Hills,Valleys & Inclines 


To improve the appearance of your layout you must move on from just a flat board and add hills and valleys. When the railways were built the engineers had to build bridges, viaducts, and as well as cutting and tunnels to ensure the railway track is flat or if on a gradient it was a gentle one.

Bridges, viaduct and embankment were required to fill in valleys and take the track over rivers and roads. Cuttings and tunnels were necessary to go through and area of high ground rather than going round it.

As our layout starts off on a flat board we (the modeller) have the advantage over the engineers in the past. They were adding the railway to the scenery while we are adding the scenery to the railway so the heavy work is much reduced.






Valleys are achieved by either having a section of the layout board on a lower level that the rest with an embankment joining the lower level to the main level as shown above.  

Another way is, when only a small lower area is needed is to cut out with a jig saw a piece of board and fix another piece of board larger in area than the piece cut out and screw it to the under side of the board. It a deep area is required then pack out the depth with another layer of timber.



The way hills are created depends on whether a running track is under the hill or not.  If the hill is just a raised area of ground then use polystyrene packing material which is easily cut to shape, glued to the baseboard, and cover in plaster, then cover with scenic materials.

If the track passes under the hill then it will have to be moulded using card or wooden frame covered in plaster bandage or paper and PVA glue. This is then covered in plaster followed by scenic material as required.


acknowledgment to Gaugemaster  Controls for the two images below 




There is a product intended for lining hanging baskets which is available from garden centres 'on the roll' so you can buy as much or as little as you want which will cover an area fast with the material following the shape of the land. This can be laid over undulating land formed with 'chicken wire type' material and once in place can have a fine layer of scatter applied to complement the green colours already in the material. When completed the whole area can be sprayed with diluted PVA or hair spray.



Another good use is where you may need access to tracks below ground level by having an area which is cut on three sides allowing it to be lifted. This could be a life saver in the case of track cleaning or recovering a stalled or derailed train. 


Below are a couple of ideas when you want to build a road or a river under the railway line while keeping the track level.






To add vertical variation to you layout you can add inclines allowing the trail to climb to another level and then descend.  The main thing to remember is to be as gentle as possible so trains can climb the slopes.

The steeper the incline the shorter the train because the wheels will spin if the locomotive is asked to pull too much weight up a hill. 

Another point is if an incline is straight the train will climb better than a curved track because of the friction of the wheel flanges on the side of the rails.



Polystyrene Incline Strips 

The maximum incline recommended to enable a train with several carriage is 4% . This means that to climb a height of 4 inches the slope length from start to top (4 inches) would have to be a minimum of 8 feet.  The best slope to achieve is a maximum of 2% which means a length of 16 foot is required to climb to a height of 4 inches. If your base board is 'open frame' style you can build in your inclines and riser to make the levels required using an adjustable spirit level.




An example of open frame timber inclines 

These incline must be a constant slope which, if made with timber you will need a spirit level to check the slope is the same all the way up. The top and the bottom of the slope needs to be 'blended' into the flat levels so the train gentle bends ensuring coupling do not come un-coupled; pertiularly 'N' gauge. 


An example of polystyrene inclines and riser. 

I believe the best way to achieve this is the make the inclines in polystyrene and there is a ready made product stocked by most good model shop and made by woodland Scenics.  They come in two type styles; inclines and riser.  The inclines are slopes available in 2% & 4%.

The risers are the same height and used to form the upper level.  In fact if the whole layout was flat and built in risers the scenery could be built below track level as well as above, and things like rivers could be added easily.

The width of the polystyrene risers and inclines is suitable for a single track of '00' gauge or a double track of 'N' gauge. If a single track of 'N' gauge is required then just cut the polystyrene at an angle around 45 degrees to suit the local scenics. If a double track of '00' is required then just put another riser or incline along side another.  

Polystyrene material can easily be glued in place or to each other using 'no nails' style glue and held in place with heavy weights or pins. 

Please watch the videos below which were kindly made by Woodland Scenics to assist customers. 










A good way to add depth to you layout is to fix to the rear and may-be the sides a back scene which are available in both printed pictures and photographic.  Below is an example of a photographic type available from International Models. Click on image to go to their web site.