Building a model railroad scenic mountain.

This very lengthy group of pictures shows how to cheaply and easily create a realistic-looking mountainous landscape for your model railroad.

I found this technique for landscaping on the web. I should credit the source, but I honestly don't remember where I saw it.

The first step is to create the form of your mountain, using crumpled up pieces of newspaper. Then you can keep everything in place with long pieces of masking tape. Just keep adding newspaper where you want the topography to be higher.

You will want to cover up all of your existing track and buildings to keep from getting any glue, plaster or dirt in it. This will save you a lot of time in track cleaning later. We used Glad Press and Seal on everthing. The tacky side was just sticky enough to stay put, but easily peeled away when we were finished.
Any portals and retaining walls should be added early on, so that you can tuck smaller pieces of newspaper behind them. You can see the beginning of the lake at the far left. This was made with a piece of cardboard, which was painted to look like water. I used regualar hobby model paint, and created depths and shallows with lighter and darker colors.
Ballast and greenery can be added to your elevated track later. Although risers are used to elevate the track, we filled in the spaces underneath, and then covered up the sides to make it look like a filled grade to make a track bed.
"Rock" retaining walls were added to the front sides of the elevated tracks for even more realism. You can see them to the far right of this photo, just beyond the "mountain". These walls can be cheaply handmade if you have a hot wire foam cutting tool.

We had seen a demonstration of a hot wire foam cutting tool at a train show, and bought one. We felt pretty foolish at the time, thinking it was another thing we bought that we would never use. Boy were we wrong about that. Not only did we make our retaining walls with the foam cutter, but we also created the "shoreline" for our river with it.

 

 

One day at work, maintenance was throwing out an entire dumpster full of pieces of blue insulating styrofoam. Most of the pieces were about 1'x1' in size, but it looked like it would be useful, so I asked if I could take some home. They told me to take all I could carry, so I loaded up a large trash bag of the stuff. Don't you just love free stuff like that?
Blue styrofoam was also used to make these "rock" retaining walls. It's really much easier than it looks, once you get used to using the cutting tool. Both my husband and I quickly became skilled at making these, and fought over who got to use the tool. The Pinkish rock in the picture is made from plaster in a hobby store rock mold.
Check out this YouTube video of how to make retaining brick walls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP3OGGmP1HE
Here's another picture of the retaining walls and one of the tunnel portals (also made with foam) behind it. We chose to make single portal entries, rather than try to make a double, because we were afraid there wouldn't be clearance for two trains to pass. I used gray hobby paint thinned with water to paint these. Then added touches of black for shadows.
Now comes the really fun part. You cover all of the newspaper with pieces of paper toweling, dipped in plaster. We bought plaster of paris, but you could probably even use a flour paste for this part. Work quickly, because it has a fairly short open time. Dip each piece and wipe off the excess, then just lay it on the form. You don't really need more than one layer.

Continue shaping everything with your hands while you lay the pieces of towel. It really is a good idea to wear gloves when you do this, because the plaster will dry out your skin.

The white paint in the bottom of the picture is going to be whitewater from the waterfall later on.

The gray clay-looking stuff on either side of the river is another kind of modeling compound made from ground up newspaper, to which you add water. It worked okay, but I don't think it worked any better than pieces of paper towel dipped in plaster and wadded up would have. I wouldn't say it was a necessary material for this project, but we used it, because we had it.
After everything is dry, you can paint it. Again this is just regular acrylic paints that you get at a craft or hobby store. Buy the bigger bottles, in a few useful colors, like black, white, blue, brown, yellow and maybe red, then you can mix them to make practically any color you want. We thinned with water and painted tan all over with a large brush on the mountain.
This picture shows the portal on the back side of the mountain. We painted gray colors on the back side of the mountain, because we were going to add a stone quarry back there.  If you don't like the color you applied, just add something else over it. It's very forgiving, and you are going to cover much of it up with turf later anyway.
Our lake in the mountains, emptied into a river, which then became a waterfall, and then a bigger river. Later on my husband added realistic scenic water to everthing, but it still looks pretty good, even before that point. Just remember to add a lot of "shallows and deeps" to give it a touch of realism. Messy is better than trying to be perfect in this case.
Here you can see the whole river painted, beneath the train overpasses. We attempted to give a sandy-shore look with yellows and browns, and painted the top of the blue styrofoam edging green to blend with the grass sheet. The river bottom is painted directly on to the cardboad, which the whole model was built on.
Now you can just go to town glueing scenic turf, spanish moss and trees all over. The trees poke nicely into the plaster coated paper towel base of the mountain. Just dab some glue on the bottom - don't use the plastic base - and poke them in like a pin. Spanish moss works really well to cover up anything that you don't want showing.

You can see the "realistic water" in this photo. Boulders along the river bed were a cheap bag of river stones from the dollar store. You can also add small sticks to look like fallen down trees.

The entire time we worked on this layout, we kept thinking that we can never move to a new house again, because how would we ever move this layout??

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