Your First 1/64 Scale Layout
When considering your first layout for diecast, there are some key ingredients to make the most of space and budget. The great thing about 1/64th scale layouts is the amount of creativity and flexibility that is offered.
First there is a great selection of farm and truck models in all price ranges and detail. This allows beginners an opportunity to get in at ground level and learn. Then, add higher detail models as skill improves.
Before we get too far though, there are several things to consider before we spend money on a layout and the models that will go on it.
How Much Space Do You Have Available?
It is not uncommon in the diecast farming hobby to hear “I want to make an exact layout of my grandpa’s 12 acre farm”. This is completely doable if a guy has a dedicated basement or building for the layout. One 4×8 sheet of plywood or foam board is three acres. To make an exact replica of the example farm would require four sheets of plywood or foam board.
There are ways to make fields and buildings “look” bigger or give an illusion that is bigger than they are. That will be covered in another article.
Which Scale Do You Prefer Working With?
Fat finger syndrome or bad eyesight can sometimes force us to consider the larger scales. It can be very frustrating trying to airbrush small parts.
They can be very fiddly! Children will find it easier operating and manipulating the bigger scales, from HO scale upwards. Bigger scales tend to use lots of diecast too for a heavier feel.
What Accessories Are Available?
Over the years the 1/64th scale models have become very detailed with tons of variety. The downside is layout accessories have not kept pace leaving hobbyists scrambling to find and create what is desired
Thanks to 3D printing, there is a growing variety of accessories for layouts so keep an eye open in this growing market.
Permanent or Portable
Decide if this layout will be a permanent fixture or if it will be moved. If the layout will be moved to competitions or shows to display, special considerations for the building and other fixtures must be made in addition to the type of material the layout will be built on.
The permanent layout.
The permanent layout resides in dedicated space for this purpose. This allows the toy farmer or trucker the ease of adding structures, trees and other details without the worry of how those items will be packed when the layout is moved for a competition or to show off at toy shows.
Structures and vegetation can be fixed in place with adhesives allowing us to move vehicles and stage our models the way we wish without the worry of knocking over pieces or moving them out of place.
The Portable layout
A portable layout is just what it implies. The plan is to take the layout to competitions or to places for others to enjoy such as county fairs. In this situation, structures and all fragile parts that can be damaged while moving must be packed away and replaced on the layout.
How big should my first layout be?
The size of a layout will be largely dictated by the space available to use. It could be a long shelf on a wall or 4×8 sheets of plywood in a basement or garage. In a farm layout situation, one thing to keep in mind is one 4×8 sheet of plywood is 3 acres in 1/64th scale.
Why is a 4×8 sheet and 3 acres important? That is language farmers speak. In our mind we may want to replicate a farm that sat on 10 or more acres with livestock facilities, machine sheds, barns plus a house and driveway. In that example we would need 2+ 4×8 sheets to scale everything out.
In a trucking situation, we may want to replicate a truck stop to show off multiple semis. It is not uncommon however for an average truck stop to be 5+ acres of parking stalls, gas island, restaurant and convenience store.
In this case it is good to draw important features of the layout on paper to see how all the desired features work together. Then move to creating the layout. This way we have a realistic layout without crowding what we want to have on it.
How to make the layout look bigger
A great way to make a layout “look” big is to use illusion and the imagination of the viewer. For example, if we want the illusion a field is bigger than it is, we can place the field on an edge of a sheet giving us a place to set a machine working. The machines are displayed and working the field simply goes off the layout.
This simple technique can be used with roads, tree rows, even buildings. A building front can be placed on an edge so we can see the front and the rest is left to the imagination off the layout.
What should the base be
Plywood is one option used for many farm and truck layouts. There are some who glue an entire sheet of plywood of the same dimensions of the top of their plywood bench or table. Usually, 3/4” plywood is used on the tables and for plywood subroadbed. Using plywood subroadbed as a full sheet works best on smaller layouts.
Not a popular material in the diecast farming and trucking hobby but an option. Cork subroadbed is the same material used as stoppers for wine bottles. You can get in strips, sheets, or custom cut strips that match the shape of roads etc. How you use it is partially up to your own ideas and comfort level and partially up to what you want to achieve. If you want to make subroadbed for a large area of your layout of the entirety of a small layout you can use a thin sheet of cork glued to the plywood surface of the table.
Another less used option but an option nonetheless. Homasote is a brand name for a cellulose-based fiber wall board that is similar in manufacture to papier-mâché. Some modelers love it but there are some who believe the fact it is made of paper fiber means it will warp easily. Just like with any of the other materials, Homasote can be used as a sheet or in strips.
Foam Board is also known as extruded foam insulation and foam core (and sometimes spelled as “foam board”). It is easily available at home improvement stores in 1”, 1 ½”, or 2” thicknesses (sometimes thicker in colder regions). Foam board is glued atop the wooden bench or table, and if desired, another layer is glued atop the first for those seeking contours such as hills. Foam board is possibly the most popular type of material to use for subroadbed because it is inexpensive, easy to acquire, and easy to work with. Once in place, foam board can be cut and carved to make stream beds for rivers and creeks, canyons or gullies, or lake beds, again making it very versatile.
Fields and Roads
In 1/64 scale farming and trucking, these types of layouts are dominated with fields and concrete in the form of fields (cultivated and crops) and concrete (roads, parking lots).
Like so much of this hobby, there are choices that need to be made and are dependent on the type of farm layout we want.
Pasture land can be made in a variety of ways. For the beginner, simple indoor outdoor carpet offers an inexpensive entry into making a layout. There is a variety of products produced by Woodlands Scenics such as grass mat. Roll out the mat, fix in place and a pasture is ready to go.
For a slightly more sophisticated look, Woodlands Scenics offers different turf colors in a powder style form that can be sprinkled over glue. Colors can be blended for a specific look which makes this product very versatile.
For an advanced option, static grass can be used which gives the most realistic way to make what looks like real grass.
To recreate fields we will need to decide, what crop needs to be growing, at what stage is the crop growing, is this field pre plant, post harvest, growing? Many choices need to be made ahead of time.
Preplant or empty field
A basic field can be made with good old fashioned dirt. This can be found around any home or garden, or an actual farm field. There are products from the model railroad hobby that can be purchased to also look like soil.
The most realistic corn is produced by TOp Shelf Replicas and is offered in various maturities. One affordable option is to use party toothpicks in yellow or green to represent ripe or growing corn.
Harvested corn can be broken toothpick inserted into the board, this is where foam sheets are preferred over a plywood or other kind of base.
Wheat fields can be made by using different types of carpet. A grass mat that is light in color is available and can give the appearance of wheat or even a mature grass field depending on how the layout is used.
Static grass is a popular way to make wheat fields as well.
The source for realistic cotton is Top Shelf Replicas.
Static grass in a color to represent various hay field colors works great. Various kinds of carpet can be used as well as grass mat.
In actual 1/64th scale, soybeans are being produced by Top Shelf Replicas
Crops such as milo do not have an “off the shelf” option at this moment. There have been scale modelers creating scenes that give an appearance of crops that cannot be purchased commercially. These crops are generally hand made using manufactured and even organic products. Of course we can always take a cue from Model railroaders and use a variety of scenic materials from that hobby. They are not 1/64th scale but could be used on a layout with a good story line.
See a catalog of scenic materials here
Roads and Concrete
Roads and concrete can be considerably easier to replicate for a beginner as there are choices ranging on skill and confidence level.
For roads, there are “highway” products that can be purchased in a roll and rolled out on a layout. The products are commonly self adhesive or can be glued in place. They include the white and yellow lines commonly found on public roadways. This makes a super easy way to add a road to a layout.
Roads can also be added to a layout using latex house paint in a color desired for the road. Black paint, for example, can be painted on a plywood or foam board to the width desired, then white and yellow lines can be added. This option allows the builder flexibility to have intersections, turn off points to other kinds of roads or driveways.
Concrete is as simple as finding a gray color of paint that looks like concrete. This is far and away the easiest and most economical way to make a shop floor, parking lot, and roads as well.
Building and Structures
Recreating a farm has a variety of structures that can be included. First, we can have a house, then there are out buildings, machine sheds, barns, hay sheds, grain bins…the list is long.
The easiest way to find a building is to do a Google search for 1/64th scale building. Kits can be found for homes and a variety of buildings can be found that can be assembled and customized the way we wish.
For beginners, Ertl offers machine sheds along with models that can be assembled and used as is.
Kits for everything from machine sheds and homes to complex grain handling facilities can be purchased, assembled, and customized as skills grow.
For urban settings, again, a quick search on the internet yields a variety of structures from gas stations to loading docks for semis.
All the structures mentioned in this section come in a variety of price points and detail is reflected in the price generally. Some types of structures such as grain facilities will cost more due to size.
Keep reading! We will dive into other topics dedicated to 1/64 scale layouts. Here is one you will love as a beginner Choosing the Best Scale