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How To Build Model Railroad Scenery

If you're on track to building a spectacular model railroad, follow these tips to build some very necessary and fun eye-popping scenery.


  • TIP: Don't neglect the inside of the tunnel. Cut a piece of earth tone construction paper to fit inside, roll it up, and insert it into one end of the tunnel. Allow it to unfold and create a rounded tunnel look.
  • Step 1: Cut a hole in the surface, and mold plaster cloth to the inside of the hole. Apply Hydrocal and let it dry overnight. Sand the pond's base, and paint the center black. As you near the pond's banks, add green or blue paint to lighten the black. Add Realistic Water, which can be found at hobby stores, and let it dry for 24 hours.
  • Step 2: Add details like telephone poles, traffic lights, people and more that can all be purchased at any hobby store. A model railroad is always a work in progress, so enjoy your creation, but keep chugging along and improving your miniature world.
  • FACT: The world’s largest model railroad resides in Hamburg at Miniatur Wunderland. The railroad track depicts Scandanavia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and North America. It is approximately 39,370 feet long and is anticipated to stretch to 65,616 feet by 2015. France and Italy are currently under construction.
  • Step 3: Build tunnels by using Styrofoam to build the walls and top of the tunnel. Or, use the cardboard web technique as above. With either method, wad up newspaper and place on top of the tunnel to simulate mountains, cover with plaster cloth and paint to match the mountain.
  • TIP: For a realistic look, try using a variety of different textures and colors of ground foam, especially around the train tracks and next to roads.
  • Step 4: Paint over the plaster cloth with a tan or light earth-tone to simulate mountains, valleys and other natural environments. Once you've laid done one coat, use contrasting colors like varying browns and grays to add details to your landscape. Add a few rocks from your yard as boulders.
  • Step 5: Create dirt roads using Sculptamold. Paint the road and sprinkle sand over it while the paint is wet. Or design paved roads by gluing two parallel styrene strips to the surface and pouring Sculptamold between them. Smooth the surface and remove the forms once the Sculptamold dries. Paint the road gray.
  • Step 6: Add trees by gathering a few twigs from your yard and gluing herbs or dried vegetation to them. Or, mix one part glue and three parts water and dip a pine cone in the mixture. Sprinkle green ground foam all over the cone. Attach the trees to the subroadbed.
  • Step 7: Create a ground cover by first painting the entire suboardbed with a neutral color like tan. Sprinkle ground foam or turf on the surface while the paint is still wet. Add lichen clumps and/or dried vegetation randomly around the environment and sprinkle them with turf to create shrubs.
  • Step 8: Create terrain by stapling chicken wire to the subroadbed and cover with a plaster cloth. Or, attach several one-inch wide cardboard strips to the subroadbed vertically. Then attach strips horizontally creating a checkerboard pattern. Cover it with plaster cloth. Wadded up newspaper and plaster cloth also works.

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