It Always Happens

It all looks good until you decide otherwise.

Experienced model railway modellers will know this story only too well. It’s certainly true for my layouts.

The baseboard is built. The track is put down and the scenery is added. Hours, days, weeks, possibly months are spent polishing and tweaking the layout to make it look just right. Until, one day, you realise that…

It doesn’t look right.

For me this is often because the ballasting on a section of track doesn’t work visually after the PVA has dried. (I’ve got a run of track right now in fact where, for some reason, the ballast went from a perfectly era matched shade of grey to an awful looking blue-grey). So frustrating!!

But it can just as easily be some scatter or static grass that looks odd, bushes or hedges that want relocating or that you come up with a “better” track plan and need to move some of the track. You might even decide to rip up the whole layout and start again!

Whatever the problem the result is the same.

Hour after hour of careful scraping and picking to remove the old surface material to get back to a smooth baseboard. Getting scatter materials, ballast and even grass mats up to leave a clear baseboard surface on which to place new scenery or track is slow and tiresome. If you’ve not done this, just believe me when I say there are better ways to spend a Friday night!

That was until I saw this tip from David Smith on his blog, Life Miniature, here.

It’s a wonderfully simple idea but one that’ll save hours of work. In David’s words it: “makes for easy removal of previous layout groundworks without damage to the baseboard surface”.

What is this his advice? It’s almost too simple.

Just lay paper sheets all over the baseboard, glued down only by the edges and a few blobs in the middle, before you put anything in place.

Then, when you then want to change something, it’s simply a matter of pulling the paper up and with it everything that lies on top: Scatter materials, static grass, bushes, ground work, everything.

Job done.

No more scrapping, no more fiddling.  On David’s model railway, “months of work in creating the previous layout were ripped off the baseboards in a matter of minutes”.

So if you’re about to start working on a layout, put the paper down first. If it’s too late for your current layout, save this tip for next time – you won’t regret it.

> 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.
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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