Those who pay attention to such things may have noticed that NOCH, the German Model Railway scenic accessories specialist, released a large gravel plant kit along with some ancillary quarry buildings, in 2013. To complement these buildings they also introduced a section of Quarry Rock Wall. This review will be a quick introduction to that item, and it will be followed by a small feature on a mini-project utilising the product: Cliff-Side Road.
The rock wall is packaged in a single polythene bag with a stapled card top and a card colour insert featuring a photo of the gravel plant with a rock face behind it. That it is packaged so simply is of some note, in that the material is very light, as well as strong, and can endure plenty of handling.
The product comes as a single block measuring 310 x 170mm (12.9 x 6.69”), with the thickness of the block varying significantly, according to the rocky contours, between around 15 to 30mm.
As can be appreciated from the photos, the detailed surface has what appears to be boulders and fragments of stone attached to it, but it should be noted that these are very much an integral part of the block and do not come loose. The block is made of a quite hard foam which is not at all crumbly; in all the handling and cutting that I did, there was no fragmentation or dust produced, which made it a very easy and clean material to use.
The texture is nicely random, with no repeated patterns, and provides a very authentic and rugged rocky surface, perhaps more like a natural cliff face, rather than a worked quarry, in fact. Note too that the block has already been spray painted with a grey paint that contains pale grey / white speckles, which gives a shaded and textured finish to the rock, straight out of the bag.
NOCH’s website shows the foam being cut with a small hacksaw, but I found it perfectly easy to cut using a heavy duty trimming knife, pressing the blade a little deeper on each pass until the cut was right through, if necessary turning over on to the detail side to finish off where the foam is thickest.
It was also possible to make a more delicate cut with a small modelling knife, when it was necessary, for example, to follow some of the contours of the rock on the detail side. The rest of the cut could then be completed on the reverse with the heavier knife.
NOCH recommend gluing the foam with a hot glue gun, and suggest that it can be painted with acrylics if desired. I don’t know how the foam would react to any solvent based paints or glues.
NOCH also sell separately a Rock Compound filler material which can be used to fill joins between segments of this foam rock wall, although it seems to me, especially if you intend to paint the finished article, that various other types of modelling or household fillers would probably do just as well.
So it’s strong but easy to cut, appears crumbly but is actually not, and it looks like rock but is very, very light.
Although labelled as HO scale, it would fit any small scale scene, and in fact would probably still fit well in 1/35 scale, the main limitation being the size of the chunk of foam you get in relation to the model it is used with.
The main challenge, in my view, may be thinking up ways to make use of it.