How to make n scale mountains for model trains

Written by larry simmons
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How to make n scale mountains for model trains
(Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

N scale model railroading is the smallest scale commonly in use. Because of the small scale involved, N scale allows for the inclusion of epic scenery features not possible with larger scale models. For N scale builders, mountain regions are fully incorporable into the model train set-up. Within the N scale range, a modeler can recreate small mountain villages, lakes or multi-layered setups that take advantage of realistic towering rock peaks. All it requires is a bit of carefully constructed cardboard strips, covered in plaster cloth.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Marker
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Masking tape
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • White glue
  • N scale track
  • Plaster cloth
  • Bowl
  • Plastic knives
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paintbrush
  • N scale scenery

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  1. 1

    Outline the area on your model railroad layout board where you intend to raise the mountain with a marker. Make sure you can reach the area from any direction, as you’ll have to work on the mountain from multiple angles. Spread plastic sheeting over the board surrounding the work area, using masking tape to secure the sheeting in place.

  2. 2

    Wad up pieces of newspaper into ragged balls, between 2 and 4 inches in diameter. Secure the wadded balls to the layout board with masking tape, building the balls into the rough shape of your mountain.

  3. 3

    Cut cardboard into strips, 1-inch in width and varying lengths. Glue the strips with white glue over the wadded newspaper to build a more accurate shape for your mountain and to provide a support structure for the covering plaster. Use a crosshatching system when applying the strips, working from the mountain base upwards with about an inch between strips, placing the vertical mountain height strips followed by the horizontal mountainside strips. Create flat areas suitable for running rails or roads across the mountain, or for the placement of structures by flattening out the cardboard strips atop the newspapers where needed. Push the cardboard flat in those areas, bending the strips when necessary to create the level areas you require.

  4. 4

    Test the width of any areas flattened for rail use by placing a piece of N scale track onto the cardboard. Make certain there is ¼- to ½-inch clearance on both sides of the flattened track to account for the train.

  5. 5

    Wet plaster cloth in a bowl of water. Lift the cloth and hold over the water until dripping stops. Place the cloth onto the cardboard strips, covering the cardboard and newspaper form. Cut the cloth with scissors prior to wetting when you require shorter strips.

  6. 6

    Form the damp cloth on the cardboard into the final shape of the mountain, using a plastic knife. Move the plaster with the curved point of the knife blade until you roughen the surface of the plaster to simulate the natural look of rock. Keep the simulated variations of the rock small in keeping with the small N scale of the mountain. Keep the flat areas where you intend to place structures or rails flat. Allow the plaster to dry overnight.

  7. 7

    Paint the mountain a specific stone type according to the type of mountain range you’re modelling. Locate a colour photo of that type of mountain and use the photo as a colour guide for applying the paint. Paint the mountain in layers, working from darker colours to lighter and from the mountain base upward. Allow the paint to dry overnight and then glue on any vegetation or structures desired.

  8. 8

    Remove the plastic sheeting from around your mountain and mount any connecting rails.

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