building terrain

Building Terrain

  • November 2014

Once the track is laid its time to flesh out the terrain. As I want to create an illusion of space as well as individual scenic illusions I create one small area at a time,

As I want to create an illusion of space as well as individual scenic illusions I create one small area at a time, completing the basic terrain, then move to an adjacent area. While I work, I visualize in my mind the houses, people, animals, and other scenic elements I have to work with. With nearly 60 buildings, plus other accessories to place, I have found that it helps to lay the buildings out in placement groupings off the layout, but yet where I can see them. This way I can visualize the space required. I do the same with the figures.

The flat areas are small pieces of plywood on risers or large blocks of Styrofoam. The hills and cuts are formed from bits of Styrofoam, crumpled brown grocery bags, held in place with packing tape. Sheets of brown paper are then taped over the form. Where I think I might want to place a key figure, I build a base with Styrofoam or cardboard. I keep this pretty simple because the cotton will hold it all in place, and as buildings and accessories are placed adjustments will need to be made.

The “snow” – cotton snow sheets, cotton ball, and white spun polyester insulation sheets – is added at stages throughout the construction, beginning with the large flat area where the town sits (after the house wiring has been secured) and ending with “snow drifts” being place here and there. I work in small sections, finishing one before moving to an adjacent section. Where the building light bulb sockets exist, I now cut slits into the cotton and pull the sockets through. As the streetlights are connected in a long circuit, I have found that it is easier to disguise the wiring than to thread the lights in and out of holes cut in the cotton. After the snow is laid I replace the buildings, place cotton snow around the foundations; lastly, I create the snowdrifts. I always cut my cotton pieces oversize as this allows me the extra to create little hills and cuts as needed. It also makes it easier to overlap and blend each section of cotton. Carefully stretching the cotton until the edge is frayed; then gently patting the frayed edge of one piece on top of the frayed edge of next piece blends the separate pieces together.

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Building on a Budget