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I'm on the way to start my small N scale diorama. I have 1 meter / 80 cm available space (that's 100 meters / 160 meters in nature).

I have in mind that for this project to try to replicate as close as possible a surface that actually exists somewhere. I don't mind my layout will be very simple, as long as it does replicates with high fidelity a real area.

To start, I need a map / plan of a real 100 / 160 meters territory, with level curves displayed, and also many photos of the area.

My preference goes towards a mountain/hills area, with one railroad passing through.

Have you tried something similar ? Do you have any ideas how can I get some "real territory" map ? I've seen "Terragen" this morning, and it seems that I can use it to import some real data...but I'm not sure.

Any help, highly welcomed .

Thank you,


Railroad Photographer
Have you looked into Google Earth? Lots of places on the earth are viewable at many angles in fairly high definition.


Been Nothin' Since Frisco
Viorel, what is the location you're looking for? If it's within the United States, I can point you to a resource with pretty reliable contour mapping. has digitized versions of every quadrangle map for the US and they can be viewed on their website. You have to purchase the maps to have a record of them since you can't just click the image to save it. However, nothing prevents you from capturing the image displayed on your screen...

You might also try the governing agencies for the area you're interested in. Many cities have Engineering Departments that keep records of drainage plans as well as other mapping information on file. County governments keep records of real property for tax purposes and some of these maps go pretty far with additional information like elevation contours. And virtually every location in the US is covered by FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which illustrate areas that are prone to inundation by 100-year floods. These maps typically do not have contours except in low-lying areas, but they can help for the topography near rivers, creeks, streams and lakes.

And there are other governmental resources as well. For example, my area, the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, is covered by a regional governing body called North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG or "COG" for short). COG issues a number of standards for development, such as standardizing the size and depth of sewer manholes for specific situations. COG also provides a website,, which features a GIS themed interactive map which can display contours on demand. Other large cities and regions surely have similar resources, so search the web with your location and GIS mapping to see what you can find if none of the other solutions help.

Good luck!


Thanks for the valuable advice, guys ! :). I do imagine that the things I will be able to put on my 1 m / 1.6 meters will be very few, but I still want to give it a try :D. I'll keep you updated on my progress.


I've finally decided on the area, near my hometown. As I couldn't find any map with enough details, I've decided to ask somebody to raise a map for me.

The measurements :

Last edited by a moderator:


Today I got the terrain map :D !

I've took a photo of the map, and here we go with a first 3D representation. It does match what I remember from the field ;).





Been Nothin' Since Frisco
Is that some form of Digital Elevation Model? Do you have access to the point file collected in the field or the CAD file? It will be interesting to see how you use this data to create the model.

Anyway, I ask because I've been working on something similar over the years.



I've hired a professional who raised the terrain configuration for me. As output from him, I have an A3 page with 13 level curves and around 120 points. As I was very impatient to take a look at my model, I've took a photo of the paper sketch, and I've used the photo as input (after some manual coloring processing) for Leveller .

As next step, I'll have a more accurate scanning of the paper page, and I think I'll use Terragen ( to get a model more "live" .

I'll keep everybody informed on my progress.


grove den

naturally natural trees
Hi Viorel!
"Sounds"HIGH tech to me...
May be these are the first staps in a new age of modelling landscape for "common" mrr....
Great to be "part" on how you do the reasurch...


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