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Add an Extra Touch to Your Model Railroad Scenery with Lakes and Waterways


Lakes and other bodies of water are perfect for adding that special touch of realism to your model railroad scenery. The challenge with modeling bodies of water in your model railroad scenery is to get them to look as wet as possible so that they simulate real water. And, water is not still so the challenge extends further in making rippling effects. You will find that experienced modelers have many different suggestions for making water in your model railroad scenery and it is important for you to practice a bit with the chemicals used. The two most popular ways to add water to you model railroad scenery are by either pouring resin or using sheets of glass.

Add realism to bodies of water in your model railroad scenery by starting at the bottom. You will need to plan where the lakes, rivers, and ponds will go in your model railroad scenery. If you are starting with a plywood tabletop, you will need to draw the lines where the bodies of water will go and then take a jigsaw to cut out those areas. You can then build a window screen netting in a concave shape in order to build your bottom. Use paper towel strips soaked in plaster of Paris to line the bottom.

Paint the bottom of your lakes and rivers with shades of blue, green, and brown. Remember that when water appears blue, it is mostly because of the reflection from the surrounding area. It's probably best to study an actual body of water and even take pictures in order to get an accurate idea of the colors. But you will probably paint the bed of your body of water with mostly earth tones of brown and some green for vegetation. If you want to give a perception of depth, use darker tones as you get more to the center. Another way to help with the illusion of depth is to use boats but cut off the portion that would be submerged. Put the finishing touch on your lake or river bottom by attaching lichen and small rocks.

Choose the method for “water” in your model railroad scenery. Modelers usually do this step using one of two methods: a sheet of glass or pouring a clear hardening agent such as epoxy resin. If you are using glass, you will have to build a frame in order to hold it in place underneath the train table. Or, you can use a glass cutter to shape the glass as close to the shape of the waterway as possible. Then, you can use plaster to build up the banks. Using glass has the advantage of being cleaner and reversible.

Epoxy resin has the advantage of an appearance very close to real water in your model railroad scenery. Another chemical good for creating water waves and currents is polyester resin. You can apply the resin on the glass or epoxy resin surface of your waterway and create waves with a brush or use an airbrush to create a rippling effect. It is important to make the banks and bridge piers that touch the water look wet and not have a defined separation. Do this by using some clear matte finish and spraying to make the dry structures and river banks blend with the water.

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