Backscene Selection

For me, the back scenes 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 valleys come to mind, the railway, a few buildings, storage sheds and a 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.



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Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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