4 Easy Methods for Model Train
Hill or Mountain Construction
Making model railroad scenery can be one of the
most interesting aspects of building your own railroad layout. Not only do you get to use your
creativity to its limit, you also get to do a lot of experimentation. The great thing though, is
that there is no right or wrong way to go about it. You can make anything and see how it goes with
your theme. If you don’t like it, you can redo do it and learn new techniques in the process.
Remember, practice makes perfect. So the more structures and scenery you construct, the better you
will get at doing it. Here are some quick model train scenery construction tips for
Making Hills and Mountains
Hills, mounds, and possibly mountains can
become an essential part of any scale railroad. Although in mentioning that; some train layouts,
such as shelf switching layouts, are usually perfectly flat. However for the purposes of this we’ll
look just at setups with mounds, hills, or mountains. Trains running through interesting scenery
The first thing to mention is that when it
comes to construction there are various methods for making raised areas on a railroad. And, despite
what other modelers in this hobby might say, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional methods
that have been used for decades. It’s just that there are more modern materials such as styrene and
insulated foam that are preferred by many modelers. It really is a matter of what method you
personally favor and are comfortable using. Here are some construction method explained briefly for
you starting with the more traditional methods.
In early days the glue for paper mache was made
using a mixture of plain kitchen flour and water at a rate of one part flour to four parts of
water. The paste was sometimes boiled gently to make it a smoother consistency. Some people added a
dash of sugar or salt to help preserve the paste and prevent it from becoming moldy. These days
many modelers use white wood glue instead. They mix it 50/50 with water. Whichever method you use,
it is probably best not to glue the paper mache directly to the baseboard as you might want to
relocate the mountain or hill at a later date.
The paper mache technique basically involves
soaking strips of cut up pieces of newspaper into glue or paste and then gluing lots of glued
pieces over top of each other to form the shell for a mountain. You can glue the pieces over large
rolled up balls of paper or possibly chicken wire which can serve as the internal structure. After
several layers are applied, the mountain can be left to properly dry out before painting or
covering with ground cover or other scenic features. Old bits as rock rubble scattered around the
bottom of cliffs can look very realistic.
The things you would require to make a hill or
mountain with this method are chicken wire, some model rock, wire cutters and a little water. The
chicken wire will make the structure of your hill. Since it’s easy to mold with hands, shape it any
way you like, depending on the type of hill you are trying to create.
Cut the model rock as per requirements and then
wet it. Start gluing the small pieces on the chicken wire until completely covered. Once you are
done, leave the structure overnight to dry. You can add more glue to strengthen things, and
remember to ensure there is enough strength under the rock so it doesn’t collapse. You can spray
paint this hill according to your wishes. Also add some scatter to make it look more realistic.
Your trains will look good against scenery like this.
A number of materials can be used with plaster
including: window screening, chicken wire, or cardboard webbing which gets covered in kitchen paper
towels soaked with a “soupy” plaster mixture forming the basic substructure. Although this
technique can be messy the thickness can be built up and later carved and shaped to form the
landscape contours you want.
Latex molds can be purchased (or you can make
your own) for the purpose of constructing cliffs and rock faces. Latex molds can prove a timer
saver when compared to carving out shapes. If you want to make your own latex molds you can make
the molds using lumps of coal or real rocks. You can buy latex from hobby shops and online scenery
supply stockists such as Woodland Scenics.
The thing to remember when mixing your plaster;
is to add the dry plaster mix to the water, and not do it the other way around. The wet mixture
needs to resemble a thick pancake batter. Trying to add more water to the plaster mix after it has
started to set is usually not a good idea. It won’t necessarily slow the setting time, but it could
make the plaster become crumbly in which case it is best to start over.
Hydrocal plaster can be used with a softer
finishing coat of specialist molding plaster. Some modelers prefer drywall compound for their
terrain-shaping. Most plasters are simple to stain or color.
Perhaps the most popular technique these days
for train scenery construction involves using insulation foam boards (available from a DIY or
Hardware Store). The blue or pink colored insulated foam can easily be shaped using a hot wire tool
Scenics sell them), or you can use a serrated knife. The foam board is lightweight
and can be built up in layers and easily shaped with a sanding block or knife. It can also be
covered with plaster impregnated gauze (similar to what orthopedic surgeons will use when making a
cast for a broken leg).