More Quick Tips For Creating Realistic Scenery
For Your Model Railroad Layout
Constructing the countryside and cityscape through which your trains will travel
can be tremendous fun. You need to consider the era, geographic location, and relative prosperity
of the area being modeled.
Don't mix eras - putting 1970's building in a turn of the century Western theme. Or
putting a 1980's Honda model automobile in fifties-era scenery.
Be consistant when depicting the season in your scenery.
OOPS! Look what got stuck under the bridge.
Remember to include plenty of people to bring your scenes to life.
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 area. 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 yourself. Ask at your local model
shop about buying suitable buildings or you may prefer to construct them yourself
with balsa wood and paint. Better still; the downloadable buildings featured on the
right of this page are and excellent and low cost alternative. They don't require
any painting and are beautifully detailed. You can construct them using cardboard,
corflute, or even balsa wood.
Add Excitement To Your Model Railroad
Tunnels and a bridge will add interest to a layout. You'll need a rail station
too. 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 help complete a scene. Be creative, but specific, with
Make sure any vehicles and rail crossings are from the right era. One idea is
black washing the grilles and hubcaps to add depth and realism. Using a small brush
you can also paint taillights, parking lights and door handles if needed. Then
consider taking the cars apart and install drivers and passengers.
Nothing looks more fake on a layout than vehicles seemingly driven by invisible
ghosts! You can purchase miniature figures in male, female and child variations all
molded in 'flesh' color. The arms must be attached by gluing. Then the figures can
Sometimes, the figures won't fit between the steering wheel and the seat. It
sounds a bit cruel but you simply cut the legs off with pliers and they fit just
fine. Use flat (rather than glossy) model paint to make painted clothing and hair
A close look at the above photo reveals a driver and a couple of people watching
a sporting match from the best vantage point - the vehicle roof! If you look
carefully you will notice a couple of spectators are up to their waists in the
ground. From a distance it looks like they are sitting on the ground, but the zoom
lens of the camera revealed that they are not.
When selecting adhesives to use in the creation of scenery for your model
railroad there are many to choose from in hardware stores and hobby shops. Most
adhesives will do the job that is claimed, but they are not all suitable for the
When building scenery try using an acrylic matte medium or white glue as both of
these modeling adhesives are water soluble. However, a contact cement may be more
suitable in some applications.
If you are going to use white glue, you may want to dilute it with water using 2
parts glue to 1 part water, or a 1 to 1 ratio, depending on its application. Try
adding a few drops of liquid dish-washing detergent as this will help break up the
surface tension of the water. Another thought is to add a small dab of latex paint
to tint the glue and help hide any bare spots.
4 Inexpensive Quick Scenery Tips:
Quick Tip # 1 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.
Quick Tip # 2
The Model Train Help Ebook describes several ingenious ways to make roads. However, if you are
working a a tight budget then here is an inexpensive idea for you. It is not as effective as some
of the other methods, but it is cheap. Buy some non-skid tape (2 or 6 inch wide) which can be used
for a black top road. You then use some white car detail tape for the white line down the center of
the road. Result quick, inexpensive roads for your model railroad layout.
Quick Tip # 3 Here is a simple way to age paved streets on your model
railroad layout: use a fine point pen to create cracks. Simply drive around your neighborhood or
areas similar to where your modeling and see how the pavements are aging. Word of caution though,
your model railroad layout needs to look authentic, so don't go crack crazy.
Quick Tip # 4
Many model train passenger cars that are being retailed don't have interiors. As a result when you
look inside them they look like a toy train. One simple solution is to buy some commercial window
tinting film from hobby, hardware or car accessory store. A small strip of the tinting film can be
attached to the inside of the clear plastic that makes up the windows of most passenger cars. The
tinting film can look like polarized glass which is very difficult to look through.