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A soft rock wall on the McPhee Logging Co.This method is based on a system developed by Mark & Angela Fry and is reproduced here with their permission. I have changed some of the materials used, but the methods are basically the same.




Using plaster for rockwork can be very heavy, especially for portable layouts. It also tends to achieve a flat two-dimensional effect of a blanket thrown over a set of formers. A new alternative are rocks made from soft foam, the type used in pillows and mattresses,  with a rock-like surface added. Mark and Angela Fry have demonstrated the “soft rocks’ technique at various Model Railroad Conventions. You can use various types and colours of real dirt as Mark and Angela do, but if you don’t have access to these right 'dirts' or are like me and live in the city, a great alternative are the commercially available tile grouts.


Tile Grouts are available in a large range of colours, especially in the browns and beiges. Select two or three colours that will suit your type of scenery, but try and keep the colours of the same toning i.e. they compliment each other. Used plastic ice cream containers are great to mix and hold these grouts, Usually I have three mixed up ready to go for a rock creation session. They are:

One container with straight No. 27 (beige)

One with a mixture of No. 27 (beige) and some No. 42 (brown) to give a darker shade

The third is mainly No. 4 (Grey).

Small amounts of highlight colours, such as a lighter grey or the straight brown, can be on hand – used margarine tubs are great for this. When you have finished, the lids can be put on and all the containers safely stored away until required again.




Cut the thick foam into the required rock shapes with a sharp knife or scissors, and rough the surface with a course rasp. Shallow cuts can be made in the face of the rock to simulate strata. The foam is then soaked in water and squeezed until only damp. Using `Selleys' ‘NO MORE GAPS™, which is available in white or brown, apply a suitable amount to the faces of the rock. Then with an old brush continually soaked in water, spread the NO MORE GAPS evenly over the entire surface, making sure to coat the inside of the strata cuts. Before the NO MORE GAPS dries, roll the rock various colours of tile grouts using the NO MORE GAPS as an adhesive.

Using your fingers, work the colours together, and also dab on some of the highlight and darker tile grouts until you achieve the desired effect. Put aside to dry. Remember that the tile grouts dry lighter than how the appear when first applied. When dry they can be glued to the scenery with `LIQUID NAILS' or with a HOT GLUE’ gun. The bits of off cut foam can be shaped, dampened with water a rolled in the tile grouts to make small rocks to be used as talus or to fill in gaps in the larger rocks.




Apart from there extreme lightness, these ‘rocks’ are almost indestructible and can be bent around edges and squeezed together to eliminate joins and gaps. This is especially useful at baseboard joins. They also have the effect of giving your scenery a 3 dimensional look, something that is difficult with other scenery methods.


Note: For those of you who are not familiar with 'No More Gaps' and what it is, it's a water based filler used to fill gaps in the building trade, and comes in a cartridge, and is sold at all hardware stores.