John’s model railroad print out scenery

“Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you again for your site, your kits, and John’s videos…

While I have built several of your kits in HO beginning with the corrugated engine house… This is my fist time “blowing one up” to O scale.

You kindly published my tribute to my father with the one I built from a 1950’s era magazine and cut out book… Thank you again for sharing that build. Now I have chosen to build the “Blue House” that comes with The Beginner’s Book…

Of course I followed every instruction to the letter when it came to building the model… And I had so much fun building it that I am thinking on using the same kit to build a few more structures and try other ideas…

It is my belief that the greatest thing about model railroading is the endless opportunity for creative expression. As a further opinion, no where is that opportunity greater than when it comes to building the scenic elements that bring a layout or diorama “to life”.

For many years modelers would “kitbash” various model kits to make structures that were uniquely their own. At the price of plastic, that form of modeling has become a very dear proposition. Worse, many structures that were once available as kits are now only available in fully assembled form — glued together with some industrial strength solvent that makes disassembly all but impossible. Very frustrating.

On your side of the pond, paper models seem to always have been an available and popular option. Here in America, paper fell out of favor in the early 1970’s. That said, it seems that “everything old is new again” and modeling with paper is becoming a popular option again. Part of this return has been due to some amazing work by a few very talented modelers. Another factor is the growing availability of inexpensive models now available a cheap downloads that can be repeatedly printed out and can be easily modified to give the builder their own personal touch to the structure.

About one week ago I mentioned to you that I was going to build “The Blue House” and expand it to O scale… I gave you some other hints about what I had in mind to do with the model. At that time you asked me to send photos of the completed structure.

Those photos are attached BUT I want to let you know some of the “extras” that I added:

1: On my previous builds I noticed the windows looked a little flat and dull. To add life I began to look at real structures around me and focus on the windows. What I noticed is that windows have a little reflectivity to them. The windows reflect even when there is a curtain and even if what is behind the window is as dark as a coal mine at midnight! I found I could replicate this with the use of clear “Transparent Tape”

2. As I was building my tribute model to my father, I developed a sheet for modeling a “boardwalk style” sidewalk and a shingle roof. These sheets came in hand on my “Blue House” build to give the building a distinctive look more suited to the “western” area I hope to depict when I use these structures on a layout module or home layout soon.

3. The “chimney” for the stove is a bit of painted soda straw finished at the base with a bit of a print from your #1 Brick Enginehouse.

4. The sign “Mom’s Cafe” was printed on blue cardstock and then copied twice to fade it… My printer is not color true so it tends to fade things as it prints them and copies them. You “Blue House”: is a very solid blue but the first print I made was significantly faded. When I expanded the HO print to O Scale, it faded to a light bluish grey (Dorian Grey?). I used this discovery when I went to make my sign.

I hope you enjoy this interpretation of “The Blue House”… Even if you have to look hard to see the original structure that made my building possible (Check the windows and doors). My next interpretation of this same structure may be even more radically interpreted…)



Chatsworth, California, USA”

(All images are clickable)

A huge thank you to John – it does always make me smile when I see the prints on a layout. Here’s a quick vid of what you can do with them:

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

And there are several house bundles by the way:

Bundle 1

Bundle 2

Bundle 3

That’s all for today folks, but dont’ forget the Beginner’s Guide if you feel like it’s your time to shine.

Keep ’em coming.




Paul’s latest update

Paul’s been in touch again. And he’s got some good advice too. (His last post is here.)

“Hi Al

Thank for publishing my last submission to you, I had a lot of nice comments from around the world.

I gained a lot of useful ideas from your contributors whilst building my layout. Here are a couple of tips from me.

I have a colleague who started his layout before me. He built a tunnel. Then he had a derailment in the tunnel and had to knock it down to get to the trains. So learned from his bad fortune and realised that you must have access to all tracks, wherever they are. So I incorporated a hinged flap into my tunnel allowing access. Saves a lot of future problems.

I saw that one of your contributors suggested using the power source from an old computer for lighting etc. this is exactly what I did. I can confirm that it is an excellent idea and gives plenty of power.

Another tip is to use an old analogue controller to power the turntable. I have also used an old Hornby transformer for the power to my points.

Just a little extra. I came across my old Airfix planes from the 50s and 60s. ‘Never throw anything away’ is something I believed in even then and had kept all the unused parts and decals from them. So after a great deal of refurbishment and rebuilding I decided to add a little extra something to my train room.

Hope you like the photos.



That’s all this time, I’m a man in a hurry today.

Huge thanks to Paul.

And dont’ forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to get involved in this fab hobby. Who knows, one day we could all be looking at your layout.

Keep ’em coming folks.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Lots and lots of good HO stuff right now.


Tom’s 4 x 8 N scale

“Dear Al, herein I would like to exhibit my “Catawissa Branch” of the Reading Railroad, an eastern US anthracite (hard coal) hauler.

I apologize, in advance, for the length of this description.

Catawissa is my birth town in Pennsylvania. Born in 1942, I have memories of steam locomotives and later, early diesel locomotives hauling long coal trains up the steep grade near my home.

I can still envision and hear the wheel slip of the drivers, slack taken out of the couplers and the steel-on-steel screeching of the wheels on rails.

I have been purchasing N scale engines and rolling stock since the 60’s when Reading Railroad items started to show up. It mattered not if the items were ‘correct’, if they were marked Reading, I bought them.

On three occasions, I started constructing layouts but subsequent job assignments ended my efforts.

Being retired and house-bound by continuing bad weather the winter of 2014-2015, I decided to make a plan and construct an N scale layout based upon my recollections of my youth and train-watching in Catawissa.

As a youngster I would climb a bluff near my home where I could view trains on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western on the far side of the Susquehanna River, the Pennsylvania Railroad on the near shore and, of course, the Reading Lines nearest to my home. The Reading had shops that burned down in our town before I was born.

I knew I wanted all three railroads on my layout, the Susquehanna River and its tributary, the Catawissa Creek, as well as a small portion of a canal that ran along the river. Black and white photo to follow.

Because of the 4′ X 8′ space constraint, I used ‘creative compaction’ to get most of the features represented…not necessarily in their correct location or scale, but in a workable plan.

I used maps obtained from the Reading Company Technical and Historical Society Museum I belong to for a starting point.

I made a 4′ x 8′ tracing paper sheet gridded into 12″ x 12″ squares. I tried various track plans to get the three railroads to become separate operating lines as well as interconnected to run a train continuously on all three routes. The grades are steep and the curves are tight…just like the real condition. Catawissa Branch and its terrain limited equipment the Reading could operate on the Branch.

I had constructed the platform with plywood and solid 1″ X 4″s on the perimeter band and 1″ X 3″s underneath as supports 16″ o.c. glued and screwed. I plan to hoist the layout to the ceiling of our small family room and wanted to keep its weight light.

The elevation of the layout is limited to the approximate height of actual surrounding ridges. Most clearances are minimal. Most flex track is laid over cork roadbed adhered to foam panels adhered to plywood. Scenic contours utilize plaster gauze over balled newspaper (which was later removed), layers of foam board, plaster cast rock using Woodland Scenics molds and lightweight Hydrocal applied directly to shaped foam.

I brought actual rocks back from a visit ‘home’ because the local rock is an unusual reddish- brown color which I wanted to duplicate. The native stone was used to make a paint match that was applied to the white plaster terrain prior to vegetation being added. The rocks, boulders, etc. were produced from crushing the natural real stone into small pieces and inserting them along the waterways and at the base of cliffs, etc.

Where possible I have tried to keep the theme around 1945-1955.

The roads and town streets had to be made narrow but I wanted to include them.

In the 1970’s I purchased used N gauge items from a retired gentleman not knowing when or if I would get to ever use them. One item is an Arnold turntable with selector and a five stall roundhouse that was designed for it. I wanted to use both in my plan however the roundhouse was too large. I reduced it to three stalls in order to squeeze in a small diesel-engine house and servicing area. The railroad shop portion is fictitious as is the industrial sector. I liked the scale of the Walthers cement plant which added to the skyline but I reduced it in height to accommodate the platform-to-ceiling when raised.

During my youth I remember several derailments, one of which sent cars into the river. It was fascinating to watch the wreck trains clear the areas and I wanted to depict a derailment on my layout. The wrecked hoppers and scattered coal are on an overlay that can be removed from the river along with the wreck train. Seaplanes at one time landed upriver on the Susquehanna so I added an aerial observer of the wreck scene.

The locomotives are DC. I chose not to rehab them to DCC and no mfgr produces DCC period engines for these lines. No operating sessions were planned, just my enjoyment of watching the trains run.

If you choose to share my layout with your readers, I hope they will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed, appreciated, learned and look forward to their efforts and comments in your blog.

Thank you, Al.

The map.

The first photo shows the paper pattern used to layout track, waterways, etc. The second photo shows beginning of foam board buildup.

Photo of the abbreviated town of Catawissa showing our church, the Opera House and creek where we ice skated in winter and went swimming in summer.

The second photo shows the convergence of the Catawissa Creek and Susquehanna River.

Third photo shows the derailment of loaded hoppers into the Susquehanna and cleanup in progress.


A huge thanks to Tom. Really enjoyed the narrative. Just goes to show it happens to us all – life always gets in the way of a layout… But with a bit of planning it all comes together eventually.

Now, a small rant:

I enjoy running the newsletter / blog – but every now and then, the trolls come out in force. And sometimes it does leave me thinking, why do I bother?

Well, I tell you why. Yes, I get abuse, but I also get the stuff that makes it worthwhile:

“Mr. Lee,

You are a GEM to make me part of your mailing list.

Some of it pertains to me (in the US) and some doesn’t, but, at the age of 67 it’s motivating me to finish my attic, and create a layout, and put on display all I’ve collected.

Thank you for all the inspiration, even if it frustrates me for not having what others have.


That’s all today folks. Please do keep ’em coming, and don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide if you want to get going on your layout. Remember, there’s never a good time to start…



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. HO stuff going bonkers at the mo.