In this section we'll have a look at trackside scenery, and landscaping.
In truth, it would take a whole website to do justice to the subject, but we'll try our best to give you a decent overview and some sound ideas, without taking up too much of your time by covering every blade of grass.
We'll take you through some of the basics, such as adding buildings, figures, and trackside advertising to your layout, and we'll also try to cover how to create your own landscape features such as grass, rock, and trees.
Adding buildings to your layouts is a fairly simple way to build up the atmosphere of a real race track. Pit garages, control towers and grandstands are popular choices, and there are quite a few options available particularly in 1/32 scale.
Both Carrera and Scalextric produce ready made, ready to go 1/32 scale buildings, or snap together kits, which can be added to your layout in seconds. Many of the older Scalextric buildings are still popular, and are still available on ebay.
There are also many smaller manufacturers producing quite a range of laser cut wood, or printed foam board kits, which usually need to be glued together, or painted, or both. Magnetic Racing, GP Miniatures, Pro Scale Racing, and Proses all make 1/32 scale kits, some representing famous and iconic race track buildings, others being more generic in style.
Paper or card models are great if you have a tight budget. Just print them off, cut, fold and glue. Carrera 4 Fun have a good range available under the Gebäude & Deko section, and Pedemann also has a good selection in the Papercraft Downloads section.
Another option is to make your own buildings from scratch. It's not as difficult as it sounds, as many buildings are generally square, so you can build them from sheets of foam board, card, or even MDF.
Alternatively, you can save your cardboard boxes and cover them with architectural photos and textures, as shown below. We have a selection of brick buildings in the Graphics section and you can also find many more at textures.com or similar sites.
Populating your slot track can be an expensive business if you're not careful, but a track without any pit crews, mechanics, or spectators just doesn't seem right.
One way of reducing the cost is to limit the higher quality figures to the pit lane, where you might see them up close, and use the cheaper chinese produced figures in the grandstands or the backgound.
Both Carrera and Scalextric produce figures of a decent quality. Preiser produce the widest range of figures in a range of scales, and Immense Miniatures make probably the best quality figures of anybody. Slot Track Scenics, Figuma, Slot Car Scenics, and Wasp Slot are other good quality options which are definitely worth a look.
For less expensive options your best bet is to look for bulk buys of 50-100 unpainted figures on ebay. Though these can't provide the undoubted quality of the Immense Miniatures, or Preiser figures, they are much less expensive.
Here we'll discuss some of the ways to model the land around the track. There are a multitude of methods to do this, but in the interests of brevity, we'll just skip through some of the most popular.
Adding banks and hills is fairly simple. You can form the basic shapes using white polystyrene foam, the sort you might find as packaging when you buy a kitchen appliance. It's fairly easy to cut to shape, but you will end up with lots of messy, bobbly bits everywhere. You can glue the shapes onto your board with PVA wood glue, and then you can smooth out the shapes with a coat of plaster of paris, or strips of newspaper coated with wallpaper paste.
For larger hills, where you might struggle to find enough polystyrene to form the shape, another popular method is to use a lattice work of cardboard strips to form the basic shape.
If you want ultra realistic rock faces then there are moulds you can buy for casting them in plaster. Once painted they do look fantastic. Another option is to scrunch up aluminium kitchen foil to use as a mould. Again, this can look very effective, especially if you break up the pieces. There is a video illustrating the technique at the bottom of the page.
A less expensive method is to simply shape polystyrene with a knife, and paint. Or, similarly you can use scrunched up newspaper covered with glue covered strips of newspaper.
If you want a perfectly mown lawn for your track, then you can simply buy a grass mat from most model shops. This can be be cut to shape and glued down.
For less manicured areas, you can use a scatter. This can be made from either sawdust, or ground up foam, soaked in green acrylic paint, dried, and scattered over glue to apply.
For the most realistic grass you can use static grass. This comes in a range of lengths, and is very effective. It requires a special applicator which passes static electricity to the area so that the grass stands upright.
There are loads of online sources for printed backdrops for model railways and even though the scale might be too small, they can often look quite effective.
We also have some backdrops of our own in the Graphics section which you can print off yourself, or take along to the printers.
Alternatively, you could paint your own backdrop. It's not as difficult as it sounds, and since it will not be the centre of attention, no great detail is required.
Obviously choosing a good sky blue colour helps, and graduating it by dilution towards the horizon is good. After that you can dry brush on some whites and greys for the clouds, and possibly some misted greens for the landscape fading towards the horizon. Details like walls and trees placed in front of the backdrop can help the hide where it joins the track board.
Trees, Hedges, and Bushes
Some useful tips on buying or making plants and greenery for your track.
There are many, many sources for model trees, particularly in the smaller scales. HO scale is particularly well served thanks to the model railway community. Fortunately trees come in all shapes and sizes, so even the larger scales can make use of them. However if you want large trees, in a larger scale, the available options diminish considerably, and of course the price increases. Fortunately there are lots of ways to make them yourself.
One of the simplest ways to make trees is to go out and find some woody vegetation that resembles the structure of a tree. You can then apply glue and sprinkle over scatter to create the leaves and foliage. Alternatively, there are loads of videos around that will show you other more complicated methods of creating trees.
Hedges can be made using the green scouring pads from the supermarket. Simply cover them in glue and sprinkle over some scatter.
Moss can make very effective small bushes and rough vegetation. Don't plunder too much of it though, especially in sensitive, public locations.
Find out more
There is a lot more info and advice in the "Scenery" section of the Forum.
You can also download a huge range of free advertising banners, and backdrops for your track in the "Graphics" section.