Tips for Designing Stunning Model Train Backdrops

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Duration: 7:55

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In this final episode on the famed Utah Colorado Western railroad, resident-artist, Robbie Spangler, shares his tips and secrets on creating his spectacular model train backdrops using straight-out-of-the-tube acrylic paints.

He begins by drawing a sketch of the distant mountains at a point where the 3D scenery meets the backdrop. The sky above the most distant scenery will receive a light coloring of white to imitate atmospheric haze. Then the most distant mountains receive multiple coats of purple-violet paint of less distinctive shapes and borders. Moving forward toward the viewer, he adds more distinct shapes and richer colors.

He uses a similar method very effectively when blending tunnel mouths into a more distant background on the backdrop. He’s a big believer in keeping the linear perspective of the horizon low on the backdrop to create a feel of distance and emptiness of the Western vistas. Here are some more tips on blending rural scenes on model railroad backdrops.

Robbie’s work really shines in Cobre where he needed to blend a three-dimensional town with a 2-dimensional town painted on the backdrop. Here he carefully designs the perspective of road and houses so they appear to curve off into the backdrop. By painting with consideration of what he calls “vanishing points,” the perspective of distant houses and structures look correct to the operator from whichever angle he views the scene. It’s a real art form!

You might be interested in some other techniques for creating backdrops for model railroads.

Owner-modeler Lee Nicholas tells Allen Keller that his enthusiasm for the hobby keeps his mind active and his spirit energized, and hopes he’ll still be running the UCW, tweaking things here and there (of course!) well into his retirement years. He recommends to fellow hobbyists to keep things light and fun during operating sessions – and the sense of camaraderie is obvious to all who are fortunate enough to run on the famous UCW!