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Red Rock Layout Spires

| May 10, 2013 | 10 Comments More

Red Rock SpiresAs I began working again on our Red Rock desktop layout, I was looking through lots of online photos from iconic areas in the US such as Sedona, Arizona and the Colorado Plateau. These are such beautiful areas; I wanted to try to bring a bit more of this feel to our desktop layout. Building “up” was the way to go in the form of rock spires. Hoodoos are another very similar geological formation to spires, found in similar areas, but mostly I wanted to write an article that used the word hoodoo. Simple pleasures.

As I already had my base coat of soil in place, I used expanding polyurethane foam for these spire formations. Poly foam is an incredibly sticky material when wet and very strong once cured. It’s perfect for adding relatively thin vertical formations as it adheres very well to the existing scenery, essentially forming one continuous piece of landscape. The process is sort of like adding height using whipped cream in a can, add just a small circular shot of the poly foam, let it begin to cure, then add another and another until you have the height you want.

When the foam cures, it’s just a matter of carving the spires into the shape you want, then adding a couple of thin coats of Flex Paste. I find several thin coats of the paste adds more body to the cut foam than a single, heavy coat.

Next up is some gentle sanding of the Flex Paste coated spires using a Dremel-style drum sander, just to knock off any Flex Paste high points .After the sanding, some small pieces of the rock casts will be applied to tie the look together, then a base coat of the red soil will be added to these new geological formations.

Our new land forms in white stand out quite a bit in these photos but once they’re coated in soil they’ll blend seamlessly with the rest of the scene. Also once covered in the base color soil, we may cut some down in height, alter their basic shape or even additional poly foam.

Here we’ve worked on our spires a bit, cutting and shaping to better suit their surroundings. A base coat of soil has now been added to our additions and it’s at this point where we can see the piece taking shape. We’ve got our scenic bit yet to add of course including the old, abandoned track bisecting the layout above the running trains. Also needed are color variations through weathering powder, ink washes and other soils.

Overall though this piece is gaining real visual interest, or at least it now has a good foundation to add this additional visual interest.

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Category: Ztrains Build Corner

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  • Alex

    Reminds me of my favorite place in the USA… Monument Valley.

    • http://www.raildig.com John Cubbin

      Thanks Alex,

      I’m going for a combination of lots of areas like this. I haven’t been to Monument Valley but have been to Sedona, AZ and it’s just an amazing place.

      Hopefully I can capture some of that feel in this layout.


  • Oyvind Arnoy

    Hi. Can I ask what lightning you use when taking photos of your dioramas/modelrailroad?


  • Oyvind Arnoy
  • James W.

    I’ve been looking at this layout for a couple of days now, it captures the desert look beautifully. Will this be for sale when completed?


    • http://www.raildig.com John Cubbin

      Thank you James,

      I’ve been reworking a couple of areas on the layout today, added a small rock bridge to one of the corners of the layout. I think a little more adjusting and it will be ready for the next scenery phase.

      This layout will be for sale on my retail site, http://www.jcubbin.com, once it’s completed.


  • Kimber S.

    Hi John!

    Quick question….what type of paint and what color did you use to color your “Hoodoos”? They look so very realistic!! Great job!


    • http://www.raildig.com John Cubbin

      Hi Kimber,

      Thank you, and good hearing from you! At this point all the red color on this layout is from natural soil and clay, as a matter of fact I’m heading out now to collect more!

      Once I have my land shapes and base soil / clay cover down, I’ll then use different color soils as well as weathering powders for additional colors.

      The rocks are gray gypsum with a terra cotta paint mixed right in.


  • James W.

    Beautiful work John!

    • JoeS

      I agree, great work. This proves to me why small layouts are great because they really help to develop skills. You just get better and better.

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