More railroad tips – and more sign pics from Roger

“Hello Al

Here are the photos for INTERIORS. The photo numbers continue on from the last batch on my previous mail (12-17).

I use high quality on my camera which means I can send a limited amount attached to a mail.



“G-Day, from Australia, Alastair I have used latex and covered a section of a natural rock wall, out crop, and then splattered a thick plaster mix inside the mold with some great effects.”


“Most people use oil based paints to paint buildings, engines and rolling stock. I use a water base paint, it makes it so much easier to weather which ever piece I am working on and once I am happy with the way it looks I then spay a flat clear coat over the piece. It make it look old and weathered, it is so easy to maintain. Besides the clean up is so simple. Thanks,


“Take dry wall compound and dilute with water to a thick batter consistently. Then dip paper towel sheets in it to coat. Lay over foam or crumpled up newspaper
and shape with fingers. Works the same as plaster cloth and much cheaper.”


“Love this thanks !!! I have been a modeler for many years and i try not to spend money on stuff i feel we can make . I’m in the auto restoration business and use body filler to make so much stuff with foam , by making forms out of foam then cover with body filler then before its dry i place latex brick or cobble stones mold place it on the filler let dry .Once its dry pull form from the filler and u have bricks or streets would like to show you with some pics . I a’m currently doing Amsterdam with its canals and central station on of the most beautiful cities i have seen in my travels . thanks for your time.


“The feathery seeds from pampas grass makes good clumps of bush grass for OO/HO or elephant grass for N gge. Clumps makes good bamboo. Paint with simple school poster paints, or dye in a poster paint/ water 30/70 solution. Sue hairspray if you want a fixative.

Dried tea leaves and coffee grounds make good scatter material. Sift them with a sieve for different grades. Dye them with poster paints.


“Hi Al,

Keep em coming. I like some of these idea’s.

Another sugestion for Wire Netting is strips cut from Net Curtains that can then be sprayed with “Mount Spray” or Hair Lacquer to provide the rigidity.



“I have something I can share with you. I am sure someone has already done it. It came to me as I was sitting with my wife a few months ago. I was planning my “Drive in Theater” layout for my HO’s trains. I was thinking about making the speakers for the cars. She was taking bobby pins out of her hair, I picked up one and said it’s the right size and it was as simple as this. I took one and cut it in half to make two even pieces then bent the head pieces on an angle away from each other, painted them aluminum. So with one drop of super glue at the bottom with a bead making the cement bottom of the post- painting the lower part flat white. I went to the dollar store and picked up 2 packages that had about 100 in each pack and a small pack of beads that fit perfect. It has done more than complete the area for 140 cars facing the screen. With all the materials at your side it takes about one min. to make one and cost little to nothing for a great result. Using a 1/87 or 1/64 scale car this resembles an incredible memory and furthers the conversation for the layout. It worked for me.


“If you want to model craggy weathered granite on cliffs or outcrops I have found chuncks of pine bark, I get mine from pine bark mulch, set in plaster gives a very realistic look even close up. If you want sandstone then a few passes with awire brush and a spray with an airbush of whatever colour you prefer also looks pretty good.


Some good tips here. Hope enjoyed them.

I keep getting mails that theebay cheat sheet doesn’t work with the Chrome browser. I’ll try and fix that. For everyone else, thanks for all the comments on it. Hope it’s saved you a few dollars.



34 Responses to More railroad tips – and more sign pics from Roger

  1. Andrew Hynes says:

    Hi Al,
    Always look forward to your tips.
    Keep them comimg
    Andrew Hynes. (Australia).

  2. Bob Durie says:

    I’d love to see some of the photos from the descriptions given by the guys above.

  3. Werner Grotz says:

    Hello From Texas,

    Are there any Marklin HO fans out there ?

    The GermanTexan

  4. chris says:

    Always enjoy the tips and ispirational ideas, keep up the good work

  5. paul Otway says:

    Great tips

  6. TOM says:


  7. Gary Lynn says:

    Great ideas. I will try the bobby pin idea.

  8. Thank you for sharing your railroading tips. I am finally doing this too next weekend. I am going on a break from my job just to be able to build something nice and one of a kind.

  9. Milton White says:

    As a newcomer to model trains i have used PVC foam ( not the packageing kind) on my layout with what i consider great success, It comes in flat sheets to the thickness you require to build up. I have seen some good tutorials on the process on the webb. Much easier to adjust or add to. Just cut some off or stick some on as the case may be than i would think useing chicken wire or plaster of paris. Hope this helps someone.

  10. michael says:

    great tips thanks from Cincinnati.ohio

  11. stuart says:

    looks good i will have a crack at that

  12. Bud Holzman says:

    Werner Grotz wants to know if there are any HO modelers out thar? Yessiree I’m here in Good Old Jersey (Not the Isle of). My layout is 4×8 with Marklin rolling stock. One passenger rain, one freight train and one Suburban train. I used some pieces of tree branches cut to fit in a flat car, to simulate trees going to the mill for processing..

    Allister. I greatly enjoy your mail and the tips and stories from modelers around the world. When are you going to gather them together in a “Tip Book”?

  13. Mike says:

    Please someone give some O gauge (lionel, mth, atlas} advice or layout pictures, including model buildings scale diagrams, etc!

  14. Vern Smith says:

    Realize “high” quality is a wonderful term, but the print on the computer screen is only 75dpi, therefore a higher resolution is not required or necessary.

    Lighting is more important than dpi.. So if you have access to a editing program, you may want to crop and change dpi so it fits into the internet. Thanks Vern

  15. Bumper says:

    I have found, what I refer as speedy dry as a good ballast for Lionel and American Flyer track. I use it to soak up oil, gasoline, or what ever spills in and around the garage. Comes already in a dry form, works good with water base paints, glue and spreads easy. All my trains and accessories are old Lional metal cars, trains. Very hard to come by. I do very little to make my rolling stock look old or rusty, age has done that pretty much for me. My hobbie layout, or trains go back to 1935 and some before.

  16. larry sheesley says:

    Great ideas al, and keep them coming. I have used several tha tI have read on my HO layout and it does make it easier and cheaper. The idea with bobby pins and beads for speakers is great and I would love to see pics of them to see how they look. My drive in uses an old 5″ TV wired directly to a switch and to the transformer. I used small plastic cars for the drive in and made the rows different heights for realism but I think I will use the pin idea for better looking speakers. I put a wooden fence around it inserted some playground equipment and scratch built the concession and ticket booth. I have had this for several years on another layout and I am going to incorporate it into my new layout. Keep the ideas coming Al they are really helpful

  17. David says:

    Great ideas. The Fred Hubert garage interior looks great will give that a try. Thanks Rodge and all you guys with your brilliant ideas please keep them coming.

  18. Jim Orner says:

    Gentlemen, before I commit to a purchase of these buildings { which by the way I think are totally cool } my question to you is this all I am hearing is that they are for H-O scale and N scale. my question to you is are they available in other scales as well, I am currently in the process of building my first railroad layout since I was a child at home. the scale I am using is O scale, are your buildings and such applicable to O scale and if so how do I do it?/ I read somewhere about increasing the percentage scale on printer. the question is by how much do I increase size ??

  19. I am working on a O scale track that will run around the edge of the basement at a height of six feet. This is because below the track is all of my work areas. It is not my main hobby and is a track of alternate worlds. But I have found for some of my buildings that the bird houses of Michaels are almost the correct size. Cut off the bird perch and paint them up to whatever color suits your fancy and you have a few houses that cost five or ten dollars each. Pictures to come shortly.

  20. Jean V. Poulard says:

    I would like to see more layout plans.

  21. ROBERT K SCHWORM says:

    Regarding the substitute to plaster cloth, be sure to use the BLUE industrial paper towel. Much stronger and will hold up against the wall compound.

    Need a nice gray road bed material? try kitty litter. I sifted it once coarsly, and then again fine – give me two different grits for specific areas.

    Trouble taking roadbed around curves? Try rubber sheeting 1/8″ thick and cut into strips. Then split it to about 1 inch each. Goes around curves easily and interfaces to cork as well.

  22. Allen Montville says:

    Here’s a tip for store signs and billboards. Go into word on your computer, type out any sign. Example AL’s BAIT SHOP. You can make the lettering any size you want and in any shape you want also. Type out all the signs you want at the time on one sheet of copy paper, make the copy. Then cut your signs from the paper and use a thin card board for a backing and glue together. Walla, you have a sign or a billboard. Then glue to your building roof or where ever. I like to name buisnesses after relative’s and the wife. They all get a kick out of it. Plus on word you can also make your sign out of any color, then print out. Personalize your layout this way. Everybody loves it. Farmer AL

  23. BARRY HERMAN says:

    To the german Texan
    Hi I have Marklin HO and a great layout 21 ft long by 12 ft across the back and thern to complete that U shape 8 ft. Most all of it is 8 ft wide with some 6 ft wide
    sections. I model just US. Just all imagination. not any special eara.
    If you like I would send some pictures. I do have a number of European style
    buildings a friends widow gave me.

  24. Christopher says:

    I have a question. Is there any particular kind or brand of printer that you would recommend for printing your downloadable buildings? I have been really wanting to give it a try but I don’t think my printer would be up to the task. I’m a newbie here from the U.S. and am just getting back into the hobby after my childhood days back in the 1970’s. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I love all the pics and tips! Keep them coming guys. Thanks

  25. Ms.Jackie says:

    Hi! I would like to tell all about Al’s forum. It is great for getting help.
    Try it you will like it!!!!!!

    Ms. Jackie

  26. Dick Lobach says:

    Back in the 60s when my kids were small, I would set up a 4×6 plywood temporary layout for Christmas. i user card board lattice base then dipped pieces of newspaper in liquid starch over that., then painted a thin coat of plaster ,then some water paint . Cheap and easy to do and tear down.. Maybe an idea for what your scenery would look like when your done.

  27. t!grea I live in the US and fine tips like these are hard to come by. Please don’t stop. Tom S.

  28. GREAT! I live in the US and to get these tips are really wonderful Keep them coming. Love them. Tom S

  29. Al–many thanks for your site. Am back into the hobby after nearly 50-year hiatus…Have been pondering my layout and track plan for years–finally getting down to it at age 73. Have been collecting period-correct HO locos and rolling stock as well as modelling many structures, vignettes etc. for years, now need to place them. My period for modelling is ca. 1850 > 1885, which allows me to model American ante-bellum and Civil War to Western settlement–much scratch-building as a result. So appreciate the many useful tips posted on your site. Look forward to reading it daily.

  30. Jerry Cooper says:

    Regarding printers, I use both Canon and HP printers on light card stock with great results. A few times I had the files printed at Staples for extra fine detail.
    Jerry. Amelia Island FL

  31. Don R - Florida, USA says:

    To Christopher on printers: Look for a printer that is recommended for graphics printing. I have found that Canon makes the best ones for this and prints in fine detail. There are graphics printers that can cost you a small fortune, but most of Canon’s are desktop size.
    My printer will take up to 160lb. card stock which is thick enough to use in the actual structure without pasting the printout to a thicker material. You will need a small utility knife to cut out the printable image, as a fine blade X-Acto knife is not quite enough for that thickness.

  32. Keith says:

    Hi all, just in case my last message was missed, is there anyone who has incorporated an airport in their layout? I am looking to make a few terminal buildings in N gauge. Any ideas, plans etc. would be great.
    Thanks to everyone for all the excellent plans and tips
    Regards, Keith.

  33. Tony says:

    Your creativity is wonderful using things from everyday use is great.

  34. Bob says:

    For wiring issues, you can use loom. It is what car manufacturers use to harness the vehicle wiring. It’s usually available at auto parts stores. Comes in all sizes and lengths. Can be clamped to the underside of the train board.

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