Model train Santa Fe scenery

Dan’s been back in touch with more of his model train Santa Fe scenery – I do love how he used the waterpaints to ‘weather’ the scenery:

“Diagram of the layout with the outlined part that will show constriction and finishing look of the ceiling tile rocks.

model train santa fe track layout

This is the are to be done in the before look. The unballasted track is an unseen loop to “Denver” that is a holding /staging track for two trains that come and go at an interchange that is physically behind me in this photograph.

model train santa fe bench work

A ground level look. The track along the wall represents the Old mainline. When the early Santa Fe was being built they wanted it done quickly. Later when they had more money, a more gentle grade and curvature was done.

In photo 2 you can see a straight piece of wood. That will be the bridge taking the old line over the new line. The old line was a 4% grade and 18 inch radius. This was done on purpose. This forces me to NOT take modern locos up to the resort to come later. Only B truck locos and the 2-6-2 steam loco can use the old line.

model train HO scale bench

A look from the other side looking back toward “Bovine” in the distance. The junction of the old new line is in the far distance. The unfinished part in the near part of the photo will be the Chromite mine. Chromite is use to make chrome steel. This mine uses the old mainline.

model train HO scale bench

There is a lot of info here. In the US we usually have a 2 week break for Christmas. (I taught school) The part that has already been colored, I did during that break. I learned how to do the rocks doing this part. It became much easier after that.

You can see the Chromite mine in the distance on the upper level. What doesn’t show is the 4% grade and sharp curve going up to the mine level. There are some low rocks hiding that. You just see the trains as they go up. The disguise of the rocks between you and the trains makes it look much better.

HO scaale laying track santa fe layout

You can see how much cleaning will need to be done once the rocks are in place. You can also see the control panel for the mine area. The white lines are the block for the mine and the red and yellow lines are the new mainline.

A better, although slightly fuzzy, look at the mine.

model train santa fe layout

A little jump ahead. The unballasted track is “Denver” and is hidden storage.

model train santa fe rocks

Here is an example of “Weathered” rocks. I never use wire brushes to do the weathering. As mentioned in my “clinic”, I dab on the watercolor paints and let it soak in.

If they are to be weathered, I go back over the rock face GENTLY rubbing the rock faces back and forth. If the brush is too stiff it wears away too much tile. The wet tile rubs away very easily.

ceiling tiles HO scale rocks

To get a natural look of the rocks I use broken pieces to simulate falling rock.

HO scale weathered rocks

Another example if broken or falling rock.

HO scale model train scenery

I made the camera from pieces of a KD coupler box.

HO scale rocks ceiling tiles

I find perspective hard to do. For my road to come in and out of the scene I had the road curve around the rocks in what looks like a natural crack.

model train santa fe layout

Exiting the scene.

santa fe HO scale bridge

Notice the natural erosion to the right of the bridge. I modeled the dry season.

model railroad bridge culvert

The railroad built along a dry wash . The old mainline it just above the wash.

Let explain how I did the detritus and small rocks. You can spend money on this stuff. However, plain old kitty liter work just right. The fallen rock should be the color of the rocks above and around the base of the fall.

HO scale rocks from ceiling tiles

Use the same color you used for the rocks. I had some old large coffee cans. Put the paint mix in the can. (Remember we do not use the paints straight from the craft paint bottle. We diluted them.) My wife sacrificed a pair of old nylons. (She sacrifices a lot to put up with me.)

Put the litter in the nylon and dip it in the paint for about 15 seconds. I spread the wet litter on a piece of window screen and let it dry for a few days. Break up the clumps. If you want you can screen out for various sizes.

Once the rocks are in place. Lightly spray a mist of water over them. Next I use a 50-50 mix of white glue and water and slowly drizzle it over the rocks.

Here is the new main line in the gap in the rock and the old water channel. The old line is above.

HO scale rocks from ceiling tiles

My model train Santa Fe era is roughly 1958 to 1961. I do cheat a little as you will eventually see in a video to come. The Santa Fe had some active steam up to the end.

HO scale steam train bridge

My Broadway Ltd. 4-8-4.

HO scale steam engine bridge

The whole shebang!

model train santa fe layout

I hope you liked this set.


A huge big thanks to Dan for taking the time to share his his model train Santa Fe scenery – the final pic really does show how effective his techniques are.

If you missed how he makes his scenery, it’s here:

model railroad rocks

Please do leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

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

21 Responses to Model train Santa Fe scenery

  1. Herman Crauwels says:

    Woooi.. great montain !!

  2. Ralph says:

    Great scenery, a great layout. I found your descriptions very helpful.

  3. Robert Brady says:

    Dan, Looks like the start of something great . I’m envious.
    The Critic

  4. Rod Mackay says:

    Splendid, what a project. Good luck with the rest.

  5. Stephen Hill says:

    Most impressive. I wish I had that much space to house my layout … I’m just jealous . That really is a keen layout, lots of hard work and planning , looks great , you’ve done a very nice job .

  6. Brian Olson says:

    On a scale of 1-10, I give it a 12!

  7. george zaky says:

    A great teacher you are! Aside from the smashing layout, well thought out, and masterfully crafted you explained it like the pro you are. Wonderful submission and it will take a few more glances to absorb it all. Great thanks for your time & effort.
    Big Al
    Ahh- fine morning, coffee & Santa Fe Dan. Gracie.👍

  8. SantaFeJim says:

    A W E S O M E !!!

  9. Rob McCrain says:

    What a fantastic layout. It has so many intriguing features.
    Rob McCrain

  10. GORDON says:

    Your e-mail is a lesson on HO layout taught by a gifted teacher. GREAT LESSON thank you.

  11. Gary Gray says:

    Wow, just wow!

  12. Pamela Bambula says:

    My first question is. How big is your layout? 2nd, how long have you been working on this? It is awesome. I’m just starting out since I moved. Thanks for all the pictures.

  13. Gary Klein says:

    GREAT JOB!! I am new to modeling.. Do you use broken tiles? or foam?
    HELP Please.
    Gary in Las Vegas, NV

  14. santafedan says:

    Pamela, it is 35 by 15 feet. The main, visible, part is 48 inches from the floor rising to about 56 inches. You will see that section on another post. I am an old modeler. I started in laying track in March 1991. The last spike went in in June of 1992. Then the scenery was done about 1993.
    I worked on it during the evenings after teaching during the day.

    Gary, I use ceiling tile. It was described in the earlier post. I tried foam and did not like the way it turned out. Both methods are messy but the results with the tile is much better.

  15. Kevin McArdle says:

    All I can say is amazing modeling

  16. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Dan…….WOW. What a train room. Great work on the mountains. Most realistic rock and mountain formations I’ve seen. Love the person taking pictures.

  17. Malcolm says:

    Wow! Great job. The only negative that I see from the drawing is that there is a lot of double/triple track and yard. In the period which he is modeling the Santa Fe still had a lot of single track mainline running through impressive scenery. Best of luck with this layout!

  18. Andy Jackson says:

    Can the overhead lights be dimmed enough for night tim(e running?

  19. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    Dan- fantastic combination of a lot of trains and spectacular scenery! Thanks for sharing!

  20. santafedan says:

    Malcolm, I have ridden the Santa Fe at least 5 times from Chicago to LA. I have driven along the passenger route two times as far as Needles. You pick and choose your poison. I needed a double track main because I am doing DC.

    Andy, they are not be dimmed. I rarely run in the “night.”

  21. william janmes palmer says:

    outstanding work

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