Making HO scale Hay Bales

Paul’s been back in touch (his last post is here).

“Hi Alastair recently some people asked how to make hay bales.

I responded that Woodland Scenics sells them but they are costly. Here is how I make mine.

First get some round wooden toothpicks and secure one of them in a vise as shown.

Get some JUTE twine as shown to wind around the toothpick. Put a layer of glue on the toothpick and wind an initial layer of twine around the toothpick.

Clamp the ends and let dry or use a hairdryer as I did. When dry put another layer of glue on the twine and wind a second layer of twine on top and clamp.

Continue with as many layers as you like.

I feel 3 is sufficient to give me the size hay bale I like. When dry cut to length with a very sharp razor knife. I find 1/2″ is about right.


And I’ve had quite a few mails on this now, enjoyed them all:


Haven’t written before but I want you to know how much your site means to me and my modeling hobby in the basement of my house.

This past weekend I went to the Golden Spike ceremony in Corrine, Utah. As a native Utahn I am proud of our heritage in joining the continent together.

At the same time Union Pacific brought the Big Boy to Ogden along with 844. I don’t know the last time that two engines of that size double headed in the United States, but it was an amazing site.

Attached is a video I made of the visit to Ogden and the trains coming into Echo just at the top of Weber Canyon, which the Big Boy was designed for to pull trains over the Wasatch Mountains.

Just some different perspectives.

Thanks for all you do.


Carbonville, Utah, USA”

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

“Hi Al,

I’ve seen a few requests for the track plan for my switching layout.

Instead of drawing it out and I don’t have a CAD program I decided to take a flight over the layout and snap a picture. What I attached is very close to the full 4×8 layout. It shows the full track plan. Gives a good overall view of how things are set up.

Also shows the last small section of Pink Foam board left that hasn’t had scenery added yet. That pink will disappear yet today 🙂


Bill in Virginia”

That’s all today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you’d like to take those first steps to create your own little world.



John’s track plan to his stunning layout

John’s been in touch, after his last post.


Thanks for the kind words on the article and pictures you posted. The comments are gratifying, a few of the commenters asked for the track plan.

I’ve included the track plan that didn’t show up in the post.


John From Baltimore”

HO track plan

And now something I’m always banging on about – making a start.

Robert’s doing a fine job because he’s fighting with lack of space too. But that should never be an excuse, as he’s shown:

“Alastair –

I live in a Manhattan apartment where space is at a premium. I have started an N scale layout on a 2-1/2’ x 5’ folding-leg table in our guest room. Here you see it’s earliest stages. I’ve built the table from a modified hollow-core door, attached the legs, and glued down the Kato Unitrack. It’s DCC powered, which simplified the wiring to no end!

Next stage: buildings. I’ll make cardboard templates of the footprints of various building possibilities, and see how they fit.

Stay tuned!


Folding N scale

Folding N scale

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

“Dear Alistair,

I’m a sort of bystander in the world of model railroading but I have somehow gotten on your mailing list and I really enjoy looking at your email every day with different layouts.

I grew up with my Lionel trains in the ‘60’s but never had a permanent layout. My wife indulges me with a mantelpiece revolving display, and I get out the old Circus Special when my grand daughter visits but I’m one of those “yet to start” types you try to encourage.

But anyway, I was hauling a load of scrap metal from our farm to a salvage yard in Burnt Prairie, Illinois today when I spied the cab of this old locomotive among the mountains of junk at Lewis Scrap Metal.

I thought it might be of interest to your readers to see where old UP 2749 came to rest. I included a photo from the Union Pacific website of the locomotive in 2008- looking a little rough even then.

Keep up the good work-

Griffin, IN USA”

old weathered loco

old weathered loco

A big thanks to Mike, Robert and John.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming. And please don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you’d like to stop dreaming and start doing.



Jim’s stunning cab ride video

Jim’s been back in touch with a stunning cab ride video.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best ones I’ve seen.

You’ll remember Jim from some earlier posts, and seeing as his weathered freight cars feature in this video, here’s some of his earlier stuff.

“Greetings Alastair.

I’m continuing to add more realism to my layout and have been installing more electrical lighting. The latest are trackside signals. And hope to add more. These are NJ International and operate manually.

This update includes a cab ride GoPro video and an iPhone video and some stills. There are two consists highlighting several weathered freight cars.

Should you consider posting this video, please know for some reason, the YouTube video playback may not be very clear as it sometimes plays at 720p HD and sometimes at 320p. In any event, I hope you enjoy the visual and sound effects updates. And great thanks for providing this entertaining and informational site as I’ve seen so many wonderful and highly detailed layouts from so many talented modelers.

Best regards,

Jim AZ”

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

“Good morning Alastair:

I love the information and ideas of your train world. I thought it might be helpful to some modelers to find inspiration out in the backcountry.

Recently I spent two days traveling with my cousin in Southeastern Nebraska. It is primarily Fran country. Rolling hills and mile after mile of farm country dotted with small towns. The smallest I saw was Pop. 75. Some in the low hundreds. The county seat had a mere 3,300 residents.

These small towns are full of old buildings that fit my 1950 and prior theme. Buildings from the late 1800’s in fact. My cousin was the head designer for the Lincoln, Nebraska Museum before he retired a few years ago. He is a local historian as well. I wanted to share a couple of ideas that the average scratch builder or beginner can do.

The first building is the “Roca Station” from a very small town Roca, Nebraska. It was restored and moved by the historical society. My cousin was the chief project manager for the station Reno and move. I changed the overall scale of the building to suit my layout. A little artistic license…

The second building is a small bank built in the 1800’s. I included a photo of the “foundation” I have created to simulate the original. It is a mattboard frame with talus rocks glued on. I simulate the mortar with drywall mud. After it dries, a Dremel and a small wire wheel sands off the surface to reveal the stones.

Again, a lot of the layouts are spectacular. Not all of us are wealthy enough to build them or even skilled enough to do the purist work. That is no criticism of those fortunate ones. Instead an encouragement to many of us who simply enjoy the hobby on a more manageable scale.

I am at the point now on my layout where only a small amount of ballast work left. I have started to wire up, and have multiple posts from your followers to help there since I am not that skilled at electrical. So at present buildings to fill the planned areas.

Cheers mate and a great day of modeling for all.

Clermont, Florida”

Old train station

old train station

old train station scratch build

train station scratch build

A huge thank you to Mike. And if I’m not mistaken, Mike also sent in these amazing scratch builds too.

Please do keep ’em coming. That’s all for today, folks – except for this call to arms:

I enjoy sitting on the couch as much as the next man, but there comes a time when you have to strike out: is today going to be your day? Is today going to be the day you take the plunge with the Beginner’s Guide?

Course, I’m biased, but why not join in on the fun? I know it’s a great spectator sport, but it’s even better when you roll your sleeves up and start tinkering.

And for me, that is the key: tinkering. Over the years I’ve noticed not one of you is in a screaming hurry, because where’s the fun in that?

It’s all about tinkering. Scratching your head over the numerous problems a layout presents, and enjoying the process as it unfolds. It really doesn’t matter how long it takes, it’s a wondeful way to pass the time.