Category Archives: Building the BDSRy

Building the BDSRy – Part 3 Painting & Detailing Rocks

In this installment we will show how Murph details our rock wall.

Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement

Once the rocks have been painted to his satisfaction, Murph began the process of detailing them with small rocks, lichen, and branches.  The first step was to coat the area to be covered with Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement.  While the cement was still wet, he laid down a base layer of ground foam, dirt, ballast, and rocks.  He randomly sprinkled the items throughout to avoid getting a too uniform look.

Coat the area to be covered with scenic glue
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Sprinkle a light coat of ballast, dirt, or stones.

IMAG0517The scenic cement dries clear, so there were no worries about laying down too much of it.  After laying down the ground cover, Murph moved on to adding some interesting details.  A quick trip outside the shop yielded a promising looking tree branch that could be modified for our use.  Murph trimmed it, coated the branches with more scenic glue, sprinkled on the desired amount, then mounted it to the foam scenery base.

Murph places some tall grass onto the embankment.

The final step was to add a variety of tall plants growing out from the rocks.  For this Murph used Woodland Scenics Field Grass.  Each piece was trimmed to the desired height, then a small amount of scenic cement was added to the spot he wanted to place the grass.  Using a tweezers, he applied the bundles and held them in place for a few moments.

The finished product is a nice rock embankment where our O scale Big Dog Scenic Ry runs.  This particular piece was placed just outside our tunnel.  A high-level shot gives a nice view of the finished product.

The Big Dog Scenic Ry exits the tunnel and passes our new rock embankment.IMAG0521


Building the BDSRy – Part 2 Painting Bricks

Brick wall with dark base oat to highlight the the seams.

Now that we have our brick retaining wall created, it’s time to start painting and weathering our brick walls.  Murph has started by preshading in a dark base coat along the brick seams.  This will cause the detail of the wall to “pop” once the final coat is applied.

A light gray coat applied to the green foam.

With the base coat in place, Murph lightly starts to apply the lighter gray coat to cover the green foam.  A light touch here is the key.


Final coat applied to cover bare spots and to also lightly cover the seams to make the darker undercoat pop.

Once the paint has dried, a second coat will be applied to cover any spots missed, and also to cover more of the darker seam lines.  To highlight the individual stone brick in the wall, add a small amount of white paint to the base coat gray. Lightly paint the inside of the stones. Finally, over paint with the base gray.   The final look is a nicely finished brick retaining wall.

Here you can see a nice before and after comparison of the foam wall in the various stages of painting. The finished look is on top and you can see how the seam details really emerge and the bricks look rough and weathered.

Building the BDSRy – Part 1 Getting Started

BDRWY_3Welcome to the first in a series of posts about the building of the Big Dog Scenic Railway.  This is the O scale railway that circles the shop.  We have spent the last couple of months laying track around the store interior, and now we are ready to begin laying down the scenic elements that will create a finished look.  We will also create various “scenes” along the right-of-way (towns, villages, industries, etc.).  As we make progress with our various building steps we will document our methods and materials and present them in this post.  Follow along as the BDSRy takes shape!

Rough cut shapes
Rough cut shapes

Our first project is to create retaining walls along the right-of-way to hide the risers we needed to use to control track elevation.  We are using Pactiv 1″ thick extruded polystyrene insulated sheet.  This comes in 4′ x 8′ foot sheets and is super lightweight.  It is easily carved and shaped to represent just about any material you like.  It is light and easily transported.  Many modelers use it on top of their layout base as it also deadens sound and presents a great land form that can be carved for ditches, lakes, ponds, etc.  It can also be stacked and cut and sanded to shape for mountains and hillsides.  We will get into some of those details as we progress along the BDSRy.

Stanaley Surform Tool
Stanaley Surform Tool

Step one was to cut some rough outline pieces to begin forming our retaining walls.  After the rough cut, we then needed to shape it to a more finished form.  A Stanley Surform tool is ideal for sanding the styrene to a desired form.  Warning! – sanding is messy and best done in an area that can be easily cleaned.  Not the best activity to do while watching the Super Bowl!!

Butch uses the blunt edge of a hobby knife to scribe lines into the foam. Then he makes cuts to shape the wall to the slope of our track.

After the shape is created, you can fine-tune it with a more detailed cut.  We did two methods here – a brick retaining wall and a stone retaining wall.  For the brick wall, you can use a blunt instrument (screwdriver, back edge of a knife, etc.) to create the brick lines.  Once the lines were created, we then cut the wall to fit the slope of our incline.  We did the same for the stone retaining wall, except that we carved and gouged rock faces instead of scribing lines.

Carved rock wall with rock debris and experimental paint job.In this photo you can see how we carved the rock face, then experimented with some additional rock details and tested a small patch with paint.  The paint came out a little more brown than we liked so we will change the shade to something with more gray in it to more closely resemble granite. We glued extra chunks of foam to some of the carved areas to give the wall more 3D texture.

Continued in part 2.