Another missive of modelling tips

Here’s the latest lot for you. Please do keep ’em coming. I enjoy them as much as you.

“Okay, here is a set of tips for those who make their own scenery materials.

1) For those that need to use a blender. Look about at garage sales, flea markets, swap meets and thrift stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill, Saint Vincent DePaul’s or other second-hand stores.
2) If possible, buy two blenders. That way if one burns out you have the other as a back-up or you can use them both at the same time when you have a large amount of something to process in a short time.
3) Keep your eyes open for a food dehydrator that you can use for drying wet or moist material in, like leaves, weeds and twigs for ground cover and trees, or decals and paint on your models.
4) And don’t forget looking for a good condition, but quiet hair dryer to use when drying your models or small areas of your layout.

Tip #5) You can combine tips #3 and #4 by making your own dehydrator. Find or make a fair sized box of thin wood or metal with matched grooves or wooden strip on the inside walls to hold racks made of wooden frames with screen material stapled on their bottom sides, that can slide in the grooves or on the wood strips inside the box. Then have a large enough hole in the bottom back of the box that will accept the barrel or hose of the hair dryer. The front door of the box can be made like a tray that fits over the front of the box and can be attached with a set of small hinges and a latch to secure it. When you need to dry something, place it on a rack and slide it on to the lowest level in your dehydrator, plug in the above mentioned hair dryer’s barrel or hose in the hole at the back of the box, close and latch the front door of the unit then turn on the hair dryer at lowest to medium setting. If you are drying something, remember to set the dryer on lowest heat, so as not to cause paint to bubble up or the material to be blown about.

R. Olivarez”

So then, in my ignorance, I asked, “What do you use a blender for?”

“Mr. Lee,

Easy answer about the use of blenders.

I had the need to use a blender when I was making some simple papier mache’ for a retaining wall that I needed for a light-weight layout that I am putting together. You basically tear apart egg cartons and newspaper by hand into small pieces. Put a hand full or so of the stuff in a blender, with some salted water and blend it into a pulp. Pour that into a container for temporary storage until you feel that you have enough. When I made the wall piece, I poured the mixture into a small bowl and added some white glue, stirred it well and poured it onto newspaper, laying on a flat surface. When it started to solidify, I took a fork and stroked the surface with long, soft strokes to create the impression of a rough texture. When it starts to firm-up, you could put curves into it by draping it over objects. When fully dried, carefully tear off the newspaper from around the edges. Due to the white glue, the papier mache’ will retain the desired shape. When dried and ready, it is glued in place, sealed and finished in whatever fashion as needed. You could also alter the piece by either ripping off or trimming um-needed material with a knife or scissors, until it fits in place.

You could use the homemade papier mache’ to create other things like tunnels, small hills and cliffs.

Another use for the blender. Take some dried, brittle leaves and put them into a blender, run it until the leaves have been ground to the desired consistency that you want. You then store the material in a container until needed for use as ground cover. (You could add some real dry dirt in with it.) The the same technique could be used with dried coffee grounds. It is surprising the realistic texture that you can get. Secure the material to your layout with the standard mix of water, white glue and liquid dish soap or you could use spray-on adhesive that you can get from almost any hardware store.

The reasoning for two blenders is in case one fails, you have the other as a backup. Another reason is while you maybe making your papier mache’ in one you could be using the other for making ground cover material.

R. Olivarez”

“If you have a HO gauge and you want to run fine scale OO gauge trains. The layout can be modified by relaying the curves with Hornby track, thus making possible to run big Hornby or Bach mann Branch line trains. There fore saving you the job of ripping it all up and starting again.


” hi i just bought some telephone poles for my layout their made by lioneli wanted to mount them without damaging my brand new bauchmans grass mats the poles come with a plastic round stand the size of a quater with a hole on each side i didint want to screw on nail them down so i turned them upside down and glued on an old style thumtack with 5 min. epoxyi let them dry overnight when i mounted them they pushed into my 3/4 inch plywood easily and if you need to remove them the hole left from the thumtack is not seen so you can move them if you like.


“Hey, I’m in a situation that I put my train up for winter & take it down for summer. I use 3 – 4 X 10
plywood boards. To give it some reality, I use green indoor-outdoor carpet for grass.Staple it on the sides & I can reuse it form year to year. The most trains I got on these boards is 18 running at once.



Here is a tip that might save a fair bit for any modeler. When looking for timber/plywood for baseboards or inclines etc try your local export packer or engineering company, as export packers can have off-cuts especially softwood/plywood or OSB and engineering companies these days import components that usually come packed in plywood cases etc and it costs them to get rid of the waste timber / plywood board. Having worked for several export packers I can say that we often gave away free timber or ply to anyone who wanted to collect it

Hope this helps


Don’t forget to save your hard earned money with my boy’s ebay cheat sheet that he’s constantly tinkering with.

And if you want to put a smile on his face have a look at his print out scenery.



21 Responses to Another missive of modelling tips

  1. Steve Thurston says:

    Another use for the blender is to chop/grind up foam for your ground cover and trees. Just keep adding a mixture of dye and water until you get the color you want. Spread it out and sit it out in the sun or dry it in the oven on low heat. You can make tons of the stuff very cheaply this way.

  2. Bob says:

    These ideas are very helpful and appreciated. I save these to use whenever needed. Thanks very much. I found all to be very good and the explanations of “how to” were well written so that even I understood them.

  3. vernon allen says:

    GO to news paper printers ask for end runs of paper. it is unused paper rools
    on paper tubes can use for water towers and silows left over paper makes good paper mache (no ink) .

  4. Ian says:

    great tips keep them coming thanks.

  5. paul Otway says:

    Al I love getting your emails

  6. Drew from Sydney says:

    Can anyone please help me with an easy reusable way of connecting my layout boards back together again once I have cut the track to make them portable?

  7. derek pearce says:

    Some of these ideas, vis-a-vis, using a blender, etc. are so simple when you think about them that they border on the genius. All you guys are an incredible help to someone like me who’s really just getting started. Immense thanks to all…..and especially you Al for being our world-wide clearing house of ideas. Best Regards, Derek

  8. ALAN says:

    I also use a blender to make tree folage mix a weak paper mash ,
    dip your tree in it then let it dry, spray with glue dip again till you get a good cover do this 3 to 5 times then spray again with glue and dip in folage till you think it is right

  9. Joshy says:

    Great tips espicially the one about the hair dryer box and reclaiming timber from engineering places!!! Thanks Guys!!!! :):)

  10. Pat Gorman says:

    To Drew from Sydney,

    Not sure if I fully understand what you are trying to do but if you want to “reconnect or hold together” your train boards after separating them for transport or storage, I have used hook and eye fasteners. You want the type that has a spring loaded hook portion so to keep tension on the joined tables. For the electrical connections, I would use spade connectors. Also, as an after thought, I would use 1/4″ carriage bolts in pre-drilled holes to help with lateral alignment.

  11. Marion says:

    Steve Thurston: I love your idea for using the blender, but what kind of foam do you use? It seems that the ground up material I purchased is more like foam rubber than the foam insulation, or am I missing something?

  12. Marion says:

    Vernon Allen: That’s a great idea that I, too, stumbled on to when my artist husband went to our local newspaper, and they gave him an end roll that still had lots on it. He never did use it all before he died. Now, my present husband and I will use it in modelling. My first thought was to use it for building hills, etc., along with plaster material.

    Thanks for all your tips, y’all!

  13. chief Lucky says:

    I’m in the process of remodeling a customers kitchen. the counter backsplash had “Z’ Brick on it and I had to remove it because the counter was to be replace. Looking at that “Z” brick I had a brains storm why don’t a guy use this brick as a retainer wall for his layout. The brick has a texture such as rock so this should work fine. Another thing if you use drywall mud be careful because if you lay it on too thick it will crack.

  14. tony says:

    wife caught me eyeing up blender but thanks again to all who contribute

  15. joe says:

    i use a blender, like steve said, for foam also, i get the really cheap dollar store pack of like seven in one pack, the ones that have the green scrubby on one side, and they work great for making tree foliage and ground cover, i do suggest that when you add your water and dye in the blending proccess , you mix it with white glue , youl have to experiment with the mixure this helps keep the dryed foam held together for trees

  16. Steven stClair says:

    I really enjoy all of this constant quality information. Thank you to everyne involved!
    Steven stClair

  17. john eaton says:

    Hey guys (and the one women I know who reads this stuff)
    I think the blender article was brill as I`ve never heard of this b4! Especially mixing up for the wall.

    Can I please ask on behalf of me and any other newbies who ardently read this stuff 2all u old boys from Europe and our American cousins from across the pond, to keep sending in things like this. Because 2u lot who`ve been doing this stuff 4a lifetime now it`s like simple, n like shootin` fish in a barrel, whereas 2us newbie lot it`s like…….WOW, a minor miracle just took place wiv an £8quid ($11bucks) blender from the charity shop!!!!

    Seriously guys please keep sending in articles no matter how irreverent n unimportant they might b or seem 2u. 2us newbie lot it`s seriously soooooo simple but so effective and thank goodness for this website showing us.

    Could you also send more photos of how u do stuff and the process. Again it might b u think no ones interested n it`s too ridiculously simple an ides to post, but 2us newbies they`re knowledge.

    JohnE. UK

  18. John Kuchar says:

    When working with paper mache blend in some white liquid type glue. It helps to bind the mache, prevents edges from curling, and keeps it from cracking. It also adds a bid of firmness to its surface which helps when detailing, i.e., painting, or applying scenery.

    This process has long been used by painters of military miniatures.

  19. Neil says:

    Hi This is about the latest post, the video re Dave’s model railway, it didn’t seem to have a reply bit attached. Brilliant as ever, but out of curiosity, what are the engine and coaches on the non-functioning viaduct at the back? They look quite old fashioned Edwardian-ish style bit can’t be as much too long. What are they ?


  20. Phil says:

    My layout ia 4×8 and I can host it up to the ceiling in my work shop so I can work in the shop. What I need help with is I with to put backgrounds around the lay out, put i don’t want go any higher then 3 to 4 inches, I have plexiglass around it now.I like put towns.factories etc.


  21. Maurice says:

    Connecting a portable layout

    Try this method for connecting a portable layout. My track layout is on a 4/8 sheet of plywood that I cut in half to get two pieces that are 4/4 sections. Good for transporting or storage.
    On both sections I cut my track 1 inch back from the edge of the plywood where the two sections of track meet. Be sure both sections where the track meet is in alignment with each other.
    I then cut a small pieces of track inserts to fit each section of track to be reconnected. When reconnecting the two sections back together I put both sections together without the track inserts to get it lined-up. I then pull one section back just enough to insert the pieces of connecting track on one side of the layout.
    Line-up the second section of layout with the track inserts then push gently the two sections of layout together. If you have a problem with a section of the layout moving when reconnecting, just put a screw in that section to keep it from moving until you are finished.
    Hope this will help

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