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Model Railway Answers - How to Make the Landscape

22 November 2011

  Model Railway Answers  
  Want more answers? Choose 'Modelling Help & Advice' from the 'Jump to A Category' box above.  

Q: How do I make the landscape?

A: The landscape needs a good firm support on any layout. Once the size of the layout is determined consideration can be given to the construction of the baseboard and landscape.

 The contours of the landscape can be shaped from:
- Wood, either hardboard, plywood or MDF.
- thick cardboard.
- polystyrene blocks.

  Model Railway Answers - how do I make the landscape?

Bridges and viaducts add to the visual impact of a layout. 
Here's a section of the Heki diorama based on the Swiss Gotthard route.

But before deciding upon the materials required to build the landscape it is worth thinking about:
-The size of the landscape – its height, length, breadth and angle of the slopes?
The taller and wider the landscape will be the stronger the support will need to be.
- Will the layout be portable or permanent?
If it is to be portable then the landscape support needs to be both strong but light in weight.
- Will the landscape be covered in trees, rock faces, foliage or simply grass?
The more weight that will be put upon the landscape the stronger the support will need to be.

Model Railway Answers - how do I make the landscape? Model Railway Answers - how do I make the landscape?
The embankment in the picture has been made using Woodlands Scenics Sub Terrain system with its hard foam pieces. Scenery in the various stages from hard foam base material, plaster impregnated cloth, and then scatter material.

The formers of the contours of the land need to be shaped to follow the desired shape. Depending upon the type of material used for the formers (cardboard or wood) they may either be cut with a saw, a jigsaw or a sharp craft knife. Once the contour formers have been shaped to ‘fill in’ the space between the land contours a variety of products can be used:

- Chicken wire spread between, and fixed to, the top of the contour formers
- Webbed masking tape stretched across the top of the formers
- Polystyrene blocks or foam pieces (similar to that used in house insulation) carved to fill the landscape
- Light steel mesh
- Web of strips of corrugated card fixed to the formers and each other using hot glue
- Heavy duty crepe paper available from Noch or your local art shops
- Crumpled newspaper or parcel packing pushed between the contour formers
- Woodland Scenics Sub Terrain system with its multiple pieces of polystyrene foam sheets and sectional pieces
- Woodland Scenics Ready Landforms are plastic based shapes covered with scatter material. These landforms are sold in a number of sizes and shapes.
-  Noch produce landscape foundation parts called the Terra - Form - System which uses posts and fixing plugs to produce a lightweight basis for the hills, embankments or similar
- Busch produces a landscape system incorporating crepe paper

If using timber or card for the land contours you will need to cut out the contours along the sides of the baseboard then the intermediate contours at approx. 15 cm intervals. The contour sections can be fixed to the baseboard with PVA woodworking adhesive. Use tape to hold these sections in place whilst the glue dries.
Once the shape of the landscape has been built up it can be covered with plaster impregnated cloth. This is available at many model shops under the name of Mod-Roc, Peco Landform, Woodland Scenics Plaster Cloth and others. It can be laid over crumpled newspaper or any of the other suggested materials above.

Peter Marriott (Railway Modelling FAQs)
 Railway Modelling FAQs

Want to know more about modelling scenery? Take a look at our Right Track 5 Modelling Landscapes DVD

 Right Track 5 - Modelling Landscapes DVD

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