I did a few scenery tests yesterday in the vicinity of Maizerets. My goal was to determine if lots of trees could be opaque enough to free me from a photo backdrop. The short answer is no. I used a lot of trees made of twigs to fill a height inches deep zone in the background. No amount of bare trees hides the fact there’s nothing behind the hedge. That would work wonders with summer and autumn trees, but not in the leafless season. So I’ll have to print the photo backdrop.
Another find was that you really need some diversity to make your forest believable. I mean most of the trees I used were about the same size. Height varied, but trunks were about the same average diameter. It makes the forest looks very uniform, which it isn’t in real life. I’ll have to think about a method make larger trees and multiple-trunk trees to get a good illusion.
Also, very small trees and bushes will be required to fill the space between the ditch and the forested area. It came really apparent to me your backdrop must be multi-layered. My goal will be to focus attention on the track, having the tree line (foreground and background) acts as a visual barrier. I feel having many layers makes your eyes focus on the limit of the forested area, not the blue sky backdrop which isn’t the place you want attention. Anyway, we are looking at our model from a relatively short distance, so when we look at tracks and trains, everything else is blurred.
Hiding the river will be a challenge. I found out the best option is to make larger trees overshadowing the small creek near the track. Their branches will help to focus our attention on the river itself and not the wall limit.
Another issue is how said trees have all the same color. In that respect, I’ll probably overspray a few twigs different shades of brown, grey and other realistic colors to give some subtle variation and mimick various species.
The foreground trees are indeed a nice addition. They truly trick your eyes believing the train is crossing a landscaped area and not only a track nested between an overpowering backdrop and empty space (aisle). I had already planned to resort to this gimmick while planning the layout and I’ll definitely use it in the future. Seriously, you can't underestimate how a few leafless trees can make a piece of track looks far longer and fully integrated into the landscape. This is an excellent scenery divider that doesn’t need to scream “scenic divider” like a tunnel or an overpass.
Talking about overpass, we came to the conclusion our Henri-Bourassa Boulevard overpass near the staging area is gonna be a little bit more subtle than we first envisioned. One of the great qualities of Maizerets is its linear and open space feeling. It makes the scene looks very large and a great place to railfan trains and shoot pictures along the broad curves. It wasn’t planned like this and it’s a great modelling lesson of humility.
No, you don’t need breathtaking vistas to make your trains looks great! I should have learned it already from my Quebec Southern Railway experimental layout last year. Funny how this whimsical layout is still teaching me a lot about model railroading and scene composition. I think it is a primordial step to mock something before setting out for a larger layout. It cost almost nothing, but the reward is rich in the long term.
Just look how the diminutive Rivière de la cabane aux Taupins scene is evolving. It was supposed to be only a small culvert and it is now my favorite railfan spot!