How to Make a Rock Face for a Model Railroad

Updated February 21, 2017

Model railroads often incorporate natural terrain features into the track layout. A favourite of model railroaders is the natural rock formations found in mountainous regions. Creating a mountain for your train provides an impressive vista, with soaring heights combined with realistic rock faces. An added benefit to the visual look of a mountainous region is the fact that creating those realistic looking rock faces is easy to do, and can be completed with inexpensive materials.

Choose an area on your layout board to place the rock face. Cover the area surrounding the face with a plastic sheet secured to the board with masking tape to protect the rest of your layout from drips and spills.

Take the newspaper and wad it up into small wads of 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Use the masking tape to secure the wads to your board in the desired shape of your rock.

Cut the cardboard into 1-inch thick strips and glue the strips to the wads of newspaper, creating the framework for your rock surface. For sheer rock faces, glue the strips slightly less than level, altering the placements to make small changes on the face as would be seen in a natural rock face. Allow the glue to dry completely.

Wet the plaster cloth in water and then place a layer of the cloth onto your cardboard strips. Take the plastic knife and move the plaster cloth about some, creating natural variations in the rock surface. Keep the ridges created with the knife small, or you'll tend to have a wall filled with crevices rather than small varied changes. Let the plaster sit overnight to dry.

Paint the rock the colour of your choice using the paintbrush, according to stone type. Use variations in colours to show shadows and highlights in the rock. Allow the paint to dry and then apply a wash created by diluting 1 part slate grey paint with 9 parts water onto the entire rock. Apply the wash as you would any paint layer, the diluted grey will make the face look more like stone and emphasise the shadows created by the texture placed using the knife, making the whole model look more realistic.


To use more than one plaster cloth sheet, layer the ends over one another, using the seam as a point to apply texture. Add the illusion of reality to your rock face by adding grass or dirt model railroading terrain to the base and top of the sheer rock.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Masking tape
  • Newspaper
  • White glue
  • Cardboard
  • Plaster cloth
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brush
  • Plastic knives
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Larry Simmons is a freelance writer and expert in the fusion of computer technology and business. He has a B.S. in economics, an M.S. in information systems, an M.S. in communications technology, as well as significant work towards an M.B.A. in finance. He's published several hundred articles with Demand Studios.