How to Make a Landscape for a Train Layout

by Carlos Mano

Many model railroaders find making the layouts for their trains the most interesting part of the hobby -- even those who never enjoyed craft projects before building a train layout. Model train layouts often include mountains, trestles, tunnels, train stations, people and automobiles. All of these things can be purchased at a model train store, which will also sell the other equipment you will need to make layouts. Some of the equipment, like beadboard and beadboard cutting tools, can be purchased at any hobby shop.

Items you will need

  • Beadboard
  • Beadboard cutting tools
  • Models (people, buildings, etc.)
  • Spray-on grass
  • Glue
Step 1

Buy enough beadboard to make a support for the entire layout, plus some extra for making tunnels and other structures. Beadbord is a type of styrofoam that comes in 4-by-8-by-1-1/2-foot sheets. You will need knives and other tools to cut and shape the beadboard. Lay out the beadboard and arrange the tracks on top to get a clear idea of how the layout will look before you add other features. When you have it right, trace the tracks so you can get them correct when the rest of the layout is in place.

Step 2

Build mountains, tunnels and inclines before anything else. All of these features are made from beadboard. The mountain should go at the back of the layout (furthest from the viewer). If the mountain is very large, you might want to use other building materials such as chicken wire covered with cloth. Tunnels should be built up with layers of beadboard. Make sure the train goes through the tunnel smoothly before gluing on the top layer; test this first by moving the train by hand, then again under power.

Step 3

Apply spray-on grass to most of the layout. Leave the tracks bare or put down some material that looks like gravel. Make sure you have installed down all the wires you need to carry electricity before you spray the grass. Running wires means cutting a v-shaped trough and replacing the beadboard on top of the wires, gluing it in place if so desired.

Step 4

Arrange and glue into place the trees, people, buildings and other models to complete the layout. You should realize that a train layout is not a one-time project; it is really never finished. Train layouts are constantly being improved.

Tips & Warnings

  • A really nice touch for a train layout is to add lights to the buildings and automobiles. The building wires can be laid under the beadboard, and the automobiles can also be powered by the same battery, as the automobiles do not move. It can be interesting to dim the room lights and light up the train layout.
  • You should check to make sure that the trains run smoothly at several stages of layout construction. Constant checking will allow you to fix problems before they compound.

Photo Credits

  • Images