Using Natural Items for Model Railroad Scenery

One of the most important things to make your model train set look realistic and impressive is to create a backdrop that is just as impressive as the train. One of the ways that you can achieve it is by using natural items. Most people go straight towards styrofoam and resin. However, those items can gather dust and look dirty very easily. Instead of using synthetic material, you can try out natural items, such as mosses and water. This helps make your railroad scenery look impressive and realistic.

Additionally, synthetic items don’t have a lot of texture, and you have to work on them to achieve that realistic look when the thing you are attempting to recreate is outside your place. Read this article to find out how you can make use of natural items for your model railroad scenery.

Why using natural items for model railroad scenery is a good idea


When you are making a model railroad scenery at home, you have two options. You can choose to use synthetic products such as foam, cardboard, resin, or wool, or you can choose natural items.

There are many benefits to using natural items. Firstly, they are available readily.

If you need moss or a leaf, chances are that you can find them in your backyard or a park close by. Furthermore, they are free and will not cost you any money. You can pick most items for free from any nearby tree or grassy land.

Secondly, a random selection of mosses, plants, and trees looks a lot more natural than the same moss pattern repeated over the entire scenery. Nature rarely repeats itself. Therefore, painting on moss would look more unnatural than if you were to get different kinds of moss and stick them together.

Secondly, you can cover a larger area for next to no money. As leaves are mosses are available in the wild, you can easily get plenty of it to stick onto your railroad scenery. Furthermore, if you want to make it fancier, you can always purchase e a few plants. Even if you purchase them, they will still be much cheaper than if you were to go the commercial route or purchase material to make a synthetic background. Thirdly, using natural items gives you the opportunity to add more textures and interesting parts to your layout. You can add color to the layout and not have to worry about the plants or landscape looking unnatural in any way.

Thus, using natural items for your model railroad scenery is a great idea to add a natural touch. Furthermore, it allows you to be creative and arrange the pieces in a way that allows for the scene to be more dynamic and interesting.

Things to remember before making model train scenery


When you set out to build your model train scenery, you should keep a few things in mind so that the scenery looks as natural and neat as possible.

First, you have to make sure that the scenery plan you have decided upon reflects the general area you have planned to model. The first step should be to decide on a realistic theme. This theme can range from a rugged mountain to flat land with a lot of trees.

You also have to keep the perspective in mind. You want the scenery to appear larger than it is. Therefore, you need to ensure that there are different levels of scenery. The trees can be in the foreground, and they can get progressively smaller as they move towards the perimeter of the scenery. The trees at the tops of the mountain will also be smaller as they are further away from the train, which is the main focus of the scenery. You can also place smaller things at the back first and then move your way towards the front. That way, you can force the perspective.

If you want to make something that is more extensive, you can try and create several different scenes but remember that a person can only focus on one scene at a time. Therefore, you have to ensure that the flow between these scenes is fluid so that they all fit within the theme and do not get boring.

You should also aim to avoid having the tracks follow a straight line parallel to the edge of the layout. Having a straight track makes things boring. Instead, try to have it go in loops or curved paths. These loops and turns help keep things interesting. Furthermore, decorating the ground scape is also much easier, and you can add different textures to different places. Being creative in a squared-out space is a lot more difficult. Angles can help break the monotony and make the whole scene look more interesting.

Important components of a model train scenery

How to choose the best model train set

Making a model train scenery may seem appealing, but there are a lot of things that you have to keep in mind. If your train is set to go through a natural landscape, you should definitely include these components in the scenery for it to look realistic and interesting.


The terrain is the landscape through which your train is traveling. It includes mountains, river beds, valleys, and more. If your plan on including more than one scene, ensure that they are all homogenous and fit within the theme.


Tunnels are a great addition that adds an extra bit of flair to your scenery. However, make sure that the tunnel is wide enough for you to access the train in case the tunnel collapses.

Rock Formations

Rock formations are extremely important as they are everywhere, and a landscape without them will look extremely unnatural. You should aim to create realistic rock outcroppings, walls of stone, cliffs, etc.

Painting the terrain and rock formations

To make your scenery look realistic, you can use a very realistic method of painting. These help your landforms look defined and textured.


Most sceneries have some sort of road, whether that be paved, dirt, or gravel roads. It is an important part of your model train scenery. You can gather actual dirt and pebbles to make them look hyperrealistic.

Ground cover

Having a ground cover is also extremely necessary. A ground cover includes grassy meadows, flowers, hedges, bushes, under bushes, and more. A ground cover helps hide the surface you are building your scenery on.

Making Groundcover for a model train scenery

If you want the ground cover for your model train scenery to look realistic, then making use of natural items is the best way to go about it. You can find dead and crushed leaves in your backyard or a nearby park, collect them, and then use a blender to blend them down to a fine mix. Next, add this blended mixture to areas that need a ground cover. These include under the trees, at the side of buildings, on the bank of rivers, etc. They add much-needed texture and make your scenery look realistic.

Making rocks to go on top of the groundcover for a model train scenery

Finding rocks small enough to go on your model train scenery might be a challenge, but you can use other items to make your scenery look like it has rocks. You can use small broken plaster shards. These make excellent rocks as you can crush them into smaller pieces and paint them to be an appropriate color for rocks. Ensure that you use of appropriate model train scenery tools for this. You can also use these to add texture to your cliffs and rock faces.

If you want to depict boulders, then natural rocks are perfect. You can also use real rocks to make cliffs, as they allow the cliffs to have an interesting shape. You can always buy commercially finished rock faces, but they are expensive and do not have the same effect that a real rock would. Therefore, using real rocks for the ground cover is not only a smart idea but an economical one as well. It is also perfect if you are on a budget.


The market has everything available for you to make your own model railroad scenery. However, these items are often expensive and not as realistic. If you really want your model railroad scenery to look like it came out of a photograph, you should use natural items that look and feel a lot more realistic than synthetic commercial items.

Furthermore, these items are extremely easy to find, and you don’t have to go out of your way to find them. They are all available right outside your house, in your backyard, or in the nearby park. If you need something very specific, that won’t be as expensive as purchasing synthetic bits from the store. Read the article above to find out how you can incorporate natural items in your model railroad scenery.