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Model Railroad Narrow Vertical Spaces

| August 28, 2017 More

Model Trains Narrow Vertical SpacesI tend to build small dioramas and layouts, and I find scene edges (as well as cuts through the scenery) are always a little tricky. Usually we don’t have tons of free space to always make nice gentle hills or rock cuts so we need to get a little creative. For this article I wanted to try two different techniques for getting some height: a basic rock wall cut from foam and also a rock / hill combination piece.

For our test scenes here in N scale, I’ve cut 2 pieces of 1” pink foam, 4-1/2” x 9-1/4”. For our vertical surface we used 3 pieces of the same 1” foam, cut 1-1/4” wide. These narrow strips were joined to the base with building adhesive, and also tacked together with toothpicks to add a bit of additional strength.

I used a basic box cutter to form the rocks on one scene. I could have used lots of small hydrocal rock pieces jig-sawed together but I enjoy the rock carving process, plus the carving practice is always good. A side note, after a razor accident a couple of years ago doing this exact same style of foam rock carving, I now ALWAYS wear a cut resistant glove on the hand holding the foam in case of a razor slip… and the razor always seems to slip at least a few times during the carving process!

On the other scene I used a Stanley Surform rasp to round off my foam. At this point I wasn’t quite sure of the exact look I wanted for this scene, but I knew there would be rounded edges. As I looked at my rounded foam wall, I thought I’d try to use a cast rock section and position it so it had a slight overhang and then add soil and grass above the rock line to simulate a gentle hillside.

The rock carving went well (thank you cut resistant gloves!) and the single cast rock section seemed to be taking shape too. I painted both the foam rocks as well as the hydrocal cast rock with inexpensive craft paints and washes. On top of this I laid on a thin sprinkling of sifted soil to cover the pink foam. To finish off I used our Ztrains Grassinator to add 6.5mm static grass to the scenes as well as some ground clump foliage and a few bits of flowers for color.

I’d call this a successful vertical test in a 3” tall by 1-1/4” wide scene. The rock / hill overhang I think came out well and sort of tricks the eye in to thinking there’s more depth than there actually is, plus the rock / grass combination visually breaks things up nicely. It’s a challenge working in tight spaces when you want to build up, hopefully these two examples can give you some ideas for fun verticals on your layout.

Article Links

Ztrains Grassinator
Available Through Ztrack, AZL and Rokuhan Dealers

Stanley Surform
Stanley 21-115 Surform Shaver

Cut Resistant Gloves
Level 5 NoCry Gloves

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