You can add a large amount of scenery to your train layout at low cost.
Train layouts are used in many different ways.
Some people make train layouts and focus on making them electronic wonders. They use digital control systems to operate several trains at one time – all supported by automated lighting and accessories.
The layout pictured below is to entertain visitors to a narrow gauge railroad. It is an electronic wonder. Emphasis is on keeping visitor’s attention by keeping things changing. Less important is the scenery. The electronic control of everything is remarkably good.
Others make so called switching layouts or point to point layouts that occupy the operators time with switching routines shunting cars from sidings and delivering to loads to customers. Train operation is not automated and little else is. And scenery limited.
Then there are those who make layout segments to be used in Fremo events which events are as much social gatherings as they are very large group operating sessions.
Operational realism is most important. Scenic realism downplayed. But there must be enough good scenery to keep visitors’ attention.
There are large layouts that often require several people to operate them. Here operational realism is most important.
Very popular are the small layouts where the trains operate in a continuous loop or loops.
Floor layouts, generally starter layouts for the kids as well as dad, have to be included because this is where it all starts.
Of note are the layouts that are essentially a diorama which are built to display highly detailed models of buildings, accessories, and rolling stock. They may be 2 feet by 1 foot and packed with detail.
The degree of scenic realism and operational realism associated with each of these layouts really varies with the interest of the operator.
Those with switching layouts or point-to-point shelf layouts may mostly be interested in low relief buildings which buildings just give some credibility to the layout.
This image shows a low relief building that is part 3D and part flat card with graphics. It adds “flavor” without taking space.
With all layouts, the degree of realism really depends on where the operator wants to spend his time and money.
To the dedicated carton modeler who generally focuses on diorama type layouts, scenic realism is the key. To the operator or electronics buff, scenic realism is of less concern.
Carton models offer the person who is making any layout a lot of opportunity.
For the floor layout or other starting layout, simple carton models are inexpensive easy to build easy to store and allow you the opportunity to put the buildings in place so that you can evaluate your scenery before you go on spending a lot of time putting a lot of detail into your layout.
And even during the building process of a layout, carton models can be placed to once again get a feel for what you will have at the end.
This image shows simple carton models being used to confirm the design of a diorama type layout. The lift is handmade using styrene. The buildings made of card.
For those who want the ultimate in scenic realism, there is no match for a highly detailed carton model. Plastic models, regardless of what you do to them, look plastic. And expensive plastic and that.
So regardless of the type layout that you are going to build or that you have, start with carton models. If you want to shift to plastic, fine, do so. But only do so after you have looked at your landscape design in 3-D with carton models. It will save you a lot of money and a lot of grief.