Creating Realistic Model Railway Scenery with DIY Techniques

Model railway enthusiasts often seek ways to create realistic scenery for their layouts, and one popular method involves using common materials like plaster of Paris, reindeer moss, and hairspray. In a video tutorial by Jimmy from The DIY In Digital, he demonstrates how to transform a mound of plaster of Paris into a lifelike hillside for model railway scenery (you’ll also need the right model railway scenery supplies!). Jimmy’s approach emphasizes simplicity and affordability, making it accessible to hobbyists of all skill levels.

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Using Reindeer Moss and Hairspray for Realistic Texture

Jimmy begins by introducing reindeer moss, also known as “reindeer ball,” as a cost-effective and natural-looking ground cover. To apply the moss, he coats the base with white glue and then randomly sticks the moss onto the glue-covered areas. This technique creates a varied texture that mimics the irregularity of a real hillside. Additionally, Jimmy uses dollar store hairspray as an adhesive to hold the scenery in place. This initial coating of hairspray helps secure the ground cover before adding additional scenery materials.

Applying Fine Turf for a Natural Look

After securing the reindeer moss, Jimmy applies Woodland Scenics fine turf to further enhance the realism of the hillside. The choice of turf color, in this case, a darker green, can help set the season for the scene. For example, a lighter green might be used to depict a spring landscape. By spraying the entire hillside with hairspray again, Jimmy ensures that the ground foam stays in place. This step is crucial for preventing the scenery from shifting or coming loose during the handling or transportation of the model railway layout.

Adding Hero Trees for the Finishing Touch

To complete the scenery, Jimmy adds trees, which he refers to as “hero trees,” to the hillside. These trees are purchased ready-made, and Jimmy explains that some may require minor modifications for a more realistic appearance. He suggests placing the trees randomly and in groups of three, as odd numbers tend to look more natural in landscaping. Once the trees are in place, the hillside comes to life, providing a convincing background for a model railway layout. Jimmy concludes the tutorial by inviting viewers to subscribe to his channel and teasing the start of his Arduino series, demonstrating his commitment to sharing knowledge and inspiring fellow model railway enthusiasts.

Overall, Jimmy’s DIY approach to creating model railway scenery demonstrates that with a few simple materials and techniques, hobbyists can achieve realistic and visually appealing results. By using reindeer moss, hairspray, fine turf, and ready-made trees, model railway enthusiasts can create captivating landscapes that enhance the overall charm of their layouts.

Enhancing Realism with Detailing Techniques

To add further realism to the model railway scenery, enthusiasts can employ various detailing techniques. Jimmy’s tutorial highlights the use of additional scenic elements, such as small bushes, shrubs, and ground cover, to create a more diverse and textured landscape. These details can be applied using similar methods as the reindeer moss and fine turf, with white glue and hairspray serving as effective adhesives. Additionally, modelers can incorporate handmade or store-bought structures, like fences, walls, and buildings, to add depth and visual interest to the scene. By carefully placing these elements and paying attention to scale and proportion, hobbyists can achieve a highly realistic and immersive environment for their model railway.

Weathering and Aging for Authenticity

Another crucial aspect of creating realistic model railway scenery is weathering and aging. Jimmy demonstrates how the use of paints and washes can add depth and character to the scenery. By applying diluted acrylic paints in earthy tones, modelers can simulate natural weathering effects, such as dirt, dust, and rust, on structures, tracks, and scenery elements. Additionally, techniques like dry brushing can highlight textures and details, further enhancing the realism of the scene. By strategically applying these weathering effects, hobbyists can create a sense of history and realism, making their model railway layouts more visually appealing and engaging.


In conclusion, creating realistic model railway scenery is a rewarding and creative process that allows hobbyists to bring their layouts to life. By utilizing simple materials and techniques, such as those demonstrated by Jimmy in his tutorial, modelers can achieve impressive results that enhance the overall authenticity of their layouts. Whether it’s using reindeer moss and hairspray for ground cover or detailing with additional scenic elements, there are endless possibilities for creating captivating landscapes. With attention to detail, creativity, and a passion for the hobby, model railway enthusiasts can create truly remarkable scenes that captivate viewers and showcase the beauty of model railroading.


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