Since 2002 I have exhibited one or two of my N gauge layouts at Southport every year, and I'm currently building number 14! Without an exception they all have a water feature, either a stream, river, lake, harbour, culvert or waterfall, and many of them have more than one of these. You may well have seen some of them, and (hopefully) admired their realism! If not, then don't bother reading any more of this piece!
Of course, the reason is that a scene which includes a representation of water almost always enhances a layout. I would even go as far as to say that it is very difficult to add some form of modelling water to a layout which does not add to the effectiveness of whatever scene it is in. Is there a secret formula for how to achieve success in this regard? Well, yes and no. No, because most of the available materials do 'what it says on the tin/tub/bottle etc'. If you follow the instructions correctly, and some are ridiculously easy to use, like in the picture. Most of the other materials/methods I have tried have also been effective. But yes, the secret (and of course it's not really a secret, I'm just trying to get your attention!) is in making sure that the ground you have prepared to put the 'water' on is realistic. Of course, I could say a lot more about this than in this short article (I already have in many articles and my two books), but essentially you have to have an effective scene onto which you are going to add the water. Putting the water on is only the icing on the cake, so to speak.
The river/canyon/ culvert needs to be shaped, painted, textured and finished before you add the water. I put old sheet soaked in slightly dilute PVA glue over a card lattice. When it is dry, I paint it, almost black for deeper water, then texture it with sand, gravel and foliage materials. The water in the canyon on 'Cobra Canyon' (see photo) is one of my favourites. It is made from Jarvis Countryside Water which you just pour on (only a thin layer), then allow to harden for up to three days. Once nearly dry, you can ripple it with a glue spreader or something similar. Then you can add white paint sparingly for effect. The water in the adjacent stream is Deluxe Materials Scenic Water which you just heat up and dribble on. It sets within a few minutes. The advantage over the other is that it does not run away down hill if you are careful. But of course since I made Cobra Canyon other even easier products for making mountain streams, waterfalls etc have come on the market (Busch Aqua for example). Maybe I will talk more about this and other materials next time.