How To Make Model Train Mountain Scenery

A LARGE MOUNTAIN BUILT WITH STACKED LAYERS OF FOAM BOARD ON MY N SCALE MODEL RAILWAY.
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Adding hills and mountains to your Model Railroad will transform that flat barren benchwork or platform into a true miniature landscape for your Model Trains. In this article we will show you step-by-step how to create hills or mountains using extruded polystyrene foam board. The technique is simple and produces very realistic hills and mountains on your Model Railway and can be done by anyone.

MODEL RAILROADING BENCHWORK
THE INITIAL STAGES OF BUILDING MY N SCALE MOUNTAIN RAILROAD. I USED THE ‘COOKIE CUTTER’ TECHNIQUE UTILIZING ONE-INCH-THICK FOAM AND PLYWOOD SUPPORTS FOR THE ROADBED.
MODEL RAILROAD CONSTRUCTION
PLYWOOD WAS USED FOR THE TRACKS ON RISERS DUE TO ITS BETTER STRENGTH. THE FOAM BOARD WAS USED ON THE LOWER SECTIONS WHERE MORE SUPPORT COULD BE ADDED UTILIZING SCRAP FOAM BLOCKS. NOTE ALSO HOW THE LOWEST ROADBED ELEVATION IS TWO INCHES ABOVE THE BASE BENCHWORK FRAME. THIS ALLOWS FOR SCENERY DETAILS BELOW THE TRACK LEVEL SUCH AS RAILWAY FILLS OR CREEKBEDS, ETC.
MAKING MODEL RAILWAY MOUNTAINS
COMPARE THIS TO THE PHOTO ABOVE WHERE I HAVE USED SOME 3/4 INCH WOOD SCRAPS TO CREATE A MINIMAL 1/4 INCH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TRACK ROADBED AND THE ADJACENT SCENERY BASE. THINKING ABOUT, AND PLANNING THESE ELEVATION DIFFERENCES IN ADVANCE WILL MAKE YOUR MODEL RAILWAY SCENERY MORE REALISTIC IN APPEARANCE.
MODEL RAILWAY SCENERY TIPS
USING THE LEFTOVER SCRAPS, I ARRANGED THEM IN A GENERAL MANNER TO GET AN IDEA OF THE SIZE AND GENERAL SLOPE I WANTED TO ACHIEVE ON THIS MOUNTAIN. ON THE LEFT IS A MOCKUP OF A GULLEY AND RAILROAD FILL SECTION.
MODEL RAILWAY MOUNTAIN SCENERY PLANNING
THIS VIEW OF THE MOCKUP SHOWS THE ROADWAY THAT GOES UNDER WHAT ULTIMATELY BECAME A DECK GIRDER BRIDGE ON MY COMPLETED LAYOUT. THE TUNNEL ENTRANCE BEYOND WAS EVENTUALLY CHANGED AND NOT USED. THE USE OF THE MOCKUP REVEALED THIS AND SAVED ME FROM WASTING TIME CREATING THIS IN THE FINAL VERSION.
PLANNING YOUR MODEL RAILROAD SCENERY
AS WITH EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR MODEL RAILROAD, PLANNING IS CRITICAL AND WILL HELP YOU ACHIEVE THE VISION YOU WANT. TAKING LOTS OF PHOTOS AS YOU PLAN AND TRY DIFFERENT IDEAS IS ALSO A GOOD IDEA.
THIS SKETCH SHOWS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW TO GENERALLY SIZE THE DIFFERENT LAYERS OF FOAM BOARD AND ALSO WHERE THE BEADS OF CAULKING SHOULD BE PLACED.
HOW TO BUILD MODEL RAILROAD SCENERY
YOU CAN SEE HERE HOW THE GENERAL SLOPE OF THE MOUNTAIN SCENERY WAS DONE WITH THE INITIAL STACKING LAYERS. THIS SLOPE WILL BE ADJUSTED AND REFINED, AND MORE DETAIL ADDED AS YOU GO ALONG.
MAKING MODEL RAILWAY SCENERY
AS YOU ARE SHAPING THE INITIAL LAYERS PRIOR TO STACKING, DON’T WORRY ABOUT EACH ONE MATCHING PERFECTLY. AFTER GLUING THEM TOGETHER YOU WILL RE-SHAPE THE GENERAL CONTOUR A LITTLE AT A TIME. ALSO NOTE THE DISTINCT PATTERN THAT THE JIB SAW LEAVES ON THE CUT EDGES. WITH A LITTLE EXTRA DETAIL WORK THIS WOULD MAKE AN EXCELLENT ROCK FACE.
MODEL RAILROAD MOUNTAIN
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF NOT WORRYING ABOUT PERFECT ALIGNMENT BETWEEN LAYERS. IT CAN ACTUALLY BE BENEFICIAL, SINCE AS YOU WHITTLE AWAY YOU MAY WANT ADD A COOL OVERHANGING ROCK OUTCROPPING.
BUILDING MOUNTAINS FOR MODEL RAILWAYS
THIS VIEW SHOWS SOME OF THE VERTICAL VARIATIONS ALONG THE RIDGE LINES OF THE TWO MOUNTAINS. THIS WAS PLANNED AHEAD OF TIME WITH THE USE OF MOCKUPS DURING THE PLANNING STAGES.
MODEL TRAIN SCENERY TIPS
DURING THE INITIAL CARVING PROCESS CONCENTRATE ON BLENDING THE LAYERS TOGETHER AND ELIMINATING ABRUPT CHANGES IN THE SLOPE ANGLE.
BUILDING MODEL TRAIN SCENERY
YOU CAN SEE IN THIS PICTURE HOW THE FAR BACKGROUND PEAK HAS BEEN BLENDED TOGETHER BUT STILL LACKS MUCH DETAIL IN SHAPE. THE SLOPE TO THE LEFT OF THE TRACKS, AND ALSO THE FOREGROUND HILL ARE ALSO JUST TAPERED.
BUILDING MODEL RAILWAY SCENERY
NOTICE AGAIN HOW THE FAR MOUNTAIN LACKS ANY REAL SHAPE DEFINITION, YET ALL THE LAYERS OF THE FOAM ARE BLENDED WITH EACH OTHER.
MODEL RAILWAY SINGLE TUNNEL PORTAL
THIS SECTION WAS PLANNED AND STACKED TO REPRESENT AN ALMOST SOLID ROCK FACE, AND AS SUCH THE TAPER BETWEEN THE SECTIONS OF FOAM IS NEAR VERTICAL. IT IS ALSO REMOVABLE FOR ACCESS TO THE TUNNEL TRACKS. YOU CAN SEE THE BREAK IN THE FOAM LAYERS TO THE RIGH OF THE TUNNEL PORTAL.
MAKING MODEL RAILROAD MOUNTAINS
COMPARE THIS OVERALL VIEW TO THE ABOVE PICTURES AND YOU CAN SEE HOW SOME OF THE SHAPING REFINEMENTS WERE DONE ALONG THE RIDGE LINES, AND ALSO ON THE FACES OF THE MOUNTAINS BY CUTTING IN SMALL DIPS, GULLEYS AND OTHER RANDOM FEATURES ELIMINATING THE ROUNDED LOOK.
MAKING MODEL RAILROAD SCENERY
AS PART OF THE FINAL SHAPING AND CARVING PHASE YOU CAN UTILIZE SMALL AMOUNTS OF EXPANDING FOAM TO FILL IN SMALL VOIDS LEFT BETWEEN THE LAYERS OF FOAM AND YOUR BENCHWORK. USE THIS WITH CAUTION HOWEVER, AS IT EXPANDS MANY TIMES ITS INITIAL SIZE AND USING TOO MUCH WILL CAUSE A BIG MESS.
MODEL RAILWAY CLIFFS
AREAS THAT ARE PLANNED TO SIMULATE BEAR EARTH CAN BE FAIRLY SMOOTH AS SEEN IN THESE TWO EMBANKMENTS ABOVE AND BELOW THE TRACK LEVEL. IN THE UPPER RIGHT IS ALSO A ROCK FACE THAT WAS CARVED INTO THE FOAM BOARD.
MAKING MODEL RAILWAY ROCKS
IN THIS CLOSE UP VIEW OF THE ROCK FACE ABOVE YOU CAN SEE THE JAGGED AND ROUGH TEXTURE OF THE FOAM. THIS WAS ACCOMPLISHED BY USING THE SCRAPING TECHNIQUE DESCRIBED ABOVE. COURSE GRIT SANDPAPER WAS ALSO UTILIZED TO PRODUCE THE DIAGONAL STRATA LINES IN THE ROCK.
A SCENE ON MY MODEL RAILROAD SHOWING SOME VERY REALISTIC MODEL RAILROAD ROCKS CARVED INTO THE MOUNTAINSIDE.
THIS IS THE SAME ROCK FACE AS ABOVE AFTER COLORING AND SOME INITIAL GROUND TEXTURES HAVE BEEN APPLIED.
MODEL RAILROAD TUNNEL
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE EFFECTS CREATED BY SCRAPING HORIZONTALLY AND VERTICALLY AGAINST THE FOAM BOARD IS SEEN IN THIS NEAR VERTICAL ROCK FACE ABOVE THE DOUBLE-TRACK TUNNEL PORTAL.
A GENERAL OVERVIEW OF MY N SCALE MODEL RAILROAD
AND HERE IS THE COMPLETED TUNNEL PORTAL SCENE AFTER FINAL SCENERY.

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Last Updated on 2 weeks ago by James from Model Railway Techniques

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