After removing the yard track and cleaning up the scars, I filled in the gaps in the roadbed with more fiberboard to level the area. Once that was done, I fitted a piece of expanded styrofoam (the white stuff), carving it into the shape of a low rise and covering it with plaster cloth strips. Since this strip of scenery was at the rear next to the wall, I decided to detail it at the workbench instead of leaning over the layout.

That detailing started by brushing on a coat of burnt umber acrylic craft paint to cover all that white plaster, followed by a coat of full strength white glue and finely sifted dirt (the real stuff). I let this dry thoroughly, then removed the loose particles. Then the real fun began with weed after weed made from pieces of sisal twine. As described before, it’s a laborious process but worth the effort.

New section of scenery ready for vegetation

The weeds were accompanied by taller shrubs and trees. Things were shaping up and looked great while on the bench. Test fitting it in place however, the look was disappointing. Something was missing. I’m as guilty as anyone of the trap of complacency, of doing things the same way because it’s become familiar and comfortable. Studying the scene and my prototype photos of Valley Junction, confirmed I was headed in the right direction but I needed to shake off the habit of becoming predictable from using the same techniques and materials.

Scenery section underway, something is missing.

Stand Tall
There’s a group of trees and scrub growth just up the road from my house. One afternoon last week I grabbed the camera and shot a bunch of photos of this growth. Studying them revealed what my scene lacked: more density and the verticality of the taller vegetation. With the section back on the bench, I added more material to represent taller weeds and saplings. Working comfortably while seated at the bench, encouraged a slower pace and thoughtful approach. In other words, I took my time. Having it on the bench allowed me to turn the section around as needed, in order to apply material from both front and back. The scene began to take on the dense overgrown look of the real world and, once I was satisfied, I placed it on the layout for good and blended it in with the surrounding scenery and track.

Trees and dense underbrush

Scenery nearing completion

The access road consists of more dirt along with some stone dust gathered from my gravel driveway a long time ago. There are further details to add but things look much better on this portion of the yard. I’ll wrap up work in this area and move on to the next section.

Figuring out what went wrong
How do you resolve matters when something doesn’t look right to you, like my initial results on this section?

1. Stop, and think about what you’re doing. 
Are you on autopilot with your techniques? Have you lost sight of what you want to accomplish? I knew the effect I wanted to see but I was slipping into autopilot mode with getting there.

2. Look to the prototype -again. Does the prototype you’re modeling have certain characteristics and, are they present on the model? In my case I simply hadn’t added enough material to achieve the look of dense underbrush. It also lacked the verticality seen in the taller weeds outdoors and in addition, the trees themselves were coming in at the same basic height. I needed one or more trees to dominate the scene as the ones that got the early foothold and therefore grew the highest over the years. Another thing that’s obvious is the variety of tree trunk diameters. The older, more established tree trunks are much thicker than those that are younger and still struggling for moisture and light.

3. If you need to start over, then start over.
This isn’t like cutting a diamond where you only have one shot to do it right. I wouldn’t have hesitated to yank out the trees or other material if needed. I was on the right track with my efforts, I just needed to go farther before seeing the results I wanted.



  1. quarryman


    New progress on scenery looks good. If I were you (HA) I would pull the strip of trees and bushes back to the bench, get out the acrylics and mix a range of colors and tones that match your 3D scenery, and splotch on the backdrop from the grade up to about 1/3 the average height of your trees with a damp sea sponge. Then get some cheap stag moss, paint it the same colors, and lay a strip of it down along the base of the backdrop. THEN put your 3D scenery back in place.

    Just some thoughts,


  2. mike

    Hi Mark,

    Yes, I could do that. Here’s why I chose not to. My intent wasn’t to produce the image of of a thick, dense woods. At Valley Junction, on my prototype, this surrounding scenery is open and flat. An overgrown chain link fence separates the yard from another business behind it. This fence has become overgrown in the resulting decades from lack of maintenance. All I wanted to do was represent such overgrowth, as nature reclaims the this strip of land.

    Appreciate your comments.


  3. Dunks

    Could you, perhaps, put some chain link fencing along the back, with some weeds growing up it in places? It would serve to provide a natural boundary, and would “stop” the eye naturally. The same happens with hedges and walls – the brain seems to interpret this as a signal to go no further.


  4. mike

    Hi Simon,

    A chain link fence was indeed part of the plan. In working on the section I decided it wasn’t needed, which perhaps was a mistake. I need to say that the section is rather solidly bonded in place now. I think I will follow Mark’s suggestion of more shrubs to help disguise the meeting of land and sky.

    Regards, Mike