Rock formations for your railroad layout

Got this in from Dan.

Don’t care how many times you’ve made rock formations – there’s some good stuff here.

“Good morning I enjoy receiving your emails and the various links great ideas here is one for making ledges and rocks .

I spend a lot of time outside but am always on the look out for things I can use in my N scale railroad.

I have found tree bark a very good item to use for making rock ledges and rocks – search out trees that have thick layered bark such as hemlock or ash – I prefer hemlock as it has a reddish colour to it which gives it a good colour for rocks and ledges .

Also I have sanded the bark on a belt sander 60 or 80 grit to get the sanding dust ( wear a mask) and the dust can be used to give you a wash out effect below the ledge or rocks . But I also found it can be painted any colour you want.

I usually wire brush the bark to clean it out then break it of in irregulary pieces to suit the size of ledge I need – the I make a hole in the foam insert the bark and finish arround it with trees etc .

The other thing about layerd bark especially hemlock is if you seperate the layers the between layers looks like boulders . Check out the photos .

photo 1 – inbetween layers of barks – gives you rocks

photo2 – bark on edge place in foam with palster

photo 3 finished ledge with other cover

photo 4 CN loco passing rock ledges made from bark inset in foam with palster still needs trees shrubs etc I think folks will get the idea



A Big thanks to Dan.

And thanks also to anyone that’s emailed in about the ebay cheat sheet. Glad you like it. Latest one is here.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if you want to start your model train layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



38 Responses to Rock formations for your railroad layout

  1. Roger says:

    Beautiful – and what a great variation on the usual ‘chalk face’ plastery look. Got to try it. Like the colours used too.

  2. Bullfrog says:

    A great idea for rock formations – Thanks – I’l be using it !

  3. Tommy Brooks says:

    I too use bark for rocks. I prefer using Walnut as it give more of the right texture for layer rock,and the color looks good to.

  4. builder Kim says:

    Wow what a great idea and looks fantastic.Dan must be canadian.He’s using a CN train.Dan i have made realistic power or telephone poles like our canadian ones and else where.I cant seem to get pic’s published and have sent them of the poles.Oh Al im giveing you permission to give my email address to those who are interested in poles.I also have 16 already made but have no room for them on my layout i have anought and made extra.Sheeesh cant even give them away.great work Dan.

  5. truckman1999 says:

    I have never tryed tree bark, but looks like something i should try thank u.

  6. Paco Gayon says:

    It sure help to know how. Thanks a lot.

  7. Tom says:

    Dan, thanks for sharing the use of tree bark for making rock formations. Fantastic idea: Great looking! Going to use this idea on my N Scale railroad.
    Thank you Al once again for sharing Dan’s idea and project, as well as all the others you so willingly share with us.
    Ebay cheat sheet: can’t say enough about it: Awesome!
    This is of course: one of my favorite web sites. Sharing the projects of other railroaders is invaluable.

    best regards:

  8. This is a great idea because there are alot of trees here Downunder that would suit the requirements you mentioned, as in the past I’ve used latex painted onto rock face or tree bark, but now I can just use the bark itself, thanks to your info, so thanks…

  9. duncan says:

    Hi Dan, from someone who spent 25 years mining & shifting rock I can say tat this looks very realistic and if I can find suitable trees, I will give it a try on my next mine layout. I just finished a miniature one. I wish I had seen this before I completed it. Next time ! Thanks, D

  10. you just gave me soom good ideas thanks

  11. John says:

    Great idea! Thanks.

  12. Austin Wilson says:

    Love the idea and details. I use wood in the winter time for heat and I always have tons of bark that I bag up and throw out in the garbage. Love the CN Train, I have one just like it, HO Scale, DCC. My layout just keeps growing, my rail yard alone is 6 feet wide and 8 feet long, then the main layout, 4 feet wide and 22 feet long. Love model railroading. I have to start keeping some of that bark now. Austin, New Brunswick, Canada.

  13. Norm Ramos from California says:

    Hi all, I have worked in all scales, from my own hand built 1/2 HO back during WWII, to O thence HO, and finally N, but now I am older (90 ) I have switched to #1 Gauge… and now I am consumed with Garden RR’s… This using Bark from tree’s, is the best idea for Outcrop’s, Rocks and Tallus at the bottom of cliffs I have ever heard of, and it is so simple and adaptable to any gauge… I am going to try and make my Garden RR more or less into a Perspective layout with the scenery going from #1 gauge in the foreground to possibly N gauge at the far corners…

  14. Trich Trouton says:

    Hello, I have used the Australian Paperbark Tree (Malaleuca) for all my Rocks & most of my Rocky Ground Cover. It is a wonderful medium as you can strip it off the Tree in great big sheets & then make it as thick or thin, short or long as you like. It also has wonderful colour variations. I am a new chum to Model Trains & I find you sight Fantastic Trich

  15. Brian Clauser says:

    Nice layering effect! It must be sedimentary rock!

  16. paul Otway says:

    Thanks Dan Have you ever tried modelling clay?, the clay I use is Darwi.

  17. Ian says:

    i will be trying this, the bark looks good.

  18. Bob da Grouch says:

    Now that, sir, is being in touch with your suroundings. Very imaginative indeed. Very attrractive scenery. I love it.

  19. Luis says:

    Thankyou, this nice work, this my first time I try to learn how work over this layouts

  20. gene Macario says:

    Great idea …likje the Walnut idea.

  21. Robert Bouskill says:

    What a great idea. I have been modelling for fifty years but never thought of this. Great out of the box thinking !!!

  22. Don says:

    Looks great. I think that Ponderosa Pine bark would work beautifully too.

  23. Danny Henderson says:

    My Father-In-Law is a Tree Surgeon (Now retired) I’ve used this method for years now (at least since the early1980’s) after I decided to use it from one of the trees he had cut down at a residence in town, and I have also mentioned it several times in comments on several model railroading websites in their TIP’s Forums – The response I usually always get back in return is – quote “This idea has already been brought up and post by somebody else and is really old hat now” Unquote”

  24. wayne gilling says:

    In the central states and Canada look for cotton wood bark or a tree called boxelder both have excellent bark for this and many other uses. Cotton wood can be found that is 4 inches thick, and can be cut on different angles to get different effects.

  25. ricardo quinones says:

    that is a grear idea …
    thank you,

  26. idris dixon says:

    I’ve used tree bark for year from trees in my back garden and all way thought it a stupid idea as it deteriorate over time. however a thought has occurred to me to perhaps spray them over with clear hobby mat varnish… I wonder
    By the way -great web site all way looking forward to your next news letter, thanks

  27. Martin Kubik says:

    Greetings from Southern California. Very nice layout and train action.

  28. James Altene says:

    Very nice pictrues

  29. Perry says:

    I am wondering if Pine tree or oak tree bark would work?

  30. Martin says:

    Great idea. So simple and yet effective.

  31. Robert Weldon says:

    love the hints on using bark. I have found some rocks that look like shelving. When I FINALLY get to build my layout I will be continuously going back to your emails and using them as a reference. Thanks for publishing all these helpful tips

  32. Al Zeliff says:

    This is a great resource for me as I have learned a lot. Wish there were more pictures though. Also would be nice to know from where in the world the commenters are from.

    One place in my HO layout is a loop where the trains can turn around, but as soon as they start back the reverse direction because of the polarity. So I understand why this happens; I just don’t know what to do about it.

    Keep up the good work! We need you. From the mountains of North Carolina.

  33. FastEddie says:

    It really looks right for rock formations GREAT Job. I use crumpbled tin foil for forms and make my rocks from plaster of paris. Then paint and tint them.

  34. Ben Pezzino says:

    I need to tell you-
    No time or room to build in “HO’. Lost my Home. Now in a Lousy small Apartment
    So, when I move I will only make a Layout against the wall in “N” gauge.
    I had a Hobby shop- so I have the Equipment.
    Have lots of TRAINS TO SELL Any Ideas??? in 3 Gauges.
    I enjoy your Article’s Thank you
    Ben Pezzino in New Jersey.

  35. Jerry Lodge says:

    To builder Kim

    I am very interested in any new ways of creating realistic beauty to my layout. I Work with O gauge and would love these telephone poles and any thing else that you may have or ideas about scenery and model railroading.

    With the Warmest and Kindest of Regard


  36. Quacker says:

    TO Al Zeiff

    Go to the Forum at
    and you should get some help.

  37. Colin Edinburgh says:

    Hi looks good. Please everyone remember to use the bark from felled or dropped trees never take the bark from a living tree you’ll probably kill it. Not even our great hobby is worth doing that. No I’m not a tree hugger I just think we should be trying to at least preserve what we have.

  38. Kevin says:

    In Australia we have tree could iron ark looks a lot like your hemrosk at is hard as iron I will be looking fore some as soon as possible what a great iderar

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