First plan out if you have any hard to reach places on your layout. Unless you have a long arms reach, you may want to plan to put mountains, or a town, or something that doesn't require your constant attention. Ask yourself, if I have to clean the track in that area or get my derailed train, how easy will it be?
Next cover all the top surface with a layer of styrofoam. It can be the regular white sheets, but the blue or pink used for insulation is the best and doesn't leave little round bits when you cut it.
You can use the foam to carve rivers and gullies, build up pieces for easy mountains, and as for trees? Just stick them right in the foam! By using the foam you're going to have an easier time with many aspects of the layout.
Now, this is when you plan your track out, don't glue anything down yet though as you need to plan out buildings and scenery too.
For this stage in planning, paper is your best friend! Cut squares out for approximate building base sizes, circles where you may want a forest, strips for roads and rivers, etc. Yes, this seems like work, just keep in mind that this will help you have a successful and running layout that you will enjoy. How crappy would it be if you were just laying things down and your track dead ended at a building or you have no place for that really neat roundhouse? Make sure to design your track plan too.
One of our guys, Tyler has a fantastic layout and he did three posts for you to check out and get guidance and ideas from. Check them out:
Now it's your turn! What questions can we help answer? Do you have photos to share with us? We love to see/share layout photos. Let us know how we can help you get further in your hobby.
Thank for reading our blog and Happy Hobbying!