Even though the hobby has developed many techniques for making scenery over the years, there are still challenges. Many articles and books have been written on the subject, and each has added significantly to the materials and methods available. Today, screen wire and plaster, hard shell, and rigid foam insulation board are normally used for the scenery base; and rock molds, natural soils, paint and plaster, and ground foam are used to finish it.
Ground foam is probably the most common scenic material in the hobby today. It is easy to work with and looks like something that is growing. Just about anyone can have a good-looking model railroad using ground foam for plants and foliage. However, when you look outdoors, you not only notice variations in color, but variations in shape and tex ture. Ground foam alone isn't enough, even if applied over polyfiber, lichen or another material, and it doesn't look like taIl grass. This is where we need to ex-pand our modeling methods. Something that I have tried recently is a product called Silflor, made by Scenic Express.
Silflor is a scenery mat made from a very fine fiber similar to rayon. It is quite thick and comes in 4" x 6" or 12" x 19" sheets. The fibers of the Silflor mats stand up somewhat straight, so Silflor offers a different texture from ground foam or foliage clumps. It comes in a variety of colors, including autumn, spring and summer (and with five variations in each of these), with and without "weeds," and in short, medium or tall heights: 2mm, 5mm, and 8mm tall.
The different colors and sizes can be used together, but the manufacturer says to be careful when mixing different seasons of the year. It can be clustered to produce tall bushes and thick growth, and used as-is it makes great short weeds and grasses. The fibers can be made to stand up to create the tall, wild and unruly weeds that climb up portals and walls, and it appears to be very suit- able for fann fields, hedgerows or meadows. Silllor should also be very useful along overgrown railroad tracks that receive little maintenance, by dirt roads, and next to streams and ponds.
I decided to see what I could do with it on a fann scene on my HO scale layout, shown in the accompanying photos. It was used in the foreground and between the tracks. Carrying out the idea of multiple textures and colors in nature, I blended it together with coarse foams, natural soil and dirt, plus polyfiber covered with ground foams. I was pleased with the results.
The best way to use Silflor is to cut it with a pair of scissors into small, odd shapes and apply white glue to the back of the mat. Next, either with your fingers I or with long tweezers, place the material on the layout and push it down. In parts of this scene I alternated long and short pieces of one color next to each other an irregular pattern. I also mixed in dirt and sand to get a little earth around the Silflor itself; this is an effective way of hiding the edge of the mat.
If you are modeling a stream bank lake, I recommend finishing the grow cover and adding the Silflor, then applying the Envirotex or acrylic gloss mediurn. Also, if you are modeling a far field, use a different color of Silflor from the grass outside the fence to emphasize the crop area. Along a dirt road you might use a more-yellow colored mat to create the impression of dry grass.
The farm scene I modeled is actually on a lift-out hatch on my layout. I started with one-half inch thick plywood, then peeled off the top layer of paper from a piece of corrugated cardboard box. After gluing the corrugated cardboard ribbed side up on the plywood and sifting fine soil onto it (the soil was secured with diluted white glue), I had a good representation of a plowed field. The fence was made from stripwood painted white. Finally, I glued on the irregular shapes of Silflor and added some trees and sifted dirt. A few Prieser figures and some vehicles finished the scene.
With all the new models, kits and electronics available, we are living in a great time to be a model railroader. The addition of Silflor to our scenery-making supplies allows us one more way of making our layouts look more realistic.