Model train river

Dan’s been back in touch, this time with pics and advice when it comes to making a model train river:


In a previous post, long ago now, I mentioned that I did not do a river on my Santa Fe layout. I chose the “dry” season because I did not know how to do the water.

Here is the Inland Pacific Railway and the first rivers I ever did. The owner was a railroader and the layout was a three level very large layout. The lower level was storage and run through. It was a fully sceniced and signaled operating railroad. It had a working 11 track hump yard!

model train river

My first river turned out to be 6 feet long. Here is the beginning. I don’t think I have photos of the progress. I will say that once I poured the plaster bottom, I used my hand to smooth out the river bed to get a little 3-D effect. Very subtle but in real life it looked like a slightly uneven river bed. I also used my hand to smooth out the paint.

model train river

Finished look

model train river

Under the bridge

HO scale hobo camp

A Hobo camp

trestle bridge over river

Camper under the bridge

HO scale bridge support

Drift wood detail

model train river

A closer look

Model train river:

model train river

This train is on the lower level of the layout. The train continues to the right to the bridge over the river in the photos above. The train is on a curve from left to right. I made an Ox Bow bend scene.

model train river

I made the rapids with kitty litter and dry brushed on white and blue paints to get the daylight glint.

HO scale locomotive

River level look.

model train river

Another river. Here there is dam holding the water at the rear of the photo. I made a pond there with the dam.

The over flow is interesting. I painted the dam’s over flow with tempera paint that was not fully wet. I mean not fully dissolve. This when brushed on gave it texture. Once everything was in place I made two pours of EnviroTex. I made sure there would be room for the second pour. Starting at the pond I let the “water” flow over the dam. The photo does not do it justice.

model train river

Another river. I taught driver ed for about 10 summers. I saw rivers in all manor of runoff. Here is chose a nice summer clear water look. Notice the raft some kids have put in the water.

model train river

There are 5 rivers on the layout. Here is another. The rivers were for scenic internist.

model train river

A different river.

layout diagram

As I prepared these photos, I realized that I should at least show the layout diagrams. General look at the layout foot print. I do not recall the size of the basement. It was a full sized basement.

HO scale track plan

The diagram.

model train control room

The dispatch room.

The owner standing at the helix. This gives some idea as to the room size. There is as much room behind him as in front.

Thanks for looking. I have other layout rivers to post. If you want more of this layout let me know. Alas, as with all layouts this one is no more. A lot of it went with him when he moved to another city.

Santa Fe Dan*”

A huge big thanks to Santa Fe Dan for sharing his model train river pics and advice.

There’s quite a few posts on lakes and rivers on the blog now:

Model railroad river scene

N scale river

HO scale river

How to make a river for your railroad

How to make a pond for your model railroad

HO scale water ponds

HO scale waterfront layout

Model train waterfall

N scale waterfall

Mode train water effects

That’s all for today folks. Please do keep ’em coming. And you all know how I’m going to end:

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142 track plans PDF

18 Responses to Model train river

  1. robert dale tiemann says:

    that is a heck of a switch board, and layout. a huge lot of work. shows how much you enjoy doing this.

  2. John Birch says:

    Absolutely stunning! Fantastic attention to detail – a work of art. Congratulations.

  3. chris Keil (Missouri) says:

    I’m going to save this entry as a permanent reference for river construction!!! I’ve never seen a better looking river construction that the one you’ve displayed here. The shallow water (with the raft) was incredible.

  4. Robert Brady says:

    Dan your layout is exquisite great workmanship.
    The Critic

  5. Dan Robinson says:

    Wow love the detail on the rivers and the difference one to the next, as in depending on the scape. That is a beauty layout and the dispatch:)

  6. Bill says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Very well done. Thank you.

  7. Greg Marples says:

    You not only have the water technique down, Dan, but a really great artists eye! Now help me figure out how to keep the dust off of it!

  8. Rob McCrain says:

    Impressive. The CTC board is very well done. It is a good-sized layout with many industries and customers to serve. It must have been great fun building it and creating the scenery and buildings. I am sure it lends itself to operating sessions well. Rob

  9. Larry Kenneth Schweitzer says:

    That is some really great water work!

  10. Kevin McArdle says:


  11. Jeff in Seattle says:

    Your dispatch room is a dream come true for a lot of us modelers!!! WoW!!!

  12. Jim AZ says:

    Oh to have so much room to work with. Great scenes with great camera angles, highly detailed and realistic landscaping and of course the use of ceiling tiles to create fantastic looking rock faces.

    Jim AZ

  13. Steve Ruple says:

    A very awesome layout with many river designs. I can only dream about having a layout like that with a dispatch room. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Marc Robert Recker says:

    If I didn’t know that this was a model RXR , I would have thought this was the real thing in some to the pictures. Great work.

  15. william janmes palmer says:


  16. John V. says:

    Most realistic layout I’ve seen. Great job.

  17. Will in NM says:

    Beautiful work Dan! Even though your current layout has no rivers, you clearly know how to create them when you want to. My only complaint with using the ceiling tiles to create the rock strata is that everything is then horizontal strata. In nature, the sedimentary rocks are often fractured and tilted at odd angles from horizontal. Just a thought: you might try tilting some of the tile pieces to get a more natural effect. Your rivers, however, look fantastic! Thanks for sharing your photos. I rewatched your layout tour video last night and enjoyed it again.

  18. santafedan says:

    Will, I have done that on layouts I have done.
    One that I might get to will have that example.

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