What's pictured only took about 5 hours to do. Alot of reading and research before hand though.
I got alot of good info for creating the raised section from here: http://www.btcomm.com/trains/primer/fence_posts/fence_posts.htm
There were some other links on that site that had the info on using pvc conduit instead of burying wood posts.
I had a previous layout in that same area before redoing the yard and adding the deck with the track layed out on the ground. The ground is sloped there and we do get some water run off in that area so I originally just planned to put the lava rocks ther with some flowers and the statues.
My plan was to have the track layout along the fence past the deck section. My wife liked having the trains run right next to where you sit so they're back there for now.
It's hard to model anything on the lava rocks so next year I'll expand the layout past the deck like I originally planed and do the main structures and themeing along that section.
Knowing it was sloped and had water issues I definately wanted to go with a raised layout.
It was pretty simple to do. Once the radius cuts are made for the curves everything just screws together.
I layed the wood roadbed in place and then marked out the spots to sink the pipe every 20-24".
I used 2" pvc electrical conduit pipes cut to about 20-26" depending on how much needed to be raised and just pounded them down to at least 18" with a sledgehammer to try and get below the frost line.
Luckily there weren't to many rocks in the soil.
From there I placed the wood roadbed back on top of the posts and leveled it out. Then I cut some 2" staircase ballisters to about 6" and slid them into the conduit and screwed it to the roadbed.
This way it held the track in place so it doesn't slide and you can raise the roadbed if the posts sink by putting a screw through the pipe into the ballister. If the posts rise up you can simply pound them back down down to level it.
Good luck with your layout!