Dick Patterson was a great model builder. I had the chance to photograph three of his model railroads - HO, HOn30 and On2 - all in his cellar.
Here's his HO waterfront layout. The backdrop is painted but the water in the foreground is real and he had rigged a system so the tide went up and down. He had to treat the water so it wouldn't get moldy and smelly - he used Listerine. The container that held the water was fiberglass and was built like a swimming pool.
This is Dick's HOn30 Dolly Varden mine layout. He used N-gauge track and the mechanism's in his locos were from N-gauge steam engines. The scenery is all made from Sacrete cement and the layout weighted a ton - really. The background pine trees are toothpicks dipped in white glue and then in scenic foam - they are only about 4" behind the tunnel entrance the forced perspective works nicely.