Model train rock wall

Kim’s been in touch with a very good way to make a model train rock wall:

“Hi Al. Hope everyone is doing well. I have an idea for the group. Cheap easy and no mess. Crafter’s board. Come’s in 3 feet by 3 foot less than a 1/4 inch crafter’s board.

It has paper on both side’s so remove the paper on one side and us a dull pointy object to carve lines. You will figure out how much pressure to use and not to use when doing it. Doesn’t take much. This idea can save a lot of money to make wall’s, portal’s, homes.The third is stepping blocks. If you stand it up can use it for a retaining wall. then paint. I pay $1 for each board.


Model train rock wall

Model train rock wall

Model train rock wall


I have been reading your posts for some time now! Great stuff! I always look forward to opening another email with some great ideas!

Not too long ago, myself and my 10 year old started a model (on a budget… I’ll say again, he’s a 10 yr old boy… haha). My hopes is that this will be a hobby that will (willingly) take time away from the play station, tablet, etc… Down the road, better investments will come. But for now, we have been working with minimals and lots of items from ebay! Still, no cheap….

So last night, he approached me and wanted to use his matchbox cars on the set. No problem! Whatever it takes to keep him entertained with the start of a great hobby, right?! But, he wanted to focus some senery around a matchbox that he has with a tow behind camper… “We need a campground!”

So it began! Take a look at the photos! (Keep in mind, the “log cabin” is temporary…)

He is my question…. I have looking for camping type scenery. I haven’t found much for good prices. We are currently establishing wired track switches, buss wires, streetlights, etc… So buying little plastic tents just isn’t in the cards right now. However, I have seen a printable paper template for camping tents that are made from paper! I have not been able to find a source for this template… But, I am looking for ideas to sweeten this little spot within reason… thoughts?






“The second edition of A&CRR pictures features Abingdon, Pennsylvania, just across the state line from Crane, NY. Parts of Abingdon are very much unfinished, leaving me with something to do.

Abingdon’s major industries are the Johnson Brewing Co., with a kit building and a smaller scratch-built, and a small steam-powered sawmill. There is also a scratch-built pump jack pulling up that rich Pennsylvania crude. The Phineas P. Gage (google it) School of Mine Engineering prepares young men for a rewarding career.

Some day the farm way in the back will look like a farm, perhaps with a small landing area for an Autogyro. The hinged bridge allows benddown-free access and is built from an article in Model Railroader from the 1980’si

L. Johnson, President”







And lastly, Eric has been in touch again. You’ll remember from a few posts ago, he’s rebuilding his layout. Here he shows the trains running before he gets busy on the scenery.

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A huge thank you to everyone. I loved Larry’s second installment and I hope you did too.

If today’s post hasn’t got you inspired, I don’t know what will – other than the beginners guide.

One last thing. I keep getting mails asking for ‘more American’ layouts. Well, folks, it’s all very simple. You send ’em in, and I post ’em. So it’s up to you…

Keep ’em coming.



45 Responses to Model train rock wall

  1. Ken Stramel says:

    It looks very nice. Everything runs well, now the scenery. Keep up the good work.

  2. Chea says:

    Are u modeling in HO scale and if so what secrets will u use to blend the matchbox cars in. I would rather use hotwheels or matchbox, way cheaper than Ho scale cars.

  3. steve says:

    very impressive lay out , can’t wait to see it when your done
    what caught my eye was the scaffolding around the 2 houses under construction

  4. John Birch says:

    Years ago I built a small campsite on my layout. For tents I cut some thin card and folded it in the shape of a cottage tent (the old fashioned type). I then glued pieces from an old white sheet on to the card to look like canvas. A few splinters of match sticks were used as pegs and some white cotton formed the guy ropes. The whole thing looked very impressive and cost me nothing.

  5. Bob Severance says:

    That looks great! Every campground has to have a HQ/restroom/shower area….so I think the log cabin looks good there!!

  6. Bernard Hallas says:

    I have seen an article using dried empty teabags for model tent canvas.
    Use the square teabags, carefully open out three sides (and the tea!) , rinse and dry flat. Make a tent -inverted vee shape-, supporting on wire (open paperclip), toothpicks for poles? or more paper-clip. If you make the shape & spray with fixative (cheap hairspray) it will be stiff enough to be self supporting when dry.
    Alternatively, use artist’s medium (the liquid kind), gently brushed on the flat pieces, then shape & allow to dry.
    Either of these will produce rigid shapes. If you use the teabags as flat ‘panels’, you could glue them together to make a “box” tent.
    Same kind of trick will do canvas cover for loads.



  8. Ian says:

    Great stuff. It never ceases to amaze me how many disciplines are involved in miniature railroading. From architecture to landscaping, from structural engineering to electronics. They are all there.

    Thank you form sharing your craft with us.



  9. vince longo says:

    Great idea for the tent with card and cloth. Also if you have any watercolors or acrylic paint you can just get watercolor paper and paint your tents any color you want and use thread, wire or anything that resembles rope and the small end od toothpick for the poles.
    I’ve made many trees, buildings and modified HO figures just by using the free material around the house or yard.
    Have fun with your son and enjoy.

  10. David Wilson says:

    Eric’s layout is fantastic and what smooth runners! Wondered how is he going to gain access to all those underpasses if a derailment should occur and clean the track?

  11. Jim says:

    Very nice system….great vid on the running session. ..jim Manchester u.k

  12. Paul Vogel says:

    Every time I look at layouts on this website I wanna through rocks at mine. Great work. Paul

  13. Wayne Wallace says:

    I was preparing for my layout, two years in preparing, but needed trees, moss, dried grass and stuff like that. Started looking at the Christmas Section in garage or estate sales.
    I now have a bushel basket full of dead looking stuff for my lay out, more than I can use. Different colors from orange to green to brown. Never gave it mush thought until I looked at the cost at Hobby Lobby. You just have to have an imagination, which cost nothing. Just thought I would mention this.

  14. John Marshall says:

    Adding to Kim’s info, the Styrofoam package bottoms used for meats in the grocery store can be used in the same way as the foam board.
    A good recycling/repurposing idea to cut down on trash in the landfills.

  15. Mark Jarvis says:

    Hi Will

    Another poibility for your tents is to use toilet tissue, smeared with PVA glue, hang over a piece of cotton and allow to dry, You can use the cotton as guy ropes or cut off and use the tent free standing, cheep coloring use a wash of cold tea, it stains like canvas



    i like the dino in the photo lol. a great job well done.

  17. michael brookman says:

    Great stuff as always! Like the suggestion of the craft board. I’ll be looking into that. michael

  18. deon says:

    looks good I have been interested in the polystyrene system for a while now cant get hold of it but it looks like a great way to form up a layout

  19. Bob says:

    Really like the Abington, PA / Crane, NY modeling. It is based on many of the same buildings I am using and it’s good to see someone having success with them.

  20. Ralph in Eureka, Missouri, U.S.A. says:

    Eric, Very nice, smooth running layout. Can you please show us what is going on under all those elevations? Can’t tell if there are ramps or helix or both to get from level to level. Thanks!

  21. Ian Mc Donald says:

    I like the campsite part for tents I got white sheet glued the corners then painted white it stiffened the cloth looked alright. anything that is scratched built gives me more pleasure its usually a bit rough but I made it. that track is pretty darn good so cant wait to see the scenery.

  22. Ken says:

    Nice and cheap when on a budget trying to build a bench a lick of paint and this or glue they can be made into anything you can think of from tunnels to mountains thank you for sharing

  23. Larry Johnson says:

    Al, The pictures above are the FIRST installment of the A&CRR!

  24. Creig says:

    Thank you Alastair, And thank you Eric, for posting latest update, And keeping us all glued in suspense and anticipation for next update. /plays video again 🙂

  25. Larry Sheesley says:

    When I built my campsite, I bought one set of woodland scenic s campground stuff and then I used those tents and playground equip as templates to make my own out of balsa wood, Popsicle sticks, taffy apple sticks, toothpicks, and plain ordinary scrap plastic pieces from modeling kits( the spurs). I made swing sets out of cheap little kids cosmetic jewelry chains and such. You would be surprised what you find around the house that can be used..

  26. Paul Wienold says:

    I think the “toys” are close enough they do not detract from the layout. Using tem obviously kept the young man’s attention. From such could come a lifelong hobby. I wish him luck, patients, and delight.

  27. Robin Hallam says:

    love the campsite, use of the lichen for edging,

  28. Nick says:

    Kim left a tip about Crafters Board. Where does she buy it? I can’t find it anywhere….

  29. Dave Massimi says:

    I too would like to know more about “Crafters Board”, so thank you to Kim for bringing it to our attention. To Will…while your railroad looks great, I think your ability to involve your son is absolutely brilliant, and I’m sure both of you will remember the experience for a long time. If you’re still looking for tents, try diorama websites on YouTube…type in How to make tents, or something like that. Much good luck to you and your lucky son!

  30. Brad says:

    Did a few cabins LONG ago.Used stiff cardboard and made them the size I wanted.I found some 1/2 round styro strips at a craft store.I glued those onto the cardboard sides to make it look like logs.I then made the roofs out of cardboard as well.Got some scale roofing off Ebay,cut to size and glue it on.There are a variety of roofs you can make,even thatched if you desire.I would then add or make a door from old balsa stock.You can crank out a ton of these “assembly line” style and little cost

  31. Gary Manganiello says:

    My wife doesn’t throw anything away anymore without saying “Can you use this on your layout?”. I love walking around the arts and crafts stores and the .99cent stores looking at stuff that I can use. You would be surprised with a little imagination you can turn junk into great scenery items and save some money (this hobby can get very expensive). I save all my little scrapes of wood and wire and plastic to make mounds of garbage that sit along the railroad yards, tracks and in back of buildings. Happy modeling everyone.

  32. Paul Case says:

    Eric very interesting layout but all the trains look alike. Why so many of the same engine? The use of N scale sure makes it easy to fit so much in a compact area. You really have some smooth runners.

  33. Robert Brady says:

    That guy on the roof with a green shirt and binoculars, How did he get up there?
    The Critic

  34. Bob Amling says:

    What a great time for you! Savor every minute, Girls and HS sports are lurking in the shadows. A few ideas on your tents. I just read elsewhere that someone used 6 wooden match sticks, hot glue and paper shop towels. He didn’t provide pictures; but I think a couple of A frames on the ends and a top rail connecting them would make the frame. Then cover with the towel. Then you could also try dollar stores, 5Below, or whatever close out bargain stores are in your neck of the woods. Lastly, when I was a scout, the NY district inherited an old campsite from the city. It was for sanitation men and their families. They appropriately called it Sanita Hills. The interesting part was that they used repurposed subway cars for cabins. I think derelict under the table passenger cars would be ideal, especially combines. Keep us posted!
    Bob in Colts Neck Crossing NJ

  35. Dwight in Toronto says:

    Eric, nice job crafting that double mainline n scale layout. I’m contemplating a tear-down of my 12 year old n scale pike, and have convinced myself that a double mainline will form the backbone of the new design. Personally, I prefer to use flex track wherever possible, since I find that sectional track makes for too much of a geometric “toy-like” appearance. I also think I’m going to try hand-laid turnouts this time around, where more prototypical #10/#12 switches can be featured. For those who might be interested, check out the website for a company called “Fast Tracks” to explore the superior appearance and reliability of their hand-laid turnouts, crossings etc.

  36. Bill says:

    Electric “tea lights” (candles) are cheap, flicker and make a great campfire. Just drill a hole and stick the “flame” through. If you want, you can run wires to a more convenient location for a switch. Really effective “after dark” on your layout!

  37. Bob in PG says:

    Regarding “Crafters board”, here in British Columbia, it is known as foam core. I have seen it in building supply stores as well as hobby shops. I used to make posters and signage for displays and we would buy 4’x8’ sheets from the local picture framing shop. That may be a source for modellers who only need small pieces of foam core. They may give away their trim offs for free.

  38. John Floyd says:

    Thanks for the info I will be able to make my own tunnel nportal s and more ,😃

  39. Will in NM says:

    Kim, Great tip about scribing the foam core board. You can also make loads for gondolas, hoppers and trucks by carving a piece of foam core and then gluing ballast or other materials on top. Foam core is available at some dollar stores like Dollar Tree but they are about 26 x 30 inch sheets and only 3/16 inch thick. Larger sheets (40 x 30 inches and 1/4 inch thick) are available from arts supply stores like Dick Blick and Hobby Lobby.

    Will, I loved you son’s campground idea and your execution of the idea. The log cabin is fine as every campground needs a showers and restroom building. I was really pleased that you allowed your son to direct the course of the train layout’s development by including his matchbox cars and vehicles in the plan. I wish I had done something like that with my sons who were seemingly only interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons at that age.

    Eric, Thanks for the video — it make your new layout changes easier to comprehend and it’s always great to see model trains running. I like seeing a layout as it progresses from basic framing to finished railroad.

  40. John Birch says:

    I made a tent from an old scrap of denim, painted it brown and glued it to cardboard to give shape, some match sticks and a bit of cotton. It cost me nothing. If you go to my YouTube video, just less than three and a half minutes into the video, you’ll see what I mean.
    Good luck

  41. Erick says:

    Pretty Neat.!!!!!

  42. Excellent ideas and work bye all.

  43. Krish says:

    Hi Eric, that’s a cool layout. Could we please have a look at the trach plan? Would be interesting to see the grades and connections between the levels.

  44. Tom Duffy says:

    WALTHERS old catalog 1999 has tents…. I’m not iat home or I would give you the order # .. Check it out… HO Scale ..!

  45. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice. i like the moldings

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