Getting Started on Scenery

Discussion in 'Scenics' started by Gary, Jul 17, 2018.

  1. Gary

    Gary Wants more time for modelling.... Staff Member Administrator

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    This thread will encompass most aspects of scenery to bring your layout to life. Whether your a novice or seasoned modeller, there may be something here for you to learn. Please note that these are my methods, tried and tested over various layouts, from Linden Ford to my ongoing projects. Hopefully I can show you that it is not difficult at all to pull off a realistic scenery, or perhaps just a small scene. Throughout this thread I will refer to the word 'scenic' instead of landscape. ;)

    So, where to next..? :scratchchin:

    I'll assume you are at the point where you have your track down, wired up and the whole layout, (whether that be a shelf layout, plank or something quite grande) and tested it to make sure all is working as it should electrically. Nothing worse than having to pull up a section of scenery that you have completed to repair a loose wire or a faulty switch mechansim.

    For myself, I have a plan in my head that I translate to either a sketch on paper, or drawn up in paint on the pc. The following pic of my plan on Industry Lane is an example :


    Another alternative is to take a photo of your layout or area in which you wish to scenic and draw over either a printed image or in paint on your pc, where everything will sit This example of Linden Ford gives a feel for the area in relation to building placement and scenery.


    As you can clearly see in the pics above, I can decide where I want green space, trees, hedgerows, retaining walls, a canal, possible hard surfaces such as roads and low relief and 3D models. By doing a sketch or overlay as such, you can see what will work, what looks right and what could be deleted or changed as the project goes on. But this is a great place to start. This part is all up to you to decide upon. I will add that research is the key here, whether that be simply looking through books, youtube videos, google maps etc to get a feel for what is right. This will be most valuable to you and if you are unsure, please ask the questions.

    The next thing to look at is rise and falls in the scene, or I could say gradients in the landscape. One thing we must remember as model railroaders, is that the landscape was there before the railway line and associated infrastructure. Most modellers when starting out generally lay their track down onto a cork road base or a similar material, directly onto the baseboard. I will use this method to describe the best way to carve your scene.

    I find it easy to use polystyrene foam as it is easy to cut, carve and shape. It is quite messy and a vacuum cleaner will be your best companion. The pic below shows what I wish to achieve.


    Glue down the roughly shaped polystyrene foam. Always cut these shaps oversize so that it gives you some leeway whilst carving and shaping. A few marks on the foam shows which way I wish the to shape the scenic base.


    Carve your scene with a shape knife and then with the use of a wire brush, the final shaping can take place.
    Remember, the vacuum cleaner is your best friend... :thumbs:
    Little tip : do this when SWMBO is not home ! :avatar:

    This whole process of building up the landscape should be done across the whole of your layout if you are able to do so, as it creates some continuity. If your layout is of a substantial size, work on individual scenes and slowly build up the whole layout. I would recommend working from the hillier sections down to the lower sections of the layout. For example, work from the scenic breaks, tunnels, bridges, cuttings down each side to the low lying areas.

    Whilst installing the foam, it gives you the chance to build up around any platforms. If you are using a kit platform, ie, Scalescenes, Metcalfe, L-Cut, place these on the layout and gauge out the platform edge from the track. I gauge all my platforms using the widest locomotive or piece of rolling stock I have. Using a piece of 3mm card (1/8"), space the platform face accordingly and secure in place. Now behind your platform you can add the necessary foam to the correct height and carve or shape to suit the scene.


    Now is also a good time to install road profiles. Carving these from foam doesn't always work as it results in an uneven road surface, which is hard to smooth out without the use of copiuos amounts of plaster. Even then it is still quite difficult to make for a smooth surface. A few products I use is floor tiles or some off cuts of MDF. Below I have used cork floor tiles as I had these at hand. Cork or MDF can be glued into position with PVA or Liquid Nails (or equivalent).



    Once your road surfaces have been installed and cured, that is if you are using one of the items mentioned above, it is time to cover the layout with plaster. This will tie all the elements in together.



    There are a few items available to do this, one being plaster impregnated cloth. This is possibly the easiest and probably the cleanest method. The method I choose is cutting up Chux cleaning cloth (J Cloth) into 4" squares, dipped lightly into a smooth plaster mix and then laid out over the scene. A 1" wide soft bristle paint brush is useful here to smooth the plaster throughout and to push the cloth onto any sloped areas, especially where cuttings or tunnel mouths are modelled. Your fingers are also very helpful as well.

    Make sure you do not mix up too much plaster from the start. I recommend around half a cup of plaster to start with and work it from there.

    To create rocky out crops or a rough stone cut, there are moulds available or you can create your own using crumbled aluminium foil. Moulds are a good to use as they are made from silicone, but you don't want to be too repetitive with the same mouldings.

    Another method is the crumpled aluminium foil technique. To achieve this, double over some heavier foil and crumble up in your hands. You don't have to be too heavy handed here, but make sure there is a lot of form within the foil, once unraveled. Into this pour some casting plaster. You may have to support this in a tray until set. Once set, the foil can be removed leaving you a rough, jagged faced mould. This can now be broken down into individual pieces and glued to the scene with a little wet plaster.

    That's it for now, back with more tips son.

    Cheers, Gary.
     
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  2. York Paul

    York Paul Staff Member Moderator

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    Thanks for the scenery tip Gary I'd never have thought of using crumpled up foil as a mould :thumbs: A suggestion I've also used the thinner woolen carpet underlay soaked in builders PVA and then varnished over the top when dry, it worked for me but still needs a good sub-frame to hold the ground contours together.
     
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  3. Splitpin

    Splitpin Full Member

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    Perfect timing thanks Gary. I'm at that point. Wondering how to get started. :scratchchin: That might be today now. Ta! :thumbs:
     
  4. Toto

    Toto I'm best ignored Staff Member Founder Administrator

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    Timing couldn't be better. I have a verge incline running up the side of a mountain on Luib Bridge. It is steep so unlikely to be any fence or organised path as such. More a bit of a rough scar on the land where it has been trodden over time.

    I'd like to maybe add some boulders in order to create a slight deviation to the route of the path and also some wild grass and define the path itself. ..... there lies the conundrum. How best to do it. I have a range of woodland scenics material. Grasses, brown ballast, flocks etc. Some pointers would be good. I can post up some more specific pictures of the area if it helps.

    Cheers

    Toto

    Edit ........ Maybe I should have posted on another separate thread in order to give you continuity for your own post Gary. Let me know if you want me to delete the above and restart this under it's own title.

    Apologies

    Toto
     
  5. Gary

    Gary Wants more time for modelling.... Staff Member Administrator

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    Next step is to add colour to the plaster work.

    On the areas that will be grassed, I use a blend of acrylic paints, generally burnt umber or sienna, diluted down and applied with a broad brush. The trick here is to cover all the plaster completely. As the paint is diluted, it may take a few layers of paint to get the desired effect.


    Where road ways or rail sidings are, a black wash is ideal as these areas would normally have a road base or crushed stone/gravel appearance.



    Now is a good time to paint the track, if you haven't done so already. 'Sleeper Grime' or 'Rail Road Tie Brown' is an excellent choice for the sleepers. But, one must remember that timber sleepers age to a grey colour. I use acrylic paints for the sleepers and apply several layers of colour from a variety browns to greys to pinky grey. Take a look at a real railway or have a photo of a line on hand to work from.
    Rail colour can also vary depending on the age of the rail. Generally a red-brown is sufficient for this. Raw Umber with a touch of Red Oxide makes an ideal colour. Depending on the quality of your paints, the cheaper artist acrylics are best brushed on, whereas the known brands of acrylic hobby paints can be applied with an air brush.

    Here is a pic of what can be achieved with a brush and cheap artist acrylics (Chromacryl brand, about $2.50 AU for a 75ml tube)


    Once all the areas have had a liberal covering of colour, the next stage is adding soil. I like to build the profile of the ground up as in the real word. You could say the foam base is the sub strata, the paint the sub soil and now I'm ready to add the top soil.

    Another clean broad brush a a good quantity of the cheapest, nastiest PVA glue you can purchase is required. The soil I use was gathered up from a family members farm. You could use any soil, as long as it matches the area in which you are modelling. In my case, this is freelance ! The soil collected is sieved out to remove any large particles and then spread across a large baking tray. Placed in the oven set at 100*C for about 30 minutes will kill off any soil pathogens and dry the soil adequately. Once cooked, allow to cool and sieve once more. I tend to use three different size sieves for this as I can save the larger particles (stone) for below the rock faces or cuttings, medium soil for furrowed farm land and the fine for everything else.

    Now the application. Paint the surface with neat PVA, no dilution. Use the fine sieve and gently sprinkle on soil, making sure you can not see any PVA. Apply this quite thick as the excess can be tipped off (if building a small shunting plank) or vacuumed up with a small hand held vacuum. Retain the collected soil.


    The road ways and between railway sidings can be done just after the soiled areas have dried off and the excess vacuumed away. I use a product from Chuck's Ballast, called 'Filth', (only available in Australia). It is the super fines left over from making scale ballast and such. Again, this is applied in the same manner as the top soil. Check to see what your local hobby supplier has in stock, but always be cautious on the size of the particles. You don't want all your vehicles to be 4WD ! Another option for the rail yards is ash collected from your fire place. This can be applied the same way through a sieve.


    Chuck's Ballast 'Filth'...


    Again, once dry, vacuum up and retain any excess.

    So, now we have the soil and road ways down, the next layer would be ballast.

    Choose your ballast wisely and by that I mean size and colour. The cheaper ballasts available is quite large, good enough for an O gauge layout, when it is really meant for a HO/OO layout. There is some great ballast available if you do a search, quality scale ballast can be found.

    Whilst talking of ballast size, generally in rail yards, you will find a cinder or ash ballast. This is a lot finer and I would recommend N scale ballast for a HO/OO layout, or ash.

    If you are keen, modelling clay can also be used to replicate the finer ballast of a railway yard. I have done this on another layout where I pushed small amounts of modelling clay in amongst the sleepers, on a bed of evenly applied PVA. When half set, use a fine wire brush and tap the surface to create a stippled effect. This can be painted in the same manner as the plaster explained above.


    It is important to choose the colour of your ballast too. Different regions will generally have a different colour of ballast. I personally like to use a variety of ballasts. This can be colour and size to get the full effect.

    The tried and true method of applying ballast is what I use. A small spoon and a 1" wide paint brush to spread the ballast about. There are fancy ballast spreaders available and they do give a good even coverage of ballast throughout the layout.
    To glue the ballast down, again there are many products available, but the cheapest of all is 50% PVA, 50% Water and a drop or two ofDish washing liquid. This works fine. A misting of Isopropyl alcohol over the tracks to be ballasted can also help, but is not generally required. Some find it helps the glue mix to flow into the spread ballast.

    Always make sure there is no ballast sitting in the inside web of the rail before applying the glue.

    Here are two different pics of ballasted areas on two of my layouts.

    Here you can see that it has just been ballasted and glued and how the glue mixture can travel into the surrounding scene. Don't be concerned with this as it can be covered up with weeds and such.


    This pic shows a yard scene. the line on the right is the main line into the yard, hence the different size and colouring of ballast applied. The line on the left has been treated with much finer ballast, same with the six foot.


    Well, that concludes this segment of adding ground textures to your railway. I'll be back soon with the next stage, weeds, grasses and bushes,

    Cheers, Gary.
     
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  6. Toto

    Toto I'm best ignored Staff Member Founder Administrator

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    Great Gary. Very clear instruction as always. I'm sure there will be a few folks referencing back to this over time. :thumbs::tophat:
     
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  7. Ron

    Ron Staff Member Moderator

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    Just a small comment as a user of Plaster at work.
    You can add some water colour paint to the water prior to adding the plaster, brown or green depending on the area to be modelled.
    If you add a small amount of vinegar into the mix the plaster will take longer to set (more working time!)
    If you add a small amount of salt to the mix the plaster will set quicker!!

    Cheers
    Ron
     
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  8. jakesdad13

    jakesdad13 Staff Member Moderator

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    Thats interesting Ron, I didn't know about the vinegar in the mix. When I have used plaster it always seamed to go off very quickly.
    Thanks for that. :thumbs:

    Pete.
     
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  9. York Paul

    York Paul Staff Member Moderator

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    Thanks for sharing the tip Ron... I never knew that.:thumbs:
     
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  10. Chris Doroszenko

    Chris Doroszenko Lost in the spare room Full Member

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    Cheers for the tips...Pretty sure I wont remember my name for a week after pushing this info in there.
     
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