Layout Scenery Part I - Mountain Terrain

By Ty’s Model Railroad - 5/13/2012 07:14:00 PM

Mountain made from plaster covered with various ground foam, trees, and talus to create a forest scene

Building my layout thus far has been mostly a linear process, starting with benchwork, then track, electrical, plaster terrain, and so forth. This one-step-at-a-time progression meant that I always knew what I needed to work on and what my next steps were in the construction of my model railroad. Once I finished my hard-shell terrain a couple months ago however, I had several options as for what project I wanted to tackle next. It was now time for scenery. 

Painted plaster rock outcroppings and terrain with green ground foam being applied

I quickly realized that the ‘scenery stage’ was quite a broad, encompassing term. I needed to break down this scenery stage into more manageable pieces, starting at the back of my layout and moving towards the front. With that plan in place, what a better section to start on then the main feature of my layout: the mountain.

Fine and coarse foam ground cover being applied to painted plaster hard shell terrain

I unfortunately don’t have any evolution photos of the mountain scenery; only before and after shots. This is mainly due to me experimenting with different ground cover techniques. As I did this, I hit that magic moment when my scenery all of a sudden looked good, all before taking photos. So instead, I will describe the materials used. I had previously already painted the terrain and rock outcroppings which I covered in my Painting the Terrain post, so I didn’t have to worry about this step.

Model trees being installed on plaster terrain along the very back of a model railroad layout

Mountain made from plaster covered with various ground foam, trees, and talus to create a forest scene

I started by liberally applying thinned white glue with a paint brush directly onto the painted terrain, spreading it over about 6” by 6” sections at a time. I sprinkled Woodland Scenics earth-blend blended turf over the wet glue. The earth-blend turf really complimented the tan colour paint I had used on all of the hard-shell terrain. I used the same green-blend turf to highlight certain areas, such as more level areas where green grass would be more common. I had a rather large gap between the bottom edge of my backdrop and the mountain terrain, so I filled this space using Woodland Scenics light green lichen. Everything was then sealed in with a light spray of thinned white glue.

Plaster rock outcroppings and plaster terrain with various ground foam, trees, and talus to create a forest scene

Trees were the next step, which I had previously completed putting together (see my previous post). I started with smaller trees in the background, placing them quite densely so they would blend into my backdrop. As I moved forward, I used increasingly taller trees which seemed to add a bit more depth to the forest. I also found that placing tall and short trees side-by-side made the terrain look steeper than it actually was. The install the trees, I didn’t use the supplied bases that came with the tree armatures. Instead, I drilled small holes directly into the plaster terrain so I could attach the trees using the small insert pins at the bottom of each tree. Any plaster dust that came up from drilling was carefully blown away with a can of compressed air. 

Plaster rock outcroppings and plaster terrain with various ground foam, trees, and talus to create a forest scene

Bushes, coarse turf, underbrush, lichen, and other various types and colours of ground foam were added next. This step took a lot of trial and error and paying around with different materials to achieve the look I wanted. However, nature is quite random and has a lot of variety when it comes to colours and plant life, so applying the different scenic materials in a haphazard manner only adds to the realism of the forest scene. I chose mostly Woodland Scenics material because the different ground foams and colours can be easily combined in any way and still look natural, which is a great, fool-proof method for first-time modelers.

Mountain forest scenery using Woodland Scenics ground foam, trees, and field grass next to a tunnel portal

To finish the scene, I added natural talus rock that I found in the coulees near my home. I added small tufts of Woodland Scenics field grass in random areas and added any filled in spots that I had missed or that looked too thin. For deadfall, I used small wood pieces that I carefully picked out of a bag of old potting soil as well as actual real deadfall I found in nature.

Mountain forest scenery using Woodland Scenics ground foam, trees, and field grass

I’m quite happy with the final results, and will continue this process across the rest of my background mountainous scene over the next month. It makes sense to finish the background scene first, as I wouldn’t want to be reaching over a completed foreground scene to work on it.

Plaster rock outcroppings and plaster terrain with various ground foam, trees, and talus to create a forest scene

Completed mountain forest scenery consisting of various model trees, ground foams, talus and field grasses

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4 comments

  1. what method/technique did you use to create that even paint without it beingg messy?

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  2. I used the "leopard-spot" technique. You can see how exactly how I painted them on my Painting the Terrain post, http://tysmodelrailroad.blogspot.ca/2012/03/painting-terrain.html

    Thanks,

    Ty

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  3. Hi, excellent work!!!
    How did you achieve this light "mustard" color of the fine turf? Only mixing the 2 blended turfs?
    I tried with burnt grass, but I'm not satisfied with my results.
    Thank you,
    Robert

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    Replies
    1. Hello Robert, sorry about the late reply. I used more of a layering technique then a mixing technique. I first applied the blended turf layer, then added the green blend on top of it (very sparingly). I found that having a uniform, equal mixture of turf provided unwanted results. Random is definitely a friendly term here!

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