Scenery Base




The D&B model railroad uses scenery construction techniques that are explained in the book "How To Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery" by Dave Frary. The book includes many other ideas and techniques for building scenery. Products and techniques from Woodland Scenics are also used. 

The scenery foundation or "shell" is constructed from cardboard strips covered with plaster coated paper towels. This technique is inexpensive, easy to do and results in a strong light weight scenery base. The brand name Custom Building Products markets a number of plaster mixes available at most building supply stores. The mix called "Patching Plaster" was used for coating the paper towels as it has a longer working time; about 30 minutes. The mix called "Plaster of Paris" was used for the rock molds; about 5 minutes working time.

One inch wide cardboard strips were glued to the track boards and layout edges to form a support grid of four to six inch squares. Clothespins were used to hold joints until the glue dried. A layer of newspaper was then added on top of the cardboard grid. A spray bottle of water was used to wet the newspaper to make it conform to the cardboard grid. The newspaper layer served two purposes. First, it helped to better visualize the scenery contours and make any last minute adjustments. Second, it helped keep the wet plaster on the layout and off the floor. 


The Patching Plaster was mixed with water to a soupy consistency and tinted with burnt umber. A water based tinting color product from "Proline Universal Colorants" was used. Paper towels dipped into this plaster mix were then applied over the newspaper covered cardboard grid. In some places, it was necessary to use wadded newspaper to further support the cardboard grid from underneath until the plaster hardened. The next day a second layer of plaster coated paper towels was added for additional strength.

For the final third layer of plaster, no paper towels were used. The patching plaster was mixed to a whipped cream consistency with some sand mixed in for additional texture. This plaster coat was applied with a cheap brush using a stippling action. Burnt umber tinting color was added in stages starting with lighter brown for higher peaks and areas in simulated full sun. More tinting color was gradually added as lower levels and valleys were coated; implying more soil dampness in these areas. It also added some color variation to the ground. The final surface, when dry, is ready for detailing. No additional painting required.

An important point when applying additional final coats of colored patching plaster over completely dry plaster. Be sure to thoroughly pre-wet the area being coated first. Otherwise, as seen to the right of the track bumper, the dry surface will draw the water and color out of the new wet plaster; especially at its edges, and result in an abrupt color change. In some situations this may be ok. In others, additional touch up painting will be required.

The track was painted with Badger Modelflex Rail Brown (16-175) paint. Since Atlas code 100 track has black ties, the paint was diluted with 2 to 3 parts water and then brushed on over the entire track. This allowed some of the black tie to show through to better represent a creosote tie. The tops of the rails were wiped clean before the paint dried. The track was ballasted with Woodland Scenics 'Gray Blend Fine Ballast' and held in place with concentrated matte medium diluted 1 to 4 with water.

For rock areas and cliffs, latex rock molds from Bragdon Enterprises and untinted "Plaster of Paris" were used. Woodland Scenics products and techniques were used for coloring the rocks. Save and color the small pieces of plaster from cleaning the molds after each use and the pieces that break off as the mold is removed. They make great tallus at the base of cliffs and boulders for other scenery areas.

Color Bar

Planning and Construction:   Design Goals   Track Plan   Photos   Scenery Base
Basic Stamp Control Electronics:   Main line   Yard   Grade Crossing   Block Signal   Turntable
Circuit Description:   Main line   Yard   Grade Crossing   Block Signal   Block Detector   Turntable   Power Supply   Schematics
Photos and Video clips:   Photo 1   Photo 2   Photo 3   Photo 4   Photo 5   Photo 6   Video Clips   Ride The D&B
Propeller Control Electronics:   Overview   Flow Charts   Program Code   Schematics   Photos
Navigation:  D&B Home  Buczynski.com Index

Copyright © 2006 Don Buczynski
San Diego, California