Having a model train layout is a lot of fun, but part of the enjoyment lies in bringing the whole scenery together. For many model train enthusiasts, having the scenery for the layout is just as important as a decent working condition of the train itself.
When model railroading was still in its early years, the usual product for a model payout was sawdust. It was cheap, easily available, and provided a suitable appearance to the layout. Model train enthusiasts or makers will apply the dust to the layout similar to how we use modern materials today. A quick-drying layer of adhesive was applied as well, with the adhesives becoming clear as it dried. The whole thing was then sealed for a durable experience.
While this traditional method did work to some extent, the main problem here was that it wasn’t available in the right colors. Some manufacturers of model train layout sceneries did sell prepainted setups, but this option was not readily available. In most citations, the modeler will have to either blend the dust with water-based paints. An alternative method was to apply the untreated natural material to the scenery and then paint or spray it with the colors they wanted.
Fortunately, there are now a variety of materials available for sprucing up your model train layout and making it seem as realistic as possible. Not only are these materials more easily available nowadays thanks to online buying platforms, but they are easy to use and provide a lot of choice when you’re making a scenery. Here are some of these options right now:
If you want a very easy and simple solution for making a model train layout scenery, grass mats are the way to go. They allow you to quickly add a natural touch to the layout. Any railroad or train set can easily get a simple scent by the addition of a grass mat.
These mats are usually made of either soft fibers or a thin hereof granular material. You can apply them directly on the surface of your model train layout.
Grass mats are also a versatile option; you can use them as is for a plain, simple setup or have them as a base for more complex scenery. They can also be altered to go with the different contours of the landscape.
However, the downside of these grass mats is that they might not give a very realistic appearance. They usually have the look of a very neat and manicured lawn, which might not go well with a mountainous or any other natural-looking landscape. Still, you can cut them into different pieces and arrange these to give a wilder, more genuine look.
Another method is to look for manufacturers who provide small grass mats which have a more realistic design. These can be used to make the wider scenes more true to life. They might have textured ground cover or have vegetation and shrubs already installed.
Turf or Flock
Turf is among the most known types of ground cover, whether it’s for model train layouts or private gardens. It is also sometimes called flock or scatter.
This ground cover is very popular due to its easy application and versatility. It’s basically the sawdust method evolved to a more modern option. It’s also available in several pre-colored options, so you can pick and choose the shades according to your layout goal.
One of the main attractions of using turf for your model train layout is the ease of blending color tones. This can make a nice realistic texture. In case of any mistake, a modeler can easily remove the turf and recover the area as needed.
You can also buy turd in a wide range of thicknesses. Some areas may require just a fine layer, while other textures may need something coarser. This way, modelers can replicate a lot of natural elements for greenery and grass. Not only this, but turf can also help in creating the look of sand, dirt, ballast, gravel, and other terrains.
It’s hard to find any ground cover option that can beat turf for its versatility and easy application. However, modelers might want to switch around the ground cover material in accordance with their aims and vision for the final layout.
This option is a fairly recent invention for the world of model trains and their layouts. Static grass does provide a very realistic look for grassy landscapes, as it’s mostly comprised of short synthetic fiber strands. The static grass is also a good option due to its reaction to the static charge from a specially made applicator.
Once the modeler has ensured that the ground surface is covered in the right adhesive, they can start applying the grass with the applicator. This device will create a charge that causes the grass to stay upright, making a 3D effect on the whole landscape.
This sort of modeling grass is also available in the market in many colors and sizes. If you want the best effects possible, consider using it with various turf textures for an authentic natural-looking result.
The downside of this grass is that it’s still a fairly expensive method. Train modeling is not a cheap hobby if you want to do it right, but you can opt for a more cost-effective method to get ground cover. Static grass is a bit complicated and requires you to purchase a separate applicator and the proper adhesives along with the material itself. However, if a modeler really wants to create the most realistic scene possible, this option will give them the best results in exchange for a high monetary price.
If you’re train modeling within a budget, you might want to go for the turf or grass sheet method for the time being.
Choosing the Right Grass Material
The layout of your model train is important when you have to choose one grass material over all others.
Static grass might look great on an HO or O scale, but it’s not really necessary for a layout on an N or Z scale. In the latter a fine turf texture will be less costly, less complicated, but gives an almost equally realistic result.
The main focus of your layout is also a determining factor in your choice of grass material. For just a first-time layout for a young modeler, or for someone who wants to emphasize the operations of the model, the grass’s durability might be more important than looks. For such situations, it may not be so essential to go with the compacted method of installing static grass. However, each method we’ve discussed above will give durable results. You can always take a good picture of your model train layout once it’s finished for future reference.
Have a Reference Photo
Many hobbyists like to have a picture for reference when they’re working on a project. This goes for craft projects, paintings, and train model layouts as well. If you have an idea of the scenery you want to model your layout after, print out or look up a picture that somewhat defines your end goal. It doesn’t have to be an exact image of what you want, but should be detailed enough to give you inspiration and ideas along with being a steady reminder along the way.
Adding Greenery to Steep Areas
Adding green shrubs and other vegetation to your model train layout will help to make an attractive setup. It’s a lot like adding house plants to your home; they help to fill up empty spaces and increase the appeal of the surroundings.
If you have a steep area like mountains or hills in your model scenery, mix half0strenth while glue and ground foam until they have a putty-like texture. Add this mixture on the steep sides and add the model vegetation to it before the whole thing dries. You can also add variety by sprinkling various shades of colored ground foam over the area. Once this is done, the white glue will dry and become clear, leaving the vegetation and textured ‘ground’ in place.
Adding Various Types of Vegetation
The greenery you choose will be according to the kind of ground cover you’re aiming for. Low ground cover is in the form of grass and shrubs for the most part. For medium and high ground cover, the following tips should come in handy.
- Use coarse turf where you don’t want a manicured or mowed look; this is usually around the railroad itself. Put a little fine turf over the coarse layer for better blending
- Apply underbrush along the tracks so that it looks realistically overgrown. Do the same in any area that’s near a tree or forest in the landscape.
- Place small shrubs and bushes along the tracks at random points. They could be clumps along the fences, in front of forests, along rivers and lakes, etc.
- Bushes and shrubs can also be decorative additions around any buildings
- You can get the small artificial bushes in the market, or make use of lichen from any hobby or craft store. You can also sprinkle some turf on the lichen to make the appearance of tiny leaves
- Lichen could dry out after a few days, but it will usually keep its shape and color for a long time. You can also easily replace the pieces if required
- For adding small bushes, take half of a toothpick, paint it gray or brown, and put a piece of lichen on it. Glue the toothpick end to the area you want it on the landscape.
- Some craft stores have dried vegetation in stock, the tops of these can also be used for making small bushes on your model layout.
Remember, the more variety of plants you use in your model train layout, the more realistic it will look.
Adding greenery to your model train layout is a good way to make it seem more realistic. This will enhance any pictures you take of it and also increase the satisfaction you get from creating this little world around your train set. If you want to take things up a notch even further, consider some steps to add music in that model train layout.