How to recreate sunburnt fields

Do something different with your model railway scenery and landscape and create a summer heat wave in miniature.

It won’t have escaped your attention that for the last few months we’ll have an incredible run of hot, dry, weather. [This post was originally written during the heatwave of the 2018 Summer, Andy].

And this isn’t just in the UK, where I’m based. In Germany, it’s been equally hot and dry and Madrid and Portugal are even hotter. And in Australia, where this blog has a large following, it’s dangerously hot even. According to the TV news, New South Wales is cooking, despite it still being only Spring.

But what has this weather report got to do with model trains?

The answer is the scenery

Traditionally, much model railway scenery has the green and pleasant land look typical of England in the steam era. It’s rare to see a layout without lush trees and verdant fields. Yes, I’ll put my hand up and confess that ALL my layouts have this look.

But the recent hot weather coupled with a lack of rain has turned much of our green and pleasant landscape into scorched earth.

Photograph of central Europe taken from space showing the dried out landscape during the summer of 2018
Just look at this image taken by German astronaut Alexander Gerst. He was shocked when he saw how brown his homeland had become. What was once all green is now brown.

Just had a chance to take my first photos of dried-out Central Europe and Germany since a few weeks, and was shocked. What should have been green, is now all brown. Never seen it like this before. #Horizons

— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) August 6, 2018

Do something different with your model railway

So why not do something different, capture the hot summer of 2018 in miniature form and give your layout a unique look.

Green fields look nice and all that but they get a bit samey after a while!

It’s something I’ve now decided to do with my modern-era OO/EM Gauge shed layout and frankly,ly I’m looking forward to the change of scenery….

How to create sun-dried scenery

Creating brownfields and grass is actually really easy.

It’s just a case of using static grass or grass mats as you would normally but using brown grass instead of the usual lush greens.

The problem is finding suitable brown static grass. I’ve previously written about creating your static grass from teddy bear fur and initially thought it would just be a case of doing this but skipping the colouring steps. Teddy bear fur is brown after all. It’ll look like brown grass, right?

Unfortunately not.

Dried grass in fields has a yellow tint to it with patches of darker areas. The teddy bear’s fur brown was the wrong shade and lacked variation.

Instead, I’ve found a ready-made perfect static grass.

It’s by WWS. A mix of their dead and patchy static grasses with the occasional scorched grass tuffs work perfectly. They also do them in 1mm, 2mm and 4mm so can be used for N, OO and HO scales.

Application is as usual with a static grass applicator like my my prefered one and a suitable glue — PVA etc.

The results are superb. WWS deserve a lot of credit for their authentic grass, it really looks the part and perfectly recreates the look of fields this summer.

One final tip

On the torched fields of this Summer, crop marks — where buildings and monuments once stood — are even more visible with the location of undiscovered ancient buildings being revealed for the first time.

If you create sunburnt fields, why not introduce a few crop marks of your own to your fields? It adds uniqueness to your layout. To do this read my post on creating crop marks.

> 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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