Modeling with the Wrecking Crew
Model Railroad Club
By Bob Beaty
The Wrecking Crew
Model Railroad Club is a
100 % NMRA club located in Birmingham, Alabama. Their layout, The Locust
Grove and Western, is a modular HO scale layout depicting North Central
Alabama in the mid-1950’s. As part of our Charter, we are dedicated to
promoting the hobby of Model Railroading and sharing tips and techniques with
fellow modelers and the public. This hand out is one of a series of Modeling
tips provided by the club.
Modeling Water Effects
There are several reasons to model
water on your Model Railroad. Water was here before trains. Railroads
followed the line of least resistance, normally river beds.
Water effects on a model railroad add a scenic touch, getting lots of “oohs
and Ahs”. Water effects are easy to model and add life to a scene, whether a
large river, a meandering stream or a puddle.
Study the prototype. The
more you understand the subject the better the model will be. Water in nature
takes on many colors, surface textures and movement. Man’s interplay with
water adds unique details and artifacts to a scene. Some of the artifacts are
detrimental to the environment but an interesting addition to any modeling
Take Reference pictures:
Remember what you see is more so the surrounding environment that the actual
water itself. The banks, the bottom, the plants in and along the banks, algae
and flotsam and jetsam in the “water column,” water movement and finally the
water surface itself.
Prepare the environment carefully first.
The more time you spend on this phase the better your water model will be
regardless of the substance you use.
Prepare the base. Whether plaster, foam or some other
product, it has to support material and provide the necessary contours and
Prevent leaks. Ensure your prepared base is leak proof.
Most of the current products will seep through the smallest pinhole, creating
a mess. Not recommended for a carpeted train room. The bed must be
Add the scenery. Ground texture, soil, rocks, tree limbs
and ground cover. Experiment to get the look you want.
Seeing the bottom.
Populate your stream or lake with logs, trash, fish, rocks, junk etc before
you pour whatever you intend to use. Note this process does not lend itself
to a gloss paint approach.
Ripples and Waves.
You can produce ripples
and waves with applications of gloss gel Medium or Woodland Scenic’s “Water
Effects” product applied after the surface is set.
Wakes. Use a
gel product or clear caulk with touches of white paint.
Rapids, and water falls.
Use a combination of gels, white fiber fill (pillow stuffing) and painted
highlights. Also WS water effects products , can produce an effective
How we prepared the river on the LG&W
The surface of the river was
prepared by poring and smoothing plaster for an even surface. The banks were
made from sand and “Sculpti-mold” to form a textured surface. The banks and
surrounding ground was painted an earth color and covered with appropriate
colors of ground foam, held by a diluted glue and water solution. Scenic
materials, ground foam, twigs, rocks, bushes etc were added to give “life” to
the bank areas. The center of the river was spray painted a dark blue-black
color and the edges were sprayed with a light earth/mud color.
the paint had thoroughly dried, two coats of artist’s Gloss Medium were
applied and allowed to dry. Ripples and waves were then made with Artist’s
Heavy Gloss Gel Medium, using a spatula or palette knife. After these
“ripples” had dried, several coats of Min-Wax Acrylic Varnish were painted
onto the surface and final details were added.
Maintenance: The surface can be wiped with a damp cloth to remove dust and
debris, and additional coats of Acrylic varnish can be applied later to
“liven” up the water.
Some materials to use:
are (some say) ten way to do water. They are:
Acrylic shower door Not expensive
Acrylic Light diffuser Not expensive
Actual Water Messy
Acrylic based liquid products
(Gloss medium, gloss gel, etc) Easy, medium cost
Casting Resin Smelly, toxic
Enviro-tex Easy, good for flat
Enviro-tex plus an acrylic
medium Easy better for moving water
Plaster and Paint,
with ripples from texture
paint A neat effect, seal w/ varnish
water (Woodland Scenics) Pain in the A--
Realwater (Woodland Scenics) Not bad
caulk Smelly, clean up a chore
Glass (clear or
mirror) a challenge but doable
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