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Create a soybean field for your garden railroad

By Jerry Paladino | May 17, 2021

Hardware-store items help create this agricultural scene

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A garden railroad scene with a model soybean field.
A garden railroad scene with a model soybean field.
Making a soybean field is easy and takes just a few supplies from the hardware store. Photo by Jerry Paladino

Always looking for new ways to make the farm scene on my garden railroad layout look more realistic, I decided to add a field of crops. With my limited knowledge of gardening, creating long rows of perfectly aligned tiny plants just wasn’t possible. I pondered several ideas but discovered the best one as I strolled the aisles at my local Ace Hardware store. I found a roll of carpet runner. I bought a 6-foot-long piece of the material, which would fit the available space on my layout perfectly. The material was inexpensive—I paid just $11.00 for the carpet.

Turning the ribbed style carpet into a believable miniature soybean field really took little work. The carpet was a light brown in color and had unwanted smooth edges. I trimmed them off with a razor knife on both sides, leaving roughly a half-inch of the material next to the first row. Then I spray painted the entire carpet with a dark brown paint.

Painting a piece of carpet runner with green paint
Photo by Jerry Paladino

Next, take a small trim paint roller and lightly paint the tips of the ribs on the carpet dark green. Use a light touch when painting the tips of the ribs; otherwise, the green paint will seep between the crop rows. After the paint dried, I painted some rows randomly with a lighter color green paint. Some variation in color is good, as it adds more realism to the crop.

Installing the field took some planning, as I live in Nebraska and my layout endures upper 90-degree summer days on occasion with no shade and below zero temperatures in the winter months. Throw in high wind and torrential rain storms, and it goes without saying that I needed a solid method of attaching the soybean field to the ground. I settled on a simple way of securing the field to the ground.

 

Four handmade stakes made from wood
Make simple wooden stakes to push into the ground. Photo by Jerry Paladino

I used four wood stakes that I drove into the ground, then I used screws to anchor the material at each corner. A member of my garden railroad club mentioned I could have glued the carpet material to a sheet of PVC material or concrete board and just laid the piece on the ground. I’m sure this would work, but I think using my method pulls the material closer to the ground. I do have a little wave in the field but I’m ok with that as it adds a bit of realism.

The field of soybeans has survived its first rain storm and I’m happy to report it survived. A little dirt from the surrounding area did flow in and around the field, but I can easily sweep that off later if I desire.

A piece of carpet runner, a drill, and a wooden stake
A wood stake has been inserted into the ground. The author will screw the runner onto the stakes to secure it in place. Photo by Jerry Paladino

My wife Karen grew up in a small farm in southwest Iowa. Her Mom affectionately called her by her middle name, Sue, so it was easy to find a name for my soybean company. I only remember her Dad growing corn but I’m sure there were some soybeans on that farm somewhere too. I hope you give my method of soybean crops a try in your railroad.

 The model soybean field in place next to a farm.
Photo by Jerry Paladino
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