When is too much detail too much?

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I've always thought that there is such thing as too much detail. But when do you come to the realization that you are over doing it? I have been gifted with a large area to build my future layout and I do like lots of detail but don't want to over do it.

So I pose this question to you guys, when do say stop?



Well... I think it depends on what you want to do. I plan to build very small, layouts of specific locations and build them as close to scale as possible, so as far as my own modelling is concerned, I add as much detail as I can. Were I going to build a room sized empire with hundreds of locomotives and pieces of rolling stock and countless structures, detailing wouldn't be as far up on my list of priorities.

I guess it just depends on what you are trying to do with your modelling, are you looking at the big picture? Or are you focused on something very small and specific.


Well once I can get the photos I took off the Sony HandyCam and onto the pc, I can share with you the size of my modeling area. It is rather large and I want it to run around three of the existing walls of the area...



I don't believe that you can add to much detail to a scene.If your modeling a specific prototype scene and the detail is on the prototype it should be in the model scene or at least suggested by your modeling.

Steve B

I am adding detail to suit my lousy eyesight, if it looks good to me, it's good enough for anyone who should come around. I am not adding to much in the way of detail parts to loco's and cars, but detail to street scene's will hopefully be detailled to a nice level without going over the top.


Diesel Detail Freak
Its hard, BUT detail on scenes CAN be overdone, when you try to fit to much happening in too little space. Just make it even, and as realistic as possible, don't overcroud one small spot.


Running the MC & Buffalo
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I say what is pleasing to your eye and you are satisfied you have the scene right then it is done.


I agree with Paul. Details help define the scene and draw in the viewer's eye. But the only eye that really matters is yours.


Scott, I have my layout in a 24x40 foot garage and it takes up most of it. While this size allows for an operational wonderland and a lot of flexability, it has the drawback of being expensive and extremely time consuming for detailing. Trust me when I say, scenery and detailing are much more expensive on a large layout than locomotives and controls. It doesn't seem like much when you look at a building that cost $28, but when you realize you need 10 for a small area, then...???

What I am trying to do is have about half the layout as mountain/rural type scenery with some detail and go with more detail in the towns and industrial areas. Later on, if time and money allow, I can always go with more detail in the other half.;)

As to your question of too much detail, I don't think you can over do it as long as you stay with what is in a prototypical scene. However, you can run into operational hazards by getting things in your way for routine maintenance, troubleshooting, rerailing cars and etc. A biggy is power lines. They look great, but can get snagged easily while rerailing a car.:)


I agree there is no such thing as too much detail, at least not in theory... It adds interest to a scene and if done correctly it makes it more realistic.

On the other hand, you have to be selective about how much detail you commit to. If one of your scenes is highly detailed, visitors will expect the same level of detail in others. Consider that if you're working in a room the size of a basketball court. As other have mentioned, details can quickly add up.

For example, ground foam for grass looks great, but since they sell it in tiny bags with not so tiny prices, better do some math and figure out how much flocking those 40 acre fields will cost.

The same logic applies to other details. Consider the cost, in time and dollars, that a certain level of detail will exact.

I'd suggest picking a moderate level of detail at first, you can always go back and add more.


Long Winded Old Fart
I agree w/everyone about details. None is bad & too much is beautiful. I haven't even begun w/my RR Empire & I've been working on it for about 7 years. LOL



Coal Shoveler
The only time I think you can have too much detail is if the detailed item is the only item on the layout that is detailed to that level. Then, it might look out of place. Scenery and stuff blends in, and one can tell when something sticks out like a sore thumb.

If you have a lot of Atlas or basic IHC buildings on your layout, a Sellios-level FSM kit would probably be out of place. OTOH, a less detailed item would blend in to the rest of the scenery.



Guys,Lets look at this from a different angle..Yes,there can be to much detail in a given area.We can see this by observing the surrounding areas in which we live by looking at the details..One thing I have notice and as a former brakeman and it drives me up the wall is the way modelers insist putting rail next to the track..It needs to be moved back enough so brakeman and conductors can go about their work in a safe manner without tripping over the rails.I seen modelers "clutter" beautiful engine houses and servicing areas with way to much junk and way to many safety voilations..See where I am going with this?
By closer observation of our surroundings including industrial locations we can see things are not a hither and yonder series of details but,more of a uniform disbursement of scrap,broken and used pallets,dumpsters etc.Why? Because this "junk" will need to be hauled off long before it becomes a mountain of scrap.This applies to railroad engine and car shops as well.Remember even a scrap yard has a uniform look and scrap piles made of different types of scrap metal to include stacks of aluminum and mill scrap.
As far as Mother Nature she has her ways of locating sapling,bushes,weeds etc however you won't see weeds bushes etc around industries or railroad shops.Why? Its a health and fire hazard.
When it comes to placing the wee folk on our layouts we must ask some simple questions..What is this person doing? Would this be done in real life?
Do I have to many of the same figure in this scene? Is this scene over populated according to real life?
Again some times less is better if we are to believe our surroundings.

grove den

naturally natural trees
Just in time

Thank you BRAKIE!

I've tried :eek: all afternoon to translate how I think about:" too much" details on a layout...My dictionary is almost falling apart:rolleyes: but thanks to BRAKIE :) I can, may, have to, use it for the next comment in the futere.....:D
BRAKIE's thoughts about the subject: "too much or not too much (detail)"
are exactly the same as mine.....(He saved me from a lot of translationwork!;) )


Railroad Photographer
Detailing can be based upon what you want out of model railroading. I do my stuff on two pairs of HO scale modules, and have details all over the place because I want to photograph scenes and make them as realistic as possible.

Several other members in our local club are heavy into opreratiing. so their layouts are less detailed. One fellow started with plain plastic structures and some printed cardboard ones just to give the effect of populated areas. He's slowly been replacing them with more detailed ones, improving scenes, adding details. I've made several structures and helped with photo backdrops over the years. This has been done over a period of about 20 years but the railroad has been kept operational all of this time.

Another member has only had his layout for a few years, and he too is slowly adding better structures and details as time and money permits. Again, everything is operational, with ongoing improvements in this area too.

I personally don't have much interest in operations, so I don't have large areas of a layout to maintain. I concentrate on modeling and photography. A few other members in the club have similar interests.

I've always thought if I ever did make a permanent layout, it would be highly detailed for my photography and models and not overly operationally setup.

Each person has their own level of detailing that they want for their participation in the hobby. Enough for you may be bare bones for me!


Those are all great points Brakie...
I have often thought about what and how I should detail things and if it would be realistic or not.


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