Something often found in the South is a swamp. Allen Keller has two swamps on his Bluff City Southern model railroad layout. One swamp is down by the Mississippi River and the other is in the area between Toone, Tennessee, and Jackson and the Hatchie River Bottoms. His swamp at the Hatchie River Bottoms is made of plaster that has been painted with a number of coats of polyurethane varnish over the top. He doesn’t use resin or epoxy.
There are a number of things sticking up out of the swamp that create a more realistic appearance. One is a piece of sagebrush and another is a tree root, or bush root stuck upside down. Allen explains that swamps must have lily pads, water lilies on top of them, reeds, and cattails.
Allen demonstrates how he creates these crucial aspects of the swamp. To make reeds, he uses raffia that is stained green, and then takes a coarse steel brush and runs it over the raffia to make individual strands. He uses Scenic Express reed and cattail stalks for his cattails. Broken sticks and sage brush twigs look good in his swamp as well.
For the lily pads, he simply hole-punches a sheet of green-painted styrene and glues them down with white glue. For the water lilies, Allen uses glass beads and spray-paints them white to glue them down on top of the lily pads. His wife, Janet, goes on to ask Allen how his enjoyment of the hobby has changed over the years. Allen used to enjoy building for his railroad, but now enjoys being able to operate it in a manner that is prototypical. He now has seven or eight people that come over to operate on a regular basis.
Watch the full video to learn the technique he uses for his rolling stock or watch more from Allen Keller’s Great Model Railroad series.