View Full Version : Making Mountains

13th Feb 2005, 03:42 AM
I use a modified Dave Frary technique.

In Frary's book, "How To Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery", he suggests you start with a lattice work of cardboard strips to get the basic shape desired and then drap paper towels dipped in plaster over the lattic frame. I substitute used "dryer sheets" for the paper towels as they don't cost me anything (my wife would normally throw them out).

Once the initial hard shell has dried, you can add more plaster to certain areas and carve your rock face with a knife.

Boy, I reduced an entire chapter in the book to two paragraphs.
Hope this helps.

13th Feb 2005, 10:00 AM

there are many ways to make mountains.
will has mentioned one good method.
its easy, quick, and lightweight.

another is to also make a base form with crumpled newspaper, taped down with masking tape to make the basic form of the mountain.
and then plaster cloth over it to make a hard plaster shell.
this is also easy, quick, and lightweight.

a third option is to make a basic frame for the overall form, then lay wire mesh over it to make the basic shape.

a fourth, and very popular method, is to layer the mountain shape out of multiple sheets of extruded(insulation) foam.
here, strarting from the base scenery level, layers of foam are piled up to the mountain height, and then carved to the basic shape of the mountain.

of course, many combine the above techniques to suit their own style or available materials at hand.

afterwards, plaster, plaster cloth, POP, hydrocal etc. can be used to finish the terrain form.

once all this is done, you can paint a ground base color, and add scenery details (grass, talus, rocks, trees, etc.)

13th Feb 2005, 10:11 AM
here's a couple pics of the "crumpled paper, plaster cloth" method....

crumpled newapaper held together and held down with masking tape (the risers are for areas that track go):

and here is same with plaster cloth (i've taken out the newspaper wads in the center as i have to do this area separately due to some "extenuating" factors)
btw, the track is not secured in any manner,
i just laid it there with some cars to see how the plan "flowed" ;)

13th Feb 2005, 10:23 AM
One little tip I forgot, color the plaster before you apply it.
If the plaster is an earth color, then if you chip it or crack it, you will not get that ugly white flaw in the center of your "world".

I will be following Frary's method of dry Rit fabric dye mixed in with the plaster.

13th Feb 2005, 12:49 PM
I use the extruded foam board method sam mentioned...pile on layers of foam, shape it, cover in plaster/plaster cloth and paint/colour.


13th Feb 2005, 01:16 PM
Thanks guys for all of the suggestions. I am not sure what method I will use yet. I will try to post some pics of my layout in progress and maybe you will have some more suggestions


13th Feb 2005, 01:50 PM
Maybe you could make a couple of small mountain samples (oversized rocks) using each of the techniques, to see which works best for you...

13th Feb 2005, 05:44 PM
That is probably what I will do.

15th Feb 2005, 09:48 PM
Way back in my Boy Scout days, I remember reading about a method of reconstructing geography from a topo map. I'm planning on trying a variation:

I've drawn out an overhead of my layout, complete with topo lines. I plan to re-draw the topo lines on a sheet of (2"?) foam. Then I will cut along the lines with a serrated knife. Raising each concentric piece of foam a little higher than the one outside of it will reconstruct the mountain. If I use thick enough foam, I can adjust the topography by changing the overlap between sections. I will then use a serrated knife and putty to finish shaping it.

Too much work for a small hill, but I think it will work well for the mountains I plan on making. And I should end with sturdy but light structures.

What do you all think? I'll keep you posted when/if I get around to trying it.

27th Mar 2005, 11:58 AM

This mountain is shaped builder's insulation foam coated (painted) with a thin layer of tinted joint compound (Polly Filla by Lapages, sold in Canada). Parts are just the shaped and sanded foam, other parts have the joint filler. The filler is just used to hid the joints (that is what it is used for in the 12" to the foot world anyway), it hardens and can be sanded and painted. I find it more durable than plaster and adheres to the foam very well.


In this other picture you can see it before the painting. You'll also see the townsite which hides another part of the track. The gap between the mountain and the townsite is a river, but for the back track, I am thinking I should create a water fall, over the back track, in front of the other track. It is evolving as I go.

This is a very light weight mountain, and lifts off to gain access to the tunnel below.

I've used both blue and pink foam (on a different layout) and both are the same. The white packaging foam can be used in mountain building but it is not nearly as strong and do not use it for roadbed.


30th Mar 2005, 07:43 PM
:lol: Anyone ever try Sculptamold in addition to the Woodland Scenics Hydrocal stuff? I have just ordered some and plan to use it with the plaster sheets and also to make realistic looking molds. I am also going to experiment with Rit fabric dyes in powdered form. Anyone out there ever try this to get the colors through and through the plaster? :idea:


30th Mar 2005, 09:59 PM
I recently saw a super cool way to make mountains and other land features. First paint the area to be inside the confines of your mountain a dark color.

Then, you take chicken wire and tack it down to your area in the shapes you want. Mold it into the shape of the topography you want. Then, you take Woodland Scenic ground polyfiber (that stuff that looks like it belongs inside a pillow or a quilt (not the ground foam for shrubs/trees)) and spread it out over the chicken wire. Completely cover the chicken wire with the poly fiber. Now you will have solid green covered wire. You can also add any rock outcrops you may want at this time.

To finish the mountains off, spray some elemers spray adhesive or hair spray on the polyfiber and dust with your mixture of ground foam and coverings (mix colors work best and give depth).

Onced finished you have the most lightweight/durable and cheap mountains/topography - and they LOOK GREAT!!!! You can literally beat on them and they just bounce back. I actually punched this guys scenry at his request so that he could show it off. These make great mountains for the mobile modules that take a beating from moving and from touchy feely visitors at shows.

I will definitely be doing some of these in the future once I get room and stay put long enough for a bigger more scenic layout.

PS> Great for making those nice rolling tree covered Appalachian looking moutains we have out East here.....

Hope this helps - ask any ??? you may have!


30th Mar 2005, 10:06 PM
here's my try at mountain scenery:
card board strips; plasterclothe; sculptamold and hydrocal rock castings; acrylic paints/washes

30th Mar 2005, 10:11 PM
HuskerN - nice looking layout! Your scenery is great - and that layout has such a nice finished look!

Train Kid
30th Mar 2005, 10:15 PM
here's my try at mountain scenery:
card board strips; plasterclothe; sculptamold and hydrocal rock castings; acrylic paints/washes
Very nice.

Tell me, what kind of inclines do yo have on your layout. I mean how steep are they and where do they start exactly? Got any more pics to give me a visual?