An easy way to make realistic moving water
When plans called for a waterfall on my N scale Duck Creek & Marshland RR, I was stuck. Since the DC&M is a series of portable modules, I needed something light and sturdy. I’d seen waterfalls made with polymer resins, or “angel hair” material, but none had the smooth, glittering appearance I wanted. While fishing one day, an idea hit me.
I decided to try bonding a mat of nylon monofilament line with clear liquid weather strip to produce a flexible sheet of water. Mono line is very strong, and I had already used liquid weather strip to simulate a country stream as described in “Weather-strip water” (January 1989 Model Railroader).
I used waxed paper, corrugated cardboard, and masking tape to make a form. A straightedge and a utility knife with a new blade are needed to cut the finished sheet. I used a caulking gun to apply weather strip to the mono line and used quick-setting epoxy to secure the finished sheet to my layout.
You can find mono line at any sporting goods or general merchandise store. I recommend clear-blue fluorescent line in 8-pound test. A small spool of about 100 yards should be plenty. Clear liquid weather strip is available at hardware stores and home improvement centers.
Forming the water
Start by measuring the height and width of your waterfall. The height of the sheet will need to be a little longer than the vertical distance between levels of riverbed to allow for the arc formed by water spilling over the edge. For falls of 11/2″, I made a sheet about 13/4″ high.
Cut a piece of cardboard at least 2″ wider than the width of the falls and slightly greater than the height. My waterfall is 4″ wide, so my cardboard form was 7″ wide and 2″ high. Wrap waxed paper around the form and secure it with masking tape (see fig. 1).
Cut short slits at each end of the form to hold the ends of the mono line and begin wrapping the line around the form in the direction of the falling water. Keep the line at right angles to the edge at all times and build up a layer of line that has no gaps (fig. 2).
With the caulking gun, apply a bead of weather strip to the mono line near one edge of the form, as shown in fig. 3. Using your fingers, firmly work the bead into the line parallel to it. I suggest wearing a disposable glove.
It’s important that the weather strip covers the line completely. Then allow the weather strip to cure until dry to the touch, usually in about an hour.
After it’s dry, cut the sheet from the form with a utility knife and straightedge as shown in fig. 4. Use many light cutting strokes and keep steady pressure on the straightedge. Mono line is very tough and resilient, but with some practice you’ll find the right amount of pressure to get a clean cut. Carefully peel the sheet, wax paper and all, off the cardboard form. Then peel the wax paper from the sheet. Patience is the key.
Refer to your original measurements and cut the sheet to size. Before gluing it on the layout, paint the riverbed and the face behind the falls. When the paint is dry, use quick-setting epoxy to glue the sheet to the top of the falls (see fig. 5). Hold it in place until the epoxy sets, about three to five minutes. Finally glue the bottom of the sheet to the riverbed. Coat the riverbed and falls with artist’s gloss varnish, allow it to dry, and use flat white paint to simulate churning water at the base of the falls.
It seems appropriate to use fishing line to simulate a waterfall. Now if I could just figure out how to stock the river with trout! 1
Tim Wickerham lives in Milwaukee, Wis., where he works in the model railroading industry. When not scrambling to keep up with developments in the hobby, he enjoys fishing and reading.