Mountains and Ground in Your Model Train Scenery

Mountain SceneryBy Reynolds Maxwell Mathes-Redd

When a hobbyist can put track, scenery and structures together in an engaging design, the magic happens. The model train scenery transforms the railroad into a miniature world often depicting an historic scene.

The enjoyment of your miniature world of working railroad and realistic scenery spreads to all who see it. What a sense of fulfillment you must have. Anyone who sees your work will know it took planning and lots of study of the real world to make it as realistic as possible.

For purposes of this article landscaping and scenery are used interchangeably. With the current materials available, you can build most of the scenery for your layout. The sub-terrain of screen wire and cardboard strips supports the scenery base. Styrofoam sheets are another material that can be used. On top of the sub-terrain the scenery base is made of plaster, fiberglass, light weight foam or paper mache.

Since the most popular scenery element is a mountain or mountain ranges, let’s look at mountain making. A common way to make model train mountains is with plaster and rubber molds. Other methods include carving, shattered ceiling tile and a urethane foam rock casting technique. Foam scenery costs a little more than plaster and it takes a little longer to color.

Among hobbyists, many believe the foam gives a better outcome. Your hobby shop can supply you with detailed instructions and the internet can supply access to books and articles. As alternates to plaster, you could also try Styrofoam® board and beaded foam board. They are light-weight, but when sanded into shape, can cause a dust problem.

Sometimes the additions of ground landscaping causes a hobbyist to question how to get the right look for so many different ground environments. Just take it one type at a time.

For rocks at the base of your mountain cliffs and roads try ground foam, the most popular ways to get the right look. The ground foam adds texture. Diluted white glue painted or sprayed on the ground base, prepares the base for peppering with the grass-like ground foam and polyester fibers.

Another technique is to mist the glue on top of the foam after the foam has been applied to the ground. Along with ground foam is another easily found material, Lichen, for making trees and bushes. To simulate track ballast, a finely ground granite works well. To simulate water, try resin, rippled glass or polyurethane.

Ground CoverChoices for simulating grass include colored sawdust, wood chips and ground foam. Finally, for trees and shrubs try building with candytuft, Western sagebrush and caspia. Apply model foliage with adhesive. All of the scenery pieces can be bought at your local hobby shop so do not feel overwhelmed.

There are no limits to making the gorgeous scenery of the American mountains that can leave your viewers breathless. The miniature world is far more about imagination, focus and creativity than about how much money is spent.

Having a deep understanding of trains really is not necessary to get started in this hobby. All of that will come along when you need it. What you need now is time and care when building.

Reynolds Maxwell Mathes-Redd is a model train hobbyist and coach. For more great tips on model train scenery visit and

Article Source:

Have you added mountains to your layout? Share your tips or experiences in the comments section below.

About Model Train Tips

I am a complete model railroading novice, and I’ve started this website to share what I learn with others who are also new to the hobby and want to learn about it. I invite you to sign up for my newsletter and get the free report: 7 Model Train Mistakes To Avoid.


  1. For anyone, beginner on up, I found the ultimate book on scenery work. I started my mountains and became so dishearted by my work I almost gave up. Then I bought a book called “How to build realistic model railroad scenery“, by Dave Defrary. Worth every penny and more. My layout is really coming to life.

Leave a Reply