Santa Fe’s Raton Pass: Model Railroad Photorealistic Backdrop

Scroll down to content

When we first conceived the design of Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad, we knew that we wanted a photorealistic backdrop. This seemed almost impossible at first since there were no commercially available photorealistic backdrops of the Raton Pass area available.

We entertained the idea of a painted backdrop, but I had never seen one that didn’t look fake, even when done by a professional artist. painted backdrops take a good deal of time to produce and aren’t cheap to have professionally done. The painted backdrop was out of the question.

That left us with two possibilities; Paint a simple blue-sky background on the wall with a paint roller and airbrush on some clouds or, try to obtain a commercial backdrop with generic Rocky Mountain scenery that would be believable for the Raton Area.

A search of the internet revealed several companies that produced commercially available model railroad backdrops. Prices and quality seemed to vary quite a bit. The best ones where printed on high quality photo paper and covered with a clear non-glare laminate to protect the scene from fading, water, alcohol and other model railroad scenery materials.

We decided on a backdrop company called We liked the quality of their backdrops and they seemed to have the best quality lamination for protection. Searching their online catalog, we settled on a generic Colorado mountain scene and began the process of ordering enough to cover the 45 lineal feet. We wanted the backdrop to be 36-inches high to make sure the scene had a big mountain country feel and panorama. Below is a sample of the generic mountain scene we had first selected after looking at the choices available from


Although a nice scene, there was nothing in it to link it to Raton or Trinidad, but we decided to go ahead, make the call and order the backdrop, thinking it was as close to what we wanted as we could get.

When we made the call to a man answered the phone and I began to explain to him who we were, and what we were trying to accomplish. That we really desired a Raton/Trinidad area scene but since no were available we wanted to order the generic scene from their catalog. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was speaking with the owner, James Adams, and he told me that I was very lucky to have called today. When I asked him why, he said because, “I am on my way to Utah and have plans on the way back to stop in the Raton Pass area and take photos of the pass that will be added to my catalog. He advised that in about a week he would have fresh panoramic photos of the area and the photorealistic backdrop we desired could be available in about 2-weeks. We agreed to get in touch again when he was back from the trip and start the editing and order process for the backdrops. We were thrilled after talking to Mr. Adams and felt very lucky indeed to have the first commercially available photorealistic backdrops of Raton Pass for our new layout.

Soon we had received proofs from Mr. Adams that we could use to figure out which scenes we wanted to use on the layout. Using my CAD drawing of the layout elevations, I began to cut and paste his proofs onto the elevation drawings in the order that we needed. The proofs were beautiful shots of the Trinidad area and included many local landmarks, such as Fisher’s Peak, the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range. Below is my elevation sample used to crop the scenes to match our layout.


After several phone conversations and emails back and forth with Mr. Adams, he was able to blend the proofs into a beautiful panorama that we could use. The scenes below were used for our backdrop proofs, but we changed some of the clouds in the final printed versions. Starting at the top scene and going down represents the backdrop from left to right. Each scene is 3‘x 9’. As you can see, we were very lucky indeed.

Panel 1: This scene shows the Sangre De Cristo mountains west of Raton Pass.
Panel 2: This scene and panel 3 were used for general Trinidad/Raton areas.
Panel 3.
Panel 4: The Spanish Peaks.
Panel 5: Fisher’s Peak







Hey! While you’re here why don’t you consider giving us a helping hand? 

Ways to Donate:

  1. GoFundMe Campaign for Colorado & Southern Coach 535.

Colorado & Southern Coach 535 an important piece of history from the early 20th Century that is worthy of restoration and preservaton.  It was built by the American Car & Foundry Company in 1905 Company for the Colorado & Southern Railway. We must get it inside to do a complete restoration to original condition and to protect the car from the elements.”

To donate to Colorado & Southern Coach 535 – click here.

  1. Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad.

The Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad is about much more than merely having fun with scale trains. The model railroad provides the Society with a testing and proving ground for the donated model railroad equipment in the Dean Collection and other collections we may acquire in the future.

To donate to Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad – click here.

  1. Become a Member.

You can become a member of the Railroad Artifact Preservation Society for only $20.00 a year. Join the hundreds of RAPS members around the world.

To Purchase a RAPS Membership – click here.

  1. Visit our Store.

The Raps Store has many items not found elsewhere for the railroad enthusiast. Check out our unique books, videos, caps and other items.

To Visit the RAPS Store – click here.

The RAPS is a 501C3 Non-Profit Corporation.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: