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Tutorial on building scenery over the edge of the layout

I refer to it as “Dropped wandering edge. This system eliminates the traditional fascia board such as Masonite or paneling. I reserve this technique for the more scenic areas of the layout as I’m inherit lazy and want a life for other things. I’ve used this technique in various form all my life in different situations and include a drawing I made for an area I have yet to finish. We have always had a Rock Powder called Sedona Red #1040 and needed a scene showing how this products looks after applied.

If you don’t do western scenery, read the article anyway, as it can be used with other types of scenery also.

The Fast Mail is approaching the Red Rock country on a corner of the layout. The track ballast is #1152 Empire Builder on the slope of the roadbed with #1302 Northern Pacific around the ties.

“L” Girder benchwork This type of bench work was used as the track elevation is at an uphill grade and riser boards support the rough roadbed. Generally, the benchwork support boards are attached in a radial fashion for the purpose of attaching a fascia of plywood or Masonite. Instead, I cut 3/8 ” plywood to fit under the radial boards with an irregular radius o the outside.

Tools and materials


The motivation behind the project came from a picture of John Olson’s Mescal Lines that features similar Sandstone rock formations I intended on making. The “Hot Wire Foam Factory” is a “must” tool for cutting and shaping Styrofoam that doesn’t leave a mess of foam beads everywhere like when you cut it with a knife. I had accumulated a lot of 1 & 1/2 ” foam blocks that were packaging material. I never use glue when working with foam as it dries to slow, thus the bag of Plaster of Paris. Then a mixing bowl and a couple measuring cups and we’re ready to go.

Layout of the foam shapes


Before the plaster is mixed, several foam blocks a cut and ready to go. Notice that the track has been protected with newspaper and secured with masking tape.

Shaping the foam

The foam on the shelf has been set in a bed of plaster and has cured for a half hour before I tool it. The hot knife is really a thin rod that heats up to melt the foam. The tool has a temperature control that is set so it doesn’t smoke excessively yet still melts the foam.

Close up of tooling

Applying the Plaster of Paris

You can use a rubber glove for this, but the plaster has proved to be harmless to my hands when washed frequently. This process seals up any gaps between the foam blocks and leaves the surface with the right texture of sandstone.

Pigment added to the plaster

It dawned on me that some pigment should be added to the plaster, so I used our # 1420 Supai Red product. When all the plasterwork was finished, it was allowed to cure for several days before I brushed the entire rock formation with my Sedona Red Rock Powder mixed with white (or Carpenters) glue and water. If you apply over green plaster, the paint won’t stick or cover very well.

Second layer of Styrofoam rock

I didn’t show you the second layer of rock being installed, but you can see it in the foreground picture.

Sketching a scenery plan

The drawing doesn’t need any explanation other than the scenery looks thicker and ideal for low angle pictures of your trains that aren’t spoiled by a fascia in the scene. This drawing was not intended for publication as the pencil lines are very light.

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