Model Railroading – Making Mountains For a Model Railroad

When you first start working on your model railroad scenery the first thing that you have to start doing is making mountains for the model railroad as well as all of the other bits of the landscape, or terrain.

Below I will explain three different ways for making mountains.

1. Paper-Mache
This is a very cheap and fun way to make mountains and if this is your first attempt it is great to experiment.

Firstly I suggest that you work out on your main area where you want the mountains to go then cut out a piece of cardboard for that area so you can build your paper-mache mountains on the cardboard then place them on the main area. This way, if you do not like the result, you can always start again and you do not have to remove the paper-mache model from the main board! Also, if you realise when they are made that they would be better in another place, it is easy to move them around.

To make your paper-mache mountains start with balls of newspaper and screw them up into balls and place where you want to basic shape to be. Glue them down with pva glue. When you have your main shape, tear up strips of old newspaper and soak it in a water and flour mix – you can use a water and pva mix also – then lay the strips over your balls of newspaper. These strips will give the final shape for your mountains and will also dry hard.

If you wish to have tunnels running through these mountains you will need to make sure that you make the tunnel area before you cover everything with your newspaper strips and that it will not cave in when the weight of the paper-mache is added above the tunnel!

2. Polystyrene or Styrofoam Mountains
Another way of making mountains for a model railroad is by using bits of polystyrene or styrofoam that you have lying around to build the basic shape of your mountains. This is very light stuff and easy to work with, but very messy! Once you have the basic shape that you want you needs to cover the whole structure. You have various options here.

You can use the paper-mache method describe above or you can use plaster cloth or modelling rock which is available from most hobby stores and is a gauze with dry plaster. Cut the plaster cloth into strips, give it a quick soak so that the plaster becomes wet then place it on the structure. Make sure that you overlap each piece and continue until the whole structure is covered. If you wish to have tunnels using this method, make sure that you have a supporting structure under your polystyrene as it is not very strong, especially if the structure is narrow.

3. Chicken Wire
When you are making mountains for a model railroad from chicken wire, you create the shape using the wire as a frame then cover it using one of the methods above. This is the old way that mountains have been made as people often had chicken wire lying around.

These are just a few ways for making mountains for a model railroad. Just remember that the basic idea is to create the basic shape first, adding in tunnel spaces if you need to, then cover it.