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  • Scenery

    This thread is for the discussion of how to do scenery. Everything on your layout is scenery from rolling stock to track to structures to etc. Therefore if you have techniques to make your model RR look like the real world please post them here.

    This is the one time where I will mention purchasing a book. "How To Build Model Railroad Scenery" by Dave Frary is the best book I have found on modeling scenery. It costs about $16.00 from Kalmbach but I won mine on eBay for about half that price.
    <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.

  • #2
    Hi all

    Here is a link to a post from Shamus on how to make rock work using plaster.
    <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.


    • #3
      Most of us have probably heard of modular benchwork. I decided to take that concept one step further with what I call "modular scenery". Below is a photograph of my first attempt:

      This method has 2 major benefits:

      1. It can be completed at the workbench. This is great because it is much less tiring than standing on your feet for prolonged periods of time at the layout creating the scenery. Additionally, because you're working on it at the workbench, you're able to take greater care with making it look better. This particular module will be at the back of a 4' wide section of benchwork, so making it in place would have been very difficult (which is what inspired this method in the first place).

      2. It's reusable. I've torn my layout down several times, and each time the scenery gets destroyed. This piece of scenery can be easily reused on the next layout.

      The above example was made using the basic method of using ceiling tile cut into about 1" strips. A large piece of masonite was used as a backing for it, and the strips were then stacked and glued to each other and the masonite with Liquid Nails. All of this was followed with carving the gouges, painting on a slurry of plaster of paris, painting on a base coat and final coat, and finally lichen and trees glued in place.

      This method of scenery worked out great for me, and I plan to do other modules as well. Once they're all in place, it'll be a simple matter of bridging the space between them with a little scenery to tie it all together.

      I took numerous photos of the entire process and plan to add them to my website. If anyone wants to see the step by step process, let me know and I'll post the link when I get it uploaded.



      • #4
        Thank you Eddie for your post.

        Great information here.

        Please post a link to this on your web site when ready.

        I would also recommend that people visit your web site for there is lots of good information on the rebuilding of a layout.

        The link is under Eddie's signature in the post above.
        <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.


        • #5
          Neat idea, Eddie! :up:

          Another good scenery reference is the Woodland Scenics' Scenery Manual. Consisting of nearly 150 pages and many color photos/drawings, the book was revised and expanded last year from the earlier edition. It is full of how-tos, tips, and ideas for scenery and structure detailing. In the back of the manual is a partial listing of all of WS's products and a glossary of scenery terms.

          It costs approximately $10 (depending upon vendor) and can be purchased in LHS's, from Walthers and Scenic Express, as well as some Hobby Lobbys.


          • #6

            Here is a review of a company that produces trees.

            This is from a Yahoo group


            - A mini-review -

            A couple of weeks ago I received my order of trees

            from, and I am very impressed! It took a

            while to get, since their shipment was tied up in the

            back log of the West Coast shipping strike, but well

            worth the wait. Wow, these are some big beautiful

            trees! I ordered an assortment of sizes and one of

            each phase of completion. I have now had a chance to

            experiment and use them. Great stuff!

            The completed trees are shaped like a huge rounded

            White Oak, but they can easily be reshaped to for

            different purposes. I took some scissors and wire

            cutters to a few to make great shade trees with the

            buildings tucked under them.

            The armatures are fantastic with a covered wire

            armature that is easily re-positionable for quick

            changes. The bark texture is grey and fantastic. Their

            bark is not shiny plastic from of an injection mold,

            but a painted on flexible covering with good texture

            and color. They are pretty much indestructable.

            I will definitely be ordering more now that I know how

            incredible they are! I wanted to pass on my excitement

            and my review of the products.

            you can find them at and

            their online "how to" section is helpful in using and

            changing the products. I emailed them a question that

            was not convered in the "how to" section, and they

            promptly answered my question, and said they would

            soon be expanding their online "how to" section.

            Happy modeling,


            <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.


            • #7
              I read recently about somebody using wood that had been attacked by termites as rock faces. I will soon have 20 or more feet of well termited, treated wood beams (as soon as I have pulled it out of my basement ceiling and replaced it with new lumber ), has anyone heard of this or know anything about this scenery method?


              Building the first trans-Atlantic Railroad


              • #8
                FYI, I've got the step-by-step instructions on my web site about how to create the Modular Scenery shown in this thread. Just click on the following link and then click on the "Methods" button.



                • #9

                  Originally posted by MikeB

                  I read recently about somebody using wood that had been attacked by termites as rock faces. I will soon have 20 or more feet of well termited, treated wood beams (as soon as I have pulled it out of my basement ceiling and replaced it with new lumber ), has anyone heard of this or know anything about this scenery method?

                  Hi Mike

                  I found this on the Atlas Forum discussing the above topic.

                  This reminds me of a when I was in junior high and one of my friend's dads had an HO model layout. To simulate cliffs he used wood that had been attacked by termites. It was really great looking stuff. There was an aticle in a book published by Lionel in the mid-1950's suggesting the use of these materials. Yep, you guessed it, the termites were still around and created havoc on both the layout and the house.

                  Good luck with your wood beams
                  <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.


                  • #10
                    That was where I first saw mention of this John, I was just wondering if anybody else had ever heard of it. Looking at the lumber I can see the possibilities, with a little paint it would look very good.


                    Building the first trans-Atlantic Railroad


                    • #11
                      Hi all

                      The following is a lecture given on Modeling Water in 1994. While old it does cover most of the available methods.


                      ONE DAY CONVENTION

                      MODELLING WATER


                      SEPTEMBER 17, 1994

                      MODELLING WATER ON YOUR RAILWAY.

                      Depicting water on a model railway layout is no longer the problem it used to be. By using any number of methods, nine of which are described in these notes, water can be easily represented on your model railway.

                      Select the one, which best suits your needs! But do not forget to experiment with variations or your own methods and ideas, you may surprise yourself with what you achieve.

                      REAL WATER

                      Real water is not model water and therefore is not suitable for use on a model railway.

                      You could possibly bend the rules if you are using L.G.B. or one of the larger live steam scale models in the garden, but the final effect would still be questionable.

                      You just cannot get water to reduce the size of its ripples to match the scale you model in. In H.O. or N scale and definitely in Z scale the smallest ripple is a tidal wave.

                      This phenomenon is often evident in older movies where model boats have been used. The bow waves or the waves of the ocean never match the scale of the model boat! Modern movies have improved on

                      the past attempts by increasing the size of the model, but you can still tell it is a model in a pond!

                      2. PAINTED AND VARNISHED PLASTER

                      This was the accepted method for modelling water for many years and there are still modellers, particularly in England, who can achieve outstanding results using this method.

                      The surrounding topography is created and a depression left for the expanse of water. Pouring a sloppy plaster mix into the depression creates the area of water to be modelled. All air bubbles are removed and the plaster is left to set. If a smooth water surface is required no further action is required. If a rippled or waved surface is required the plaster is worked into the required pattern as it cures.

                      Once the plaster has thoroughly dried the water surface is painted with blues, greens or browns to represent the type of water being modelled and then given a number of coats of full gloss varnish to

                      achieve the wet look.

                      The key to this method is to be able to paint the water surface realistically.

                      3. PERSPEX

                      Perspex or any of the other clear "plastic" sheets have replaced glass as the medium to represent a sheet of smooth water. Glass was always susceptible to breakage with the ever-present possibility of cut fingers or hands.

                      If you wish to model the below water level detail this method is very difficult to execute as the scenery has to be modelled in two layers. The scene below the water level has to be created, the perspex water surface added and then the above water scenery completed to match that below the water level.

                      It is very difficult to match the two layers of scenery!

                      4. WATER PAPERS

                      There are a number of commercial water papers or plastic sheets available in hobby shops today. Unfortunately they all suffer from the same drawback; they repeat the same pattern over and over


                      They can be inserted into the scenery and the banks built out over them or you can trim them to the shape of your water feature and insert the profiled water surface after the scenery is completed.

                      Either way will work.

                      5. VARNISH

                      For smaller areas of water, such as dams, small lakes, creeks and puddles, a number of thin layers of any cheap brand of full gloss varnish can be poured into the pre-detailed area to achieve a quite

                      realistic representation of water. The varnish dries a cold tea colour that is suitable for most water areas except the sea.

                      The site for your water feature is modelled and the bed detailed if shallow or painted to represent depth if this is your preference. A layer of varnish is added to the prepared area and will undoubtable soak into the scenery. The second application may also soak in but eventually the "water" will stay where you want it.

                      Do not add the next layer of varnish until the first one has set and only add successive layers until the required depth is obtained.

                      With this method patience certainly is a virtue, but the final effect is worth the wait!

                      The method is slow, it can take a fortnight to complete a pour and the first few applications invariably soak straight into the scenery but it is the cheapest way I know to represent water.

                      6. "PLASTIC" WATER

                      This method uses any of the fibre glassing resins (not casting resins) to represent water with ease and can produce water of reasonable depth. The resin can be tinted to produce the water colour you desire.

                      To create your expanse of water, the area is first formed, sceniced and the bed of the river or lake is detailed. If you wish to represent depth in your water the middle of the depression should be painted a dark brown or black and the colour lightened as you work towards the bank.

                      The depression is then filled using a two-part fibre glassing resin.

                      Tins of both parts of the "model water" are available here in Victoria as Four Seasons Fibre Glassing Resin from ONE STOP PLASTICS Pty. Ltd., 19 Ardena Court, East Bentleigh. (03) 579.2044

                      The water produced is strong, flexible and slightly tinted if you use it "as is".

                      With time the surface may dull but it can be rejuvenated by polishing with a very fine wet and dry paper or just give it a coat of full gloss varnish.

                      The only downfall with this method is the cost! A reasonable size river with a modelled depth of about 20 mm. could cost as much as $35 to $40 to pour.

                      7. WOODLAND SCENICS PLASTIC WATER

                      A reasonably new product onto the market the "water" is supplied as large beads. It is heated until it becomes liquid and poured into your prepared waterway. According to the instructions it is simple to use and it produces a crystal clear representation of water.

                      My personal experience and discussions with fellow modellers who have used the product have shown that the product can be difficult to work with. If not treated properly your model water can crack as it dries and if care is not taken will certainly crack at the edges once it has cured.

                      It cures from its molten state rapidly and may need reheating with a hot air gun before you have achieved the effect you desire.


                      Since this article was published Woodland Scenics has produced a new product that can be poured without heating.

                      8. GLOSS MEDIUM

                      If you need to model running water, or a beach with waves, the product you need is Acrylic Gloss Medium, available from artists supply shops.

                      The product is a white creamy substance, similar to PVA glue, which artists blend with acrylic paints to change the texture and gloss of the dried paint.

                      The "water" must be poured or spooned into the prepared water bed and worked to the edges. The surface can be worked into ripples, troughs or waves and it dries to a gloss finish.

                      9. CRYSTAL CLEAR SILICONE

                      There are a number of these products on the market today and any of them will produce a representation of clear rippled water. The silicone that can be cleaned up with water is definitely recommended.

                      The silicone is applied to the prepared watercourse and must be worked into shape with wet fingers or an old kitchen knife that is kept wet. This can be a messy job and unless you are very careful

                      you tend to get "water" all over your hands, your cloths and your scenery.

                      We all know what it is like to work with silicone, but if used carefully a reasonable representation of water can be achieved using this method.

                      10. ADDING RIPPLES

                      The methods for creating your water outlined in suggestions 3, 5, 6, and 7 all produce a smooth water surface. If you wish to add ripples or waves to your water, it can be done by forming the crests and depressions with either GLOSS MEDIUM or CRYSTAL CLEAR SILICONE.

                      11. CREATING WATERFALLS

                      Modelling waterfalls can be a task fraught with frustration and heartbreak. Because of the nature of the feature it is difficult to model, but it can be done, well almost any way!

                      Here are three methods I have used to produce a reasonably realistic model of a waterfall.

                      Clear silicone sealer is spread onto a sheet of glass to form a long thin strip, the width of the required waterfall. If the glass is smeared with Vaseline or petroleum jelly before the silicone is added it will be easier to remove. Once the silicone has dried, peal it from the glass and you now have a waterfall. The silicone strip can be glued in place with a blob of silicone in the prepared area with the smooth face inwards. Adding a touch of full gloss varnish to the waterfall and adding some off-white foam at the base of the drop will give your waterfall a better appearance.

                      Another method, which also uses silicone sealer, is to reinforce the strip longitudinally with thin clear plastic filaments. When I used this method to produce a waterfall, I obtained the filaments from an old T.V. light that consisted of a spray of thin clear plastic fibres illuminated by a coloured light. The reinforcing produces a hint of vertical fall in the waterfall and also gives the silicone some body so that it is easier to handle.

                      A simpler method is to glue clear plastic strips into position and to coat them with full gloss varnish. If the varnish can be poured into the river above the falls and let run down and over the falls it does produce a good representation of a waterfall. Again add white water and ripples below the falls to give the correct effect.

                      Good luck with modelling your water.

                      <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.


                      • #12
                        John, or anyone! I haven't rec'd any of the SW kits I've ordered yet, including Foss'. I was told to expect them early next week! Do the instructions for building the kit go into detail about water? If so, what method does he suggest? THANKS.



                        • #13
                          Hi Jimmy

                          Yes in the Foss' Landing kit the last page of the instructions is about pouring the water.

                          Brett recommends Envirotex Lite resin which is pretty much the standard for resin pours now.

                          The instructions for how to use this are very good in the manual.
                          <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.


                          • #14
                            Here are some miscellaneous topics found at the Scenery Yahoo Group.

                            1) Things found around the house to use in modeling scenery

                            Well, using things that are made for modeling is obvious...but there

                            are many non-modeling tools, materials and other items not intended for

                            modeling that can be very useful in modeling...Jack and Barb are


                            masters at finding yard sale "junk" that at first glance might seem

                            useless for modeling but they manage to find an appropriate use for

                            it...sawdust and coffee grounds are old time modeling materials but

                            there are many more less obvious materials and the only limits are your

                            imagination...and many things, such as the blender, can be discovered by

                            accident...I was watching my wife throw some crackers in her blender one

                            day to make a topping for a casserole and when I saw how fine the

                            particles were I thought that might do the same with first

                            attempt got good results but was a mess as the static cling made it

                            stick to everything including the inside of the wife saw

                            the mess and informed me that her blender was now mine and she would get

                            a new one because she wasn't going to clean it out (and she wasn't

                            smiling when she said it!)...well, on the next attempt I put some water

                            in the blender with the foam and that eliminated the static cling...I

                            also discovered some black elastic thread in my wife's craft supplies

                            that makes good HO telephone wire...and her acrylic paint that we have

                            discussed before (I now have a bigger supply of acrylic paint than she

                            has)...and it was in her craft supplies that I discovered Modge Podge of

                            which I have already used more than 10 16oz bottles on my is

                            nothing more than a very thick matte medium...I use it full strength as

                            an adhesive for clump foliage and other things (like on the strawberry

                            fields that I mentioned last week)...when diluted 10 to 1 with water it

                            is identical to the WS matte medium at a fraction of the cost and I

                            spray it over all my completed scenery to keep things in place when

                            cleaning the layout (it dries flat and invisible) is also good as a

                            track ballast wife then informed me that there is also a

                            Modge Podge gloss medium so I bought some to experiment with...using it

                            full strength it makes nice water and I also made the ice on a skating

                            rink with it...clear and white acrylic caulking makes good waves on a

                   when I go to a store I check out the hardware, automotive,

                            toy, houseware, craft and other departments looking for items/materials

                            that can be used in doesn't replace a hobby store but it

                            is sure a good supplement...also, for lighting and automated projects

                            you can get a lot of good parts such as motors, switches, wiring

                            harnesses, gears, pulleys, lights, LEDs, etc., from discarded appliances

                            such as VCRs, stereos, don't restrict your searches to hobby

                            stores...yard sales are also a good source but I'm retired so I don't

                            have enough time to waste checking them out (I'm only partially joking

                            about that as it does "seem" like I had more spare time before I

                            retired)...don't be afraid to experiment with new things that aren't

                            specifically intended for modeling.

                            2. Animation and lighting

                            "Are you building a still life?" So read the header some years back

                            for MRC. They were touting improvments in their power supplies to

                            give model railroaders better control of their trains. With today's

                            DCC, that is now a moot question.

                            Or is it? "Are you building a still life?" could also apply to that

                            part of the layout not on the tracks, and is equally applicable to

                            some classes of dioramas. You have miniature people everywhere, but

                            are they "alive" or just statues? What on your layout says "People

                            live here"?

                            For starters, how about lighting? This is the easiest and cheapest

                            way to add a little life to the scene; even if you can't see the

                            (lack of) detail inside an industrail building, the mere fact that

                            light is shining out thru the dirty windows says that something is

                            going on inside. Working street lights add immensely to a scene in

                            miniature, as do lighted signs for the stores downtown. One small

                            step further gets to working lights in railroad crossbucks and the

                            moving lights of a theatre marque.

                            So much for "visible" light. "Invisable" light is a misnomer, but

                            what I have in mind is to get shadows to work for you, moving

                            shadows in point of fact. This can be done mechanically (it's all

                            done with smoke and mirrors) or electronically. Pay a long visit to

                            Jim Well's site


                            for a far better explanation than I am capable of. Short version, if

                            the light appears to vary over time, then "something/someone" is

                            making that happen. Jim refers to this as "electric inhabitents".

                            Jim also has available some tapes for subtle background sounds that

                            I must try someday soon.

                            Onward and upward in our search for life on the layout, and I do

                            mean upward. Moving roof vents are subtle and may not catch the eye,

                            but the mind records them and deduces life in that building.

                            Campbell's roof vents are easily modified for this, as they come in

                            two pieces from the manufacturer. Thru-the-wall fans are a little

                            more difficult to animate, but do-able. Can't find a suitable fan? A

                            circle of clear plastic with thin stripes painted on it will work

                            about as well, particularly from "two feet" away. In the subtle

                            class I also place things like a moving conveyor belt or an elevator

                            that actually goes up and down. That last could be done with just a


                            Raising the ante once more, how about moving vehicular traffic, or a

                            parade? And NO, I have not (yet) figured out how to get a marching

                            band to actually march in HO. "Model motoring" sets or an endless

                            belt with magnets have worked for some, but there pitfalls in the

                            nature of "everything is moving all the time at the same speed".

                            There is probably a software/hardware guru somewhere working on that

                            problem, if indeed it has not been solved and I just haven't heard

                            about it.

                            And now for the "Inna-you-face" type of animation. Have any of you

                            ever been to a train show where one of the display layouts had an

                            operating carnival? If you have, you KNOW where the most crowded

                            part of that show is. The ride modelers group here on Yahoo is about

                            half the size of this one and is dedicated to just that. Lights,

                            action, and, in some cases, sound, bring that "world" to life! Given

                            that most of that group are current or ex carnies, the realism can

                            be breath-taking. For those who like the idea, but don't want to

                            dedicate that much time, money and/or layout space, IHC makes

                            several kiddy ride and concession stand kits that can be "set up" in

                            a parking lot or on a blocked-off street for a smaller version of

                            the same thing. One of things that I have "in progress" is a set of

                            three timer cams turning at slightly different speeds to stop/start

                            about a (future) dozen or so kiddy, standard, and 'major' rides.

                            Doing the Ferris Wheel prototypically is still undo-able with what I

                            have, but...

                            Side-bar: Realism and believability are not necessarily the same

                            thing, or not in my mind anyway. Realism is how-it-is/was, and

                            believibility is how-it-could/should-be/was. Modeling a 1930ish

                            amusement park leaves me unable to use many of the kits available as

                            designed, since they did not exist in that time frame. But I can,

                            and will, use rides that were probable, like a "Spirit of St. Louis"

                            themed airplane ride, and some of the designs that I have found in

                            the US Patent and Trademark Office files. Some may have never been

                            built, but they were issued patents prior to 1930, so using them

                            is "believable" if not necessarily "realistic".

                            Jack "The trolley nut" Priller

                            "Sacred cows make the best hamburger." M. Twain

                            3) using foam peanuts for mountains

                            Much of the hill areas on my layout were done with the foam packing

                            peanuts (sometimes called foam popcorn) covered with paper towels coated

                            with joint compound (but any plaster will work)...after a couple layers

                            of plaster coated paper towels have dried I just trowel on more joint

                            compound to make it thick enough to drill holes for planting

                            trees...trowel thin layers at a time and allow to dry before adding more

                            because putting on too much at a time will result in cracks when it

                            dries and shrinks (I usually allow 24 hrs between layers)...built up

                            thin layers will not crack...I have some photos of these areas on my

                            internet photo album but they are finished areas so it doesn't show the

                            foam peanut construction underneath...the larger "ski" mountain was done

                            with plaster covered foam blocks and although the end result is the same

                            it was more work and messier than the foam peanuts...btw, see my

                            previous post about spraying the foam peanuts with water to keep the

                            static from making them fly all over the place and/or sticking to

                            you...the water also holds them in place while applying the matte

                            medium/white glue...I also mix color into the plaster so that if it is

                            later chipped it won't show a bare white spot...for cliff areas I put

                            rock molds on top of the plaster base and blend them in with a palette

                            knife and/or stiff paint brush...I make my own rock molds by finding

                            rocks that look right and paint them with many layers of liquid

                            latex...when it is dry you just peel it off and fill with plaster and

                            these molds can be used over and over...for very large molds you can

                            reinforce them with fiberglass screen netting (or wedding veil material)

                            which is put on after a couple of layers of liquid latex has been

                            painted on and then add more of the liquid latex over that...however

                            most of my molds are thick enough that they don't need the



                            4) More on little people

                            Jack Priller wrote:

                            > Which remindeth me of something I forgot when I did the "garage sale"

                            > post. Lindberg (and possibly others) have/had a line of 1/96 scale

                            > ship kits, many including figures. These can sometimes be found on

                            > the "secondary market" for pennies on the dollar.

                            > Before someone reports me to the prototype police, do the math: a 6'

                            > tall figure in 1/96 is about 5' 5" in HO, a fairly common height

                            > among the human race. Kit I picked up (Captain Kidd Pirate Ship) has

                            > 20 figures, several of them positioned for climbing the ratlines,

                            > which makes them perfect for climbing ladders. A couple of the others

                            > are kneeling "gunner's mates" with an out-stretched hand that have

                            > several possible uses.

                            > Just another possible source of figures in different positions and

                            > sizes to add variety to you scene.

                            <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.


                            • #15
                              Hi all

                              The following is a web site I found that has a section on scenery. It is a question and answer type of site.


                              There are also other interesting sections.
                              <img src="" alt="" /><br /><br>John Bagley<br /><br>Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.