A view from the line #13 creating the impression of depth – effective backscenes

A particular pet hate of mine is viewing layouts that have no backscene, even simple a plain blue or grey painted back board is better that nothing. The last thing I want to see is the clutter behind the layout and the midriffs (being kind) of the operators. A good backscene helps create impression of depth and finishes the overall illusion that we are trying to create with a layout.

Salisbury Cathedral has been slightly moved north on Fisherton Sarum

There are a number of methods that can be used to create the backscene from the simple single colour plain painted board to full wrap around photographic images that are now being very successfully used on  layouts such as: Chris Nevard’s Catcott Burtle, Paul Marshall-Potter’s Albion Yard and the RMweb team behind Black Country Blues.

Scenic materials help hid the join with the backscene
Scenic materials help hide the join with the backscene

In between these two extremes variations include: fully hand painted, commercially available printed or photographic images such as available from PECO or International Models.

On Fisherton Sarum I am indebted to fellow High Wycombe and District MRS member Ron North who, from a couple of grainy black and white images of the rooftops of Salisbury and its cathedral, kindly and superbly hand painted my backscene. This not only uniquely helps create the illusion I was after but also places the layout as being based on Salisbury so well, even if we have moved the cathedral to the north of the line!

A mix of low relief and hand painted cottages add to depth
A mix of low relief and hand painted cottages add to depth

In addition to the hand painted scene, at the western end of the layout I have a row of low relief terraced cottages backing on to the line that have been constructed from Langley Models vacuum formed mouldings suitably painted and detailed fixed to the backscene. Their back gardens and yards are on the layout itself.

Again the scenic materials soften the join
Again the scenic materials soften the join

The illusion of depth is further maintained by avoiding where possible sharp angles between the back of the layout and the backscene itself. This can be achieved by a number of tricks such as; curving the ground level up on the backscene, carefully placed fences or hedges, or the use of perspective with slightly smaller scale models just in front. It is also good practice to avoid things roads meeting the backscene at or near 90 degrees as this is very difficult to blend with a backscene (it is better to curve the road into a backscene to allow the actual join to be concealed behind a hedge or similar).

Hinton Parva uses adapted PECO backscenes for its townscape

Away from Fisherton Sarum on Hinton Parva a 32’ long exhibition layout of the High Wycombe and District MRS a number of different techniques are used including hand painted sections, low relief retaining walls, fencing to hide the joins and also to help with the creation of depth the PECO printed sheets were fixed to 2mm mounting board to lift them slightly from the surface of the painted sky.

Hinton Parva also has hand painted sky and country area
Hinton Parva also has hand painted sky and country area

To avoid too much repetition with the townscape over the length involved the PECO sheets were modified to remove some of the obviously repeating items such and chimneys, gas holders and church spires etc., even some of the buildings were reduced in height by a story or two!

I hope the pointers and tricks above have been of interest and perhaps will avoid some future occurrences of one of my pet hates…

4 thoughts on “A view from the line #13 creating the impression of depth – effective backscenes

  1. Hi Muz i could not agree more re backscenes if there isint one it distracts the eye from looking at the layout,also layouts at exhibitions without a curtain around the bottom is one of my pet hates.I could go on like trains running without a crew no headcodes etc.Thats my rant over for Easter.Regards Roger

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