Model railroad tips – John’s

John’s been back in touch with some very good model railroad tips:

You’ll remember him from his last post, which included a very impressive lift bridge.

Here’s a pic to jog your memory:

HO scale lift bridge

But perhaps you’ll remember him most from his previous mountain layout:

Well, he’s been kind enough to send in these tips after I posted things were a little thin on the ground this end:


A couple of quick tips.

1) Tired of ballast sand going everywhere but in between the ties?

How about painting the cork roadbed to look like ballast – paint it all grey, then dry brush black.

Looks pretty good, and no sand in the points!

fake ballast

HO scale fake ballast

model train fake ballast

2) Need quick and easy tunnel liners?

I make mine from 2” dense insulation board, easy to punch a hole with a hole-saw, then trim with any saw.

Paint black and trim as needed, as an example on several on my tunnels, 2 sections cut in half (can’t see the side closest to the viewer), hot glue and done.

model railroad tips  tunnel liner

model railway tunnel liner

model railroad tunnel liner

tunnel liner

3) Need a quick way to carve in strata rock on a cliff?

I use a course wire brush, and try to time the drying of the plaster so it’s not super hard, but won’t clog the brush.

Works pretty well I think.

model railroad tips rock carving

rock face model railroad tips

More later.

John From Baltimore”

A big thank to John – some very useful tips.

I have to agree as well, I think his rock faces look spot on. And so simple too.

Now on to Rob:

“Hi Al,

I’ve got another video for you.

This time I packaged up all the track laying wisdom I have learned over the last 12 years of building layouts and laying track.

In all I pass along 12 items of experience. It has proven very popular on my channel.

I hope your readers can find a nugget or two that will help them.


Thanks to Rob and John for sharing his model railroad tips.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

6 Responses to Model railroad tips – John’s

  1. Will in NM says:

    Great set of tips! Thank you Rob and John!

  2. George Zaky says:

    Mucho gracias.
    Great tips and big thanks also.
    Big Al
    You da man

  3. Ted says:

    Very helpful video!

  4. john peddy says:

    Nice set of tips. really like the idea of painting the cork roadbed. Wish there was a pic of track on top to see how it looks.

  5. wayne bishop says:

    helpful tips

  6. Earl Cory says:

    Rob always has good tips, but some caveats are necessary. When using code 55 track on cork roadbed, the idea of placing a rail jointer between the rail and ties is not a good idea. There is a vertical displacement of the rails at the joint. With form roadbed, Code 80, 100, etc. track, HO and larger, not as noticeable.

    The slighting of rail jointers back from the joint does not work with isolated rail joiners and ties need to be removed. If you are going to use current sensitive block detection, isolated rail jointers are usually used (inserted styrene card can also be used.

    As for soldering rail jointers. If you are using dropper on each piece of rail, then you will have good conductivity and there is no need to solder the rail jointers. The only exception I make to this is if I am going to using multiple pieces of flex track on a curve and cannot use the offset rail placement technique. This is particularly true with Atlas flex track. Atlas track has one rail locked and the other slides, thus making it hard to remove a piece of rail on the fixed side.

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