More railroad tips and pictures

“hi Alister i have been working on my laout for a year all my pics are work in process i have many more thats if you want them the cemetry is made from ice lolly sticks i an trying to keep it as a Welsh theme.

All the best from Gwilym”

“I have just subscribed to your tip line and I want to say it is been helpful. Especially the inexpensive way of do many thing , which I have already incorporated in into my layout.

I have a 4X8 layout that has a lot of mountains and cliff on it. I am a the phase to apply plaster on my mountains and have found a low cost material and method to apply compared to the plaster rolls that cost to much for my pocket which at the end has a flat plastering look. With that smooth look you then need to apply the texture to the landscape to get the look. I have found that I can achieve both with the first application. This is how I do it:

You purchase mesh rolls 25’L X 2’W. Cut the rolls in whatever width you want. I cut mine with a metal saw blade and cut them in (3) 6” and (2) 3” rolls, which totals the total width of the mesh.

You then roll out what you want to cover and staple it in place. The mesh has a slight adhesive on one side. It will almost stick to paper, wood etc. Use masking tape at the seems that slightly overlaps the last mesh you applied. Now you have apply the mesh tape and stable it in place. I

t is time to mix up the plaster. I use easy sand 20. Easy sand 20 is a plaster compound that is use in construction finishing drywall for quick setting so that it can be sanded within the same day.

It dries in 20 to 30” before you can continue. If you want texture to your landscape mix the plaster till it is lumpy not perfectly creamy with no lumps. Note: for a smooth finish you can make it creamy and achieve a smooth finish, your preference. Also make it slightly runny kind of like thick syrup you put on pancakes. When applying it will seep through the mesh tape and form up solid in 20 to 30 minutes with NO cracks. 20 minute easy sand has a low lime content and that is what I believe doesn’t allow it to crack. Plus it is harder then regular drywall compound.

When applying it will seep down through the mesh then I start brushing it on in the direction of the mountains or the cliff you might want. With the compound lumpy it give a great rough texture for ground under trees, gravel beds, rock etc.

You can apply as many coat as you like to get the thickness you require. I have done this on my layout and it has save be a bundle. I paid about $25.00 for everything. That plastered my entire layout table. If I where to use the plaster rolls that you purchase at hobby shop I would have paid in the ball park of $100 to $125 to do the same thing.

This is how I did my mountains and cliffs. I also use the same compound when pouring rock and column molds with NO cracks.

Someone has probably already written to you about this. If they have then just disregard this e-mail. Keep sending those tips plus the pic. I think this is a great thing you are doing.


All good stuff – keep ’em coming.

Still getting comments on the ‘ebay cheat sheet‘ – so thanks for those. I do appreciate them. Makes it worthwhile.

Take a look at my boy’s latest print out scenery. He’s done a house with a terrace. Course, I’m biased – but it looks superb.



45 Responses to More railroad tips and pictures

  1. Looks like a nice job you have done there

  2. Bill says:

    Can you be more specific about “sand 20”? Does it have a commercial name? Is this a British product or is also sold in America. Thanks

  3. Mike Street says:

    Hi Patrick, regarding the above method for rocks, you don’t say what the ‘mesh’ is. Is it Metal? as you cut it with a saw blade and what is it called?
    Cheers Mike S

  4. brian says:

    How do i get my pics on this ??

  5. Cord says:

    Very intriguing. Please send more pics, Gwylim! Very curious to see scenery ‘interacting’ with rafters. Nice layout!

  6. Br john says:

    Very nice job Gwilym. Thanks for the tip on easy sand 20. We can get here in the us at home depot. I will give it try.

  7. James Stewart Taylor says:

    Love the church and churchyard. Nice detail.

  8. Tom says:

    Can’ wait to see the finished product. Each person has their very on way of building a model railroad and that makes this hobby so unique. And the best part is their willingness to share with all. Thanks Gwilym and Al.

  9. Brilliant stuff Gwilym. Another tip is get friendly with a plasterer. I have a mate who gives me offcuts from plasterboard when he installs it. If you chuck the scraps on a ground they break up a bit but the fibre still hold them together. Leave them rough & they are great for mountoud peaks etc. Very strong for bridges. Just have to dab them with a loose mixture to give a rough terrain then. I am experimenting with them at present & giving a lot of scraps to our local model railway club.

    If you don’t have a mate look around building sites. I bet they will be glad to see you take away a box full! Free is the best price of all.

  10. Nick Weir says:

    Love the method, sounds quite straight forward, with a great result. I too would like to know the mesh details, brand etc.

  11. paul Otway says:

    nice layout

  12. TOM says:


  13. Martin Paton says:

    Cant be based on a welsh location too much light!
    Nice job good luck finishing it.

  14. Duncan says:

    I like the attic layout. Good to get inspiration like this. Thanks, D/

  15. Ian says:

    great tip on the easy sand 20 layout in a attic looks and sounds good send more pics

  16. Bob Martin says:

    Wow! Talk about space utilization. Now that’s impressive.

  17. I don’t think you can’t beat the old paper towels dipped in a plaster mixture made from scratch and layed over flyscreen or cardboard webbing moulded into the shape of your hills, mountains and your landscape, then left to dry overnight and if your not happy with a section you can just add more to build it up. But whatever method you decide to tackel if it gives you the results you started out to get, then any method is the right method and this is what makes this hobby so wonderfull, because as long as you get the track layed properly and trains running without mishap then like everyone else you got it right, so good luck with your future in this wonderfull hobby both socially and as a hobbyist. So thanks you for invitting us to see your layout Gwilym.

  18. fred says:

    why don’t we see answer to questions posted like where can i find sand 20??

  19. Tim Parker says:

    Nice job!! I am the planning stages of a 4×8 or 4×7 N-Scale layout, space permitting, and need more ideas for construction of mountains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, forests, etc. Anybody, please feel free to Email me with ideas, links, etc. for my layout. Probably take a few months to finish…….

  20. Ken says:

    I think sand 20 is dry wall plaster/jointing paste.

    Hope this helps.

  21. Ken says:

    The way I make my rock faces is by using a large lump of coal (rock might do) I put a THIN coat of linseed oil or cooking oil onto the coal.
    After this I use thin gause and place it onto the coal then use plaster of paris to cover this.
    You only need to put this on thin, just covering the gause.
    You can use a soft brush to gently stipple so that you get an imprint of the coal/rock.
    After about 20/30 mins you peal the gause/plaster of the coal and you should have a good imprint of a real rock face.

  22. SuffolkBoy1956 says:

    Welsh? I can see the cows, but where are the sheep?
    Otherwise – brilliant!

  23. John Whelan says:

    What a great use of space and layout looks great, I believe the mesh you are referring too is called Jointing tape (Plaster Board Joint Tape) and the Sand is Joint Compound (Plaster Board Jointing Compound). The rolls of the jointing tape are great for creating mountains and cliffs etc and is very strong so it is ideal for portable layouts, I have used both of these in the past over tightly rolled and folded bits of newsprint. As other have said using left over discarded bits of plaster board or ceiling tiles are brilliant in forming rock faces, I use a heavy mix of PVA and tinted water to paint over the edges and leave to set for a few days before applying the finishes.

  24. Colin Yeates says:

    Good tip as are many that are published. Keep up the good work.

  25. chief Lucky says:

    Easy Sand 5,15,20,30 is handle in most do it your self centers. The numbers indicate the amount of time you have before it sets up. Alot of your Professionals will use Easy Sand to save time. A painter can use Easy Sand 5 while he’s painting if he runs into a small crack. Apply it and then start painting the adjacent wlss when you get back where the crack was you can sand it and then paint the wall.

  26. Lionel Boutin says:

    I America sand 20 is actually call stay smooth 20 sold at home depot or lowes home improvement stores in the drywall section

  27. John Reynolds says:

    It has been a while since I built a layout with mountain topography (or even hills for that matter). For basic shapes I like to use cloth remnants about 1 inch wide and 6 inches long. I soak these in diluted (50%) PVA glue and weave them over an armature of wadded newspaper or masking tape draped between cardboard forms. For lightweight rocks, landscape bark or broken ceiling tiles provide great texture and are easily blended with a light coat of plaster.

  28. Rod Mackay says:

    You have had stuff from Wales Al, my Diano Marina Italian HO layout is in the middle of the Vale of Glamorgan, just yards from the most Southerly point in Wales on the Bristol Channel. Iechydd dda!

  29. Chris says:

    Where can you get this mesh in North America and is there another name or brand name that it goes by?

  30. John Marshall says:

    A sure way to save on the plaster gauze materials is to contact your local hospital emergency room. The materials is packaged with a shelf life [use by date] and after that they throw it out. Have them throw it your way! It still works well for our purposes. You can also talk to an Orthopedic Clinic. They do the same as the hospitals.
    I have used some that was 8-10 years past the date with great success.

  31. Peter Macdonald says:

    If you keeping a Welsh theme does that mean the Welsh use lolly sticks for headstones? Just kidding, good work Gwilym

  32. ken says:

    thanks for all the great tips.i am now about ready to start my mountains.

  33. Jim Richards says:


    Ardderchog !

  34. Vic Heffren says:

    Beautiful job !!

  35. Peter says:

    Easy Sand 20 doesn’t seem to be sold in California (?)
    I looked at the USG Safety Data Sheet
    and it says the Dust can cause Cancer,
    Wear a respirator when using or Mixing.

  36. Kevin McArdle says:

    My main consideration when modeling scenery is weight and portability if and when I move, but if that is not a concern, then it doesn’t matter. I think you mean joint compound, and it’s cheap and workable. Great idea on using ice cream sticks (lolly) for headstones. How about dipping in a wash or stain to look like slate or granite? At the end of the day you spur us out of the doldrums and make us all realize that this hobby is about running trains, and there is no wrong or right way to do so, only our own way to enjoy this great hobby. Thank you.

  37. Richard Chapple Sr says:

    Reading all the comments on types of material used for mesh, I have used several over the years. One that I have not used, I wonder if anyone else has tried using the landscaping weed barrier mesh. It is thin, flexible and I think fairly inexpensive? It may be a good alternative that could be applied over a cardboard web to give shape.

  38. Robert Rolfe says:

    To the reply about Easy Sand 20 not sold in California. Well I live in Nevada and a lot of things used in the construction trades has a warning on it, Known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. I have never seen a warning by any other state on any product I have ever bought that states this. What does California know that the other 49 do not? Take it with a grain of salt, you are not going to make enough dust building a model rail road layout to ever make any problem to you, now if you eat it, you are on your own.
    Just saying
    NV Bob

  39. Ian Pither says:

    I live in Germany but am British. i love one just posted comment ‘ make us all realize that this hobby is about running trains, and there is no wrong or right way to do so, only our own way to enjoy this great hobby.’. I belong to a group that build and run 100 percent to standard rules. Sometimes it is frustrating and i wonder if they can fantasy and then found your phase very pleasing.

  40. Bob Walker says:

    Hi Gwilym… very effective use of space… very inspirational to those of us still designing their layout & struggling to find space in our homes to set it up… thanx for sharing! -Bob W, NH, USA.

  41. Bob Walker says:

    Hey there, Patrick… good tips… here in New Hampshire in the states, most hardware stores & places like Home Depot sell something called “hardware cloth”… it’s not actually cloth at all, but a square wire mesh w/ a 1/2” x 1/2″grid (it is often mistakenly called “chicken wire”, which has a hexagonal grid)… it is quite stiff & resilient & may be difficult to shape & manage, but would be more structurally robust & difficult to crush or inadvertently poke holes into (your mountains would be indestructible)… I was wondering if anyone here has tried using this material in their layouts? Thanx to all & especially Al for a great forum… -Bob W, NH, USA

  42. jules rosen says:

    Fyi the cancer warning is there because California law provides huge fines if any of 2000 chemicals is found in a product .any anyone can bring a lawsuit for the fine.

  43. William Barnett says:

    How do I get information on G scale buildings. Like measurements, without having to use the copy machine over and over again

  44. Clarence Briggs says:

    United States Gypsum 384214 Sheetrock Lightweight 20-30 Min 20 Joint Compound, 18 lb, White to Off-White. called easy sand 20 sold by amazon for about $30

  45. James says:

    Good idea, but I’m confused ? How do you make it lumpy not perfectly creamy without lumps? I’m lost !

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