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Gebirgsformationen von Athmo


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Hi all,

Good to hear that you like them! Sorry - I'm not from Germany and have to reply in English. If you have urgent questions just send me a personal message.

The mountains I uploaded are my first experiments, to see if it is possible to do what I always wanted to build since i was a boy but in real life can never do. And now with this program we can.

To build realistic mountains I wanted:
- LARGE (in my case 15x30 meters, it does not have to fit in my room anymore)
- Natural scenery
- Flex rails to have real-life corners

I uploaded my current work in progress (Mountain track 02V01) witch I painted and made a single track running to see what the results and issues would be. There are some issues i'm sure can be worked out, but overall the result is impressive for just a few hours clicking. And it's not that difficult to do.

I will tell you the short version here, I can make a visual step by step guide if people want it.

This is what I did, it may not be 100% correct so comment if you have better solutions:

- Go to Google and search for heightmap images.
They are black and white, white = high, black = low.

If you have plenty of time you can make your own in special landscape tools. I did not. Take a few images and save them to disk. Convert them to jpg.

- Start a new train project, select a blank board.

- Doubleclick the board and click the landscape properties icon on the lower right.
- Click import heightmap
- select your file
- click OK


You have to play around with the origin (default height) and maximum height and even have to resize your heightmap image, but that's about it.

Beware that ANY objects you add to your scene are added at 0 level. So they will by befault be buried in your mountain.
A thing I did was move the whole mountain to -1000, so that new stuff is visible.

Now you can spray paint your mountains and add tracks. Adding much trees and bushes eat up your cpu/gpu so use them carefully.

One issue I have is that the resolution of the 'Adjust Terrain' button is very low now. I assume that has to do with the scale of my platform.
Now the round track has blocky mountains. I tried to change the height resolution afterwards, but then everything is one blocky mosaic.

Have fun!




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Hello Athmo,

did I understand you correctly, that all your landscapes are based on heightmaps already existing in Google?
Or have you made some (or all) heightmaps to be loaded into the 3D-TrainStudio yourself?

My specific problem is how to create a heightmap for a realistic or even for a real existing landscape. I have tried to reconstruct the Reuss valley in the Swiss Alps to generate the Gotthard northern ramp as a railway model layout for the 3D-TrainStudio (see the description here - sorry, only in German language) by

  1. drawing a contour line map based on an original topographical map
  2. creating a heightmap by calculating the mean points of the landscape by interpolation between the contour line points in the neighborhood
  3. finally importing the heigthmap into the 3D-TrainStudio

My question: Is there an easier way to get an "authentic" landscape?

Many greetings

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Hi BahnLand,

the guys of Zusi3 are using DEMs.


Die Höhenwerte können direkt aus einem im Lageplan hinterlegten DEM (digitales Gelände-Höhenmodell - kostenlos e­rhältlich z.B. bei der NASA) in das Höhenprofil übernommen werden, oder auch manuell per Mausklick gesetzt werden. (Zitat von der Zusi-Seite)


The height values return directly from a stored in the map DEM (digital terrain elevation model - available for free at NASA for example). They are transferred to the height profile, or can be set manually by mouse click. (Quote from the Zusi page)


Maybe, this is interesting for your project.



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Hi Bahnland,

I think the 'easiest' way to get a proper height map is using digital elevation data, and some converter tool to convert the DEM to heightmap.

This is a list of DEM sources:


and Earth explorer offers data from many satellites.



Another way to go may be this tool. Its for Unity but is a standalone heightmap exporter from DEM:

For building your terrain by hand, this is a huge list of tools


... but real easy, no.

Hope that helps!


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I did some further searching and like to share my findings.
To create landscape by hand, World machine seems the best choice. It can generate landscape, but you can draw by hand too. On youtube you'll find tutorials but it is a lot of work. Results look very good.

If you're looking for real life landscape, I think I found the easiest way there is.
We can use NASA Global Data Explorer for free, it will give a heightmap in two clicks.
You just have to register your email before you can download.

Select your area on the map, click the download button, select jpg and download the heightmap image.


Now how cool is that?


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Here are some maps that may be useful. You have to cut/resize them depening on your board size.

Brenner pass









Heidelberg (if i'm not lost, the NASA maps don't show city names so I have to compare with Google maps)



If you need higher resolution just PM me, the forum resized them.
If more people are interested maybe it's good to add a height maps category in the program, like the other materials.



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Hallo zusammen (english abstract below)

Die Idee mit den Heightmaps des Earth Explorers ist eine feine Sache, wenn man relativ kleine Flächen darstellen möchte und in der Höhe mit relativ wenigen Höheneinheiten auskommt (maximal 3 x 256 Höheneinheiten). Denn (zumindest ohne Login) stellt der Earth Exoplorer nur eine relativ kleine Auflösung bereit, und bei Heightmaps stehen maximal 256 Höhenabstufungen zur Verfügung, weil es sich hierbei um Graustufenbilder handelt. Sobald die Anzahl darzustellender Höheneinheiten das 3-fache dieses Werts übersteigt, werden zwangsläufig Treppenabstufungen sichtbar.

Ich habe einmal aus Athmo's Gotthard-Heightmap des vorangegangenen Beitrags den Ausschnitt herausgeschnitten, der dem von mir realisierten Abschnitt Erstfeld-Göschenen entspricht. Dieser ist im Original 358x348 Pixel groß, entspricht also bei einer Rastergröße 1 cm der Bodenplatte einer Anlagengröße von 358 cm x348 cm.

Dire Darstellung ist aber leider verzerrt (Satelliten-Perspektive aus der äquatorialen Umlaufbahn?), was ich durch eine Verlängerung des Bildes ausgeglichen habe (neue Bildgröße 1101 x 401 Pixel). Die beiden folgenden Bilder zeigen jeweils die durch den Import dieser beiden Bilder in das Modellbahnstudio erzeugten Landschaften.

Ausschnitt Erstfeld-Göschenen aus der originalen Heightmap von Athmo (seitwärts gestaucht) - from Athmo's original haightmap

Darstellung des gestreckten Heightmap-Auschnitts aus dem Bild von Athmo - from Athmo's heightmap, stretched

Da meine Gotthard-Anlage auf 6 Bodenplatten aufgeteilt eine Gesamtausdehnung von 4400 cm  x 1600 cm besitzt, (entspricht 4401 x 1601 Pixel bei 1-cm-Raster), musste ich das Heightmap-Bild in jeder Richtung um den Faktor 4 vergrößern. Hiervon sieht man im nächsten Bild die den beiden Bodenplatten 1 und 2 meiner Gotthard-Analgen entsprechenden Bereiche.

Darstellung aus der mit Faktor 4 vergrößerten Heightmap - from stretched heightmap, enlarged with factor 4

Da die hierdurch erzeugte Landschaft sich über 3400 Höheneinheiten erstreckt, treten hier zwangsläufig Treppenstufen  zutage, da im Graustufenbild nur 256 Höhenstufen zur Verfügung stehen.

Das nächste Bild zeigt zum Vergleich dieselben Landschaftsteile meiner Gotthard-Anlage, die auf Basis von Höhenlinien und dazwischen durch Interpolation eingfügte Flächen entstand, die aufgrund der Nutzung des CSV-Imports mit einer größeren Höhen-Auflösung erzeugt wurden.

Landschaft der originalen Gotthard-Anlage - my original Gotthard landscape

Zum Schluss noch das Ergebnis eines Versuchs, eine Heightmap mit dem Earth-Explorer zu erzeugen und dann vom Bildschirm direkt abzugreifen:

Landschaft aus Earth-Explorer-Heightmap - from heightmap created with Earth -Explorer

Hier habe ich (ohne Login) vom Earth-Explorer eine Heightmap erzeugen lassen und deren Anzeige auf dem Bildschirm nach "hineinzoomen" direkt über Bildschirm-Hardcopies abgegriffen. Nach dem oben sichtbaren Ergebnis vermute ich, dass die Anzeige des kompletten Alpenbereichs zwischen Luzern und Chasso auf dem Bildschirm die Auflösung bestimmte, die auch durch das Hineinzoomen nicht mehr verändert wurde. Nur so kann ich mir erklären, dass  das letzte Bild dieses grobe Mosaik-Muster enthält.

Nach den hier gezeigten Ergebnissen werde ich wohl zumindest für Anlagen mit der hier vorhandenen Ausdehnung bei der von mir bisher angewandten Methode der Landschafts-Erstellung bleiben - auch wenn diese über das Abgreifen der Höhenlinien bis zur endgültigen Landschaftsoberfläche sehr aufwendig ist.

English abstract:

To use heightmaps from the Earth Explorer is a fine idea, if small areas have to be considered and the height to be realized ist small (at most 3 x 256 height units). At least without logging in, the Erarth Explorer only provides pictures with a really small resolution. And heightmaps contain at most 256 height levels because they are grayscale pictures. As soon as the number of height units to be realized strongly exceeds the threefold of this value, treads cannot be avoided.

Please look at the pictures above to see the differences between the landscapes based on enlarged heightmaps and the original Gotthard landscape realized by me. Sorory, that I have not translated the whole text from above. But it's too hard for me.

Viele Grüße / many greetings

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Hi Bahnland,

Translating is not required, Google handles that for us :-)

The problem you are showing has to do with the low resolution sample images.
When you create an account at Nasa you can select exactly what you need and download the heightmap in much higher detail, resolution and grayscale definition.
If you have to you can then upscale and filter the image using Photoshop and such to enhance it.
For example upscale the image and use interpolation or gausian blur filters on it.

Have fun!


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