Add cropmarks to your fields and add novelty and realism to your layout: sunday scribbles

cropmark model railwayHere’s a quick little tip to add realism and uniqueness to your layout.

If you study fields and landscapes for any length of time, what you don’t do this? :), you’ll notice that many grass areas have markings, crop marks as they’re known, where long since gone buildings once stood.

They appear because of changes in the soil where the walls and trenches of the builds once stood. The change in soil is often in more or less fertile so the crops and grass grow differently in these spots, sometimes taller, sometimes shorter. The differences in height are then visible from above, marking the squares, rectangles, and circles where buildings once stood.

They pop up all over the place but I rarely see them represented in the scenery of UK model railways.

It’s odd.  Especially, as I’ve seen crop circles on German layouts.

In fairness, this is probably because German modellers have had the advantage of being able to get ready-made grass mats with them on for some time but they’ve only been available in the UK relatively recently – the Busch 1311 pack is available here.

But if you don’t want to buy one of these mats, you can easily create them yourself.

All that’s required is to use a different length of static grass to the fibers used for the majority of the grass. If you’re creating a meadow of 4mm static grass – on an OO gauge layout for example – mark out a square to the size of a typical building and use 2mm grass for it.

The result is that when looking down, you get the same effect as in nature. The difference in height appears as a shape in the field and your layout gains an interesting and unusual point of interest.


Cropmark photo reproduced under Creative Commons license; original here.

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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.

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