Lake for a model layout

Got this in from Mark, and thought it good:

“Hi Alastair,

I have been working on my first layout for about 7 months, doing my best to take my time. My grandkids wanted to spend the weekend with us and see “Grandpas Train Set”.

Well, although the track is laid and operational, it would look pretty boring to a child. Against my better judgement I decided to junp ahead of my plan and add some color to the layout by working on the Lake area so that “Grandpas Train Set” wouldnt look so boring to the kids. Here is a before and after photo and I have to say that for a rush job it doesnt look too bad!


Good stuff, eh? Don’t forget – the easiest way to pick this stuff up is here.




34 Responses to Lake for a model layout

  1. Ralph Berry says:

    Dont worry about jumping ahead Mark, one complete piece can often reveal how the next section should look.

  2. Mike says:

    Great for a first go Mark, super fine! I have to build a fast moving river running over rocks for my alpine layout, and it fills me with dread!

  3. JohnMichael says:

    Are there any step-by-step details about hoe he did it? It is very nice. I am doing a little pond and would like to know how he did this. Thanks.

  4. Matthew says:

    This is great stuff. How about at a bigger scale like G

  5. Barry Clay says:

    Can Mark explain the process please ?

  6. david says:

    nice job you have made of that lake

  7. George Gemma says:

    Nice coloring on water; gives me ideas since I am in the beginning stages of setting up a train table.

  8. Nancy says:

    Great, I love it. Did you paint it like that or is it actually deeper in the middle

  9. Brian Clauser says:

    I like your effort on the beach. I’ll soon be at the state park I am doing in my layout. I need a beach on the lake. Nice job!

  10. Mark says:

    You guys are very kind. Im not really that talented but I have a good imagination and I get great tips from people like you! How I modeled my Lake is really quite simple. I used extruded foamboard around the Lake. I painted the bottom with white flat interior wall paint as a base coat. I took blue latex paint and thinned it with water in four different cups, making each one darker than the last. Starting from the shore line, paint toward the center going from lighest paint to darkest. This gives it the illusion of depth, especially after you pour in the realistic water! I used Burnt Grass as my sand and beads as my bueys. The kids played with it all day and im even enjoying fixing all the scenery they destroyed!(you gotta let them be kids!).

  11. Don says:

    Great job Mark:
    I am in the process of making a lake as well as a stream with water fall. You have inspired me to keep moving forward.

  12. Dennis says:

    looks Great! Whats the white base you started with? Is that all paint or did you add Winder Water or something to it.
    Just the opposirte with my grand kids. They want to run it even if its not done and looks boring.
    Keep us up to date as you progress.

  13. Bruce B says:

    That looks exceptional — it certainly brightened up the layout and added some color, as desired!

  14. Ken says:

    I’m building an N scale layout and am kind of dreading the small lake/pond that it will have. I went to the Bahamas a couple weeks ago for my honeymoon and brought back some Bahama beach sand for my pond’s beach though 🙂 . I am learning from this site, especially the water and scenery tips. keep them coming!

  15. James M. Trendel says:

    Hi Al I think the lake is real cool and it looks real nice, and I am going to give it a try when I do my layout, I read all these tips that you put out and get some great ideas, I am 75 years old and building a lay out for my two grandsons to play with when come over, so keep the tips coming. I would also like to give one. The other day I was out side working around the plants, triming the and so on, I am always looking for things in scale for my HO and I looked at the big Hydrangea that is behind the house and if you take the old flower heads off they make great trees and they look so real you can cut them up and get seven or more trees from one flower head, plain they look like fall trees, or you can spray the green or red , yellow. I know some one out there will try them. I have not had time to spray any yet but when I do I will send you a photo of them. JIM

  16. matthew says:

    nice job on the water

  17. Ben Taul says:

    love it gies me ideas and insight on how to do mine iam thinking volcanic simular to mt. st. helens in Oregon usa.

  18. Doc says:

    At the risk of being the skeleton at this love-feast and while applauding Mark’s imagination and good work, I think the “lake” looks like cross between a back yard swimming pool and a contour map. Every fresh-water lake I’ve ever seen, from the shore or from the air, has been brown or murky dark blue shading to almost black, not bright blue.

    Either a darker, blended bottom paint, a dark-colored pour of “water”, or even now a thin layer of dark epoxy applied to the surface would improve the appearance, and ripples could be added for more realism.

    (And don’t forget the algae. Pond scum has to live, too!)

  19. Bob Bouskill says:

    I live at the end of lake Ontario which is more than a hundred miles long, even longer in kilometers. However, if you go to Michigan, USA, and go to Lake Orion, the lake is in the city limits and is about the same size as Mark’s lake. Mark is correct in depicting different colour for different lake but lakes actually look different every time you see them, depending on the weather. I like Mark’s lake but I like to see wetter lakes. The purpose of soap is to make water wetter, so you really have to address this. If I were Mark, I would get a piece of plexiglass and cut it to the same shape as his lake and place it over the excellent painted bottom. Also Mark could use a brush and paint waves on his plexiglass lake with liquid plastic paint ( varathane in my country) and then this lake would jump to outstanding. Everyone is afraid of modelling water when in fact water changes constantly so never comes out wrong.
    Don’t worry about grandkids, mine like to get little cars and drive them down the railroad track instead of the roads I made for cars.

  20. Mike R says:

    I Myself like the lake, although it is a little bright, it still looks good. I just finished a large pond, and all I did was diluted the first bit of the color they give you in the water kit with a little water, let it dry, then added the darker color in the middle. After everything had dried I did the trick that woodland scenics suggests by adding ripples to my pond by pouring a little bit of the Realistic Water on a non sticking cookie tray, let that dry then added it to my pond. This makes it look like my fisherman have just hit the water with their fishing lines and bait. I also used a little bit of non clumping kitty litter for my sandy edge of the pond, then added some trees and shrubs etc. Mike

  21. g says:

    Everyone is stating they are dreading the water effects. It is not that bad. Jump in and do it. Mark did a good job. If I was going to change anything, I would blend the colors more so that you don’t have a sharp contrast from lighter to dark. Mark enjoy your layout!

  22. Jim says:

    In answer to those who left a less than positive opinion on the color of the lake…..indicative of depth….., I have seen photos of small, very deep bodies of water that looked just like that!

    Well done


  23. as in the industry does I used number 12 auto wire colors red and black for them switch I used the patch cords off and allan bradley dcc from a one out of service as you’d never be able to afford the cable and its nice to work with it has coded wires in it/ it comes in ordered lengths too so talk to an electrician in a papermill buy a couply drinks must drijnk that vi know but terminal blocks are the best I had all my switches operating from a master control box in the front and was lite up with street lites the whole layout was lite up it I think about it I while download some pictures for you al

  24. Jim says:

    Looks great I was thinking of a small lake on my layout ,you have given me inspiration

  25. Danielle says:

    I enjoy the explanations, but some of the English is not the English I know. It makes it difficult to understand. I am not talking about ordinary typos…here is an example “as in the industry does I used number 12 auto wire colors red and black for them switch I used the patch cords off and allan bradley dcc from a one out of service as you’d never be able to afford the cable and its nice to work with it has coded wires in it/ it comes in ordered lengths too so talk to an electrician in a papermill buy a couply drinks must drijnk that vi know but terminal blocks are the best I had all my switches operating from a master control box in the front and was lite up with street lites the whole layout was lite up it I think about it I while download some pictures for you al ” If anyone would like to translate, it would help. Thanks

  26. Roger Moreton says:

    I’ve had to wait until age nearly 79 to start a garden railway. Up until 2 years ago, all the grandkids were girls but then out youngest produced a pigeon-pair of twins.
    My railway – 45mm. track – is going to run alongside the garden fence with village features at each end. Having flown in warbirds in the Cold War, aviation had to feature so there’ll be a B17 Flying Fortress awaiting take-off clearance on one diorama.
    What I’ve already discovered is that live steam equipment doesn’t depreciate in resale value so a few minor indiscretions in procurement need not be disastrous.

  27. Dan says:

    I am 78 and flew in B17’s in the 1950’s. (HOLLOMAN AFB 3225TH DRONE SQUADRON.) If you want to add a B17 diorama, I would suggest one of the new foam RC types in whatever size you want. My MARKLIN RR is on the storage shelf and my main hobby now is foam RC.

  28. John M says:

    Re the color, many of the lakes in my area (and we have a lot) have white sand bottoms, and that is what they look like from the air on a bright day. If one wants to do a lake with a mud or weedy bottom they can color them appropriately , still using the same technique.
    Placing plexiglass over it does help, I’ve done the same, but I used rippled plexi which is meant for shower doors so to give the effect of small waves. There are different patterns available. Visit a glass or window repair shop and see if they have any left over odd pieces that might work. One thing about cutting it to size – if you use a power saw the plexi tends to fuse back together unless you cool it while you cut. I trickle water on it, but make sure that the tool is either cordless or plugged into a GFI outlet.

  29. jim rosenburg says:

    Can’t wait to see the rolling stock streaming by the boats and fishermen in the lake.

  30. Derwin Emerson says:

    Nice job! I am about the same stage with a layout for my grandchildren as well. My error is that I have not gotten the trains to operate yet so in fact it is boring. You have given me the courage to shift gears and concentrate on the tracks. That way it will be more fun for everyone. Thanks for your tips! Trainman.

  31. Derwin Emerson says:

    Real nice job. I am 65 and also and doing this to “hand-on” the interest to the grand kids. Keep up the good work. Trainman

  32. Thomas Cox says:

    Mark’s lake looks great for a first time out. I am working on my first layout, and am too scared to even try a water scene on it. I am doing a simple tabletop N scale layout, the track plan for it was found in a book put out by Atlas called Nine N scale track plans. However, while the plan itself calls for a 2and a half foot by 6 and a half feet, I am expanding it to 4 X 10. the extra “real estate” allows me to expand the rail yard and add a locomotive servicing facility. Keep those tips coming.

  33. Frank Costello says:

    Nice work. Just getting started to redo a complete layout and I save all you tips.
    Thanks for your time

  34. Stevo says:

    I need help with the layour software designs before I can tackle this….BUT I love it thought………..

Leave a Reply

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