How to make rock formations like Barry’s

The comments on Barry’s rock formations came in thick and fast – so I asked Barry if he’d be kind enough to share with us how he does them:


I’ve been trying to get this tutorial done so I can send it to you to hopefully explain how I do my rock formations that apparently look quite real.

1) Build the supporting structure that will eventually be covered.

2) Stuff with crumpled up newspaper to achieve the formation desired.

3) Cover with plastercloth or plaster soaked cheese cloth.

4) As the they are drying use your fingers to shape the effect desired.

5) Create rocks from rubber plaster molds and apply suitable castings to the face of the plaster formation with a hot melt glue gun and then fill in around it with plaster-of-paris.

6) Then paint with acrylic latex paints from a crafts store. I prefer the lighter colors to make the layout look brighter. I use a tan for the entire base coat, then a burnt umber for the highlights with an occasional darker brown for a deep crevice or crack. It takes some practice but it’s not difficult to get a good realistic result.

7) I sprinkle my various colors of grass(comes in plastic containers from the hobby store).

8) Finally glue clump foliage on for shrubs, drill appropriate holes for telephone poles and trees you can see the final results.

(Press play on the last one to see the video).



A big thanks to Barry! More tips and ‘how-to’ stuff here.

And for some more gems, just read the comments below!

Latest ebay cheat sheet here.



39 Responses to How to make rock formations like Barry’s

  1. Hello,

    How do you make water scenes?

  2. Well shown Barry, god job done

  3. Very well done, thanks

  4. Excellent, realistic and most important everything around the layout so neat and tidy. I’m impressed with the rocks, but I was wondering If Barry could let us know how he achieved such straight and tidy lines down the centre of his roads. Keep up the good work.

  5. Hello from down under in NZ,
    process very simple and very effective thanks well done appreciate tips

  6. Great job on all your scenery! Does the train on your “Upper Track” have the ability to come down to the lower and vice versa? I may have missed that in your previous photos.

  7. Hi From South Africa
    Great track design, to keep those wandering little fingers off the scenery I also like the modern fresh colors. Well done

  8. Thanks to both you Al and Barry.

  9. This is by far, a very impressive layout. I enjoy each time you display this work and explain how it was created. I hope that you continue to promote all aspects of the layout. It is a terrific learning experience!

  10. What a nice job. The layout looks great.
    Always like to read the tips and save them in a file for future reference.

    John R USA

  11. This arrived just in time.I was planing to start making my rock’s etc,tomorrow thanks alot Barry

  12. I’m 81 years old and been out of modeling for too many years. Decided to get back into it and build a small platform (no space basement). Love your hints, shortcuts and artistic results. Well done.

  13. Really realistic,the subtle colouring of those rocks really looks good,thank you for preparing this on our behalf.

  14. Thanks for sharing your techniques. Looks excellent.

  15. well done,a very good looking layout.

  16. Really effective, I better go and get started or nothing will happen. Only dust grows wild on a model layout.

  17. Al.
    The How Too tips for building rock formations and boulders are fantastic and are great for those who are talented enough to accomplish a realistic look. However, I have found that the easiest way to make rocks and boulders that look as real as real can be, is to have someone else make them. You see I have a partner who helps me with the construction of my layout. He has been creating things like trees, rocks and dirt for years and is very good at it. His name is GOD. I simply take a walk in the country and pick up whatever He has made for me. The peaceful walk in the country also affords me the opportunity to talk with Him at which time He gives me fantastic ideas for OUR layout. He sometimes has already built a prototype which He displays before me. For those of us that are not as talented as others I suggest, get help. I prefer to go with the pro.

    With Him, “We” can accomplish much, without Him, “I” can do nothing.

    Happy Railroading and God Bless,
    Richard, USA

  18. Great ideas for rock formations. I would also like to know your method for building good looking roads. I am thinking of using peel& stick floor tiles (grey) & appyling tape or painting lines.


  20. It sounds very simple, but when I start to do it, it suddenly becomes a complex project. Keep up the good work. With the cost of materials now a days, any “home-made” ideas is a great help, so keep them coming!

  21. I have another question from Alabama, in the good ol’ USA! What scale, and how wide and long is the layout? Thanks!

  22. I love the way your landscape turned out. I am going a totally different way, I am using foam from sofa cushions. I sat the foam on my 4’X8′ layout and then I cut it with a bread knife to shape it somewhat. Next I am going to take plaster that is watered down a little and apply it with a paint brush. I am taking pictures as I am going along and if there is an interest in them I will post them. If it turns out ofcource. lol. No, I will post them no matter what, if we can’t own up to our mistakes, we have no need in even trying. lol
    Well, keep on trackin. Jim S.

  23. Cracking layout

  24. really great workmanship

  25. Remember, there are several geological types of rock and they are typical to various regions just as are commercial activities. What I mean by this is that in the iron mining areas of upper Michigan, you find solid ignias rock. This stuff is well recreated with crumpled newspaper However, were a model railroad to be set in coal country or if the mainline transverses some parts of Wisconsin where the rock structure is sedimentary, I would recommend using tree bark. If you look at chunks of it from the edge of each piece, it is constructed in layers and it makes a good replication of sedimentary rock. Even the color is right. The problem is to assemble large sections in a way that hides the glue. It can become a little bulky but it isn’t very heavy.

  26. I agree with Richard Maxwell! I try to use what I can find outside that God has provided, such as twigs for fallen timber or logs and small stones for boulders, etc…. I even use twigs for my tree trunks, no painting requied :-)

  27. what a splended lay-out

  28. Looks great Barry,
    1 question though,
    How do you clear a derailment inside your tunnels ?

  29. We fill in such a lot of space with foam, scrunched up newspaper, polystyrene tiles etc., but that’s useful space! Cut a hand access hole in the profile board, do your scenery as a thinner skin over a framework of card strips, for instance, and you have a handy little hidey-hole within for all the stuff that comes with a model railway – track cleaning rubbers, spare couplings, coffee cup etc. When I was finishing the scenics on mine, I was really stuck for anywhere to put down the tools and materials where I wouldn’t tread on them or knock them over.

  30. Hi from Australia. Great work on all the tips, obvious to see they are all considered and given in the spirit of friendship. My tips to recreate different types of rock
    * limestone outcrops can be recreated with bits of pumice I find on the beach near home, make for fantastic caves and convuluted landscapes my son had great delight in making figurine ‘cave rescue teams’ for
    * sedimentary rocks like sandstone can be mimicked with thicker tree barks laid side on with subtle painting to highlight the strata
    * igneous rocks like granites and basalt can be found in little bags in hardware stores for using as mulch around pot plants. Also, for a smoother looking finish granite then the laminate bench top sample cards at the hardware store look great, or even the off cuts from our recent Laminex bench top in our kitchen renovation. Similarly, I use paint sample chips to make walls of small buildings, advertising signs etc
    * natural cork looks great in sheets, but hard to get and can be pricey (especially this end of the world!). Old wine bottle corks torn apart make great looking loose rocks/scree
    * the best was a lava flow my son made by putting some powdered pigment in some silastic gap filler and simply extruding it with a caulking gun (he is 8!). Not sure how many HO layouts really need a lava flow, but between that and his cave rescue guys we have a layout bordering on a natural disaster zone!

  31. Thanks Barry. I’ve been struggling over how to create a cliff beside my harbour feature as opposed to just putting in a slope with grass. I’ll use your suggestions.
    Thanks again

  32. Too much hassle, although they look good. I use real rock. Also, for my track ballast I took a piece of shale and smashed it up into tiny pieces with a hammer. Go all natural!

  33. This is a beautiful layout. Would love to see the plan if you might share it with me. Thank you very much.

  34. A special thank you for sharing your techniques. You are getting excellent results. I live on the Canadian Shield where the rocks are nearly 4 billion years old so I enjoy using real ones on my layout and impressing the kids with their age. They also enjoy collecting rocks to use on the layout, I hope it’s educational as well as fun.
    I want to put in a hidden tunnel in a new layout which is hard to do with real rocks so I will be using your technique for this. Thanks again.

  35. like your layouts iam in process of making one,but space is small….

  36. Very nice! I plan to use some of your tips on my layout. I like natural but right now there is about 30 inches of snow pack in my region of Maine. Thank you for sharing and that you Al for posting.

  37. I would like to build an above the windows and door around the room O gauge layout. If anyone would have photos or suggestions I would greatly appreciate it. The reason for the layout is because the room is small. Much Thanks.

  38. Excellent info.

  39. Nicely done.

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