Wayne Roderick, 3rd Division, PNR, NMRA (life)

09/20/98 rev 01/16/07

This is a preliminary page with a couple of photos and no drawings. Herein I hope to dispel the myths and counter the advice of so many others that tell you not to consider using real water in your model railroad lakes, ponds and streams. We'll do it by listing a few caveats painfully learned in the first attempt and tell you what we did to dramatically succeed as evidenced by many years of trouble free service.

DON'T build waterways with plaster or other materials and line them with fiberglass!

WHY? Fiberglass in many layers is great for boats, but a single sheet of fiberglass fabric with a base and cover coat of resin will slowly deteriorate and develope pin holes- then the water enters the sponge like plaster and destroys it.

DO Build waterways with plaster or your favorite technique, just so its strong enough to support the weight of the water, paint in detail and then line them with several layers of clear silicon sealer worked in place with your fingers. Bring the silicon far above the water line, an inch or more if possible. You can add underwater and edge detail to the silicon after you're confident of a couple good layers.

WHY? The silicon holds up and the multiple coats make it likely that voids will be avoided. Water makes a "bathtub ring" of solid material that grows up the containment walls and acts like a wick reaching for the spongy plaster. It may take months or years, but it'll do it!

DO Build a large pond by making a male mold and taking it to one of those plastic companies that vaccuum form advertising signs. They'll vacuum form a monolithic pond for you. It'll never leak. Check with them first to see what dimensions they can handle. After it's made you can form a waterfall or spillway with a heat gun. Make sure that your waterfall has a short vertical lip under the edge, like a pouring spout on a pitcher. Paint it and glue bottom detail on with silicon sealer.

DON'T Use hard water, and don't run the system continuously.

WHY? The bathtub ring mentioned above is accumulative- requiring the minerals in hard water and time--. Time means more evaporation and more replacement water with its mineral load. Reduce the time factor by running the water only when your are using or showing the railroad.

DO--- Use water that is soft, filtered with reverse osmosis system or purchased as demineralized. Provide a drain down system so the water returns to a covered (non-evaporating) reservoir during periods of non use. We fill the monolithic lake at Moosemilk with a hidden syphon tube that sucks it nearly dry when the pump is turned off. Your supply reservoir should be big enough to cover the immersible pump (for cooling) when the waterway is working. We use a three gallon plastic bucket on a shelf under the lake and covered a sheet of plexiglass notched for the wires and pipes. The cover is in two pieces so it's easily slid back to add water.

WHY? I haven't figured out how to stop the bathtub ring problem except by keeping the mineral content down, and this determines the life of the system. When the bathtub ring climbs out of the waterway and reachs your plaster, the water starts wicking out and a major rehab is is in order. Everytime you add water that has mineral in it, you shorten the life of the system!

DON'T mess around with cheap pumps like those used in swamp air conditioners. They're noisy and short lived.

DO use one of the Little Giant direct immersion pumps. Available at most garden shops or see http://www.plumbingstore.com.

DON'T use laundry bluing or other ingenious chemicals to color the water.

DO use simple food colorings, blue & green to get the desired color. They also make a wonderful tracer to spot leakage into your surrounding plaster scenery. If you don't like the coloring, you can kill it with a bit of chlorine bleach that dissipates overnight and start over. A few drops of bleach will also kill algae and bacteria if you should have a problem. We haven't, but it works in the outdoor garden pond.

Oh-- one last thing. The experiment with the guppies was a disaster.

These are the caveats we learned building the two systems. The second generation has been working nicely for many years. I finally had to replace the pump when I let the resevoir get too low and it overheated prompting me to get this info on line. This forground scene using real water has proven to be a very satisfying part of the Teton Short Line and is second only to the painted backdrops in generating positive comments from our visitors.

In the snapshot below, see the mill pond with the monolithic plastic liner above at the mill town of Moosemilk on the Termite Timber Line (TTL). It dumps over a water fall known as Conn Founded Falls, named for the artist friend that suggested it as a foreground scene. The waterway continues under four unique bridges, flowing to left where it drains to the covered reservoir below and out of sight. The 60 ton GE steeple cab switching Ross Yard is a modified Suydam on lease from the Bill Wilts (dec) South Side Lines since 1977.

Water on the TSL

In the older snapshot, circa 1980, you can see some detail in the dry downstream left of the above shot. The deep gorge has palisades made from homemade molds of a lava flow and is a novel piece of scenery in the near foreground that a visitor can look down into. A PVC pipe drain controls the water depth and is normally hidden with pieces of rock. In the background is the RR Ross mine served by the small yard under trolley wire then. Now it's catenary.

Water on the TSL
09/02/01 Alas-The water has dried up for a while. Major upheavel and reconstruction of the mountains is underway to make everything on the TSL easily accessible.

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