Sunday, February 28, 2010


As an avid reader of the UK-based magazine, Model Railway Journal, I had often noted contributors’ reference to using carpet underlay to represent grass. The results always seemed quite effective. So when considering how to model long dry grass at the end of summer, I thought it was time to try the method myself.

First, I had to locate some of the underlay. This is the old, ‘hairy’ material that has now been superseded by a foam-based alternative. Consequently, trying to locate some was a little challenging! After several phone calls and a visit to a large carpet supplier’s commercial outlet, two linear meters worth was purchased. (Yes, I know; that is a lot of underlay...)

The underlay was teased apart and dunked in a bucket of cheap bleach. This gets rid of the grey/brown dye and takes it back to a light blond colour. The rinsed underlay is then glued to the layout in small balls. Once dry, the small, tightly ‘planted’ balls are severed with a scapple and then the new ‘grass’ is trimmed with a pair of small scissors.

While I could have left the bleached underlay the blond colour, it just didn’t look quite right. A treatment of highly diluted light yellow paint was applied with an airbrush to give depth and a sense of realism. I’ve provided an image of the results on my trial plywood board, which also features an attempt at using locally sourced sand and BBQ ash for ‘gravel’.

I am reasonably happy with the overall effect but in the future will use less yellow as well as other ‘earthy’ colours to tie the gravel and grass together.


Shelton D'Cruz said...

useful tip there Julian - may I ask where did you purchase the carpet underlay from?


Julian Watson said...

Hi Shelton,

I think it was from Carpet Call or some such outlet. Whichever retailer it was, I had to go to their commercial outlet to get it. This type of carpet underlay is quite difficult to find nowadays. I do know that people in the UK have switched to plant hanging basket liner but the material they have there is far finer than the rather course material available in Australia. My suggestion would be to grab the Yellow Pages and start ringing (as I did).