Model Train Scenery: Ready Made vs Do it Yourself

Model railroading is a fun hobby for many people. There is a lot to consider though, when you are undertaking such a task. For instance, how you want your train laid out, what scale do you want to use, and of course how do you want the scenery to look. Model train scenery can make our break the look of your railway.

Before you do anything you need to first decide what the theme of your railway is. Are you trying to recreate a piece of a famous track, like the Orient Express? Do you want your train to be a 19th Century steamer that runs the country side? Are you going for less of a realistic look and for more of a whimsical attitude to your railway? Once you have sorted out what you want to do with your railway only then can you truly consider the scenery. You can’t have a 21st century railway station with a 19th century train, it just won’t be realistic.

Ready Made Scenery

When you are considering scenery a lot of people will go for the fresh off the shelf ease of ready-made scenery. These pieces can go right on your bench top and have you ready to go within minutes of getting it home and setting it up.
There are many pluses to using the ready-made scenery. If you are inexperienced in how to make these pieces then you would want to go with ready-made. You don’t want to risk the look of your railway and layout by introducing a poorly constructed piece. Also if you don’t have a lot of time to waste on setting up your towns then ready-made will get them up and in your setting much quicker.

Of course there is the down side; you will have little control over how some of the pieces look in your setting. You will have to compromise on buildings, stations, and even trees if you use ready out of the box pieces. There is also the cost aspect. Anything that you buy already made at the store is going to cost you more than if you took the time to make it yourself.

Home Made Scenery

If you have the time and inclination you can make probably 85 to 100% of your scenery yourself. You’d be amazed what you can do if you just put a little imagination to work. There are many great books out on the subject.

Trees are probably some of the most common made. With a few pipe cleaners and maybe even some twigs from the yard you can have a forest for little to nothing. If you are in need of rocks, just go outside and look around. You can surly find the rocks that you need without paying a dime. Just clean them up and glue them on and you are all set. Dirt is the same way.

Painting your “canvas” of your layout can help fill in the gaps. A little brown and green over your cardboard or Styrofoam base can help to fill in the pockets when you are making your forest.

If you want to do snow covered scenery, flour and baby powder are wonderful to use. Yes you still have to purchase these products but you can get a lot of flour for just a few bucks and it’s easily replaceable.

Splitting The Difference

For many people, building things like buildings and cars is just not something their good at. When this happens it might be best to save some money by doing the basic scenery work on your own, like the sand, trees, and other easier constructed pieces and putting that money into purchasing others. You will still end up saving money over all because you won’t be buying every piece but you will be purchasing the key pieces that would be most notable.

If you want to do it yourself but don’t have some of the tools necessary, then buy the building kits. Many of the stations and other buildings come available in kits. Meaning you don’t have to worry about measuring and cutting. You just follow the simple directions and put the pre cut pieces together.

Model train scenery brings the elements together but they don’t have to break your railroading budget.

Building Model Railway Trains and Scenery

Part of the fun of model railroads is being able to build the scenery around them. Once you have gotten tired of setting up the train set around the Christmas tree and putting it away after Christmas every year, you might be ready to build yourself something more permanent.

The benchwork is the foundation of your railroad. Train hobbyists have the option of buying an already made benchwork or building one for themselves. Buying a benchwork kit has several advantages. Benchwork kits are precut and predrilled. Plus they are sturdier then a piece of plywood on two sawhorses. Also, with a kit, you can take it apart to move it to a different location in the house or to bring it to shows.

Of course building your own benchwork is more complicated and takes more time but, you have the opportunity to achieve your perfect vision for your trains. The first thing you will have to do is to create a design for your layout. You’ll have to figure out how large you want your benchwork to be. Consider if you will be adding on to it later on down the road. How much room in your house do you have to place a train layout? What shape are you planning for the top or your benchwork? It can be square, rectangle, oval, or circular. Typically the legs of the table are 28 inches but they can be altered to meet your designs specifications. The most important thing in benchworking is making sure that your benchwork is solid and can withstand a certain amount of weight. A good platform is a 3/8 inch or ½ inch thick piece of plywood. If you would like your benchwork to remain portable, you can cut the plywood into several pieces before you assemble your benchwork.

Keep perspective in mind when you are building the actual model railroad scenery. The goal is to make your layout appear larger than it is. You can try using different levels of scenery to help with this. Placing larger trees in the foreground and smaller trees in the background or on the tops of mountains helps with this illusion as well. Your scenery should also reflect the theme your have chosen for your landscape. For instance, if you are running a logging train on your line, it should be running through a rugged mountainous area filled with a ton of trees. You can also place a sawmill or lumberyard close by.

Other aspects that you can have in your landscape are tunnels, grassy meadows, fields, rock formations, roads, and bridges. You can also incorporate towns or villages filled with houses and buildings. Plus, you should also add fine detail to your scenery. Fine detail includes signs, telephone poles, fences, underbrush, bushes, flowers, hedges, people, and animals. A really nice touch is including bodies of water like ponds, rivers, streams or even waterfalls.

After all, isn’t one of the reasons we get into model trains is to be able to show off our artistic talent by building dramatic and lifelike landscapes? So get to work and amaze your friends with your amazing talent.