Mountain scenery can add a great deal of authenticity to your model railroad, especially when built with care and constructed realistically. For railroads such as modeler Doug Tagsold’s On3 scale recreation of D&RGW, model railroad mountains and rock faces are vital to the scene, as it is set in the rolling hills and high mountain passes of Colorado.
Making model railroad mountains can be somewhat tricky and time consuming, but the process can also be quite enjoyable once you get the hang of it. There are a variety of methods you can use to build model railroad mountains and rocks, and you can easily switch up the aesthetic of your scene by utilizing different colors and rock shapes. In this lesson, to help you figure out the best method for your scene, Doug teaches you some expert techniques he likes to used for building eye-catching model railroad mountains, and walks you through a brief demonstration of the steps he took to create the High Line portion of his model of D&RGW Railroad.
Building convincing model railroad mountains
The process for building model railroad mountains and realistic rock faces begins with creating the skeleton of the rock. For this, Doug teaches you how to use screen wire to construct your ideal shape and then lay down plaster-impregnated gauze (formerly paper-mache) to give the texture of smooth rock.
Once the rock shape is formed, Doug shows you the best way to use a mixture of Plaster of Paris and sandbox sand to fill in any sharp dropoffs and create textured rock faces on your model railroad mountains. This fast-drying plaster solution is easy to manipulate in order to give the sense of fallen rocks and weathering, which grants your scene a nice touch of realism. With a scalpel, wood stain, latex paint and some commercial turf, Doug creates an impressive rock scene that takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. But he explains how you can get carried away with your construction and end up making model railroad mountains and rocks for hours, days and weeks on end!