Modelling the Landscape

Modelling the Landscape

Creating the landscape to me, is the most enjoyable part of a model railway, you can include as much detail as you want and there are so many suppliers in the trade who supply the various element to help you achieve this.


Modelling the Landscape - by Mike Whatton

Firstly when planning you model railway you will have in mind the way in which you would like your model to develop, I say this because there are so many temptations which may detract you away from your initial vision.

I believe you should design your railway with the landscape in mind, as in reality the landscape was in place well before the railway was built. It is very easy to do, you just consider the lie of the land, it may be something you may recall from a holiday or a scene you may have seen in a book or magazine.

Landscape products

The likes of Hornby and  Bachmann provide a good range of scenic items to help develop your layout. They both have ranges of pre-cast buildings, scenic scatters and even trees, but Hornby caters mainly for ‘00’ scale whereas Bachmann produces models for ‘N’ gauge under their Graham Farish range.

There are many other suppliers who produce products for many of the popular gauges, but the pleasure for me is the creation of the landscape and it buildings and railway infrastructure. There is nothing better that building your own structures and you can put into them as much detail as you wish, another element of enjoyment is to create a scene that when photographed looks very realistic and can be mistaken for the real thing.

Other Information

There are many excellent publications from which to learn techniques in building and creating scenery, Wild Swan Publishing produce an excellent set of books.

Some of the best exponents of the railway in a landscape are Barry Norman with his Petherick layout and the group at Pendon Museum with their Dartmoor and Vale scenes.

To create a convincing model you need to give careful consideration of the real thing. Give thought to the area being modelled, East Anglia is a mainly flat county but do not model it completely flat include some gentle undulations. Further North the landscape has many rises and falls sometimes with many rocky outcrops. Middle England has a more gentle landscape whereas Devon or Cornwall has more undulating contours. You need to give thought to the area you may wish to model, it is no use just laying track and then try and add the scenery as you go along. You may live to regret it.

Depending on which baseboard construction method you choose will have some bearing on how you will create your landscape. With a solid top baseboard you will find it more difficult to model embankments to do this you may have to include another board set to a lower level and the just keep the track at the same level and build your embankment, bridge, viaduct below.

My preference is to choose an open top base construction as it is much easier to incorporate such features. I use blocks of polystyrene insulation to build up my landscape, it is easy to carve and light in construction. Other people use a chicken wire structure stretched over formers and the cover the structure in strips of cloth, paper or plaster bandage strips. Another method is to interweave card strips over formers and then cover them in either strips of paper, cloth or plaster bandage strips.

Whichever method you choose you will need to seal the structure, this can be done using polyfilla spread over your structure. I tend to mix in a colour and some PVA glue, this gives it a stronger bond and also if it chips it does not show white through. You can then start adding texture to your landscape, there are many suppliers of texture products from scatter materials to scenic mats. On my railway when creating grassland I use hanging basket liner which is glued to the structure and then when dry I tease away the unrequired waste (save for further areas) and you are left with a good representation of rough grass. This can then be trimmed and further textured to your requirement.

The most recent way of texturing a surface is by using Static Grass. The results you can obtain are very realistic but the initial outlay can be quite expensive for the cost of your applicator. Noch scenic products produce a puffer bottle for the application of the static grass which is good if you don’t have large areas to cover.

Below are some examples from my railway, but if you wish to read more there are some excellent books or videos to explain how to achieve different finishes. The latest book from Gordon Gravett is very useful as a bible.

Modelling the Landscape - by Mike Whatton

Animals and figurine used were supplied via Duncan Models and S & D Models

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