Even more tips and pics

“Here’s a tip for realistic country blacktop roads over foam: First, mark the path of the intended route. Then mark the edges with painters tape. Spray Rustoleum black paint between the painters tape. If there is a risk to other structures in the area of the road, mask with newspaper, perhaps held down with the tape placed along the road’s route. The result is that the rustoleum eats just enough of the foam underneath to give a nice weathered surface.


“Al –

I realize that I’m not submitting an actual favorite tip … it’s more of a “lesson learned” kind of thing. Hope I don’t waste your time.

At one time I belonged to a model train club. Eventually, I found this group to be comprised of three categories of RR guys: Collectors, Modelers, and Toy Train guys. Collectors all seemed to be quite egotistical, spending tons of money purchasing the most precisely detailed scale models, bringing their acquisitions in on club night under tight security and (perhaps) putting juice on the track to run them. Modeler types were more sane, but obsessed in spending every waking moment gluing and trimming and fussing over minute details without running their trains every meeting. I found I belonged to the last category – I was content to just put my childhood trains on a track and watch them run around and around. I do that at this time of year with a track on the floor around the Christmas tree; it’s all the thrill I could want out of that great toy invention.

So, the lesson I learned was that the three categories of train guys I had joined didn’t mix too well all the time. Their goals are different, and when it comes to putting on the annual train show, one quickly discovers the hierarchy of the groups. Collectors trump modelers and toy guys … only their cars are good enough for the public to admire. Modelers are more respected by the public … they get the most questions to answer, about their clever landscaping. Toy guys are at the bottom of the food chain. I had fun, but without having much track time. My trains were … just toys.

I still love them.

— Mike”


I’m kinda a rookie all talk and no action but I was going to try and use diluted inst. coffee crystls for rusting or weathering train cars or buildings…There is a commercial for Advair the gal or guy is in a fog Something to create the fog on the surface of an area will give an aged look Still thinkin on that one….

Crushed eggshell feed used for raising chickens would work for ballast but it would need to be crushed finer some way I talked once about using rice barley flax for cargo and ground clutter even ballast My wife said I’d have mice eventually. I said thats why they make traps isnt it…..Traps would be good for someething….

I’m going to try sections of broken glass for water the underlayment will need some features painted or drawn first then the glass overlay. Shorelines will be a challenge


“Hi Alistair,

Mine would be plan, research, budget. It’s easy to be woo’ed by the amazing models and technologies, the craftsmanship and the cool factor, then go to a store or show and spend like you on drugs! We have all done it. With a solid plan in place, you can get the reward without the buyers remorse, and still be cool!


“Hi Al

I took a couple quick shots from my new layout expansion. Not the best pics, but gives you a good idea what I’m up to. The foreground mountains/rocks are not completed yet.

Thanks for all you hard work throughout the season.

If someone is interested I’m happy to answer questions.



“Hi Al, Jim here from CO. I had a couple of HO layouts back in WI years ago, about 30 I guess. So I am totally new to On30 and have been waiting for information I sent for. In the mean time I have built my first structure for my Florence-Cripple Creek railroad. I can see the entrance to the old narrow gauge railroad from our home and have been up there many times since moving out here 26 years ago.

I am going to try to sent a picture of my Water Tank.

In the past 35 years I have built three full size airplanes, two biplanes and a 1909 Bleriot XI so I guess it is time to get back to my old Hobby. Thanks, Jim”

Some great tips -and pics. Please keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the latest ‘ebay cheat sheet‘ to bag the latest deals.



32 Responses to Even more tips and pics

  1. A Question for Matt, your scenery is fantastic but “How do you make your rock formations”?

  2. Another question for Matt: How did you make the waterfall, it looks really good?

  3. Great tips. Great job on the water tower what detail. Rock formations were very nice. Two favories: the detail, fine work, around the tunnel and the water fall.

    Thanks all for sharing … Thanks Al for making this all possible.

    Keep on Training!

    Tom N

  4. Some great tips,thanks folks and thanks to Al for all his hard work and involvement in letting us know about them

  5. Very nice Matt. I really like what you have done with the water falls at various levels on the rock formations and the formations as well. I assume most are castings but they seem to go well together.

  6. A note for Mike: I devoted last summer to reading about model railroading before diving in to build my own modest set. I am a total amateur. During the course of my “study” I came to roughly the same conclusions you so eloquently describe. I fessed up to myself– “Self, I said, just enjoy it. Don’t go OCD on yourself.” So, I guess I fall into the “toy” category, and I am having a blast. I have built my benchwork, laid my initial layout of track and am now improving, but keeping it all light enough to forgive myself of my mistakes and stay on a modest budge and sleep well at night. Have fun with your “toys!” I sure am!

  7. Total newbie here….haven’t built anything yet. I inherited a bunch of HO and N gauge stuff to give my impetus. I also like to add trainwatching to my motorcycle rides. One idea that I haven’t seen done in a layout is a park with an old steam engine in it for kids to climb on…Many cities have them in parks…I did get a couple of those in the stuff I got, so I want to work into my town, once I get it figured out. Good way to use an old dead locomotive.

  8. Outstanding photos. Really like the scenery shots. Looks incredible. The water tower really caught my attention. Was that really scratch built? Looks amazing.

  9. Another blacktop trick I found was to use Crayola chalkboard paint and brush right on to your foam base. Tape off where you want the road and brush it on.

  10. My question is the same as Martins to Matt. The rock formations are great, and so is the running water. How were they done. Thanks.

  11. nice water tower

  12. Al,

    I would like to thank Mike for sticking his neck out and saying that he likes his trains as toys. I too am in awe of the amazing detail model railroaders create. Having said that, modeling is not me. I have a permanent layout running around my home music room and I love to run my O27 trains. There is definately a place for all kinds of train people. My 17 year old son is helping me make a video of my layout and I will send it to you when it is complete. Again, thanks to Mike for being a proud toy train operator. I love my toy trains! And I love your emails Al. Keep up the good work.

    Sanford, FL

  13. Hello you all.
    I think the most important thing about this hobby is that we enjoy what we are doing.
    If we construct, build, make or create, it is as good as we individually can get it at that time, when down the road we can improve our own standards not for any-one else, but for our own pride, I’m sure that we will.
    When that time comes, we will still enjoy and get pleasure from being involved as, collectors, modelers and participants. (toys)

  14. I just tried Micheal’s black top road tip …it is great. Thanks!!!!


  15. Tim C,
    So, you have some HO and some N stuff? One thought based on a layout I saw. The layout was HO. It had an amusement park with a railroad. The amusement park railroad was in “N” scale. The engine had the cab roof removed and carried an HO engineer. The passenger cars had the roofs cut off, and they carried HO passengers. You could use your imagination and use all kinds of freight cars.



  17. Watch out for coffee grounds as scenery. They go moldy easily. Use dried tea leaves instead, the tannic acid prevents mold.

  18. Hi Al
    Thanks for posting all the good stuff i liked the writings of Mike . recently i went to a train show and i was astounded that all these toffy nosed guys who had expensive trains they sat there just wanting to show them off . i do have some expensive trains too but i bought them to play with yes you have to be a bit more careful but i run them every day and really get enjoyment from them i even let my Godson put them on the track under my supervision of course. i also have a lot of other trains too and they all run together on my layout i wonder what these guys would think of me running a $300 train with $20 passenger cars now thats something to see but they look nice to gether so what the heck I am in it for the fun and i am enjoying every minute of it

  19. I REALY LIKE YOUR LAYOUT, I haven’t sean one as eye takeing as this one

  20. A reply to DUANE regarding fog. I modeled a Mexican volcano, and found that one of those misting devices that come in the inside of Styrofoam pumpkins they sell around hallowe’en work very nice for creating a fog, or smoke, except that it travels downward, but being water mist, entirely odorless. I bought the pumpkin, threw it out, and placed the mister in dish of water recessed into the top of the volcano.

    As a bottom feeder, I still LOVE my old Tyco. It’s all good.

  21. Fantastic I cannot get over how realistic it all appears especially the water falls.
    The rocks look Great and the Tunnel openings are they scratch built as well?

    My hat is off to YOU…

    Truly Fantastic…..

    More Pictures PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Matt:
    Good luck on your projects. I’ve been working on my second train table project. The first one was with Lionel 27 gauge which ran 2 trains on intersecting tracks, one of which climbed uphill and then downhill. Lionel said this couldn’t be done, but I found a way to do it. My new table is 4×8 running two Marklin HO trains on separate loops, plus an interurban 2car train on an inside loop. I’m one year into this project and will recommence now that my income tax package is with my accountant. Since I am 88 years old and colorblind my wife will help me do the landscaping. My youngest daughter, her husband and my granddaughter live on a farm in Canon City near you. We’ve driven up the road by the Narrow Guage RR to Cripple Creek.

  23. Al and fellow small-train people, hi!
    I pretty much agree with Mike’s overall categorisation but I reckon you can come to a happy balance between modelling and running. I believe that I have, although I concur with the comment about always wanting to titivate detail here and there but compromise can happens and work.
    I have a small,relatively niche, OO gauge, UK EMU model rail interest from the end 1960’s to 1980-ish. So I find not-so-many others in this area and RTR items a bit uncommon until the last few years. Will send in a pic or two if anyone would like to see same?
    Otherwise I appreciate the “Transat” & Antipodean inputs which are often of refreshingly different perspectives!
    Best wishes to your subscribers in all cases of personal preference.
    (mini-Network Rail……..)

  24. Someone did a fantastic job with this layout. Makes me want to tear out a portion of mine own and “copy” some of this scenery.

  25. The trouble with being a modeller these days is that almost anything you spend forty hours making from a kit or bits will be produced ready to run in a box from China by Bachmann or Hornby or whoever within the next year, it’s happened to me a couple of times already and doesn’t half put you off starting a project.

  26. The water tank AND the water falls are superb!! Great modeling!

  27. I agree with Mike ^ Greg – whatever floats your particular boat (sorry gets your trains moving) is fine, the main thing is to enjoy. I have had nothing to do with model trains for 40 years and recently retired and got into a HO set up. I have gone DCC with different locos and am having fun designing and building the track so far & making it all run properly. I live in North Australia, so humidity and dust are my enemies ( set is in shared shed), so will do things differently re ballasting etc, so I can vacuum the table tracks etc every few days to keep it clean. There are no train shops within 800km of my location, so have to do it all on internet (this site is tops) I have 3 grandsons who we Skype and show them the trains running – like me, they love it, it is personally rewarding to achieve things working etc and I am having fun and relaxing – what more could you want.

  28. Albert don’t even think about joining in with the toffs just be thankful that they don’t want to join in with us and that al is not one of them my Gk and GGk play on my figure 8 track and started (DC, OO, )racing them ,surprisingly it did not take long for them to tell me that “Pa trains should not race they go slow”let the toff have there day of glory and focus lets have twelve months periods of fun John A

  29. I would also like to hear how the waterfall was made. Great job.

  30. great stuff Alastair! I read every one of your posts every day! Kudo’s!

  31. On Rod’s post. Yes someone has , or will have most anything you may spend your time making. I wanted a King Post Truss Bridge to add to my layout, only one I could find was 30` (in HO scale about 4 1/8 inches long ) and it was a kit, so I spent a day making one that is 40` ( in HO scale about 5 1/2 inches long) I have what I wanted and take pride in knowing there is ONLY ONE.
    And with other posts, I do think we all wish we could do what others have done in the landscaping, mountains, rivers and what ever. Just enjoy what you have and have fun with it, as no matter what you have there will always be something bigger and maybe more better.
    NV bob
    PS Thanks Alastair for your time on this hobby

  32. OK maybe someone can answer this one for me.I will be starting a layout in about a year.I was wondering why you can’t use painted coal chunks glued onto one another for rock formations(or spray them clear if you are in coal country on your layout)? Since I live in FL now,before I move away I wanted to get some crushed shells.I would think those could be used as ground cover effects in some way.I would place them as I want,then shoot them with satin clear to hold them together.Maybe I am reaching.Has anyone tried either of these 2 things?

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