Quick tip for better backscenes

Vale of Oxbury model railwayHere’s a quick tip for more credible back scenes and realistic layouts.

Backscenes are pictures that sit at the rear of a model railway to add depth. They can be DIY versions that you paint or photograph yourself or commercial of the shelf variety.

One the things that struck me while viewing some of the awe-inspiring layouts at Warley national model railway show in November, however, is a neat fitting tip that makes back scenes and the whole layout look even better.

Basically, bend your back scene.

I touched on this in tip 4 in my Backscene Masterclass but having seen how effective it is on Vale of Oxbury (photo above from my visit to Warley exhibition) I feel it’s worth elaborating on it more.

Most layouts have right-angle corners, with the back scene fixed to sheets of Ply that also meet at right angles and have a nasty line where the sheets join in the corner.

This, of course, looks completely artificial and ruins otherwise great looking layouts.

What’s done on layouts such as the Vale of Oxbury, however, is to have a single image that also curves around the corner.

No nasty join and a curving horizon that looks so much more natural.

Fitting this is a matter of bending a sheet of Ply (Google it if you’re unsure how to do this), fixing the back scene picture to it and then sitting it over the corner of your layout.

The only downside is that you lose part of the corner of your layout to accommodate the curve but given how much better than layouts look I think its a compromise worth making.

As an aside, you could also incorporate a tunnel into the back scene so the out-of-sight corner space isn’t completely wasted.

Would you compromise on layout space for a more realistic back scene? I’m interested to hear your view on this.

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Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. 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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  1. On a small layout, 1.6x 1.0 metres , A oval with a single siding,with engine shed, at the front. The front of the layout was square edged, the back of the layout; one side had trees following the track curve ,both sides of track, the other side had a cutting following the curve with a pond on the inside of the track.
    MY own layout, still working on getting the track layout sorted. is a sheet of mdf. 2.4 by 1.2 metres,I like the tree idea for one of the Back corners, I am planning to have a tunnel on the other corner,starting just before the corner and ending with the exit becoming a cutting on the curve..
    I have seen on u tube a layout that had a house with yard in a corner.

    • Hi Robin, some interesting ideas there. Yards are often common in corners, a lot have a yard with a line off to a fiddle yard behind the scenes and this could fit with a tunnel into a curved backscene. Would love to see pictures of your layout as it progresses! Andy

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