Making Model Railroad Scenery Vegetation, Rocks, Grasses, and Weeds for Train Layouts

Making Low Cover Model Train Scenery

Low ground cover on model train layouts is generally grasses and weeds. Besides the foam application described above, there is a technique that uses a special electric tool and product to electrostatically apply realistic grass fibers that will stand up just like real grass. These tools are rather expensive, so this technique is probably more cost effective if you have a huge grassy area to cover.

Making Medium Cover Model Train Scenery

Natural materials can be useful. Moss can form shrubs and bushes; statice, strawflowers, and various small blooms can simulate flower beds; dried roots can be made into shrubs, and can be used to simulate stumps and logs. There are also various commercially made products available for various scenery suppliers. © Copyright All rights reserved.

If you are using real plants, then there are some guidelines to follow. After gathering the material, you first need to get rid of any unwelcome pests. A dip or spray with insecticide is usually worth doing. Discard any stems with swelling, or any with offcolor spots on foliage or stems. Fall and early winter is usually the best time to gather samples as the wood is often dry. It may take weeks to thoroughly dry any plants you gather. They can be hung with the stems facing upwards; however they can dry out in a ‘closed-in’ configuration. Alternatively, you could push some pins through some cardboard or styrene and stick the stems into the pins so the plants can dry upright.

Here are some options to use:

• Polyfiber is a common kind of material that adds a bulkier texture to the ground. It should be spray painted or dyed an appropriate color.

• Vines may be used as cover if you have something with a flat surface on it. This might include a series of vines on top of a tunnel or rock face.

• Coarser ground foam materials may be added for small bushes and shrubs.

© Copyright

Making High Cover Model Train Scenery

High cover includes plants that are slightly taller and thicker than low shrubs and bushes, but aren’t quite up to the level of trees:

• Lichen is commonly used because it is a little thicker and larger in size. It can also create a series of small clumps similar to small trees with lots of foliage. Lichen is a vegetable material, so it may dry out and have to be renewed or re-colored periodically.

• High cover on hills can be secured with toothpicks or a few small bits of wire. Be sure to color whatever mounting device is used to blend in with your vegetation.

Making Your Own Groundcover Model Train Scenery

You can make groundcover with crushed dead leaves that come from your yard. Use a blender to finely grind the leaves that you collect. Be sure to use the blender hopper cover because it will be very easy for the particles to fly around as they are being ground up. It would be a good idea to not use your wife’s kitchen blender, so make a trip to a thrift store or garage sale to find a serviceable recycled unit. Here are some excellent examples of good ground cover.

The leaves can then be added into the area just like what you would do with any other kind of groundcover. They add a nice texture to areas under trees that are modeled in fall colors or as accents in a winter scene. Dead leaves collect against barriers and in places where the wind eddies around an object. Place them against the side of a building and in street gutters, but remember that the wind will usually deposit material only on one side of an object that faces the wind. Spreading dead leaves all around a building foundation will spoil the effect.

If you live in an area of the country that experiences cold autumn and winter weather, take a walk around the neighborhood when the leaves have fallen and note how they lie. It’s helpful to take photos to refer to later. This might also be a good time to take some photos of weathering. Autumn and winter are the times of year when weathering is most evident.

Leaf stems can be a source of small tree trunks. Look carefully at what you have collected and try to envision the stems as other types of vegetation.

Making Rocks for Groundcover Model Train Scenery

Small broken plaster shards make excellent rocks. Keep the plaster that is left over from other scenic projects and crush it into small bits, then make a wash of color appropriate to the earth you are modeling and soak them in it for a few minutes. Remove and dry on a paper towel, then apply with adhesive to likely locations on the layout. Cliff and rock faces frequently have rock falls, called talus, at their base. Plaster bits look very realistic in this application.

Small real rocks can also be used as boulders or medium sized accidentals.

If the rock has interesting cleavages, try using a brushed India ink wash to create shadows and embed it in a bit of Sculptamold, then shade in color to make them look natural in the surroundings.

Making Rock Faces Model Train Scenery Some of the most interesting terrain features are rock faces, and they are very easy to model. The easiest method of all is to buy commercially finished rock faces made from foam or other materials. These look great, but they can be pricey and have the disadvantage of requiring that you use the entire product. Rather than fit the rock face to the space you have, you often need to try to fit the space to the commercial rock face.

Complete cliff faces and rocks can be purchased readymade, or you can buy molds to make your own.

Rock faces are so easy (and fun) to make yourself that it hardly seems worth the money to purchase one pre-made. Companies such as Woodland Scenics and Scenic Express have a very good selection of rubber rock molds that can be used to create faces with plaster or Hydrocal.

It’s a very simple procedure to cast a face; simply lightly spray the mold with a release agent such as cooking spray or a mixture of water and alcohol, pour in a mix of plaster or Hydrocal about the consistency of pancake batter, and let stand several hours to harden.

When the plaster has hardened, the casting will easily separate from the mold and you can then glue the face to the area you select and paint it to model the shade of rock strata you desire. The same mold can be used to cast rock faces for different areas of the layout in different orientations, and by using pieces of the casting rather than the whole piece. The molds typically cost about $10 each, so investing in several won’t break the bank and will give you a great variety of rock options.