Our railroading group has been working on a large “O” gauge three-rail layout that is an around the wall type. What I have started using is a different material for modeling the landscape against the walls. I have been using the coarse packing Styrofoam that is used in shipping items bought on-line.
The cost of the raw material (free) is certainly not prohibitive. I don’t know if anyone else has used this material, but I am aware that many people have used the fine insulation type Styrofoam. I wrote this up for others to see and possibly improve the scheme.
For the “O” scale layout, two sizes of Styrofoam sheet were used. The first one was 2” thick and the other was ¾” thick. I start by cutting and gluing together long strips of the thicker Styrofoam sheets in the shape of the background that was to go against the wall. Once the background shape was completed, I began to add the rock out-cropping that would appear once the cut for the rail line had been made. Breaking off handfuls of the thinner Styrofoam sheets made these pieces. These were then glued to the first piece with the rough edge out. They were then stacked and glued along the face of the background sheet forming the rock cut that is desired.
I found that Liquid Nails seemed to work best for me. Thinned white glue has a tendency to run right through the Styrofoam. Styrofoam is somewhat messy stuff to work with and the static electricity with the scraps makes clean up difficult. Vacuuming seems work best.
When the section of background was formed with the out-cropping and shape completed, it was time to begin the painting of the scene. I used some leftover exterior white latex paint with which I covered the entire section. I think any light colored latex would make a good base coat. After the base coat is dry, I next went over the rock areas with washes of tan and raw high light the rocks and show the weathering of them.
This method can be combined with other scenic making methods. We have a section that is done using the thin-shell plaster approach to make a hillside and this method adds variety to the backdrop scenery.
There was another use that we found for this packing material. We had a need a wall that ran next to an elevated track for quite a distance. I tried a test using 1″x1/2″ blocks. I scribed the styrofoam with a hobby knife and then washed with a thin coat of raw umber acrylic paint and you can see the result looks like a block wall. This was a way for us to add some background scenery with material that would have normally just been waste. We had fun with this and we would be interested to see how others can improve on these methods.