The Clever Model Railroading Scenery
Techniques To Make Your Layout Resemble The Real World
Trains don’t just run through an empty landscape, so the scenery (geographical
setting) is a vital part of any model railroad layout. Constructing the countryside
and cityscape through which your model trains will travel can be tremendous fun.
When creating model railroad scenery you need to consider the era, geographic
location, and relative prosperity of the area being modeled.
Don't mix eras - putting 1970s building in a turn of the century
Or putting a 1980's Honda model automobile in fifties-era scenery.
Study the architecture of the buildings from that time period.
Find out what kind of shrubs and trees are likely to be found in that
Little details can add to the realism to your model railroad scenery. Get
model trees that look like native species from your hobby shop or make them
Tunnels and a bridge will add interest to your model railroad scenery. Depending
on your layout, you may need a rail station too.
You could put operating signals at crossings. Use either a set of crossing
flashers or a flasher and drop-arm combo. Kids (and adults too) are mesmerized by
these 'lights and action' items.
Other ideas like a working grain elevator, water tower, coal
loaders, or a control towers can add interest to model railroad scenery and help
complete a layout. Be creative, but specific, with your model railroad scenery.
Weathering, is basically the art of taking something new and making
it look like something old. It could be locomotive, caboose, a building, a bridge,
a tunnel, a road, a fence, or any element of model railroad scenery for that
matter. Almost anything ages and changes over time.
For example; when you buy a some rolling stock it comes packaged
all shiny, plastic and new. It probably looks too perfect, unreal and out of place
alongside the other cars on the track. It may need "roughing up" to make it look
used, or at least show some signs of wear and tear.
It really comes down to deciding if want to "rough-up" the factory
paint job on the very expensive rolling stock you've just purchased. But, like it
or not, shiny new cars usually look out of place on an otherwise "used looking"
model railroad layout.
In reality; most cars on a railroad show varying degrees of rust,
grime (lube and oil), mud, soot, denting, scratches and some are even covered in
graffiti. However, cars do vary in age and usage, so they shouldn't necessarily all
look the same. And, not everything is dirty, because the contact on bare metal can
keep some areas clean.
So, it is a case of thinking carefully about the age and likely
wear and tear that you want to mimic - and whether you are prepared to "rough-up"
your rolling stock for the sake of adding realism.
Also, think about the region or era you are recreating with your
model railroad scenery. Is it likely to be muddy at times or would it be more dusty
and arid like in desert scenery? For example, the rolling stock might need a
sun-bleached look, which can be achieved with Dullcote brushed over with some
rubbing alcohol. This will give the model a kind of a white milky haze. If you
don't like it, respray with Dullcote.
Taking The Shine Off Your Model
Shiny surfaces can spoil the realism of any model railroad layout. Shiny
surfaces can make model buildings, rolling stock and model railroad scenery look
fake as though they have just come off a shop shelf. A simple way to remove that
shine is to over-spray the structure or rolling stock with Dullcote (Testors #1260
clear flat lacquer overcoat). Dullcote is available at most model railroad and
hobby stores and comes in a small spray can like many other model car colors.
However, always test techniques on something else before you try them out on
your prized model train models, because you may not like the effect.
Realistic looking scenery is important on model railroad layouts. To model
weeds, hay, straw, and grass get some "binder twine" from a farmer/horse owner. The
twine is a natural (unlike the new plastic stuff) material that takes paint/stain
well. It also weathers naturally. Hang some outside for a year and it will look
like fall weeds, let it lay on the ground and it will get a grayish color. The
twine can be cut in very short lengths and used as some ground cover.
Ground Cover For Model Railroad
Sawdust can be an inexpensive
material for making ground cover for your model railroad scenery.
Buy some fabric dye from the supermarket or hobby store. Mix up the
dye according to the directions and start adding your
Keep adding the sawdust until all the liquid is gone. Then put
the colored sawdust in a baking dish and put in a warm oven for an
hour or so to dry it out.
Once it's dried and cooled, bag it up to store it until you're
ready to use it. You can apply it to the ground with white glue and
to trees with spray glue or hairspray.
How Do You Build Model Railroad
Landscape features like hills, valleys, small canyons, rivers, meadows,
mountains and even tunnels can be constructed using a variety of materials, such as
foam, plaster, Hydrocal and paper maché. White styrofoam board (also known as
beadboard and polyfoam) is a popular material for constructing model railroad
scenery. Styrofoam is easy to handle and inexpensive. A 4' x 8' sheet of 1 ½" thick
sheet is a good size to work with. It is easily cut and shaped and releases no
chemicals or odors when cut.
Using Styrofoam For Making Model Railroad
It's time to get artistic! Get the hacksaw and electric knife and cut the
styrofoam creating a rolling shape. You can make small canyons, valleys and even
shape rivers and ponds for your model railroad scenery. Save the scraps and carve
them into smaller bumps or rock shapes for use on other parts of your model
railroad scenery. Glue the styrofoam together with white styrofoam glue. You can
also use a hot wire foam cutter. This can be a big help if you are building a large
The styrofoam can then be colored with acrylic paints or sprinkled with
simulated grass to add to the realism of the model railroad scenery. When applying
simulated grass, use a clean dry paintbrush to move the grass around. It is best to
use a stippling action with the brush. Push it into all the cracks. For best
results - don't skimp with the grass.
How To Create Roads For Your Model Railroad
Roads are usually an integral part of the model railroad scenery. Often the
roads are not modeled as well as the other scenery, and when this occurs the entire
effect suffers. Yet when you know how, modeling roads is easy, fun and reasonably
inexpensive. In fact, you probably already have many of the materials to model a
realistic road or freeway.
Trees, Hedgerows, Bushes add To Scenery
Other scenic effects like bushes and hedgerows can be made using similar methods
to making trees. Wild flowers can be reproduced by planting short strands of sisal
string and painting the tips or applying a small amount of colored fine foam and
vacuuming the rest away when the glue is dry.
To increase realism of model railroad scenery consider adding clumps of long
grass and weeds sprouting through the ballast and at the bases of buildings etc.
Old fashioned carpet underlay (which you can now buy in model shops or at
exhibitions specifically for scenic use) is ideal for this purpose. You could also
use Heki puff grass.