Temple Court scenery – Part III …

Hi all,

Scenery is progressing slowly at Temple Court.  Lots more cutting and carving of the foam has happened, creating even more mess!!

It was time to think about applying the final coating over the foam to fill in the gaps and finalise the landform.

Now, I could have gone the plaster and paper towel route, but this to me is very messy and you only have a short working time with the plaster before it starts to set.

About two years ago, I purchased a series of online DVD’s from Model Trains Video which is an arm of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine.  The two DVD’s were produced by Mike Confalone and documented how he had gone about making the scenery and specific scenes on his HO scale Allagash Railway.  Click the image below to go to the site.  Google is your friend if you wish to find out more about the Allagash.


Whilst the series is ultimately how Mike did the scenery on his own layout, and the content is based on US prototype railroads, the techniques can be applied to any layout modelling.

In one of the DVD segments, Mike demonstrates how he makes a “mud” concoction to use as a ground cover base.  It’s a mix of a product called “Celluclay”, water and latex (acrylic) paint.  The Celluclay is a papier mache product which sets hard once dry and can then be sanded, filed etc to shape.

After watching the videos, I tried to find this Celluclay.  It’s certainly available here in Australia, but it’s quite pricey, and being a dense product, quite heavy to post.

Again, Google was my friend, and I came across what appears to be an identical product called EC Sculpt-it.  Well, after more searching, I came across a 10kg bag of the stuff being sold by Officeworks.  It was only available as an online order, but I was able to have it delivered to my local store for free pickup.  Here it is on the Officeworks website.  At $55 for 10kg, it’s certainly cheaper than the equivalent quantity of Celluclay.

Below are some shots of the area prior to applying the “mud”.


I decided to mix up a small, initial batch of the “mud” as a test, but just used water only with the Sculp-it.  Well this didn’t turn out so well, and I probably made it too wet, and wasn’t all that easy to apply.  It did however harden in about 45 minutes.

first attempt at the "mud"


For the second attempt, I decided to mix some acrylic paint with the Sculp-it.  I found some very old paving paint in the garden shed and decided to try that.  It certainly mixed better and made into a nice paste, but again, I probably made it too wet, as it seemed to take overnight to dry.

second attempt at the "mud"


I then decided to look at Mike’s video once again.  I discovered that he adds some water to the dry stuff first, then adds the paint.  There is no hard and fast mixing ratio, but after having a third attempt, I came up with a good mix.

I use three good handfuls of the Sculpt-it, probably about 100ml of water, then add the paint until a thick consistency is achieved.  It needs to be thoroughly mixed so no dry product remains.

The photo on the left below shows the dry product and the right hand photo shows the resultant “mud”.

the dry productThe "mud"








Prior to starting with this third batch of the mud, I decided to attach the first section of fascia so I could bring the mud right up to the fascia edge.  I used an offcut of 1/8” masonite that was left over from cutting the spline material.  It was 2400mm long by about 230mm wide.  This was temporarily held in place and a rough line drawn on the inside following the foam contours.  It was then cut out with a jigsaw, placed back in position and screwed to the joists.  The screw heads will be filled and sanded later.

fascia fixing


Then came the fun part.  The mud was worked into the foam with one or two fingers, smoothing out regularly with a light spray of water on top.  The photo below shows my stepson, Connor, helping me out!

applying the mud

The mud was brought right up to the fascia edge and also up to the roadbed and shaped appropriately.  By now I think I had the right mixture and technique happening.  It was dry to the touch after a couple of hours.

The photo below shows the first section complete. 

first section of "mud" down

I’m still not sure whether to continue covering all the foam, or just use it to fill the gaps and make contours where needed.  It’s certainly going to use up a lot of mud if I am to completely cover the foam.  What you see above has used 2kg of the dry Sculpt-it.  I have read that either sawdust or Vermiculite can be used 50/50 with the Sculpt-it to make it go further.  I might try this with the next batch of mud.

I have also been making some rock castings from plaster in some borrowed moulds.  These are planned for a short section just to the left of the printed picture in the photo above.  The image below shows what I hope to achieve in the scene.  More on this in the next post.


Now that I have this first section of scenery done and the fascia in place, I really like how the scene is progressing.  I will now continue with the mud behind the track, probably up to where the rock castings will go.  Stay tuned!


Posted on Sep 28, 2014, in Scenery, Temple Court and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Looking good, Ian. It’s a rewarding feeling once you start covering the angular bench work and start forming the contours of the landscape, isn’t it?
    I have been much less adventurous, using plaster I bought from Bunnings, over foam. A little goes a pretty long way. I like the idea of a tinted base, perhaps with more flexibility. So I will be keen to try some of the ideas you and Col have suggested.
    Would never have thought of looking at Officeworks!

  2. Hi Ian

    Looking good. However, as I am a bit of a tightwad the thought of paying that much for the celuclay or alternative, is a bit much for me, especially when I consider that the amount of the material I have used on my layout would have been a very expensive exercise.

    Looking at your applied finish, it does look very good, so certainly cannot knock that part of it. Interesting also is that mixing the water clay is the reverse of how other plaster materials are reccomended.

    I use & like working with cornice cement, comes in 10 & 20 Kg bags, although the price of that is rising so cost savings may not be much. I mix in small batches, & add vinegar to stay off the setting, along with a squirt of cheap dishwashing liquid, along with some disinfectant that helps keep mold at bay. I have used paint but generally now use brickies sand colouring powders, the thing is that they dry a lot lighter than paint does.

    I have also on some late additions added some fine sand to the mix when doing a couple of the rock faces for the gritty appearance, & that comes up ok for that. I now see Bunnings selling large playground fine sand for around $8.00 a bag, & is a good medium to use for “Bombo dust” around yards & in loco depots, painted over with grey & black mixes & PVA’d into place.

    I have used styrofoam under the cornice cement mix, to a thickness of around 10mm for strength, & ease to plant trees through..



    • Hi Col,

      You have some interesting ideas there. The Sculp-it was certainly an experiment and by no means the only medium I plan to use. It has been great over the foam base, but as I’ll probably not be using foam on a lot of the other scenes, I’ll have to come up with an alternative.

      I’ll definitely give the cornice cement mix a try with your additives. I’m certainly after the most economical method as well. I can see me probably using the majority of the 10kg bag of Sculp-it just in the Temple Court section. I’ll also look for the fine sand at Bunnings.


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