My favourite part of creating a model railway layout baseboard is modelling the countryside which surrounds the railway track. Rolling hills, embankments, cuttings, rivers and ponds combine to create a complete miniature landscape.
Water features are often the most attractive aspect of a scenic model railway. Banks of mud, stones, sand and driftwood modelled along a riverside all help to illustrate the active nature of flowing water and its constant influence over its surroundings. Sometimes still water is modelled, positioned, where possible, to capture the reflection of trains as they trundle past.
Imitation rock formations add interest to the model railway scenery and can be used to gain height, particularly useful on micro layouts where there may be very limited space available to elevate the landscape. If carefully painted to appear weathered and lichen covered, imitation rock formations can appear very convincing.
Model trees help to create a three dimensional appearance as trains pass through wooded areas, sometimes being obscured for a while before reappearing. I use either off-the-shelf trees which I often improve a bit, or scratch-built model trees which I build by hand.
My hand built trees have textured trunk and branch areas, appropriately painted and weathered to appear moss and lichen covered. I create correct gaps between branches and foliage to allow daylight to cast realistic shadows across parts of the model railway layout baseboard. The trees are of different shape, size and colour. I often create foliage colour which suggests the appearance of late summer/early autumn.
I use a variety of scenic materials to create different textures and foliage in appropriate areas. Areas which are damp can be modelled with thick vegetation, possibly with sedges, reeds or rushes. Such areas of dense growth contrast with a mown appearance of fields where animals graze.
The landscape is often home to many wild animals and birds. Railway embankments in particular are home to many a rabbit and a few entrance holes modelled here and there can imply a warren within the landscape.
I model some of the smallest details to illustrate life in the model railway landscape. Whilst a mole cannot usually be seen, when molehills are modelled, they betray the presence of these small creatures.
As a final touch, I often add a few of my scratch-built foxgloves. These model plants contribute to the seasonal appearance, implying the last days of summer.