Model Train Scenery [4 Step How-To] | TrainLife Model Trains

Model Train Scenery

Model train scenery is what makes a model railroad look so amazing! You can get all the rolling stock in the world, but without the scenery to back it up, it just won’t have the same awe-inspiring effects.

Many people look at vast model railroads people have done before and get overwhelmed by the accomplishment - feeling as though this is too great of a task for them to take on. But the truth is that you just need to take model train scenery one step at a time. 

Things to Consider:

There are a few things to consider before beginning your model train scenery: locale, perspective, separate scenes, straight lines.

You want your model train scenery to reflect the locale of which you chose to model. Be that a specific railroad, area, or “fantasy style”.

Make the scene look larger than it actually is by using perspective; make buildings and trees up front larger than the ones in the back.

Separate Scenes

Some may choose to create several separate scenes along the right-of-way. This leads the eye down scene by scene allowing viewers to take everything in as they follow along the track.

Straight Lines
Avoid using straight lines that are parallel to the edge of the layout. This tends to make for boring scenery and creates difficulty when attempting roads and streams later.

Step 1: Form

Popular options for creating model train scenery forms include cardboard, plaster modeling, and foam board modeling. Cardboard is a great option for the skeleton of your model train scenery; many use cardboard strips to shape mountains and roads.

After the cardboard skeleton, you can use either plaster-soaked paper or foam board to cover the skeleton. Using either technique allows you to form and shape mounds, mountains, cliffs, and even bodies of water.


Step 2: Color

It’s time to add color to your model train scenery! Latex paints are popular for this as they have a sticky/adhesive effect that can be used not only as a base color but to also attach some basic textures like grass & grit.

Ground cover colors should be light; dirt is typically not a deep brown but lighter browns in different hues. This may require you to thin out your latex paints with some water to ensure the colors are not too intense.

Texture and color may happen simultaneously if you choose to use latex paint as your adhesive. If using other types of paint, other adhesives are possible for texture.


Step 3: Texture

Textures can be created in a number of different ways; everything from actual fine dirt to kitty litter, to fake grasses, fake turfs, and more!

If you choose not to use latex paint as your texture adhesive, you can dilute a regular adhesive and place it in a spray bottle. Simply spray the form, sprinkle on your texture, spray again, and sprinkle more until you get the desired look.

Model train companies have perfected the fake textures and have many options for all kinds of texture and landscape:

Step 4: Populate Your Layout

At this step you can begin focusing on the scale you plan to model in; HO & N scale being popular options.

Find tree scenery to bring your model railway to life. Using trees, you can turn a generic railroad into a location-specific railroad. Or, you can simply add the trees, shrubs, and scenery you see around your own neighborhood and backyard.

After you add trees, you’ll want to focus on your HO scale scenery or N scale scenery (or any scale you’ve chosen to work in). Find buildings, figures, vehicles, fences, arches, bridges, park benches, and so much more!


Don’t get bogged down with the idea that model train scenery is too much to handle. While it may take some time, planning, and work, it truly takes a model railroad from basic to beautiful. No matter the scale you choose to model in, you can find all your model train scenery needs here at TrainLife!

Model Train Scenery

Need help deciding what tools and supplies to purchase for the creation of your model train scenery? Our suggested read and resources are below:
Best supplies for building your model train scenery


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