Painting backdrop

If you’ve every thought of painting your backdrop for your layout, Cameron has some good tips that he has used for his shunting puzzle:

“Dear Al,

This is my final instalment on Lanarth.

Scale 1:76 00 scale
Track Peco Code 100 HO
Region – English, Southern, South West

The final parts of the layout were the scenics and backdrop.

There was a grassy foreground to the prototype that I wanted to capture on the layout. As a rough base for this I used old carpet underlay. The underlay is normally brown so I bleached it with some household bleach.

To lay I smeared a liberal amount of pva on the layout and positioned clumps of the underlay. Following this I coloured it with some watered down acrylic paint. It looked good at this point but not 100%. To improve it I applied some static grass with spray adhesive.

The backdrop was more of a challenge. In keeping with the theme of this layout I decided to paint my own. One of he biggest challenges of a good backdrop is getting a realistic perspective. I wanted a station building in the foreground of the backdrop so the perspective needed to be spot on.

I use CAD software at work so I put this to use for the backdrop. I modelled the background in 3D, generated perspectives at different angles then printed them out on paper. I could then test the prints against the rest of the model to pick the angle that looked best. The final backdrop is painted with acrylic paints.

The rest came together in the box and is working well. Being quite small I can keep it in our dining room on top of the side board.

Visitors like to try their luck at the shunting puzzle. Hope you all enjoyed the progress and posts.

Bye for now.


painting backdrop

shelf layout

shunting puzzle

painting backdrop

painting backdrop

shunting puzzle

And now on to Rob, with his pics of the Big Boy loco:

“Hi Al,

The wife, Michelle, and I decided to chase the Big Boy locomotive as it crossed from Cheyenne, Wyoming (it’s home) to Omaha Nebraska where the UP Headquarters is located.

The run was June 7 to July 3 and it went to Omaha and then back to Cheyenne.

Michelle and I saw this great example of steam power a few years ago when it had just completed getting rebuilt and put back in operating condition when I came through Laramie, Wyoming on the way to Promontory Point for the 150-year celebration of the continental railroad completion.

It was exciting to see it coming into the station there, being serviced, and then pulling out.

This time, however, I wanted to see it at speed. We chose a spot along the Union Pacific’s mainline and waited.

Before the main event came through, one coal train stopped in front of us on an adjacent track and another one came rocketing through ahead of Big Boy going the other way. When the biggest steam locomotive in the world finally came past us, I was not disappointed, it was accelerating and was already running very fast.

75 miles per hour is the published top speed of this heavy monster and he was closing in on that rate when he passed us. Seeing something that big moving that fast is a sight to behold.

A few weeks before, there was an open house at the steam shed in Cheyenne where Big Boy and UP 844 are stabled and we went there. I am including a few pictures from that trip as well.

Rob and Michelle”

big boy locomotive

big boy locomotive

A big thanks to Cameron for his painting backdrop tips and to Rob.

There are lots of backdrop posts on the blog, but the one that always springs to mind for me is Jeff’s: Model train backdrops.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

16 Responses to Painting backdrop

  1. John Birch says:

    Brilliant work, Cameron.

  2. Peter Briggs says:

    You masters of modelling are taking detail and authencity to another level. Soon it will be impossible to determine what is real or model. Your grass is award winning! thank you for sharing these tips and of course a huge thank you to Al for his time and input. Al you are probably the most appreciated guy in model trains!

  3. Steve says:

    Cameron that is a work of art! Having an “overcast” sky (more typical of our UK weather) rather than a clear blue one makes a big difference. Thanks to Rob and Michelle too.

  4. kenneth knapp says:

    great back drop. I saw the Big Boy when it was at Steamtown in Bellow Fall, Vt before moving to Scranton, Penn. Impressive. GOD Bless.

  5. Brian Olson says:

    Beautiful backdrop work. Very creative. I visited the Steam Shop in Cheyenne as the overhaul began, incredible to see and hear the sounds of the work. Also on hand as Big Boy departed for Golden Spike 150. Highly recommend a visit to Cheyenne anytime.

  6. Rob McCrain says:

    Cameron, fantastic job of painting the backdrop. It looks brilliant. That is a great idea of printing out images to test as a guide to the final painting.
    Rob McCrain

  7. Greg Marples says:

    Rob and Michelle, I live down the UP main line in Marysville, Kansas, and was thrilled to see the 4014 powering up to speed as it pulled out of town after spending the night here on its inaugural run. I can’t believe you filmed those coal trains! Until some years ago the tracks went right through the middle of Marysville. I sat and waited for countless long trains to pull through (slowly) until they finally moved the yards and constructed an overpass! I never need to see another!

  8. Wayne Rybak says:

    That backdrop is beautifully done. You are a true artist. Painting must be your forte. It has that misty look to make it distant looking. Well done.

  9. Tony Weisbecker says:

    Very .very well done simply beautiful .thanks for the ideas and pictures .

  10. welder dave says:

    Wow thats very nice great UK scene from yesteryear !!! Saw big boy last summer running by I 80 .

  11. robert dale tiemann says:

    i always like when people put real train pics in with the toy ones, nice.

  12. Bruce Young says:

    wonderful video of BIG BOY movin down the rails at speed. EXCELLENT. wHY DO THEY WHEN i SEE A LOT OF BIG STEAM VIDEOS THERE A MODERN ,YUK, DIESEL engine? is it in tow, and what for, dont they have confidence in the loco?

  13. John Andrews says:

    This is the most realistic scene I have encountered in a long time. Congratulations. You have done an exceptionally realistic rendition.

  14. JoeS-inME says:

    Excellent backdrop!

    Regarding the Union Pacific trains — an observation —- that rolling stock must never see either coast or Chicago. Almost total lack of graffiti; every train that passes my house in Maine is covered with graffiti except the passenger trains and the Federal inspection trains.

  15. Darryl Grey says:

    Let’s hear it for Madge! Great video of Big Boy too!

  16. Brian Rockey says:

    Wow Cameron! That is truly top level modelling and the backdrop adds incredible depth. Just fantastic.
    Best to all.
    Brian, Wokingham, UK

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