How to Make a Layout Look Bigger Than it Is

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How to Make a Layout Look Bigger Than it Is

When our space is limited and we want our layout to appear bigger than it is, there are a few ways we can maximize the space we have. 


Backdrops are common in model railroading and gaining popularity in 1/64 scale model farms and cities. A backdrop is either a photo or painted scene that gives the viewer a visual cue that there is something going on in the distance. 

A backdrop adds depth and texture that cannot be physically produced due to lack of space. Common backdrops include clouds and landscapes. But they can also include roads, buildings, trees, and a variety of scenes related to the type of layout we want to make. 

In a farm scene with a corn field, a backdrop can include a corn field that gives the viewer the impression the field is bigger than it actually is. 

 In a city, urban or industrial scene, the backdrop can include a variety of buildings and streets. 

Building Fronts

Building fronts can be purchased commercially or made at home. A building front is a printed image of a building that can be applied directly to a backdrop, or glued to a foam board and cut out to add another layer of depth. 

For a completely custom look a variety of building images can be created on a computer or copied from the web and enhanced. 

Half a Building

Going off the building front idea, a partial building can be made. Farm buildings often take up a lot of space. This is not necessary if the building will not be full of details or machines. Half of a building can be placed at an edge of a layout with a backdrop on the inside showing machines that are not actually in the building but give the impression they are.  

This allows a building to have a nice looking building on the layout without using up precious real estate. 

 The same idea can be applied to an urban situation. Half of an apartment complex or row of houses could be placed at an edge of the layout for depth and texture without using up space for other features. 


Adding contours to your layout is another very natural way to add depth. Anywhere appropriate, add hills and contour to the landscape. Changes in height can visually make scenes look deeper and longer. 

This can be accomplished by layering different thicknesses of styrofoam board, then using plastar to cover the board and smooth out angles to give a rolling look. Rivers, mountain or rock outcrops can accomplish this look as well. 

 With imagination, good planning, and creative placement of structures, a great looking layout can be made in a minimal amount of space.  The strategies add much to the visual appearance of a layout. 

Can I use a Model Train on my Farm or City Layout? Of course! There are some considerations. Read, Using Trains on the Model Farm or Truck Layout