I've been reading up on scenery and have started practicing a bit
(using foam insulation board, covered with plaster cloth and then
covered with ground foam, etc.)
How do I adapt this process to work for desert scenery? Almost
everything I read says to apply 3 colors of turf foam and then trees,
etc.... how do you adapt this to a little-to-none-groundcover and
Any help is appreciated!
Carve (knives and wire brush) and paint the foam tan/brown/red as
appropriate, skip the plastercloth, and apply ground foam sparingly.
Cacti...well, they're not as common as Westerns would have you believe. In
fact, the big ones are considered "endangered" and are protected. They
only grow in a very limited area. I wouldn't worry about 'em!
On Thu, 23 Dec 2004 05:38:27 UTC, Scott
Unfortunately the best way to learn the look of the desert is to be in
it! The desert is quite varied and each area looks different.
Vegetation is sparse but that is one of the things that provides the
varied characteristics. Soil color and texture also vary.
The topology is also quite varied. It can be quite hilly or
relatively flat, almost never dead flat. There is usually a water
course somewhere. Normally dry but with shallow flow channels through
it. Between the flow channels there are "islands" that contain
somewhat more dense vegetation, even some low trees. The bed of the
wash may be from 3 to 15 feet below the surrounding country (note
these are rough guidelines, there is much more variation). Typically
there are small channels cut into the banks of the wash where the
water runs off the surrounding area. Yes, it does rain occasionally.
Sculpt the land forms in the foam board. Cover the foam board with a
thin plaster mix. Color the mix tan in some areas and a reddish tan
in others. Use a very light yellowish/grey (very light on the
yellow) for the wash bed. Get yourself some nice clean, fine dirt and
sprinkle it onto the landscape over glue or wet latex paint. The
dirt should be light tan or reddish tan. Cover the surface with the
dirt. In the wash use white N scale ballast (if you are in a larger
scale). Tone it down with a light grey spray.
Apply green ground foam very sparingly in small clumps. You can very
lightly sprinkle more foam around the clump, maybe 1/2" in diameter.
Also get some reddish pebbles and sprinkle them around. In the wash
use grey pebbles. In the wash you can sort of clump up the pebbles as
if the water had pushed them into a group.
Trees are much more complex and I won't get into them. Forget the
cactus. The sahuaros are unique to the Sonoran desert and unless you
really know what you are doing look phony.
Pictures rarely do the desert justice. You just need to walk around
in the desert for a few days. Don't do it between May and November,
that is for us lizards.
Properly done a desert landscape is very effective and attractive.
The best part is that you only have to make half a dozen trees for the
Depends on which area. If you're doing Nevada or Utah, that's really Basin And
Range country, which has some vegetation in a lot of photos I've seen, or least
can have vegetation.
If you're thinking saguaros for cactus, the other poster is correct. They're
endangered and limited to a small area; southern Arizona if memory serves. Most
cacti are small and low-growing, Teddy Bear chollas and prickly pears for
example. The Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee have a dome with an arid climate
that has some nice examples of cacti.
I have an aerial shot of the domes here, with the CP yard (ex-MILW) on the top
(north) edge of the photo.
The link to the Mitchell Park Domes is here
), but it wasn't working when I tried
to link to it.
website URL: members.aol.com/orphantrainlocos/index.html
All the world's a stage - and everybody's a critic.
It will be worth it if you can't actually visit the desert area you plan
to model to get a copy of the December 1983 issue of MR. The article called
"Modeling the Great American Deserts" is excellent with a map showing where
each of the deserts types are located, the colors to use and how to model
the ground, and vegetation particular to each one. Bruce
On Sat, 25 Dec 2004 01:40:31 UTC, "Bruce Favinger"
Another source of information is "Arizona Highways". This is a
monthly magazine that contains a number of color shots. Some of them
are of desert and give a good idea of the vegetation and colors. Your
library may have it.
On Sat, 25 Dec 2004 11:03:18 UTC, email@example.com (JCunington)
Be very careful, saguaros fight back. A few years back some dimbulb
shot the arm off of a saguaro. The arm fell, killing said dimbulb.
I'd heard the story years ago, then heard, saw, and got the CD of the
Lizards doing their version of the story, but until I saw the Snopes
reference I thought it was another myth.
His name was David Grundman
A noxious little twerp.
He saw the giant plants as the Clanton gang
And himself as Wyatt Earpp
When all at once upon a ridge
The squinting gumnan saw
Twenty-seven feet of succulent,
Challenging his draw.
He was slightly disadvantaged
By the angel of the sun,
But after all the cactus
Wasn't packing any gun.
Now the mighty cactus trembled
Then came that warning sound.
One mighty arm of justice
Came hurtling toward the ground.
The gunman staggered backward,
He whimpered and he cried.
The saguaro --- crushed him like a bug
And David Grundman died.
Saguaro-o-o . . . a menace to the west!
- 'Saguaro', Austin Lounge Lizards "Creatures from the Black Saloon"
I grew up in this country and am modeling it. Generally speaking the
ground is sparsely covered by sage brush and rabbit brush. It is about
50% bare ground and 50% brush, although in some places the brush can be
fairly dense. The sage brush is a blue-gray and the rabbit brush tends
toward light bluish-green. These plants are about 3-5 feet tall and 3-4
feet in diameter. You won't see anything growing in these areas that is
taller than that.
I think lichen is the best material for modeling these and some of the
lichen I found in New Jersey is about the right color naturally. Sage
brush is not a dense plant and they look most-realistic if you can paint
some of the enterior a near-black to represent the stem and branches.
What I referred to above as "bare ground" generally has some sparsely
distributed low growing weeds, like thistle, and a grass that is about
one foot tall and looks like wheat (I don't know the name of it). Yes
there cactus, but it is prickly-pear cactus and it is so small it
wouldn't be noticeable on a model railroad. I model this low-growing
stuff with coarse ground foam.
In hilly areas there is a fair amount of loose rock on the ground and
large rock outcroppings. In flat areas, there is not much rock. All
areas will have dry stream beds that are very rough (rocks on the sides
and bottom) with near-vertical sides and no vegetation. These are just
erosion channels and probably can't be called "streams."