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Water over the dam

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  • Member since
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  • 26 posts
Water over the dam
Posted by EngineGuy on Thursday, July 30, 2020 7:32 PM

I am currently building a scene where water will be flowing over a medium sized concrete dam. The dam is painted an aged concrete color, and the water will be made using Woodland Scenics Water Effects. I am looking for suggestions on coloring the surface of the dam where the water flows. The clear water over the concrete paint does not look correct. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Member since
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  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
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Posted by Pruitt on Thursday, July 30, 2020 8:26 PM

Well, for starters, water generally makes concrete appear darker where it's wet. Over time, since concrete is porous and water seeps into the surface, mold will often form, darkening the surface even more in spots (but not everywhere. Usually more in slower flowing water than in the faster areas of flow). Also, minerals in the water will  leach into the concrete over time and add additional stains. Rust streaks is a quite common stain where water has been flowing for an extended period.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, July 31, 2020 3:54 AM

Many years ago, I think in or before the '40s, a model-railroad reference book said to model 'falling water' with translucent face material and a lighted, painted cylinder rotating behind to simulate the subtle shimmer of moving water.  This could easily be darkened give the surface color and appearance of "wet concrete' when the lights are off.  You'd need to put light baffling behind the area and paint the mechanism parts black, etc. to keep the slipway from appearing as a 'window' in ambient light.

For additional fun you could cast up pieces corresponding to increased flow over the slipway to go with the visual interest of periodically adjusting your 'water levels'... 

  • Member since
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  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
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Posted by dknelson on Friday, July 31, 2020 10:35 AM

In general, my sense is that you hardly see the underlying dam material at all and thus I would not agonize over its color or shade.  The water going over the dam or waterfall tends not to be really transparent at all 

There have been many articles over the years on modeling waterfalls and dams and I have seen a fair number of layouts that include such features.  Sometimes what impresses you "live" at the layout turns out not to photograph terribly well, perhaps because you study a photo in greater detail and at your leisure, versus just glancing at it and thinking it is done nicely.

I do recall one where the modeler used many strands of fishing line (translucent stuff) over a dowel set at the future height of the dam or waterfall, doused it in clear latex caulk running down the fishing line, dry brushed some white highlights, and then cut away the now combined latex caulk and fishing line from the dowel and sit it on top of the dam or waterfall.  Where the "falling water" meets the water down below is usually a haze of mist and splash so you don't see a "solid" meeting the water.  Lighting might be crucial here too.

Psychologically, the illusion might be helped considerably with sound!  

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  • From: Central Vermont
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Posted by cowman on Friday, July 31, 2020 7:49 PM

Algae also grows wehre the water is not moving fast, it can be from a dark green to almost black.

The example I remember using fishline, they wrapped the line around a folded piece of cardboard, covered it with clear caulk, made a single slice, removed the cardboard, then adjusted to fit the dam.  

I've seen white polyfiber (fish tank filter floss) used in waterfalls, would add to the appearnce of moving water over the dam, I think.

Good luck,


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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, July 31, 2020 8:41 PM

My project was much smaller than a dam but the water does look real.

I used a strip of .02” thick clear plastic for the base and WS Water Effects for the water.  I just drug the Water Effects length wise several times with the plastic laying flat until it setup.  By placing the strip so it looks like the water is spilling out of the water wheel with the wheel turning slowly (about 8 RPM) it looks very realistic.

The water from the trough was done the same way.  The water in the trough and under the wheel is Magic Water.

Slopping some Water Effects on the water wheel makes it look wet.

I’ve had good luck using WS Water Effects but lousy luck with WS Realistic Water, Magic Water works much better than Realistic Water.


My Model Railroad
Bakersfield, California
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.

  • Member since
    March 2020
  • 27 posts
Posted by FlattenedQuarter on Saturday, August 1, 2020 5:21 PM

Are you using real water on a circulating pump? Try coloring the water with a little food coloring, real water never looks like tap water.

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Posted by EngineGuy on Saturday, August 1, 2020 5:44 PM

I am using WS Water Effects for the cascading water over the dam. I am mainly trying to determine how to paint the surface of the dam behind the 'water' to get the best effect. There have been several comments and suggestions that have given me some ideas that I am going to try.

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