layout until the glue has completely cured.

Track Plan for Support Pan (Install this track before the Main Layout)


Main Layout Track Plan

Drawing not to scale
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Terrain for Trains  Division of American Plastics
24424 Main Street, Unit 603, Carson, CA 90745
Phone 310-834-9227