More model railroad scenery tips

“Hi Al

my tip would have to be line marking on road ways!

I do not have a model railway at the moment but am renovating a room to start one.

I use casting plaster for roads mountins etc its much cheeper than normal plaster and comes in 25kg bags.

when i mold my roads from plaster i use a flat edge like an off cut of wood to get a nice smooth surface then sand away any rough patches with fine grade snad paper.

i then dye the surface with diluted black water based paint (dilute to the consistancy of milk).

this will give a dark grey colour but just reaply to get the desired colour you like.

when dry use a straight edje and a broken hack saw blade and lightly scrape the surface to get white lines or paint yellow over the top depending on where you are modeling.

you dont need special materials and you dont get joints from useing pre made roads.

Happy rail roading

“Hi Al

Some good stuff but could you remind your contributors that:
EM is the gauge (18.2mm track width) and the scale is 4mm
OO is the gauge (16.5mm track width) and the scale is 4mm
HO is the gauge (16.5mm track width) and the scale is 3.5mm

Pedantic you might argue but correct if folk are going to use descriptions that are misleading and incorrect!



“Just wanted to share with the group my layout example of how I use a Fleischmann turntable to allow through trains through the yard as well as for normal engine storage. This is real handy for a small layout (8’ x 11’) where the space is limited and allows a train to cut through the yard from multiple directions. A car can be uncoupled on the turntable, turned to another track and picked up by another loco. Rather unorthodox but very entertaining for guests and kids to keep them busy doing something. This layout is an action layout where 6 trains can run simultaneously keeping a group of boy scouts busy at the controls with plenty to do.



Hi Alastair,

I do “N” scale but also work in “HO” scale.

The high price of decent building kits has led me to using alternative building methods.

I scratch build almost everything that I can using local free or very inexpensive materials. some examples are: Those little wooden coffee stir sticks, they are pine and can be trimmed for proper size or glued together to make larger pieces and they make great floors and porches.

I also use a lot of free cardboard from cereal boxes etc.. I make shingle roofs from masking tape cut into proper sized strips and notched while taped on waxed paper, simply pull then off the wax paper and tape to the roof with proper overlayment, color as you wish.

For stone buildings I just get some gravel and screen to appropriate size, cover the object to be rock covered in calking and press it into the stones, for a finer finish I cote the stones with plaster of paris to fill the Vallie’s wiping the surface with a sponge to clean the surface of the stones, makes a great chimney.

As to plans I use any I can find in my era that have some dimensions, scaling to appropriate size. Some kit makers give dimensions and I have actually gone out and measured or looked up drawings in the library.

For my school house I wrote my home town library for a picture of my childhood grade school and modeled it for my “N”scale layout. Siding can be made from strips of paper glued on overlapping or for tin roofing I find thread glued to the roof at proper intervals looks very good. I made a great log cabin from sticks out of my back yard.

I use the same sort of tricks for scenery, lacking the big money to buy decent kits and scenery items I have learned that I can do just as good if not better by scratch building using these methods. Another thing I have done is to purchase used buildings at shows and even off ebay then using bashing techniques to make a nice looking structure.

BTW: “N” scale windows still elude my 70 year old fingers – I do buy them… :)


Thanks Ken – don’t forget the cheap houses here – you just print them out and stick them together! Al.

“For “N” scale chain link fence I use straight pins as you do but bridal vial (painted light grey) is almost scale and I bought enough to do more fence than 100 people would use for a few cents at a fabric shop.


“For ballast on my outdoor garden railroad I use turkey grit, known as growers grit. Southern States sell it at a reasonable cost. It’s the perfect size and locks the track in place. In fact I need about 4 bags to do some track work. Each bag can pretty much fill a 5 gallon bucket.


That’s you lot this time. Don’t forget if you are heading over to ebay, save even more with the ‘ebay cheat sheet‘.



22 Responses to More model railroad scenery tips

  1. I am building a garage 14′ wide x 21′ long. Starting my first HO trasin set.

    Any ideas n track plan would be appreciated.

  2. An inexpensive non operating light for streets or paths. I use “quilting” pins, the kind with a small yellow globe on the end. for lights on my bike path. I am using the pink builders insulation foam for my base so the pins can just be stuck in place where you want them. I am working in N scale. I don’t know how to add a photo to show. Can someone help me out?

  3. I love these emails


  5. Ross, What a novel use of your turntable, might have to copy that on mine. Nice layout by the way. Neal in Michigan

  6. just a quick little tip when using plaster. put a little carpenters or white glue in the mix. it will make it stronger and cut down on the powder finish.

  7. I love to have large lionel layout because. I had lionel train layout when I was 3 years old I still want to have build large train layout and I want to have d.c.c. On all layout and right and left switch track and uncoupled and couples and table turn and steam and diesel locomotives and I need someone who know how to fix the wire that’s why I alway watch any train on the Internet explorer My favorite hobby is train set if you want to call me my video phone number is 314 732-1608 thru a.s.l. Interpreter Thank you

  8. WOW! Looks a lot bigger than 8 x 11. Very nice.

  9. does anyone know where I can get my dads marx trains restored

  10. For Ross:

    I am glad to see and hear how others are working with Boy Scouts and getting the next generation interested in Trains and Railroads. The traditions of Boy Scouting taught me to be a better man. Keep up the Scouting movement and push those young men to obtain their Eagle Rank.

    For Dan,

    I am just staring my Gardern Railroad (G scale). Any suggestions on how to lay the track?

  11. I would like to know what can be used to make city streets and parking lots? Asphalt look would be okay. I run O scale trains. How wide should streets be and the size of a parking lot? What is used for dividing lines on both?

  12. Hi all, I do enjoy all these tips.
    I am enclosing my carport 12m x 6m to build my own HO train track.

    Have inherited 5 crates of track, locos, carriages, etc.

    Any suggestions for table construction and track layout would be helpful.
    Also on mountain construction, as there seems to be many variances in how these are made.
    Cheers from Australia, keep those tips coming.

  13. great ideas

  14. I work in “N” scale and would also appreciate tips given according to scale in some manner. Kind of a picky point, but what looks good to the big guys “HO and larger” looks silly in “N” and ludicrous in “Z”. (Just a thought guys)

  15. when starting a new layout , do not get married to the first idea, I feel is all about running the trains instead of building houses and buildings in the beaganning there is always space to add , a scene , I use stage flats from the local studio when the strick a show lots of frames of all sorts they throw in the dumbster , trash bin , I am looking for some g scale plastic track the engine and coal cars I have found have batterys , found a few sets in old fallin down buiding hope to put high shelf arround room for the train to run on but need like 100ft of plastic track thanks

  16. To the chap from Australia. Forget about enclosing your carport, rather enclose your house, run off the wife, move onto the carport. Then youll have a house full of trains, andno one to object. LOL.

  17. Hi Dan
    Re your Garden Railway, Find a spot in the garden put down some gravel, lay a few rocks around and bushes lay your track. Put a small shed nearby for electrics and off you go. I had mine a good few years ago its still on youtube I believe about four videos its that simple. I live in the UK and my track was out in all weathers.
    Look up scubaernie or it might be scuba ernie (with the space between)
    I enjoyed mine for a few years then age galloped up on me.
    Have fun. I now have Lionel O scale three rail.

  18. I have all O scale 3rail trains and am trying to complete a new layout. My table is 9 1/4 ft. X 7 1/2 ft. There is a square hole in the middle about 2 ft. X 2ft. I need some help figuring out how to lay track for about 4 or 5 trains to run at the same time if possible. I also want to do some modeling if table dimensions provide enough space. In other words HELP! Please. Mike

  19. The question keeps coming up – how wide is a street?
    Travel lane widths range from 9-12 feet (2.7-3.6 meters) for local roads to 12 feet (3.6 meters) for freeways.
    Allow 7-10 feet in town for parking at the curb.
    One diagram shows an in-town road width of 56 feet curb-to-curb. It allows 10 feet for parking on each side.
    Plan B – use model cars and see what looks right. Put one going each way, and add one at each curb. Move them until the spacing looks right to your eyes.

    Keep on training,
    Carl in Kansas

  20. All great ideas, Scott had a good idea for streets and parking lots, plaster,painted black twice. My first layout I used flat black paint, very easy to move streets,and do re-construction, now building a new layout and one of the guys had a suggestion a few emails ago, he used roofing paper, in the States we refer to it as Tar paper. Also very easy to re construction, but my Son doesn’t like black, as streets are not really “black” , except when new, he likes more grey color which is actually more the real color of established roads. But great tips , that’s what it’s
    All about.

    Danny, Rhode Island, D&W RR

  21. A great bit of pickett fence can be made in N scale by cutting a strip of the ties from some scrap track, sanding off the the spikes and then cutting the strip in half and paint. From a distance this looks good and gives you one more option for fencing where alot of the same fence can get boring.

  22. No matter what it says on the orange Lionel box, it is O-gauge, not O-scale About 50 years ago some O-scalers worked in 3 rail, but a third rail is hardly scale anything, is it. O-scale is one inch to 48 inches. O-gauge is one to whatever fits in the orange Lionel box. Do not embarrass yourself by talking about Lionel as O-scale. If you are a wannabee, simply throw away all your Lionel stuff and start modeling in 1 to 48. Don’t hold back just because O-scale costs abut 48 times as much as O-gauge.

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