Model Railroads: Layout, Track, And Scenery

Building your own models tracks can be fun and rewarding. Here are some suggestions to make your own train base. Tips on materials and products.

Perhaps, even more fun than running a model railroad is the construction and assembly of the scenery that surrounds it. Rolling hills of green, mountainous peaks edged in colorful trees, sparkling lakes and wildlife. You design and create the world that your train travels through, as well as the exciting sights that your passengers witness on their journey. While it may seem intimidating, at first, creating the scenery and laying the track for your model railroad can be a fun adventure for the whole family!

Before you start designing your model railway, the most important aspect is to plan out where it will go in your home. While some might choose the floor of an unused room, basement or garage, please realize that such an environment will subject your model train to derailment from giant pets and children, as well as gigantic feet (even a size 5 shoe is a giant, compared to a model train). For this reason, the safest place for your model railway is an elevated place, such as a high table or a suspended track that is attached (firmly) to the ceiling.

Size is dependant upon the builder, but a good rule of thumb is to lay out an idea of your track on a piece of sturdy plywood. This will allow you to make marks on your board, showing where you want your hills and valleys, as well as granting you the freedom to imagine the setting that you would like to design. Allow for some gentle, winding curves through the countryside, to avoid derailing on sharp corners and then mark out areas where you would like to the track and scenery. Once this is done, you should take your track and put it away, to keep it safe until you need it.



One of the best methods of texturing your scenery is by using a two-part, self-hardening epoxy. These can usually be purchased, inexpensively, online or at your local hobby stores, and allow the freedom to mold your scenery with a claylike substance that will harden to a sandable solid in about 24 hours. Using aluminum foil or newspaper balls as a mold, then shaping the epoxy over this will stretch a small amount of epoxy a long way, as well as keeping the weight of your base to a minimum. Once the epoxy has set, only a small amount of sanding should be needed, in order to blend your hills into your base with a smooth fit. Remember to keep all hills on a gradual incline, so your train will be able to travel up. If your epoxy is water-proof and can be used outdoors, it can also be used to make a small shallow lake or special kits can be purchased to make artificial bodies of water, to add a unique touch.

While some use artificial grass carpeting, similar to what is used on porches, there are several brands of realistic-looking artificial turf on the market now. Usually sold in a convenient-to-shake plastic container, they come in a wide variety of colors and blends. Comprised of tiny foam shavings, they are easy to apply, lightweight and breathtaking to look at.

Apply a light coat of spray adhesive to a small section of your base, and sprinkle the turf over the glued area. For best results, only do small areas at a time and don't try to press the turf down into the glue, or you will end up with squashed areas when it dries. The ideal method is to keep newspaper under your base and then sprinkle an abundant amount of turf over the glue. The base can then be lifted and tilted once the glue has set, to allow the excess to fall off onto the newspaper, where it can be saved for future projects or touch-ups.

Leaving the areas where you plan to lay your track bare, will make it easier to affix the track, should you choose to adhere it to the base, as well as allowing you to paint it for a more realistic look. Laying the track first, is often helpful prior to setting up trees, buildings and other props. Again, remember to maintain gentle curves and inclines, so as not to derail your train when it is set to motion.

Trees, buildings and other props can be purchased online or at your local hobby shop, and they come in a wide variety of materials, ranging from plastic, to wood, or metal. Some are pre-assembled while others can be built from kits and look incredibly realistic, allowing you to personalize your railway with some patience and a little paint. Some come with ready-made bases, while others can be affixed right onto your base, giving you the freedom to choose a permanent or an altering setting.

The world of model trains continues to grow, offering a vast array of techniques and materials to create incredible model landscapes. Browse the local hobby shops for ideas and to see what they have to offer, then let your imagination run wild. Designing your own base makes the maiden run of your train all the more exciting.

Trending Now

© High Speed Ventures 2011