Backscene Selection

For me, the backscenes of layouts are critical.

The backscene sets the colouring, tone and atmosphere of the rest of the layout so I spend a long time thinking about them and picking vistas that closely reflect the look and setting of the layout I’m building.

The setting of this layout is the start of a railway line running through South West England, somewhere in Devon or Cornwall, and from where trains prepare and depart to an unseen main line and onward destinations.

Sitting snuggled in a valley in this area, the Luxulyan and Tamar valley’s come to mind, the railway, a few building, shed and water mill – fed by a tributary of the main river of the valley-  nestle in a man made clearing as the valley sides climb steeply above them.

Tamar valley

The look I’m going for. This shot of the wooded, steeply sided, Tamar Valley near Cotehele, from our family holiday in 2018 is the inspiration and vibe I’m recreating.

The foreground area, made up of the layout, will be a man-made clearing in the woods, so the backscene needs to add the height, depth and colouring.

For my backscene image I therefore wanted a hilly woody image with steeply climbing sides. I tired using some of the images I’d taken during our holiday in 2018 but these were too close to the trees and didn’t have the pixel resolution needed for printing.

Instead, I turned to ID Backscenes and their excellent range of high resolution colour backgrounds. In particular 201B Scenic Backgrounds Forest Hills. It’s a good proxy for the valley sides in Tamar, as the low res photo of part of their scene below shows.

ID Backscenes 201B, a good match for my imaginary valley scene.

The only downside is the trees in this scene look like Atlas Cedar. These are not indigenous to the UK and although there they were certainly present in England around the time I envisage the railway operating (late 19th/early 20th Century) they wouldn’t have been so prevalent in the wild. I’m content to let this go for the backscene but for the trees on the layout I’ll use larch. These are similar and would have been present in this area at the time.

Once I have the track laid, I’ll fix this to the wooden backing and see how it looks but i’m hopefully it’ll work well.


>This post is part of a series on the construction of a lifelike model railway for exhibitions. To read other posts in the series covering its development, track work, scenery and model building making, see building an exhibition model railway.


Affiliate notice: Some links on this page will take you to carefully selected businesses, including Hornby, B&Q, Rapid Online, Amazon, eBay, Scale Model Scenery and Element Games, through which you can buy products mentioned. These links are made under their affiliate schemes which means that although the price to you doesn't change I get a small commission on the orders you place. Please see the disclaimer for more details. A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.

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