Reach For New Horizons


One of the downsides of modeling from afar is the physical distance from me to my prototype. For the IAIS Grimes Line, I could (and routinely did) conduct research to and from work, since I crossed the line on my daily commute. With The Hills Line, it’s a two-hour drive one way from here to Iowa City.


So when it comes to photographic research, either for backdrops or buildings, I have to plan ahead and maximize my time on the eastern side of the state. Even so, there are times that it’s considerably more convenient to pull from Google Streetview photos via Google Earth.


For the large photo backdrop along Lafayette Street, I created a single panorama by stitching several Streetview photos together in Photoshop. Since the Auto-Blend Layers option is an algorithmic process, it took a few attempts until I had a somewhat usable scene. Even then, significant clean-up work was needed. However, that’s true of any photo work, regardless of the source.


The backdrop was sliced into individual sections, each designed to fit onto a letter-sized sheet of paper. Creating a complete panorama from single sheets does create a lot more seams. However, it is much easier to cut and mount one section at a time. Plus, if one part gets damaged, I don’t have to replace the entire scene.


Previously I had detailed how I used 3M Super 77 spray adhesive to attach photos to my rolled aluminum backdrop. I’ve since found a much more forgiving method. DAP Kwik Seal Plus Adhesive Sealant is applied to the back of the paper and spread smooth with either a putty knife or my finger. It acts very similar to wallpaper paste, giving me considerably more time to set and adjust each section.


One in place, I use a rubber roller to smooth the photo section and evenly attach it to the backdrop. Any touch-ups or loose edges can be attached with small spots of the sealant as needed.


I still need to blend the backdrop colors in with the foreground, especially along the roads and sidewalks. Even in this unfinished state, the addition of the photos extends the horizon for miles and miles.

5 thoughts on “Reach For New Horizons

  1. I know that story all too well. My present layout is based upon my home town of Meridian, Texas, also a two hour drive from my present home. I also used street view to collect images from the town for my backdrop.
    I used a different method to attach the strips, one I picked up from the internet (I honestly don’t remember who), od using rolled painters tape to hold the strips. Believe it or not, the backdrop is still in place two years later.
    However, talk about distance and time, my next layout, in research and scratch-built structure mode at present, is 4865 miles away and 72 years in the past, based on the Framlingham Branch of British Railways eastern line. Tough to use street view there although some structures remain.
    You’re doing a bang-up job on the layout and I always look forward to updates and videos from you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice with the sealant. The spray is nice aside from basically having to nail it the first time. How do you go about sizing your backdrop photos? They are farther away so the standard door is 80 inches doesn’t work as well.


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