Heritage Model Trains Article


Scenery for Your Model Train Layout


Getting the inside scoop on designing, building and creating scenery for your model train layout is as close as your computer. The Internet carries numerous sites for ideas on scenery for beginners and experienced model train enthusiasts. Naturally you will want to keep your track gauge in mind when shopping to avoid problems.


After your have laid out some ground foam or foam board around your tracks, seal the landscape using a roll of plaster-cloth cut into manageable pieces. Paint the landscape with a coat of latex paint using light browns and tans to represent earth-colored soils. Cover all of the exposed hills and grassy areas leaving the tracks, roads and rocky outcrops without paint. The rocks can be painted later with various shades of gray and/or tans.


Model Rocks Made From a Rock Mold and Weathered


But a few words on ‘weathering’ – because most people give plenty of thought to what kind of trains they want to have, but less thought on the scenery and how to make it look real. Starting with buildings because they are purchased with bright colors and many shiny parts that make them look like they belong to a pristine environment.


If your train is travelling through the country or city – both the train and the buildings ought to look equally worn by smog or graffiti so that it “belongs” in the scene, if you will. I choose the russet or battle-gray tubes of paint and using a soft cloth or brush I touch areas that look a bit too new; this might be the corners or top floor of a building, and some of the bridge structures.


Even the vehicles we purchase are much too new looking. Some of course can stay new, but most (especially trucks) should have some worn-out appearance to them. Police cars, fire trucks, or limos would be the exception.


Mountainous… rocky outcrops should have some grass growing in crevices and some fallen-rock piled up at their base. Never make these too “neat” – they suffer weather just like everything else. I plant lots of trees and shrubs, but I collect twigs in my back yard and glue realistic tree stumps into the landscape with broken branches at the base glued in place.


Road signs are another piece of scenery you will want to purchase. Look over some of the catalogs for good ideas. Billboards, dead-end signs, construction-ahead signs, slow; curve signs, stop and deer-crossings signs are popular also.


School, railroad crossings, fuel and eateries are all signs that make your scenery look like back home. We named our streets with family names, as well as our Town Halls and Restaurants; lots of fun when a family member visits and sees their name on the entrance to the Park, or High School.


People your scenery with gusto… we have them waiting for a train at the depot, fishing under a railroad bridge, eating outside of a café and lots of people in the park; walking, sitting on a bench, playing with their dog, and kids using the playground swings. Outside of our church there are a few gathered in a group talking perhaps, or catching up on news.


Top all of this off with some incidentals – fire hydrants, trash cans, mail boxes, shoppers on Main Street carrying bags, someone hailing a taxi. Now you’ve got the idea. How fun was that?


All Aboard…..



Esther Smith, author

Heritage Model Trains