first layout flat? or hilly?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by CSXFan, Jun 11, 2002.

  1. CSXFan

    CSXFan Member

    hey all, i'm having some problems with my free-lance Ohio Western layout. originally i had hoped to make it set in kentucky coal country, but that would require making a lot of hills. My problem is what material to use for making a hill. i have a lot of white foam that i could use but if there's an easier way please tell me. if all else fails i'll set the layout in central ohio where it's nice and flat:)
  2. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    white foam bad - make big mess and not cut very well.

    hills are fairly easy though. best bet is to use plaster cloth overtop of some type of simple frame (cardboard, chicken wire, etc.), *or* **BLUE** styrofoam (i think the pink stuff is about the same). comes in various thicknesses, glues together really well, and pow, you can cut it nice and easy and comes out very clean.

    The hill on the right of this pic is done using blue styrofoam, and a hot wire cutter, then painted. Still have to do some more work on it, but you get the idea. I **KNOW** others have much better pics I'm sure they'll be happy to share, or point you to.....

    Attached Files:

  3. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    When I built my old layout, I meant for it to be totally flat. But after a short while I decided that I needed a scenery break. I used some spare pieces of blue foam to make a framework, which I then covered in plaster cloth. (Actually, it was 90% plaster cloth and 10% newspaper dipped in plaster. I thought I had enough plaster cloth left over from another project...well, you get the idea.) Then I painted the plaster and sprinkled on the ground foam. Later, I drilled and poked holes in it and put in some trees.

    Attached Files:

  4. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Anybody that has seen my layout knows it is set is Appalacia, which means lots of mountains and trees. I use blue (but pink is good too) styrofoam, but instead of plaster I use lightweight spackling compound because it is much, much lighter than plaster, less messy (no mixing) and it dries firm but not rock hard so you can poke the toothpicks or whatever in without having to drill. Being is when (and if :D ) I get done with this layout it will have around 1,000 to 1,500 trees I didn't even want to think about drilling that many holes. On a really big mountain I will use Great Stuff Foam Insulation for the bulk of the mountain. You have to use it sparingly is it can get away from you (ask Rory and me how we know :D ) Mike I think your photo was excellent for explaining what we are talking about. :)
  5. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    One more vote for blue foam. I guess I'm either old enough to be set in my ways or I just resist new methods, but I only tried using foam in the last year. Prior to that I used the tried and true risers supporting screen to be covered with plaster soaked paper towels or shopping bags. When a rather large quantity of 1" foam became available for free, I tried it for a scenery base and found it really easy to work with and was able to create more natural land shapes. After laminating several layers I used a surform tool to grade a road up into the hills, stopping now and then to look over the progress and determine where I needed to sculpt some more.

    Now I know a lot of you lay track on the foam using glue but I'm not ready to go that far...yet anyway. Still prefer spiking my rails into homasote. But never say never!

  6. billk

    billk Active Member

    Another vote for foam (pink and blue are the same, as far as I know, except for the manufacturer). The white foam typically is made of large (maybe 1/8" diameter) beads that are a real bear to clean up since they cling to everything, and leave a pretty coarse surface in the smaller scales. But since the price is right you might try using it.

    Also, you didn't indicate if you were are tracking about having the tracks change elevation, - that's a whole `nuther subject.

  7. Virginian

    Virginian Member

    Hey CSXfan
    How's it?
    the blue styrofoam is made by DOW...may be the most is the Only one available in my County in No. Ca.
    Whatever you do, don't use grade foam insulation. the stuff with the foil backing, yellow/tan color.Makes a terrible mess...bad dust, awful smell.
    After you buy the foam ( I suggest a piece of each comes in 2'x8' pieces, 1",1 1/ 2", 3" thickness..or if you just want low rolling hills...1' would do), decide where you want your hills.
    Using a utility knife, hack saw blade, fine tooth saw( or hot wire cutter if you have crumbles to vaccumm up after))Cut a piece the right size for the base. Using styro foam compatible liguid nails(or the adhesive mentioned below*), glue it down to your sub-roadbed(or plywood, if that's what your layout is on) .Cut another piece just slightly smaller than the first, glue it to the first piece...just like a layer cake.. and so on 'til you have the height you want. * There is a foam insulation adhesive, comes in a tube, like great...will adhere to plywood, glass, metal as well as foam to foam...but make sure you are well ventilated, both during work and for 6-8 hours after. (I have some left the basement at our office building...I'll check the brand and post it here tonight or tomorrow)
    Once the 'glue' is day...shape as desired...a rasp will help, razer blades...whatever ...Then, use thin layers of interior spackling paste, plaster, wall joint compound etc. to finish off the surfaces before adding scenic details...paint(acrylic...inexpensive artist colors, thinned with water work fine, if you don't airbrush)trees, brush, rocks,etc.
    Hope this helps.
    VGN :cool:
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah


    When you work with the foam and you really need to keep the mess down, use a sharp knife or the hot wire. I try to keep to the 1" stuff, otherwise the knife wanders a bit as you cut. I have used a long blade knife (utility or a long blade in an Xacto) but it really wanders. Saws and rasps create stuff that will really put off the domestic authorities.
    You can make straight cuts by scoring deeply and then breaking by bending.
    Careful with glues, paint thinners, any chemicals -- this stuff just disappears. We have a ramp at one siding where we used the wrong glue to put in roadbed.
    I think that the fire marshall would like it painted or covered with plaster--top and bottom.
  9. CSXFan

    CSXFan Member


    thanks for the help y'all. i'll try getting ahold of some of the blue foam to make the hill. if not i'll go with the central ohio idea. the track itself will not chance elevation because the layout is so small. in the future i want to switch back to HO and make a dream layout full of elevation changes. thanks again, i'll post some pics asap.
  10. Wyomingite

    Wyomingite Member

    Great Stuff

    Hey guys,

    Just read the flat or hilly post. I bought some of that great stuff the other week and built a mountain with it. I had used it before for insulation around the house. I was surprised how tame it was compared to the other cans I used. I then read the can and it said it was minimum expanding. If you hav'nt found it yet I bet you would like it a lot better.

    Ron ;)
  11. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Yeah, I used the "minimally expanding" version, too. And all the while I kept thinking, "If this is minimal expansion, I'd have to have a larger house for the maximum stuff!!!" hehehehe

    Still, it was a lot of fun to play with, and it gave me a great base on which to build up the hills. In fact, in some places it looked like piles of boulders, so I took advantage of that.

    If..well, let's not kid anyone...WHEN I build another layout, I might still use it. The only thing I'd do different, though, is maybe use some of those Woodland Scenics inclines instead of cutting my own. That was a hassle, and I had a problem with the GS pushing one of my inclines out of whack.

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