Creating realistic scenery is the part that pulls your model railroad layout together and brings it to life. Little details can make a big difference, as many spectators will spend a lot of time watching the trains operate, so they will get to notice the little things that add to the overall effect. Your visitors will get see the vegetation that grows alongside the track and notice the signs on the buildings and the weathering techniques used on the trains.
Tunnels and a bridge will add interest to a model train layout. You will need a rail station too. Put operating signals at crossings. Use either a set of crossing flashers or a flasher and drop-arm combo. Kids (and adults too) are mesmerized by these ‘lights and action’ items.
Other ideas like a working grain elevator, water tower, coal loaders, or a control towers help complete a scene. Be creative, but specific, when making scenery for your model railroad layout.
Make sure any vehicles and rail crossings are from the right era. One idea is black washing the grilles and hubcaps to add depth and realism to the scene. Using a small brush you can also paint taillights, parking lights and door handles if needed. Then consider taking the cars apart and install drivers and passengers. Nothing looks more unreal on a layout than vehicles seemingly driven by invisible ghosts!
You can purchase miniature figures in male, female and child variations all molded in ‘flesh’ color. The arms must be attached by gluing. Then the figures can be painted. Sometimes, the figures will not fit between the steering wheel and the seat. It sounds a bit cruel but you simply cut the legs off with pliers and they fit just fine. Use flat (rather than glossy) model paint to make painted clothing and hair look real.
When buying adhesives for joining scenery, there are several choices in hardware stores and hobby shops. They are not all suitable for the same job.
When building scenery try using an acrylic matte medium or white glue as both of these modeling adhesives are water soluble. However, a contact-cement may be more suitable in some applications.
If you are going to use white glue, you may want to dilute it with water using 2 parts glue to 1 part water, or a 1 to 1 ratio, depending on its application. Try adding a few drops of liquid dish-washing detergent as this will help break up the surface tension of the water. Another thought is to add a small dab of latex paint to tint the glue and help hide any bare spots.
Always keep scenery, buildings, people and structures to the right scale relative to the trains.