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How To Make Hills For Your Model Train Layout | Model Railway Hints, Tips, How To Articles and Reviews at Model Trains Online

Without hills, a model railway layout could end up looking a little lifeless and lack character if we’re not careful. Even in areas with the flattest of terrains, there land still has contours and differences in level. So adding hills, embankments, valleys and slopes is something we should all consider when building a model train layout.

In this update, Michael takes through the step by step process he uses to create some remarkably realistic scenery indeed, and you don’t need to be a master modeller to do it! This technique uses fibreglass and can be used for creating all kinds of terrain and hills, large or small and is nice and easy to get to grips with. And most importantly, it looks fantastic when it’s finished! Hope you like it! Please post your comments via the form below, and don’t forget to “like and share” post with your modelling friends using the icons at the bottom of the post…

Here’s Michael’s Hill Making Technique…

“I’m not saying it’s the best way – but it works for me!
I find it much better than the traditional plaster of paris/newspaper method as it is makes the scenery extremely hard, light and hollow.  It’s easy to drill and glue and hence to push in trees or lights. Cables can be concealed inside easily.  It’s also quite easy to cut with a Dremel type drill so that you can put new additions e.g. new buildings, in at a later date, if you need to.
Repairs or additions to the surface are also easy and the new section will bond well to the existing part.  The biggest plus as far as I am concerned though is that it will not crack, even if the base is flexed, and then allow white streaks of plaster of paris to show through.
Stage 1.
Drill small holes in base board.
Stage 2. 
Insert short lengths of wire into these and bend to make a former, pushing the other end into other holes.
I use the wire which is used for straining overhead telephone cables, but stripped mains cable or any other stiffish wire would do.  Arrange as required. ( I also glue the wires into the holes, but this is not really necessary.)

The wire frame used to support the hill can be clearly seen here

The wire frame used to support the hill can be clearly seen here

Stage 3.
Put some glue onto the wires and spread glass fibre mat over them.  The glue just helps to keep the mat in place and can be left out if you prefer. Staple  the edges down.
Stage 4.
Mix the fibreglass resin and hardener together (Like the mat, these are obtainable from car accessory shops or if you know a roofer who does fibreglass roofs – even cheaper!) as per instructions.
Using a stiff paint brush, coat the matting with the mixture, pushing well into the matting.  Don’t worry about any holes, these can be used to secure bushes, trees etc, into, or make it into a fox or rabbit hole!
I use old lollipop sticks for mixing, and plastic yoghurt pots and cheap 1/2″ paint brushes (10 for a £1.00, and cut the bristles down in length by about a half)) and throw the whole lot away afterwards.
Don’t use anything good, as cleaning is tricky and don’t mix up too much as it goes hard really quickly.  Using disposable gloves is probably a good tip too.
Stage 5.
When the fibreglass is hard (which is likely to be in less than half an hour, depending on amount of hardener used and the room temperature)  paint brown.  I use brown masonry paint as I had some left from painting the front of the house but any paint will do.

The fibreglass sheet is applied, then the resin before the allowing to set

The fibreglass sheet is applied, then the resin before the allowing to set

Stage 6.
Glue and cover with green scenery scatter.
Stage 7.
Cover with electrostatic grass, and trees or bushes as you fancy.  (My electrostatic device came from Ebay for £6.00 but you can find out how to make your own here)

Once the fibreglass resin has set, the whole thing is painted brown and static grass applied

Once the fibreglass resin has set, the whole thing is painted brown and static grass applied

 

The completed scene complete with bushes & trees

The completed scene complete with bushes & trees

I’ve made up a small example to show the sequence, and in these photos I’ve tried to show each stage.
The bush is made from an old pan scourer sprayed black, then added scatter secured by hairspray.  The tree is made from sea moss with Autumn scatter added, again using hairspray.
Cheers.  Mike.”

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2 Responses to How To Make Hills For Your Model Train Layout

  1. Maurice Kerrigan says:

    Excellent tips on how to achieve great looking results. Again, great use of every day items for both the method (cheap brushes, mixing utensils etc), and also pan scourer & hairspray to replicate bushes. As I’ve an area to scenic on my own layout, I will definitely try this method as opposed to the old “newspaper and plaster” method! Great article and excellent results.

  2. Justin says:

    Glad you enjoyed the How-to Maurice. Michael’s finished landscape looks fantastic. I’m going to try and get him to write a tutorial on making bushes from pan scourers too! 🙂

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