Model railroad urban backdrop – Ken’s

Ken’s been in touch with this very clever model railroad urban backdrop ‘how to’:

“Hi Al,

here is the ‘how 2’ on backdrops built at a angle to show more depth and increase layouts projection … This process can be utilized in many ways !!! Enjoy…..Amsterken”

(All images are clickable).

model train night scene

model railroad urban backdrop

making backdrop

3d backdrop

cutouts for backdrop

model railroad urban backdrop

model railroad urban backdrop

model railroad urban backdrop

Model railroad urban backdrop:

model train lights

model railroad urban backdrop

model train lights

model railroad urban backdrop

model railroad urban backdrop

model railroad urban backdrop

A huge big thanks to Ken for sharing his model railroad urban backdrop ‘how to’.

Now onto Richard:

“Hi Al,

I love reading your emails and get a lot of ideas from them. I am struggling to start my layout ,returning to the hobby after 40 + years.

I have a loft space 20ft x 5ft to build a layout and have a couple of “train sets” including the hornby elink / railmaster control.

I have installed DCC into 4 of my old stock and bought a new Castle loco with TTS sound. My problem is I can’t decide on a track layout !!.

My Dad was an engine fireman/driver in Wolverhampton (Stafford Road and Oxley) all his career and my plan is to run all the engines he may have worked on so quite a challenge. Any suggestions would be greatly received

In the meantime I have been making buildings( putting of the inevitable I guess).

I then thought I could do something similar. I photographed the shops in Tettenhall village and turned them into my own creations (see the pics) I am quite pleased with the results.

My creations are the ones at the front of the picture. and a large photo of the Limes court building.

Keep up the great work



printable building

printable building

Don’t forget the ebay cheat sheet. Latest one is here.

More backdrop posts:

That’s all this time folks. Big thanks to Ken for sharing his model railroad urban backdrop, and to Dave too.

If they’ve got you itching to make a start, the Beginners Guide is here.



76 Responses to Model railroad urban backdrop – Ken’s

  1. Keith says:

    Very Nice job.

  2. Dave once again has shown how to entertain. Yes the cam truck does show missed bits but also highlights all that is very good. Continue to get pleasure for your self and give pleasure to others

  3. Steve P. says:

    Dave – What a fantastic job you have done. Your attention to detail is amazing and your series of videos has provided some great how-to’s. Would you consider publishing your track plan (if you have one)?

  4. Brian Messenger says:

    Ken – a true artist with your backdrop. Your ideas have inspired me tremendously. Keep the “how to’s” coming.

  5. Kevin Mccloy says:

    Dave, that’s really cool I hope my layout turns out as good

  6. John Duryea says:

    I have enjoyed you e mails and how to tips, Dave has really done a great job I have watch all of his progress and loved it Great job Dave

  7. Roland Burch says:

    Ken, the time and skill it took, I am very impress.

  8. svyatoslav vykrest says:

    It`s really fantastic!It`s beyond anything I`ve seen with anyone else. But I couldn`t identify red coaches running on the left track,they so nice.

  9. Mike Wilson says:

    Hello Dave, just wanted to say fantastic job with the mini camera. What sort is it that you can fit it on one of your trucks? The only thing that could be classed as a fault was ….. where’s the wire from your telegraph poles …lol I thought the whole thing was great and please continue to put out the helpful videos.

  10. Joel says:

    Fabulous job! It’s an inspiration. I wish I had the talent to come up with something just even close to this. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Tom says:

    Ken, what an amazing job with that backdrop. Well done.
    I had no idea what I was going to do in reference to a backdrop … this gives me some ideas. Thank you for sharing.

    Dave, your cam truck allowed us to see places we could not have dreamed about before. Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

    best regards,


  12. Bill Fitzpatrick says:

    Ken, that really is a fantastic idea! Putting the scene on the bias makes it look deeper as it is , then adding the 3-D buildings and trees makes it look so much deeper Thanx for this tip.

    Dave, I would settle for your level of scenics and paint any day

  13. Don S. says:

    Dave – Your videos are so fantastic{ Though I have had a model railroad in the past, but had to sell it when I moved into and apartment, and have not found the time to start again, your videos have allowed me to enjoy, vicariously, the sights and sounds, as if I were there in the room. As for any flaws, I have not seen in the real world any scenes where something is not amiss, unless they are so perfectly manicured that they look like a model. The missing paint, and other “flaws” give the last touch of reality that makes your work so great!

    Also, thanks so much for letting us see the magnificent Dave, in this video. In theses scenes you look like a giant, but then in my estimation you are a giant among men, for you generosity in sharing your railroad with us.

    You video skills are also to be admired. You are truly and artist. I cannot thank you enough for sharing you work with us.

  14. Christine says:

    I just learned a thing or two. How cool. Thank you.

  15. maverick405 says:

    Great stuff Ken.

  16. maverick405 says:

    Great detail Dave

  17. Chris says:

    Love the way you took the 2 dimensional cityscape and added various pieces to achieve a 3D effect.

  18. Don Garner says:

    I really enjoyed this “Ken & Dave Show”. These two guys are cut from the same cloth. Both are consummate modelers with a high degree of creativity and talent. I’m looking forward to Dave raising the roof and adding still more levels to his layout and animating the non-tracked vehicles (cars, trucks, buses, etc.). Ken’s Amsterdam theme evokes wonderful memories of my favorite European country where I spent a year working with KLM. His technique for creating the cityscape is genius. Glad we finally got to see Dave. Sorry Dave but I can’t find the flaws in your scenics. I guess only you can see them.

  19. robin biles says:

    Quite brilliant apart from lack of animation in the human figures other than that totally out of scale bloke with a camera in his hand, he did however look very realistic !! The videos are great.

  20. Bruce Houck says:

    While I have enjoyed this blog so much, this is the first time I have ever left a comment but I just had to say how incredibly fantastic this idea is. It is pure genius and looks wonderful during the day or night.

  21. Bedros Anserian says:

    Nice way to express the reality in a good way with your own creativity.
    Good job, Congratulations

  22. Tom Pica says:

    It almost feels like I am on the train in real life with this view,TERRIFFIC !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. paul king says:

    Well Dave im still amazed it looks so good and watching your vids has helped me a lot i did my first banking using your method and was so easy and fast and looks Great thanks Dave

  24. Jaaques Shellaque says:

    Thanks, again, for sharing !!!

  25. Tom Oliver says:

    A BIG thanks to Ken for his ‘How to’ and the amazing effects he has produced. Can’t wait to try it! And also a BIG thanks to Dave for all his amazing videos and hints. You are all a great inspiration to us ‘newbies’!

  26. Cameron says:

    What a fantastic how to!!! Thankyou Ken for sharing how you have achieved that great back scene. I had been wondering how that was done. Thankyou also Dave for posting another video. They never get old.

  27. Andrew Lee says:

    Thanks Dave, I really enjoyed the trip around your layout. I did not notice the faults, it was nice to see all the small things from a different angle, eg. the railway work men, the lights in the engine sheds and so no. Great Layout.


  28. Ben Zalewski says:

    The camtrack gives me a very good idea of spacing items on a layout.
    It complements the videos of the wider stationary views.

  29. Don says:

    Dave does it again! Absolutely brilliant. I love the bit where the giant reaches over and lifts an entire locomotive with one hand!

  30. Chris Goodman says:

    I am blown away Dave. Your modelling skills are superb. I love your layout and scenery. Thanks for the informative videos. I am building a small OO railway with grandson and a gauge 1 railway at home in Hobart Tasmania. Many thanks Dave.

  31. seth says:

    Ken that is the best backdrop I have ever seen. But I did notice that the blacklight shines on the backdrop scenery and not your real model scenery. The different colors seem to split the backdrop from the layout. That is the only way I could really tell the difference between the two.

  32. mike says:

    dave I have been watching for a long time, what a great job that you do. I’ve been working on my n scale train layout for over a year now, and only have one track laid on the out side of a 4×8. I watched the cam truck video, the only mistake that I seen, it looked like you have bent axles or bad wheels on the cars. not the track!!!!! I had the same problem. mike d.

  33. THOMAS says:


  34. Skip says:

    Speachless… Dave you have really inspired a true following. keep up the great work!!!

  35. Jeff Keene Sr says:

    Faults!! WHAT faults? I didn’t see nary a one!!! Fascinating “ride” for sure!!
    God bless ya, Dave!!!!

  36. Head wig says:

    ken and Dave, what priceless resources you both are!!
    The talent here never ceases to amaze me & always inspires me to push on and not be afraid to rip things off my layout and have another try until I get it right.
    Can’t wait for Robin Biles to share his obvious masterpiece in animation & scale also??
    Best regards to all for all that you share.
    Cheers …

  37. Jim says:

    A couple of incredible layouts. Tip of my hat to both lads!

  38. dave says:

    Hey it looks just fine !!! and runs well .

  39. that is amazing ken the 3d was great to watch some trains Dave could we see the cam truck thru the tunnels a friend of mine has put in infra red lights and beams in his.keep the how tos and videos coming.

  40. Max Dosser (Australia) says:

    Ken, your backgrounds are an inspiration.
    Dave, a fantastic video tour of your railway. Have you ever cosidered making a DVD for those of us who have problems with You Tube connections. I have wireless internet because of my area and other complications. It took 29 minutes to view your video due to reception interruptions .

  41. Gavin says:

    Dave – Enjoy your CamTruck videos – excellent job.
    Ken – Thanks for the background tips – has given me “food for thought”.

  42. Peter Jones says:

    Ken, thanks for some great ideas for backgrounds.

    Dave, just one word MAGNIFICENT

    Peter the Mackem Jones

  43. Chris says:

    Very impressive, thanks for sharing

  44. Doug. Elliott says:

    Very nice, It would be nice if it was all snowed like we get it here in the frozen friggin’ north. Impressive just the same, It is just great.

  45. George (Erie PA) says:

    Long time reader and my first comment goes to Al
    Thanks for taking care of and sharing this fantastic forum.
    I have enjoyed watching everyone’s accomplishments and successes.

    Ken- great job on the backdrops. I have tried something similar with photos but you have given me some great ideas.

    Dave- Thanks for sharing your video series. I was surprised when you decided to rebuild your layout. I thought it was excellent but your new one is even better! One question if I may? What kind of camera is in the camtruck? I have been researching and reading about micro cameras and the quality of your camera is astonishing!

    Thanks much!

  46. alan boulter says:

    dave that is superb.makes me want to get to your standard.inspiring

  47. tom cordner says:

    Great film, what kind of camera do you use when filming down the track?

  48. John Reynolds says:

    First… Excellent work Ken and Excellent work Dave!!!
    I enjoyed the primer on how to make the backdrops (backscenes) “Pop!”
    The camtruck is amazing… is that commercially available or is it one of your own creations?

  49. Paul says:

    Dave – absolutely brilliant, thoroughly enjoyed (and challenged by) your efforts.
    Only one question – when will you take all the passengers back home? (I note all trains travel clockwise!)

  50. Patrick Potter says:

    This is the first time I’ve committed on anything Dave has posted but I’ve watched a lot of them and WOW is all I can say along with VERY IMPRESSIVE .

    Thanks Dave

  51. Ken Hecker says:

    Dave, your video was tremendous! What camera did you use? I bought a GoPro mainly for the granddaughters, but can’t wait until the GoPro has some running trains to travel on. I can see what you mean about using a mini-cam to bring out all the flaws, but you have very few to be concerned about. Running the trains is half my goal, and detail and realism is the other. When I’m thinking 1:48 O scale, I have to remember that things have to be 48 times as precise as real life.

    Oh, and thanks for including Gingy in that one scene. He was hilarious 🙂

    Ken in Fullerton, CA USA

  52. Jack windt says:

    Great job…..what are the demintions….. of the room, please…….thanks,..jack

  53. steven stclair says:

    Not only is your new railway excellent but your selection of wagons on trains and coaches and trains are just brilliant and as I said before about how many Bachman trains I have bought because of you but am I now going to buy a Hejan class 33 with half yellow ends/green and how good did that 03 works shunter look pulling those black tankers. As usual Dave brilliant. I showed one of your layout videos to a couple of my secondary students and they just loved it.
    Your loft is just perfect for the railway. Please buy.a blue with yellow ends class 35 so I can see that go around your railway.Superb Dave
    Steve Australia

  54. William says:

    Re: Dave’s Camtruck video.
    So very cool! And we finally got to see one of the inclines between levels. Wish it had continued back up. It gave a really new perspective of the layout.

  55. Ross Johnston says:

    Ken and Dave, thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed your video Dave and I always like looking at your Model railway. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to both of you and your families. Cheers! Rossco, Adelaide, South Australia.

  56. Peter says:

    What with Ken”s backdrop tutorial and Dave’s truck cam recorder these will make our model recreations really convincing; just as if we are looking out of the carriage window. Or in my case from the high embankment (the Hogs Back) by Harringay West Stn, not far from Kings Cross Terminal, London. Well done both of you and thank you Al for including both items in this bulletin.

  57. Peter Stilts says:

    Ken’s backdrop tutorial will now enable me to transform those unrealistic flat backdrops into true life. Dave’s “Truck Cam” is a good reminder to me that if things are modeled as if we are the height of the scale people then the town and villages will give the impression that I am looking from the train window or nearby hill side. Thanks to both of you and also Al for including these items in this bulletin.

  58. Rod Mackay says:

    Great how-to! Best backdrop hint I can offer is to avoid corners, even if it means sacrificing a bit of modelling space, it’s worth it to have a smooth curve. If a corner is unavoidable, it could be concealed with a tall low-relief building round it.

  59. Gerry says:

    Nice job as usual guys!!!
    What did you use for your colored backdrop lighting?

  60. RIch B. says:

    Dave’s video was over the top as usual. But I completely forgot about the black light effect and have seen this used back in the ’70s no less. Just makes everything come to life at night and when used with the fluorescent paint colors (not too much), things literally pop out. Used fluorescent tubes, lighting in those days, led’s didn’t exist yet (at least that I knew about). The pea bulb was about it.


  61. TrickyDick, Central California says:

    Fantastic. Please send a pic of the camruck and specs on the camera.

  62. ANDREW SCHYHOL says:

    FAULTS? Dave your faults far outweigh any of my accomplishments, however I think I am much better at losing things than you are!

  63. Fred says:

    Brilliant 👌

  64. Robert Brady says:

    Dave that cookie monster we see every once in awhile you goty a name for him ? How bout ginger snap?
    Robert from USA

  65. Gary Manganiello says:

    Wow!!!!!! That is really is impressive. It’s like artwork.

  66. steve joyce says:

    Ken love that how to on the backdrop. I am planning on doing a German layout in the very near future and there seems to be a dearth of modern tall building kits. So now I can do a backdrop from photos and do the printout fold method to give a bit of depth

  67. Jim Donovan says:

    Very informative, gave me a few ideas for mine

  68. Ken – Simply put, this is Disney quality! Amazing. You must be a set designer of some sort.

  69. Ray says:

    I can never get enough of Dave’s films. Awesome! Thanks for sharing and keep them coming.


  70. Robert says:

    I love this. What a ride.

  71. Stingray says:

    Dave, What are the dimensions of your train room?

  72. Erick says:

    Look great.!!! I hope mine turns out that good.

  73. OH MY!! The realism is fab!! I could watch this video till the cows come home!! Dave, you are a real credit to the model railroading hobby. CONGRATS on a superb job! I wonder what could possibly be next . . .


  74. Terry Miller says:

    I’m waiting for Dave to figure out how to put the camera inside a passenger car and aim it over the shoulders of a passenger and out the window. This would give an interesting perspective of seeing the passing scenery rather than just the tracks ahead.

    Terry/Idaho USA

  75. Fred says:

    Dave, I do prefer your old layout, where you had the two bridges on the upper level operational.

  76. george zaky says:

    Stupendous backdrops and a great how to.
    The only flaws are known to you. I guess its how you look at things. I see only magnificence and the only flaw is that I wish I could do half of what you do and that’s jealously. I miss the movie player and piano music. I hope you the Mrs great journeys.
    Big Al
    Coffee, sunny morning, Ken and the infamous D,D. Very comforting. Merci beacoup.

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