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This page provides a directory of model railroad scenery suppliers offering backdrops, mountains, trees, ballast, ground cover, detail parts, and more for realistic model railroad layouts of all scales. Timberline Scenery - Proudly introduces "Smashed Trees" tree kits, the same quality as original Timberline Pines at a fraction of the cost.
A simple landscape photograph can answer a lot of questions when you start to plan and paint a backdrop. A model railroad never seems big enough, but a good backdrop can at least make it appear to go on forever. A few weeks ago I decided to give Cardigan Junction on my 1977 era Soo Line railroad a makeover.
Soo fans will recognize this famous water color by railroad artist John Cartwright capturing Cardigan Junction in the mid fifties.Here is the same scene in HO scale some 20 years later in 1977. This module is 2' by 4' and built to the HOn30 module standards published in the HOn30 Home Depot.
On the module side of the backdrop I glued a low (Styrofoam) hill that runs the length of the module.
Background trees were modeled by stretching green and brown poly fiber, soaking it with hair spray, and sprinkling on several colors and textures of scenic foam.
The roads were made from .040 styrene cut to the width of the Sylvan Models highway bridge. On the far right side of the module is a Campbell Scale Models kit built back in the 1970's when Bob Hayden and I were cranking out product reviews for Railroad Model Craftsman.
The deciduous trees are made from sumac tips overed with foam, from SuperTrees covered with poly fiber and foam, and from twigs covered with Silflor. Here's the 2' by 4' frame covered with 1" thick Styrofoam cut-out for the water areas.

Do it yourself and save over 50%, with sizes from 2" to 11" to fit any scale model railroad layout or diorama. The project included replacing the 35 year old metal Woodland Scenic trees with Scenic Express Super trees. There's 1 Peco lefthand non-powered turnout routing trains to the siding in the foreground.
This was painted over the road surfaces and fine baseball diamond clay sifted into the wet paint.
The original Parker Grain Company model was started over 30 years ago using Strathmore board following Jack Work's techniques.
The station behind the Campbell kit is a Magnason Models resin kit that was built for a movie layout and never used.
The grass was modeled using Scenic Express Scenic Foam and the weeds are tufts of Silflor. I painted in the color of the ocean bottom and all the waves then covered the water with thick layer of acrylic gloss gel. Twelve styles of gambrel and gable roof dairy barns featuring authentic details and Northeastern Scale windows and doors.
I painted the ties and rail with Floquil's Rail Brown and dry brushed the tops of the ties with earth colored paint. The colors were touched-up after the gel dried and a coat of Liquid Stained Glass was brushed over the surface to seal it. So I started by sealing the surface of the plywood with several coats of flat white paint. Changing weather patterns, even the time of day can greatly alter the appearance, colors and shadows of background scenes.

They were glued in place using a large drop of Liquid Stained Glass - a craft store item. From a construction perspective, it helps to consider how you will support and hang your backdrop while you build the platform or benchwork itself. I mixed the colors on the water surface trying not to leave large areas of any one color. There is nothing wrong with installing a backdrop and leaving the canvas blank until inspiration strikes.
In general however, there are a few tips that work for most model railroad backdrops: Low Horizon. This effect is usually easier to accomplish if the modeled scenery and backdrop don't intersect at a right angle. Whether it is a road you've made or the color of your trees and ground cover, carrying the same hues into the backdrop makes the transition less obvious.
If you are using photographs, try to maintain common sun angles to avoid conflicting shadows. Since most of us prefer not to have our trains back lit, there's no need to paint a sun on the backdrop.
If the trains are only a few inches away from the backdrop, then a detailed foreground can be very effective. If the goal is to portray a more distant view however, keep details and colors more muted and subdued.

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