Playing God – Landscaping Your Model Railroad Layout

Posted on: April 1, 2020 by in Uncategorized
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Playing God – Landscaping Your Model Railroad Layout

One of the more fun aspects of model railroading is planning and executing the scenery and landscaping that your track and engines will meander through – for some it is almost like playing God in that you can decide and create on any scene you desire.

From fanciful hobbit themes, alien worlds or realistic recreations there is nothing that you cannot create and display, all it takes is a plan, some materials, a little skill and some time.

First and foremost you need a plan or at least a concept.

– Do you want to duplicate an existing landscape?
– Do you want a faithful historical recreation of a place now lost in time?
– Are you more inclined to creating a never-before seen or unlikely scenario to wow the masses?

Making a choice on one theme for your layout and staying true to that theme is perhaps the most important keys to success. If you change your methods and style in the middle of your landscape the result will be inconsistencies that will detract from the overall impression you are trying to form.

Ideally those you invite to view your work will see a delightful scene and the harder they look the more detail enforcing that scene they will find. Nothing is more enjoyable then hearing those delighted squeals as a viewer notices ever more subtle details as they come closer and closer … and the key to that is consistency.

Once you have a plan for the theme you need to decide on track placement and terrain. Many modelers create the terrain and then try to force the track to follow through that, just as occurs in real life – but one of the advantages of modeling vs. real life is that you can consider all aspects and requirements up front. If you know you will have a bend or a switch at certain points why design rough terrain that you will then try to overcome with ‘grading’ in your models at those points?

Next you should collect your materials – some items you can find around the house, others you may wish to purchase from dealers such as Oakridge Hobbies and JTT Micro Scale or your local hobby shop but always stay true to your plan. Just because you find an amazing little miniature you long to use doesn’t mean it belongs in this model! Common materials you will need include:

1. Tables or Stands
2. Plywood (preferably ¾” outdoor grade) for base if using stands
3. Glues
4. Twigs, ‘dirt’ gravel, crushed or powdered stones, herbs etc. for plants and groundcover
5. Paints of various kinds for touch-up, covering the base and backgrounds etc.
6. Poster board, wax paper, aluminum foil, tissues etc. for texturing and shaping
7. Styrofoam blocks and sheets for shaping

Optional items you may wish to use include:

8. Plaster of Paris and / or fiberglass
9. Talcum powder, pepper and salt, cayenne pepper – for texturing and colorants
10. Corkboard and cork ‘paper’
11. Roof repair tar (for road surfaces etc.)
12. Paintable caulks and adhesives for securing items in place

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