A quick way to produce slates or tiles is to cut strips of material that are of a width slightly larger than the width of a slate to be produced. Do not try to get the width exact, as some irregularity enhances the effect. Now take the first strip and cut across it as if you were going to produce individual slates, however, stop the cut about 2mm from the edge. You now have a sort of fringe. This is stuck to the bottom edge of the roof, with the uncut edge facing towards the top of the roof. The second strip is now positioned on the roof above the first strip and the slates marked on so that the joins come about in the centre of the slates below. Now this strip is cut out and stuck down, so that it overlaps the row below. This overlap will hide the uncut edge and the result will look like individual slates. The procedure is followed until the apex of the roof is reached. The ridge slates will have to be applied individually. This method does not take too long but the results are realistic.
PLASTER BOWL LINERS
Before mixing plaster, line your mixing bowl with some plastic sheet. This speeds scenery work as you don’t have to stop to wash the bowl after each batch.
If you have a large area to fill on a model, Mix PVA glue and sawdust until it is of the consistency of putty. Fill the area almost full of the homemade putty, then smooth it with epoxy putty.
Do you need dead leaves and other ground cover to complete a scene on your layout? Go to your wife’s potpourri jar for the solution. The colours are right and pot pourri can be shredded and crumpled to scale. Fix it in place with the usual diluted solution of PVA glue.
Never throw anything away as you never know when it will come in useful. Peeling veneer on junk furniture, for example, makes good wood trim on cars and wagons.
Cat litter can replicate rubble from fallen buildings, etc.
Use old cardboard tubes for spreading ballast by notching one end to fit over the rails and shortening the length to make it easy to handle. Fill the tube with ballast and run it along the track. Since the bottom of the tube is flush with the sleepers, it lays down an even layer of ballast. As the tube wears out fairly quickly, make several when doing big ballasting projects.
Rusty rail sides look very realistic and put a nice finish to your track. The operation is not difficult when carried out prior to laying the track although it can be done afterwards with some difficulty and a lot of patience. If you have a spray gun then the job is relatively easy, however, even with a hand brush, it may take a little longer but it is not too difficult. When the paint is dry, clean the tops of the rails with a track cleaning rubber to ensure good electrical contact. Be sure to avoid getting paint in the wrong place such as on turnout points.
A museum is often a good place to study model scenery techniques. Many museums usually have excellent dioramas in both full and scale formats. Modellers will gain useful tips on modelling from these as well as insights on how to blend foreground scenery with painted backdrops.
CHANGEABLE ADVERTISING HOARDINGS
A very common part of the landscape is advertising hoardings and some of these should be incorporated into your model railway layout. Unlike the models which usually advertise the same product forever, hoardings can be changed at regular intervals. Construct a frame of 1/16 inch Plastruct ABS channel and glue it around a thin plastic sheet backboard leaving a gap to allow an advertising card to be slipped into the frame. The cards are simply thin plastic or card stock with adverts glued on them, one on each side. Several cards can be made up for special events, different time periods, changing seasons, and so on. Make these hoardings to your own scale and change the adverts when you feel like it.
SPREADING BALLAST AND SAND
You can control the spreading of ballast, fine sand, sifted soil and fine ground foam with this little gadget. Take a small plastic funnel and some nylon window screening and wrap the screen over the spout of the funnel using a rubber band to hold the screen in place. Pour the material to be spread into the funnel and use your finger as a valve to start and stop the flow. Very fine materials can be controlled by using two layers of screen.
A simple and inexpensive colouring medium for plaster scenery is artist’s water colours. They are especially good for adding shading or second colours to a base coat of precoloured plaster; the black does not have a purple tinge as do most dyes, and the paints do not contain salts that can corrode trackwork.
Save yourself several steps in laying the grass on your layout by buying a packet of Woodland Scenics’ dry ballast cement. First, spray the area to be grassed with a light cover of water, then sprinkle the grass and cement on and spray lightly again. Let dry. No sweeper is needed to lift the extra grass because it all adheres. When working near track, switches, etc., mask these items with newspaper for protection.
Fill a pepper shaker with flour and sprinkle the area. Then coat with cheap lacquer hair spray. The hair spray crystallises the flour and the effect is amazing.
Make creeping vines from ordinary baling twine. Cut the twine to the desired length and “freeze” one end of it with a drop of superglue. Unravel the other end until the strands are the thickness you want. Mix four parts of white PVA glue and one part of water, then run the twine through the mixture. Liberally sprinkle the twine with static grass from your model railway supplier or hobby shop. Let the twine dry and then paint it. You can bend your vine to shape and fix it in place on a wall, building or cliff with superglue.
A good method of producing reasonable poplar trees is to collect the flowers off a Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), leave them to dry out, and when they have turned brown, seal them with hair spray. Then take two or three blossoms, integrate them, bind them with brown cotton and dip them into a 50/50 mixture of white PVA glue and water and then into dyed sawdust.
Make stone walls, stone rubble, rocks and similar rocky scenic bits from scraps of plastic foam or polystyrene. It is easy to shape and paint. Experiment with airbrushing and weathering techniques to produce realistic shading.
MAKE YOUR OWN CLAY
Mix 1 cup of salt with a ½ a cup of water and heat in a medium saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix well ½ a cup of cornstarch and a ¼ of a cup of cold water. When the salt solution is hot, pour in the cornstarch mix and stir over heat until very thick. Let cool. Roll the cooled clay between sheets of waxed paper, then cut the roll into segments. Form the objects you need such as sacks of potatoes and other similar contents, sandbags, blocks of stone, or whatever. Let them dry until hard. The clay is resilient and takes paint well. Wrapped in aluminium foil, it will stay moist for as long as two weeks.
While it is nearly impossible to eliminate dust, there are a number of ways to help control it. First look at the sources of dust in your layout’s environment. Try to eliminate openings where dust can blow in, concrete floors should be sealed or covered in lino tiles, carpets vacuumed regularly and woodwork or other construction must be undertaken in another room. Keeping the railway and its room clean on a regular basis is easier than the occasional major cleanup. Use a soft shaving brush for dusting and a good vacuum cleaner. Use the brush to dislodge the dust. Tape a piece of pantyhose over the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner to catch any loose items and carefully go over everything with the cleaner. Empty the cleaner regularly and replace the filter often or you will only be redistributing the dust.
First cut a piece of cardboard to the size you require and then paint it a base colour or colours if you want to include patches of dead grass. Now lightly scrape and tease the surface of the cardboard with the tip of a sharp razor blade. This will raise the cardboard fibres creating many tiny blades of grass. Finally, touch up the grass with a brush. Practice on a piece of scrap card and you will soon get the hang of it.
Dilute some PVA glue with water, add some light blue ink and let this mixture run slowly through your stream bed. When dry it forms a hard clear substance with a bluish tinge. You may need to add one or two more layers to make it look really effective.
Styrofoam sheets make great cobblestone streets for layouts, figure displays and dioramas. Applying mild heat will cause the plastic balls to shrink and round at the top. Allow the sheet to cool and paint it with acrylic model paint. With practice you will have plenty of convincing (and inexpensive) cobblestones.
Here is an idea which you may find very useful. Have you ever had the need to put barbed wire around an installation or top a fence with the stuff. If so, then try out this method and have something different on your layout. 1. Strip the insulation from a length of fine copper wire. Take three strands and attach them to a fixed point such as a nail in a block of wood. 2. Hold the wire slightly taught and twist it. Attach the strands to an object such as a pencil for this operation and aim for about 4-5 twists per centimetre. Do not over tighten or it will break. 3. Attach the two ends together to make a continuous loop and hold taught. Try putting it over your knees for this operation. 4. Wrap one single strand around twice. 5. Place a pencil next to the wire, and use the pencil as a spacer to make your next double twist. Carry on all the way around. 6. Place a spot of superglue on each of these barbs to secure them￼ 7. Cut the barbs off to leave a very realistic barb. Be careful as, like the real stuff, it is sharp. Next paint the wire with black or brown washes to give the weathering of your choice. So there you are then, barbed wire for that fence. Now all you have to do is plant some posts to support it.
Creating the effect of a snowfall for winter dioramas is easy. Take some ordinary baking flour, sift or sprinkle it from a shaker onto your model diorama and spray it with aerosol hairspray. The flour crystallises into great looking snow.
POSTERS AND LOGOS
Looking for coloured advertisements, logos, signs, etc to decorate your layout? Look no further than old magazines, junk mail, Yellow Pages and similar publications. Cut out the appropriate picture and glue it onto a cardboard backing for your billboards or advertising signs.
A simple and in-expensive colouring substance for plaster used in scenery work is artist’s water colours. They are especially good for shading or adding second colours to a base coat of pre-coloured plaster. Additionally, the paints do not contain salts to corrode trackwork and black does not come out with a purple tinge as some dyes can.
Track laying spikes make great steps on telegraph poles.
CARING FOR PLASTIC
Sunlight fades paintwork and buckles or breaks down some plastics so keep all plastics out of the sun, especially now that the hole in the ozone layer is getting larger and likely to affect our skin as well as our models.
JUNK MAIL IS USEFUL
Every householder’s curse but every model railroader’s dream. Junk mail can yield advertisements, company logos and emblems as well as art work and pictures for those roadside signs. Cut them out and stick them on appropriate roadside hoardings, walls of buildings, railway stations and around sporting arenas.
Wheels and tyres support the weight of a vehicle and to simulate this, file a flat at the contact point of the tyre with the ground. To bulge the tyre, carefully place the contact point against a hot iron protected by a brown paper bag. Alternatively, the bulge could be modelled with filler and then sanded to shape. If the wheels are steerable, then it is visually more interesting to have them set at an angle instead of just straight ahead.
Terry towelling nappies which are no longer needed can be useful on the layout. Spread them over crumpled newspapers or your polystyrene shaped hills and cover with a thin solution of plaster coloured with green powder paint. This gives an excellent impression of rough grassland provided you don’t plaster down the course texture of the towelling too much or the whole object is defeated. By using other powder colours you can get a resemblance to waste ground, sand dunes, or whatever you need.
To obtain a good representation of a ploughed field, first cover the area of the field with plaster and when it is almost set, draw a knife with a serrated edge over the surface. The serrations in knives come in all different sizes so obviously, the larger the serration, the larger will be the scale of the ploughed field.
Most modellers usually ‘plant’ their grass directly onto the plaster work and then have to ensure that none of the white plaster shows through thus spoiling the effect. It is better to paint the white plaster, after it dries, with a mixture of green paints, or mix powdered paints in with the plaster so there is no white to show through.
TEA LEAVES FOR ROADS
Tea leaves have been used for many purposes in railway modelling, mainly for trees, but with the use of tea leaves changing to tea bags for tea drinkers, leaves have become a lot finer in texture, so other uses have been devised. Try using the leaves from tea bags for making roads. Dry the tea bags in front of the fire and empty the leaves onto an aluminium plate and again put this in front of the fire. The longer the leaves are in front of the fire, the darker they become. When they are almost black, sprinkle them on your model road. This tends to make them bind together so all you need now is a ‘Matchbox’ or similar model steam roller and a group of model workmen figures to work on your new road.
PAINTING STRAIGHT LINES
Not everyone has the ability to paint straight lines on roads, platform edges, parking lots, and particularly on locomotives and rolling stock. The trick is to lay down two parallel strips of thin masking tape of some sort, the space between them being what you want to be the width of your line. Carefully remove the tape soon after painting as if left too long, it could stick very securely and be difficult to remove without damaging the paint underneath. Before sticking the tape down in the first place, it is a good idea to stick it to something else a couple of times to remove some of the tackiness and make it easier to remove later.
CORRUGATED IRON FENCING
Fences are needed for many different reasons on a layout — lining roads and railway tracks, enclosing paddocks, dividing property and a host of other useful purposes. Variety is important so explore other types of fences you can build such as the use of corrugated iron as explained here. There are a number of ways of making model corrugated iron but probably the easiest is using the wrapping that comes in chocolate boxes, biscuit packets and the like. Cut it to size and paint it aluminium, rust, or whatever colour you require. Fix it to matchsticks and balsa strips as detailed below. Drill some holes in the baseboard and plant your fence. This type of fence is very flexible and can be curved to a reasonable radius without breaking.
PASSENGERS’ BIG FEET
Those rectangular or round bases on the feet of human figures look out of place on a layout, especially on railway platforms, footpaths or other smooth surfaces. They can be easily hidden from view on grass, in gardens, sand and so on by simply cutting a shallow hole for the base to fit in and then covered with the same material as is around them. But in other cases you need to cut the bases off, drill a hole in the bottom of the feet to insert a peg cut from a length of sprue, and a corresponding hole in the platform, footpath or other similar surface and ‘plant’ the figure with a touch of superglue.
USE FOR WORN-OUT RAILS
On the prototype, after running rails become too worn for use as track, railway find various other uses for them. Here are a few ideas: Fencing posts at the back of platforms, or cattle pens, lamp standards, supports for station name boards, telegraph poles, signal support poles, station seating, station awning supports.... Fencing posts at the back of platforms, or cattle pens, lamp standards, supports for station name boards, telegraph poles, signal support poles, station seating, station awning supports....
Ballasting track is one of those chores which is slow, messy and tedious. This ballast applicator could be just the thing to make ballasting as much fun as the other tasks associated with building a layout. Take a small plastic bottle and remove the bottom. Next cut a slot right through in the screw-on plastic top like that on a money box. The length should be equivalent to the distance between the rails. Now cut two more slots on the edges, at right angles to this one, the width apart of the rails. These latter slots should not be right through but only sufficiently deep enough to act as guides for the applicator to sit on the rails. Fill with ballast and drag the applicator along the track. You may need to adjust the money box slot to allow more ballast to fall through if it is not wide enough.
Have you ever tried to simulate running water in a model such as that being poured from one container into another? Try this trick. Apply tube glue onto a cocktail stick, let it dry slightly and tease it out with the pointed end of another one, ending up with a cone shape. Let this dry thoroughly, cut and trim to shape and glue in position with PVA. When dry, paint with gloss varnish, the result being fairly convincing water being poured from the container. For larger amounts of running water, you can use a wire armature, painted white, then covered with tube adhesive teased into the correct shape. When totally dry, you can comb it with a fine toothed razor saw to simulate rivulets of water.
Women’s magazines, and other glossy coloured magazines, are a good source of advertisements for station platforms, roadside hoardings and shop advertising signs. But you don’t have to cut the magazines up these days incurring the wroth of the other people in the house. Simply take them to your nearest colour photocopy shop and have the advertisements of your choice reduced or enlarged to fit the designated space. Don’t forget to add a little weathering.
TO FIX OR NOT TO FIX
At some stage you may want to change the position of the figures or buildings on your layout. If they are glued in place, the chances of damaging them during the removal operation are high. Try using wax or Blu Tac to temporarily fix these items in place and when removal time comes, they lift off easily.
COMPUTER PRINTED SIGNS
Many shop signs and names on railway stations have, in the past, spoilt the look of the buildings by being crudely hand printed. Now with the aid of computers you can produce professional signwriters signs that will enhance your models. Simply type in the name of the station or words you want on the sign, reduce the type size to the finished size of the sign, add the colour you want and the border if you want one, and print it off on your colour printer. All you have to do now is to cut it out and paste it in position.
FIGURES IN DIFFERENT SCALES
Most model figures of people by the same manufacturer are usually the same size but real people are not like that. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Populate your layout with figures by different manufacturers who seem to make their models to slightly different scales.
Good looking scenery does not have to be built to scale in the same way as your buildings and trains have to be. Sometimes it is impossible to build it to scale anyway so you are better to concentrate on making it look realistic rather than in scale.
Quite often discarded sleepers are left alongside the track after the track gang has replaced them with new ones. To give these sleepers a real weathered look, place them in a jar of household bleach. You will need to put a weight on the sleepers to stop them floating to the surface. After about an hour in bright sunlight, the sleepers will be bleached to various degrees but check them every so often just to make sure they are not being completely bleached out. Now scatter them alongside the track with perhaps, a track crew working there.
CHEAP SCENIC MATERIAL
An inexpensive source of scenic material is a product called “Oasis” which is used in floral arrangements. It can be purchased at local craft shops or florists. The stuff comes in blocks which can be made into useable ground cover by ripping it up over a bucket using a wire brush in your electric drill.
Want to improve the covering on the inside walls of your building structures? Instead of just painting them, how about wallpapering them? Next question, where do you find wallpaper of a scale size for your kit’s walls? Try the inside of some envelopes — many have designs (such as shown below) which are quite suitable and you will be surprised what a difference this will make to a room.
REMOVE TRACK PINS
You should remove track pins once you have ballasted your track with the appropriate scale and colour of ballast and PVA glue. This task is easy to overlook and the pins are difficult to remove later.
LET YOUR LAYOUT EVOLVE
Plan your layout certainly, but let it evolve naturally as well. Like the prototype, stations and yards evolved over many decades with things constantly changing as traffic patterns developed. If you are not happy with something on your layout, change it.
TAR SEALED ROADS
To simulate tar sealed roads on your layout, try using emery paper. The joins can be mostly hidden by butt jointing the material and then touching up the edges with a thin grey ink felt tipped pen. A little more realism can be obtained by finishing off with a light dusting of talcum powder.
RECORD MIXING MEASUREMENTS
When mixing plaster, colours, resins or other materials used on your layout, make sure that you measure and record everything so that you can duplicate them again when necessary.
AVOID FADED BACKSCENES
Backscenes painted with water paints will fade. To avoid having to repaint them when this happens, use oil paints.
USE FOR BBQ ASHES
Don’t throw out the barbecue ashes and fine pieces of charcoal left in the bottom of the BBQ tray. When cold, carefully brush all this into an ice cream pottle and keep it. Later, using a spoon, you can scatter this mixture over different areas of the track and especially around ash pits and shed entrances. Use an old brush to push the ash into the sleepers and over time, the effect becomes very convincing and well worth the effort. To seal it in, use a thin mist of cheap hairspray.
AVOID THE SUN
When you are not using your models, keep them out of direct sunlight. Plastic not UV treated can quickly fade and warp.
RUBBLE FROM CASTING DISASTERS
When casting tunnel mouths, rock faces and similar projects, there will always be one that does not turn out how you want it. Don’t throw it away. Smash it up with a hammer and use it for rubble on your layout or diorama. Paint the rubble to match the material it represents — brick, stone, and so on.
BODY PARTS TO FIT
Due to the motors filling the cabs on some smaller steam locomotives, placing figures of drivers and firemen in the cab can sometimes be a problem. You may need to cut these figure and use only the head, neck, arm and part of the torso. But don’t throw away the rest of the body parts. These can be placed under road vehicles or heavy machinery to look as thought an inspection or repair is taking place. Or, with an ambulance standing by, used as victims in road accident scenes.
For a cheap method of creating chain-link fencing, use “Bridal-veil” material painted silver.
USE FOR BIGGER BRUSHES
When your house painting brushes are past their use by date, don’t throw them away. The bristles make great clumps of grass for your layout. If you break the brushes apart, you will see that the bristles are attached to a chunk of glue. Drill some holes in your baseboard where you want to ‘plant’ the clumps of grass, use wire cutters to divide the chunk of glue (with hairs still attached) into stubs a little smaller than the holes you have just drilled. Use a hobby knife to shape the glue stubs nearly round, put some PVA glue into the holes and drop in the grass stubs. Now trim them to the desired height with scissors and give them a lick of paint to the colour you require.
To get the basic concrete colour, mix some portland cement into your plaster. A ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 cement to plaster is just about right. A little weathering after the plaster is set is all that is needed to get a perfect job.
Use a mirror to give the appearance of scenery continuing beyond a structure. Mirrors can be very useful in providing continuityof the scene where, in fact, there is no continuity. Other instances would be in back scenes where a carefully placed mirror will reflect part of the layout and give a feeling of much greater depth and realism than a painted back scene.
If you are using some form of glazing material such as ripple glass or plastic to simulate a lake or pond, hide the edges by making an irregular ‘beach’ around it by using some plaster and fine sand. Add some rocks, rushes and even a beached dinghy to relieve the sameness of the shoreline.
Ever wished that there was more variety available in ground cover for layout modelling or dioramas? Go to your local pet store and stock up on aquarium plants — they come in a wide variety of shapes and types and there is plenty to choose from.
MODIFYING MODEL PEOPLE
Most model figures on the market are usually set in one particlular pose and there are times when you may want to change that pose — to have them seated, walking, climbing and so on. This may sound drastic, but take to them with your modelling knife. Cut them at the knees, the beltline, the neck, the shoulders, wherever the position needs changing and glue the parts in the position you want. Fill in any gaps with epoxy putty and, if necessary, sculpt in new detail. You can even swap parts between figures to give more variety to the population of your layout.
TEA LEAVES TREES
Cut open an unused tea bag and use the tea leaves for foliage on trees and bushes or for ground cover. Green teas come in nice shades of green, and black teas or herbal teas look dried out and dead.
TEA BAG STRINGS
After tea bag strings have been soaking in your cup of tea, they take on the colour of old rope and are useful for a number of applications in modelling such as ties on tarpaulin covers, ropes in pulley blocks and so on. Run the string through some bees wax to eliminate fuzz.
A PLOUGHED FIELD
Cut out a piece of corrugated cardboard to the shape of your field. Place this in position with the corrugations facing up. Apply some PVA glue and then sprinkle on some earth-coloured sawdust. A tractor with plough attached adds to the scene.
To create chain-link fencing for your industrial park, cut some plastic rod to length for the posts, glue strips of fine sun-screen curtain material to the posts and spray the whole structure with silver coloured spray paint. When it dries, all you have to do is ‘plant’ the fence around your park.
ROUGHING UP STONE BLOCKS
Many of the plastic sheets of concrete or stone blocks available commercially are too uniformly cast but it is possible to roughen these up and give them a knobbly finish. Drop blobs of thick PVA glue randomly over each block and let it dry. The glue will dry clear and can then be dry brushed with an appropriate colour or colours. Depending on the colour you require, the blocks can be sprayed with a concrete colour mixed with a little black to make the pointing slightly darker, then dry brush with the finished concrete colour.
To make ivy covered walls on a building, take the ‘leaves from red/green/brown pot-pourri and glue them individually onto the wall with PVA glue. The bright colours of some pot-pourri is also useful for planting railway station flower beds.
WATERING CAN FOR BALLASTING
For modellers of garden railways ballasting should be tamped in place for a more solid foundation. For achieving the best results, use a watering can which gives you much more control over where to put the water and how much is applied. The water does a great job in settling the ballast in place locking all the material together so the track is less prone to movement.
Try to put as many of the lineside features as possible in place before ballasting the track. Items such as level crossing gates or barriers, signals, trackside phones, driver information/warning signs and other objects pertaining to the railway operation should all be in place prior to track ballasting.
SCENES ADD VARIETY
Rather than have your trains just run through the usual countryside scenes of animals in paddocks, try to make little incidents or specific dioramas to add variety to the layout. Two people on a roadside leaning on their bicycles gossiping, a motorist changing a wheel, road works with a detour, a motorist pulled over by a traffic cop or held up by a flock of sheep— all add interest and life to your model.
STRENGTHENING HARDSHELL SCENERY
There will always be times when hardshell scenery on your layout is likely to be damaged by dropped objects or bumps when shifting things along aisles and other similar situations. Some strengthening is therefore advantageous to the welfare of the scenery and your model. Try using nylon netting as part of the first layer. The plaster fills in the holes of the netting when the plaster-soaked paper towels are applied. When the supporting crumpled newspapers are removed from under the scenery, the hardshell will be much stronger. It can then be finished in any of the traditional ways.
PHOTOGRAPHS GIVE DETAILS
If you are one of those modellers who likes to recreate a particular real scene in your layout, take lots of photographs. Study them over and over again. There will always be something you missed seeing, even after the umpteenth time. That particular object may be just the thing you need to add authenticity to your scene.
COLOUR PLASTER FIRST
If you pre-colour your sawdust, plaster or other scenic material when mixing by adding poster colours or food colouring to the water, it can save painting time later.
Don’t mix your seasons when modelling scenery on a layout. Most modellers seem to go for summer with everything nice and green, but some of the other seasons can make attractive scenes, particularly winter before trees get their leaves and plants start growing. The important thing is to choose a season and stay with it.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
Water in its various guises – ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers and so on – is a very impressive feature on any layout. Before adding whatever is your preference to simulate water, finish all base scenery and seal all edges, joins and cracks so that, when you pour in the liquid water mixture, it does not leak out or run everywhere and spoil anything.
MORE ON WATER
Always pour liquid water mixtures slowly and carefully into the centre of your water feature to prevent high water marks as the material seeks its own level.
MODELLING RAILWAY YARDS
Most real railway yards are eyesores so why shouldn’t your model’s be too! On many railway layouts, yards are usually the centrepiece so they have to look like the real thing. The very things that make these yards the neighbourhood eyesore and the bane of city beautifiers need to be scattered all over the place. Trash, grass and weeds growing everywhere are only a start. Oil drippings, trash including paper and cardboard boxes, metal banding, spillage from loads such as coal, sand and ballast, cinders, bits of wood, dunnage, tin cans – look around waste ground and yards and see what is lying around and add these sorts of things to your model.
Fence lines can be enhanced by the addition of long grass, weeds, bushes and even trees planted along both sides of the base of the fence.
RUST NEVER SLEEPS
Any junk left lying around your layout can be made to look as though it has been there for some time by the addition of some long grass and weeds around it. Metal objects such as wheels, corrugated iron, old bicycles and even cars gather rust so some work with a can of rust paint and a stiff brush can work wonders to make the junk look as thought it has been lying there for years. Even real rust rubbed on can be very convincing.
THAT TAR SEAL LOOK
To simulate that tar seal look on your roads use emery paper. To camouflage the joins, butt them together and touch up with a fine black felt tip pen.
Creating an impression of distance between stations on a model railway layout, particularly within the confines of a small layout room, can be difficult. Various techniques can be employed such as adding back panels and having the stations on either side of these, using large scenic features such as hills with tunnels, bridges over rivers, and forests to break up the scene.
A common feature alongside railway tracks and highways, advertising hoardings make as good scenic attraction on a layout. The sources for posters and advertising material for these hoardings is almost endless with the range of coloured printed material now being produced and finding its way into everyone’s mail box. And if the size does not suit your scale, simply enlarge or reduce the required poster on a colour photocopier. It is that easy.
HIDING THE EDGES
Take a look at the prototype landscape, everything blends together and so it should on your model. There is not a definite line between water and bank, road and verge, track and field. What you have to do is merge these together by some means and there are various ways of achieving this. At the edge of the water there can be sand, rocks or water weeds, the road can be edged with gravel, long grass and weeds, and ballast should be unevenly met with weeds, long grass, clay and gravel. Even rubbish can be scattered along all of these edges just as in the real world.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas and techniques. Most of the tips on these pages came about through experimenting with ideas. The modeller who never made a mistake, never made anything.
Around 50 per cent of the population are female but take a look and your model railway layout and see how many women and girls feature. Men are regularly seen grafting away at their daily chores but where are the women? Get with it and add some females doing their thing to even out the gender balance.
BALLAST POINTS WITH CARE
If you must ballast around pointwork, do so with great care. Put masking tape carefully over the rails around the switch area but the best way is to apply the loose ballast and adhesive carefully, keeping glue away from the contact areas of the point blades as much as possible. Careful cleaning with some very fine abrasive paper should then be all that is needed.
CLOTHING FOR LANDSCAPING
When doing the messy landscaping your layout, it is advisable to wear overalls or old clothes. Wearing rubber gloves is also a good idea.
PROBLEMS WITH SHADOWS
Try to arrange the lighting of your layout to avoid casting shadows on the backboard painting. If this cannot be avoided, a trick is to pencil around the shadow and then paint in some dark object such as a tree or building, where the shadow falls.
Advertising hoardings don’t have to be the only place where you find posters advertising products or services. Take a look at the walls of railway stations, factory buildings, bus shelters, in fact any spare wall space is fair game.
The style of telegraph poles varies from country to country. In fact, travelling in Europe, the only way to tell if you have crossed the border between countries these days is to observe that the telegraph poles have change style. Observe the style of the country you are modelling and add things like steps, caps, number and placement of insulators and don’t forget wires. Cotton makes an excellent substitute for wires and, although they can be a nuisance when working on the layout, telegraph poles along the right-of-way or roadside look silly without wires running between them.
Your model shop is not the only source of material for vegetation and foliage on your layout. Check out your local flower shop to find material they use for flower arrangements. A lot of the imitation vegetation florists use can be ideal for thick bush, jungle and the like.
If you are not modelling a real prototype scene, don’t spend too much time on planning accurate detail. Have an idea and just go with it.
FLYING THE FLAG
From time to time, almost every modeller will want to add a flag or a pennant to a model or diorama. The trick is to make one that drapes realistically on the model. You can use the lead foil from the metal tubes that some ointments, gels and similar products come in. After the tube is empty, cut it open, flatten it out and clean away any of the left over product with soap and water. The printing on the tube can be removed with lacquer thinner, leaving the metal clean and ready for paint or decals. The metal used in these tubes is easy to bend and shape so you can make a flag blowing in the wind or drape it as required.
Try out different ideas on your layout and if something doesn’t work, rip it out and do something else. Most mistakes can be corrected.
ENJOY WHAT YOU ARE DOING
Always try to enjoy what you are doing when modelling. If you get fed up doing one job, simply move onto something else and go back to the original task when you feel like it.
Layouts which have long mainline runs should include visual barriers to break up the view to give the impression of distance. Long straight runs can look toylike and boring so build in tunnels, overbridges, vegetation, and similar objects to prevent the whole train being completely seen on its run.
To simulate ploughed fields on your layout, simply run an old comb through partially set plaster. When the plaster is dry, paint it the desired colour. You can use this technique for any scale depending on the spacing of the comb teeth.
For some reason, a scene looks better with odd numbers of cars in a train, odd numbers of objects such as sacks and boxes, odd numbers of people in groups, odd numbers of buildings or trees and so on. This is true except for single objects and people, which just look lonely.
If the weather has been good enough for you to have had a BBQ this summer, you should have saved the charcoal ashes. These can be used to cover the bottom of ash pits at steam engine facilities. They can also be used to mix with commercial ballast to change the colour. A mix of 3:1 dilution of water and PVA glue with a little washing up liquid added can be used to bond your ashes or ballast in place.
Don’t throw away those chips and chunks of plaster that fall on the floor or break off when you are plastering. They make good broken rock for embankments and talus slopes at the foot of cliffs.