This photo by Gary Morris displays what I love about winter modelling. The texture of the grass, the way the blue locomotives stand out against the drab background, and the simplicity of the scene combine to make a beautiful image.

Winter is a tough time of the year to model. Why did I decide to do such a crazy thing?

In various other seasons, there are tricks that you can use to hide unprototypical scenes.

Have an ugly switch machine poking up above your layout? Cover it with clump-foliage.

That won’t work in the winter thought. You could stick some winter foliage over it, but bare branches just don’t hide things nearly as well.

But this has forced me to look more critically at my modeling. “Does this look like reality?” “How does this compare with those photos I took?” Those types of questions result in a more realistic looking layout, but this doesn’t make it easier.

I’ve built “easy” layouts before, and while they look ok, they’ve never really satisfied me, but I never could explain why.

Then I saw Lance Mindheim’s work in Model Railroader and his website, ShelfLayouts.com. That changed it all. I saw his Monon layout that is set in the winter, and it’s stark beauty just spoke to me. I decided I wanted to do that.

So I started working with various products that “looked” like winter, but there were some serious challenges. How do I make winter trees? How about a replacement for that ever present “clump foliage” that ends up all over people’s layouts? Then what about the forest floor? I can’t just cover it in dead grass, that won’t look right. What should I do then?

It has meant having to look at scenery materials beyond Woodland Scenic’s catalog. I’ve found Scenic Express to be of immeasurable help. They carry lines of scenery products from Europe, including Silflor and Heki’s Weisengras that have proven to really solve some of the winter modelling problems.

I’ll discuss more about those in future articles.

So the real reason I decided to model winter was for the challenge. I’ve found it very fulfilling to find a technique that achieves a look that I didn’t think possible, and realize that I might be the first person using it!