Rites of Passage for a Model Railway - 22: Finishing the Scenery, Make Your Railway's Surroundings Look Right
Rural stations... Not just a backwater, a wealth of detail information
The trick is not to swamp the layout with incidental features.
The whole purpose of building a model railway is to have somewhere to run your locomotive stock, carriages and wagons and so forth. You've got your track laid, the points work, and although you may have weathered the sides of the rails the tops are clean. That's the important bit. Moreover, to enjoy running your stock you keep them clean.
The buildings are in place, station(s) signalled, coal and goods depots are laid out and you know which direction your 'Up' traffic comes from. You might have industry or mining adjacent to the railway, sidings and gates to keep out unwanted visitors. There's a farm close by, or terraced houses and shops - a corner shop maybe ('Open All hours'). There might be a cafe or snack bar near the goods depot. A friend, Colin Snowdon (Chairman of the Double O Gauge Association - DOGA) has a Southern-based layout. Near the station is a cafe called 'Sam and Ella's' (Salmonella, in a light-hearted frame of mind. He takes his model building seriously, but it's not a religion).
Have you thought about the trees, the vegetation, under- and overgrowth, field fencing, walls, ballast and so on? It pays to have your buildings and other structures 'bedded'. Any platform surfacing laid around the building bases, roadways that pass buildings are usually kerbed unless you've modelled the countryside. Even then, at a station you'll have a kerb outside a station and nearby buildings on a terrace-front. You can buy etched brass gutters, electric, water and inspection plates on roads and pavements. You might have grass growing on the edge of the pavement, and a telephone kiosk, pillar boxes in town or collection boxes by the side of village or country roads. Level crossings (gated or barriered) will have lines drawn for approaching traffic from either side to stop at, maybe lines own the middle of the road. Wet and Dry sandpaper can be used for a road surface, grey or sandy side up, the finer the better for town or village roads, rougher for moorland or farm roads. Your powers of observation and imagination are all that limit you. This is all incidental. Go for an overall impression. As long as your lines don't look too thick you're all right. Where you have field access tracks make them muddy. Use plastic filler, plenty of grass scatter for around gate posts, leave gates ajar sometimes. Add a tractor, trailer or baler (you can get all these in 4mm and 7mm and other scales in kit form or boxed). Land Rovers - i've got several! - come in all forms, hard-top, estate, canvas topped, open.
'Bed' stone walls and fences, make them part of the scenery. Lots of grass and foliage growing over and around, trees and bushes abound. More of that later...
Vegetation on the branch - fine for the rabbits, not for railwaymen
Grass scatter, trees, lichen, bushes etc
Use these to make the walls and fences look part of the scenery. Use grass scatter on tops of stone walls, around them, 'growing out' of them. Lichen can be added to look like bramble bushes, thorns, vines. Use them to smother tree trunks. Observation: take pictures of trees being overpowered by thorns, ivy and smaller bushes. Take pictures of gateways, old abandoned buildings, farm buildings, derelict buildings. Stone barns in the Dales are sometimes distressed, neglected, rooves falling in, tiles or slates missing, walls crumbling through lack of upkeep.
Mud is an issue for ramblers, especially in gateways where a footpath is waymarked. It sometimes looks like dried plaster on vehicles in summer. Trees grow by gateways, and sometimes.field boundaries are hedges with broken fencing or walling. You might come across a whole length of dry stone walling that's collapsed where road vehicles have gone out of control or walkers have ignored in-built steps and tried to climb over, bringing the wall down with them (painful!)
In farm yards you get stone setts with mud trails from cattle being herded out of a field. I've got a binder of photographs I took when on holiday around the Cleveland Hills (North Yorkshire, not Ohio), the North Yorkshire Moors and the Dales. I make sure not to mix imaging, as the character of one area (Dales) is noticeably different from another (Moors, Hills).
Buildings, on and near every railway - signal cabins, waiting rooms, booking offices, sometimes all in one in an 'H' shape together with the stationmaster's and porters' house. Then there are lineside huts for gangers (permanent way workers), stores, lamp huts, goods sheds. Nearby might be a grain silo, factory, farm, tannery - you name it, and/or housing. These might be detached, semi-detached, terraced or blocks of flats. If you're going to model a real station you're going to need pictures, track diagrams etc., and techniques, tried and tested ways of producing buildings that look like the real thing - to exhibition standard if needed. Take a leaf out of Trevor Booth's book, enjoy the hobby.
Industry's wheels - what makes the world go round
That's the countryside and industry taken care of...
What about station environs? Your station might be in a town or city.. Cuttings and bridging are evident here. Streets of terraced houses, blocks of flats, warehouses, factories, small foundries, large foundries... Grist to the mill! .
Bed buildings. Gardens can sometimes get out of hand or neglected with abandoned cars on bricks, old motor bikes, children's tricycles, prams. Washing lines are stretched across gardens or back yards with sheets and so forth billowing in the wind. Hedges hide many things, such as bicycle frames, broken door frames. Cold frames and greenhouses abound in nicer gardens or allotments near railway lines. You get them all.
Who ever models slums? Some city routes pass these, with semi-derelict housing, window frames and doors missing, window glass broken and the odd 'oasis' of a cared-for back garden or yard with neatly painted window frames and doors. There's always somebody who refuses to give up.
Railways in cities often run on viaducts. Below them are arches, in the arches are car workshops, taxi companies have their garages here, and you get carpet warehouses, builder's yards, cafes (greasy spoon types) or just empty, waiting to be let. Alongside viaducts are streets, pubs, the odd mobile snack bar, back alleys, dark and foreboding. Youths hang about in gangs, sometimes you get someone dealing in contraband (from time immemorial, when railways cut through slum districts those displaced were their best customers out of desperation rather than choice).
Take photographs but not risks. Some people don't like photographers, even the ones who stumble across them accidentally..
Bedding-in and blending structures and lineside features
Industry is always attractive as a backdrop...
Various types of industry, steel, gas, oil and chemical installations can be found close to towns. I lived in a town flanked by a steel plant on one side and a chemical plant on the other (Dorman Long Steel works and Imperial Chemical Industries or ICI). Just a shame you can't model the funny smells, like that of rotten eggs when the chemicals were being mixed in the Bessemer Converters at Dorman Long, close by Grangetown!
You have industrial detritus, old wagons, steel ladle wagons with layers of molten iron around the rims, rusting lengths of steel rail, empty shells of industrial shunters with broken glass in the cab and rust around the engine casing. And all over there is vegetation trying to reclaim the site.
Ever seen a slag tip? Massive mountains of waste material. We had them everywhere with all the ironstone mines in East Cleveland and on the southern rim of Teesside. Kilton's conical slag tip could be seen from as far away as Saltburn, eight miles or so away. We had one that stretched a mile between Eston and Grangetown. A housing estate was built there after most of the tip with removed for road surfacing (you see a lot of reddish-surfaced roads in the area), it was called 'Whale Hill'. Kilton's vanished a long time ago.
Ironstone mines look different to coal mines in many respects, except at shaft mines where there are similarities. For instance the winding gear looks alike. Sidings abound, often uneven and haphazard but they all serve their own purpose, whether for storage or shunting. Where mine lines join the railway company's running lines they're more uniform. Exchange sidings will be generally ballasted with cinders, pretty much like locomotive sheds. it's cheaper. Stone chips are usually used for main running lines, for passenger or generally express routes. High, soot-covered, mortared stone or brick walls may be found near older sheds and works, replaced in part by high wire fencing, again part overgrown with thorns, bushes and weeds.
Photography might have to be done from an outside vantage point or through the wire here. Access might be gained in places by contact with the company who owns the site, or if deserted there might be some kind of unofficial access. But be careful, abandoned industrial sites can be dangerous..
Harbours should be approached with caution. If you can't find archive material ask for access to less busy areas if the harbour's fenced or walled off. Oil installations might be best avoided. Use archive material preferably. Nobody wants to have to rescue trespassers..
Locomotive shed environs, prior to (ash) ballasting
Some premises and sites are private property...
Where branch line stations are still in use, premises may be leased or bought by private individuals or businesses. If you intend to carry out research or take photographs ask permission in advance, or on the day if this is impossible. Where stations you want to take photographs are on closed branches the premises may well be in commercial or private hands. The same applies here. No-one wants the aggravation of trespassers where privacy is desired.
Use archive material where possible. Scenery might be copied or improvised. There's always room for interpretation if accuracy is not an issue. In the case of a 'freelance' model archive material will only be to get the atmosphere of a region or area. This is your licence to add or absorb character. The main thing is you have pleasure in creating your model. Don't copy slavishly. That's where a hobby turns into a drudge!
Have you followed this series?
If you weren't already a modeller, would the RITES OF PASSAGE... series inspire you?
Double O Gauge Association
- The Double O Gauge Association
The OO Gauge Association, ideas (and some of mine) and suggestions to help you on your way, an online forum to air your problems and views or offer solutions, and a quarterly magazine you can contribute to with illustrations, images and/or diagrams
Mines and environs - industry on ground level
EM Gauge Society
EM Gauge Society for all those interested in 4mm scale and is the largest of the Societies covering 4mm scale. If you are planning a new layout or just starting out why not go the whole way and use fine scale techniques? The EM Gauge Society is here
Here's a list of books that might help you on your way to railway modelling if you aren't already one of the fraternity:
LAYOUTS FOR LIMITED SPACES, Nigel Adams, The Silver Link Library of Railway Modelling, ISBN 1-85794-055-5;
BASEBOARD BASICS and MAKING TRACKS, Trevor Booth, The Silver Link Library of Railway Modelling, ISBN 1-85794-006-7;
CREATING THE SCENIC LANDSCAPE, Trevor Booth, The Silver Link Library of Railway Modelling, ISBN 1-85794-023-7;
DETAILING AND IMPROVING READY TO RUN LOCOS, Iain Rice, Modelling Railways Illustrated Handbooks No.4, ISBN 1-871608-54-6;
SIMPLY SCENERY An Insight into the Art of Landscape Modelling, Tony Hill, Irwell Press, ISBN 1-871608-36-8;
RAILWAY OPERATION FOR THE MODELLER, Bob Essery, Midland Publishing, ISBN 1-85780-168-7;
THE ART OF WEATHERING, Martyn Welch, Wild Swan Publications, ISBN 1-874103-11-9;
RAILWAY SIGNAL ENGINEERING (899890-), Lewis - Third Edition revised and enlarged by J H Fraser, B.Sc, A.M. INST.C.E, Publ. Peter Kay, ISBN 1-899890-04-1;
MAINLINE MODELLING:1 - Constructing & Operating SEMAPHORE SIGNALS, Challenger Publications, ISBN 1-899624-32-5
*Some of these books have already been featured in earlier parts of this series, some with Amazon links. Some are not available through Amazon, you my have to try through alternative retail sources. I bought some online, some through Foyles, Waterstones and at model railway exhibitions.
© 2015 Alan R Lancaster