Jack’s model railroad lake

“Hi Al,

I guess we all have setbacks with our layouts. I’ve had two in the past week.

I had set up my lake using Woodland Scenics Realistic Water. I had a dock, canoes and a car backing in to unload a boat. A reader of one of my emails said he had trouble with bubbles using Realistic Water. I started having the same problem. The bubbles ruined the scene.

I researched Realistic Water and found that off gassing from the foam insulation causes the bubbles. Woodland Scenics recommends lining the water with plaster cloth, completely sealing the foam. So, I ripped out the lake and lined it with plaster cloth. Back to square one.

The other issue was a water leak on the first floor, that dripped down on the layout in the basement. By the time I found the damage, much of the grass in my residential area was ruined. So, using a dropper and warm water I loosened the grass in small sections at a time and scraped it off.

I’ve got the grass redone and am currently setting the area back up. I’ve got some kids flying kites and others on the playground. The pool party is in progress. A family is fishing at the fishing hole (which also has bubbles, but it’s at the back of the layout so I’ll address it later).

Hopefully now I can get on to making some progress.

Jack In PA”

A huge thanks to Jack for sharing this – I’m sure it’ll save a lot of folk a lot of hours and head scratching.

That’s all this time folks. Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide – it’s got the thumbs up from all of the Hall of Fame members.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

32 Responses to Jack’s model railroad lake

  1. Henry van Wyk says:

    Hi Jack,
    Why not just add waterlilies to the fishing pond to cover the bubbles?

  2. Lou Santello says:

    The best water I have used is Envirotex. There’s nothing like it!

  3. Rich B. says:

    Actually the bubbles look quite realistic as ponds like that usually have bubbling taking place. Especially the flooded quarries here in ME.

  4. Gene Fricks says:

    You couild have kept the bubbles and just told folks it was off-gassing from buried chemical drums dumped into the pond years ago.

  5. Dwight says:

    That was probably me who commented on the “bubble” problem with the Woodlands Scenic water. I did indeed recess the lake into foam, but the lake bed had been well sealed with several coats of paint. After so many hours and days of careful modelling, it is hugely frustrating to have to do it all over again. Best to stay away from Realistic Water and use one of the epoxy products instead.

  6. Daniel Promen says:

    Although I haven’t tried this trick myself yet, some have said to breathe slowly over the water as it sets up. The carbon dioxide will remove the bubbles before they set up. Like I said I’ve not done this myself but have seen it done and it works.

  7. Larry Wilson says:

    Jack, instead of replacing the water area that has bubbles, since it is in the back and a fishing hole, put lily pads over those places. Saves time, material and frustration!

  8. Ray, Massachusetts says:

    Love the kids flying kites. Love that idea. I will be adding that to my layout soon.
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Linda says:

    Well done Jack. Looks great so far.

  10. Rob McCrain says:

    Good to know about the foam reacting with WS Realistic Water. Rob McCrain

  11. Buzz says:

    I don’t use realistic water. I use clear resin 2part from home depot. It’s the same stuff they use to embed coins and other stuff into table tops. Works great. Some bubbles but they work out.

  12. Buzz says:

    I don’t use realistic water. I use clear resin 2part from home depot. It’s the same stuff they use to embed coins and other stuff into table tops. Works great. Some bubbles but they work out. Layout looks fantastic.

  13. Don J says:

    You can tell everyone that there are giant fish ( whales) at the bottom of the lake. Those are the air bubbles from those fish. End it there.
    If they believe the story = good. if not – oh well-
    you can lead a horse to water but you cant make him drink

  14. Steve says:

    I have heard that if you breathe on the water when the bubble come to the surface that carbon oxide will pop the bubbles

  15. Postie7 says:

    Hi Jack, your problem seems to be the normal with realistic water even when plaster is used there are still bubbles form or the liquid goes cloudy after a while.
    I now usually go for EZ water, you get the bubbles with that too but they can be extracted with a heat gun and needle it does stays clear though. Another recommendation is to coat the base after painting before lathering thoroughly with scenic cement, let it dry before pouring your water selection. Hope this helps you and others.

    Eric (Leeds UK).

  16. Brian Messenger says:

    I only used Woodland Scenics realistic water on all my layouts and have never had a problem with bubbles. I have always painted the bottom of the river / lake with a PVA paint color and then poured the ‘water’ and if (only once) bubbles started, I used a hair dryer on low heat over them for a very short time and they disappeared. I also used an acrylic color mixed in with the water to get the effect that I wanted. I did not like the clear color as I felt that water was always dirty. Brian.

  17. David Hodges says:

    Several years ago at a national train show in St. Paul,MN, I noticed a layout with great-looking water. The vendor said he used Envirotex. I found the product at Michaels Craft stores in the U.S. and have used it several times on my layout, always with super results! The directions call for mixing the 2 parts and immediately after pouring onto your layout, breath lightly on the surface for a few seconds, and every bubble disappears leaving a beautiful smooth finish. Hope this information is helpful.

  18. Harvey Mushman says:

    You could paint it black, add some dinosaur bones around the edge and call it a tar pit.

  19. Thomas Murphy says:

    Great job Jack … a good solution th a rather perplexing problem.

  20. John Bury says:

    Thanks for all the comments. You bring up some creative solutions. The bubbles only appeared about a week after I was finished with the water. In my case there was a slit in the foam, I guess for breaking the foam for insulation purposes. All my bubbles were in a row just above the slit. I know people who have used Realistic Water without a problem, but I don’t want to go through this again, so I’ll probably go with Envirotex.

    One more thing about Realistic Water. Woodland Scenics says to use acrylic paint, not craft paint. Craft paint, while acrylic, has fillers that interact with the water.


  21. Paul Selwyn Otway says:

    You could say the bubbles in the lake are caused by a spring.

  22. Robert Rolfe says:

    I have had problems with Woodland Realistic Water also, However not on foam. I took a router and cut into the plywood table, coated it ,3 times with Helmsman Spar Varnish, 48 hours between coats, then but the water in, no bubbles at first, however , a year later the bubbles are really big and above the water line, don’t do this, bad try on my part. This is not a problem for me as I have started a new , bigger, and better layout (OK, time will tell on the better part) I have never heard of Envirotex, however Micheal’s is close so I will check it out, I think on a test thing first as the Woodland was a disappointment.
    NV Bob

  23. NJ Mark says:

    I installed a pond in my layout and had no trouble with bubbles forming using the Woodland Realistic Water. The pond was carved into foam and had several coats of paint. Perhaps it was the type of foam that you used. I used the green insulation panels from Lowes. I believe they are polystyrene. I have another water feature coming up soon and I’ll see if success can be repeated. Cheers! NJ Mark

  24. Richard Standing says:

    Turn the layout round so the lake is under the leak. Solves both problems… 😉

  25. Rick Cech says:

    What scale are your houses?

  26. Franco428 says:

    The only comment I could make is that there is no fence and gate around the pool. Safety First!

    Actually, I would like to see his process for the pool water. It appears to have the depth to enhance realism. Good job on the layout!

  27. Ian Campbell says:

    When in doubt with ponds, use a sheet of glass & a dark blue-green paper unner’neath. Easier to clean, too. Or go entirely realistic & have it clogged with toxic algae? 😉

    Or go simple & buy a Kraken to plant in it. That way there’d be something for the kids to Instagram as well. If Model R’road guru John Allen of Gorre & Daphetied fame can have a Brontosaurus* as a heavy-lift breakdown vehicle you can at least have a Kraken in a pond.

    *Yes I know they don’t exist. Bear with me.

  28. Jack Bury says:

    The houses are HO scale. I think they are from Faller. I bought them when my son was a kid about 35 years ago.


  29. Jack Bury says:

    The water in the swimming pool came with the pool. Just a photo printed on paper. It does look pretty realistic.


  30. Tony says:

    I am currently dealing with this problem with woodland scenics water. I do not use foam at all. My layout is grid style bench work with wire screen and plaster. It is all painted over with acrylic paints. My river looks like it is covered in foam!!! I have not come up with a fix yet because removing and starting over is not an option in this location.

  31. Rick D says:

    Looks really good my friend. Keep it up, Your skills are unsurpassed.

  32. Ramsey Arnold says:

    Great work on 4 x 8 – my current choice, using HO.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *