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Clinic - Advanced Scenery Techniques

After the hard shell is complete, it’s time to apply some additional scenic detail and textures.

Rock Castings Very convincing rock formations can be created using rocks cast from latex rubber molds. Molds can be purchased from a Hobby Shop or you can make them using liquid latex rubber and a lump of coal or a real rock.

Ground Coverings and Weeds Probably the best product for ground texture such as grass is ground foam rubber, available at Hobby Shops. Dyed sawdust can also be used to provide some contrasting texture and to represent other types of foliage. Weeds can be represented by commercially available weed and tall grasses or you can speak with your favorite hairdresser and ask them to save the hair when they cut long hair. Blond hair takes less preparatory time but brown also will work. It is possible to bleach the brown hair to change it to a more realistic dried weed color.

To apply the ground foam grass texture, apply a coat of earth-colored latex paint to the scenery and immediately shake on the ground foam until the desired level of coverage has been reached. I like to use old spice jars and cheese shaker jars to apply the ground foam. Use various shades and colors to foam to keep the surface from becoming a single boring color. While the paint is still wet and the ground foam has been applied spray on some water containing a couple of drops of liquid dish soap in about a pint of water. Wet the area thoroughly, then spray on a mixture of 1 part white glue to 3 parts water, make sure the area is completely covered. If you wish to add additional details such as junk, logs etc do so before you spray on the glue/water mixture.

To apply weeds, grasp a few strands of hair or other weed material with a set of tweezers or a hemostat. Dip the end into some full-strength white glue and set the clump of weeds in place. Allow to dry and trim the weeds to the desired shape. Another source of weed material is hemp rope, cut into short pieces and unraveled into the appropriate size clump for the scale you model. Plant and trim the rope weeds like you did the ones made of hair. If you desire to plant tall green grass, use the hair or rope method but dip the hair or rope into a wash of acrylic green paint (you choose the shade) and allow to dry. DO NOT get the wash too heavy or the fibers/hair will stick together – easy does it.

Trees and Bushes There are many ways to make good-looking trees. Commercially available trees look great but are expensive if you need to have quite a few (and most of us do.)  Weeds can be harvested in the fall to be used as the armature for convincing trees. Crepe Myrtle bushes also provide a nice armature. To build this type to tree, color some poly-fiber from the fabric store with a little black acrylic paint (about a table spoon full in a cup of water. Dip the foam into the mixture and squeeze the excess out and allow to dry. After the fiber is dry, pull and stretch it until it is nearly invisible. Stretch the fiber over the armature and spray with hair spray or clear adhesive. While the adhesive or hair spray is still wet, sprinkle on some ground foam to represent the tree leaves. Small bushes can be represented with the seed pods from some weeds or pieces of lychen from the Hobby Store covered with ground foam.

Pine trees can be made bending a piece of florist wire in half and  placing pieces of hemp rope in between the two halves. Place the ends into a cordless drill, and place the loop end over a cup hook screwed into the face of your workbench or bench work. Slowly turn the drill as the wire twists, the rope fibers will be “trapped” between the twisted wire. Continue turning and the wire will compress. Remove the wire from the drill and trim the fibers to form a conical shape. Paint the trees with various shades of green paint and cut the looped end off with wire cutters. While the paint is wet apply ground foam to enhance the texture of the tree. When dry, examine the tree. If more foam is needed, spray with hair spray and add more foam, them spray again with hair spray.

People, Autos, Signs etcTo make the scene “come alive” add people, cars and signs. Several vendors offer people and the price varies based upon the vendor. Purchasing unpainted people and painting with acrylic paints will make it more affordable to populate your miniature world. Autos can be purchased from a number of vendors either painted or unpainted. I like to “customize” some of my cars by making a mold of a car, then casting a duplicate and bending a fender or putting a dent in a door.

Signs on buildings and billboards add splash of color and help set the era for your railroad. Use caution to only use signs that are correct for your era. For example, do not use a billboard for 1960’s era automobile for a railroad set in the 1950’s. It is acceptable to use signs for things that are older than the year of the setting of your railroad. A sign for an older product can be used but should be weathered to indicate the age of the sign.

Additional Details -  Don’t forget the little things such as manhole covers, mailboxes, electric and gas meters, TV antennae, clothes lines, children and pets playing, swing sets, sheds, outhouses, barns, junk cars behind the barn, telephone poles, fences etc.

Summary – The addition of these techniques will help produce realistic scenery and add points of interest to your railroad that your visitors will notice and appreciate. For more information pick up some of the following books and video tapes.

Recommended Book and Tapes -Most Hobby Shops have scenery books and some have tapes for Rent. I like Dave Frary’s Scenery tape and book. I also like the video tape “Building Scenery with the Experts” from Kalmbach. If your shop does not carry these items look for them in your favorite model railroad magazines.  

 

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