How To Secure Scenery To A Model Train Layout Surface

Just think about how unimaginative and barren a model train layout would appear if it lacked scenery and the many elements which can represent scenicking on a model train layout.

What if there was no scenery of any type, no mountains or hills, roads, highways, people, livestock, birds, dogs, cats. water features of all types, cities, industries, rural areas, agriculture, and any and all things which populate our world?

If this were the case, you could present a very strong argument which would support the premise that the model railroader would lose interest in this interesting, educational, and rewarding pastime.

In recognizing the importance of scenery as a realistic and viable method for bringing a model train layout to life, one of the more important issues which has to be resolved when creating scenery is in determining how each and all of the scenery elements are attached and secured to the layout.

We’ll begin this discussion about how to secure scenery to a model train layout by taking a look at the very first thing which is applied to the surface, and that is ground cover.

If you’re new to model railroading building or creating a finished landscape you should begin by creating and locating or placing all roads, rocks, and the basic ground cover. It is then that other layers such as grass, dirt, shrubs, and trees are then added.

Note: The focus of this article is not to provide instruction about the creation of ground cover, but rather how to adhere those layers which the model railroader wants to cover his model train layout with.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a definition of what ground cover is which is as follows: ground cover is as was previously described, any and all things which cover the surface of your model train layout. Your layout surface can be constructed by using foam as one example or a product such as sculptamold, and finally plaster. Rather than leave this surface in its natural state it is typically painted.

The purpose of painting the surface is to create an even colored base for those things which will be place on the surface and represent the ground cover. The most desirable type of paint to use, incidentally, for painting your layout surface is an inexpensive flat interior house paint.

Also, a medium tan works well for general scenery work. You should also consider using the colors gray or black for areas where you are going to model plowed fields or areas which are covered with cinders.

You can purchase adhesives and glues in most craft stores, hobby shops, art supply stores, hardware stores, and even home improvement centers.

Adhesives and Glues

One of the secrets to reducing all of the unnecessary mess which seems to be a characteristic of gluing scenery to a layout, is by using a thick glue and a thinned glue in combination with each other. This approach will keep scenery material in place while they are wet, but will also reduce the potential for messy drips.

Here’s how to mix the thick glue: mix approximately nine parts white glue and mix with one part water. Add only enough water to give the glue a latex paint consistency. When you brush this mixture on the surface it should cover smoothly without running.

In order for your ground cover to actually stay fixed to the surface of your layout a soaking method must then be applied. Your ground cover must be literally permeated with adhesive and this is where the thin glue comes in to play.

Although this step can be done at any time it is best to apply it when the thick glue is still tacky. The formula for thin glue and method for gluing is as follows:

Begin by lightly misting the ground cover (grass, dirt, etc) with a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol from a spray bottle. Unlike pure water, the alcohol and water mix permeates ballast, dirt, and ground foam well and doesn’t bead up on the surface. Be careful not to use too much of the diluted alcohol. You want the scenic material to be damp, not soppping wet, so it will stay in place and the glue distributes evenly.

The next thing you do is apply a small amount of Woodland Scenics premixed Scenic Cement to the damp area using an eye-dropper. As it goes on, the glue is a milky white color which make it easy to see where it is going. It will dry clear like white glue.