HO scale project – Paul’s

Paul’s been in touch with a very interesting HO scale project:

“Hi Al

I am sharing a new project I started.

The idea came from an article in a recent Model Railroader magazine.

In it the author mentions that many folks, including myself, install a fascia around the perimeter of their layouts which creates a barrier between the real world and the modeling world.

By removing this barrier and softening the edge the two worlds can come together.

I started making the change about 3 weeks ago and like the way it looks. It’s a simple HO scale project too.

In the photos I show how I did this and what the outcome looks like.

HO scale project side of layout

Some existing fascia on part of my layout which I plan to change.

HO scale project side of layout with no barriers

The new look with the softened edge and no barrier.

HO scale project making soft edge barrier for layout

The plywood structure attached just below where the top edge of the fascia was removed. I used 1/2″ plywood and some wedges I made and screwed to the layout to hold it on. On my first attempt I used metal brackets but since Covid-19 I wasn’t able to get anymore so I made wooden wedges which cost zero.

plaster for side of layout soft edge

Shows plaster cloth being applied.

filling plaster for soft edge on layout

Shows spackle being applied over the paster cloth to fill voids and add texture of soil and rocks.

padding layout scenery with newspaper

Shows bunched up newspaper being stapled onto the plywood to provide shape for the plaster cloth to follow.

soft edge to side of HO layout

Paint with tans and grays to simulate soil and rocks —I normally paint the convex areas to look like rocks and the concave areas to hold soil.

ground cover and bushed for model railroad

The finished result with ground cover applied and plants such as bushes and trees.

ground cover and bushes HO scale

Close up of the area —decorate to your taste.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed doing it.


A huge thanks to Paul for sharing his HO scale project – I think it looks fab.

Now on to Ben:

“For me, in addition to the planning and building of the layout, I enjoy creating different scenes that the trains run through. And although I’ve been into the hobby for 15 years, I still feel like a beginner. There is so much to learn and so much to share. Which brings me to the “Thank You” part of this note.

I want to thank you, Al, for publishing everyone’s comments, ideas, suggestions and questions. I have learned SO MUCH from these postings! I also really enjoy the videos that people share, so I thought I would share one of my own.

Ben from Chicago.”

You can see all of Ben’s HO scale model railroad here.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming – and don’t forget the The Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to stop dreaming and start doing.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

27 Responses to HO scale project – Paul’s

  1. Kaustav says:

    That’s a lovely layout! Love the ‘natural’ fascia which is part of the scenery itself – closeup photos will look great. Cheers! Kaustav

  2. Rod Mackay says:

    Nice scenic work, but personally I preferred the fascia, it sort of tells your mind you’ve reached the edge of the real world, whereas a dramatic cliff drop into nowhere seems such a hazard to your little plastic cows… Also, none of us is getting slimmer in our old age, you could lean your tum on a fascia without worrying but you wouldn’t want to snag your woolly and rip off a lump of scenery.

  3. Peter Waring says:

    What a great idea, that had never crossed my mind. I will give it a try on my layout and see how it goes, just have to be careful as I don’t have much space to work with and the facia provides some protection for the layout from me brushing past.

  4. Malcolm Hodgson says:

    I am in the soft edge camp. The edge of my layout is also wavy shaped and in my humble opinion helps to blend your eye into the layout rather than seeing a sharp edge. I do however need to be carful not to brush the cows onto the floor!

    Horses for courses I suppose, there is never a right and a wrong way to do anything in modelling, it is entirely up to each modeller what suits them.

    Your model your rules!

    Happy modelling everyone and stay safe!

    North Wales

  5. Paul Case says:

    Rod, please don’t worry about the cows falling off the edge. I decided to install a fence when I saw them wandering too close to the edge. Luckily they are so stiff legged that I had plenty of time to get the fence installed before there was a tragedy. Regarding your worry about brushing the edge with your belly, well its understandable that with the current problem we are having everyone is hitting the fridge more often then they should, including me. It’s all tied into muscle memory once you hit the edge too many times you learn to stay away.

  6. Mike Balog says:

    Like the layout,, Interesting approach though, you have not addressed what you are going to do with the Switch Machine Control, Lighting Control and Layout Block Control wiring Toggle Switches and Indicator Lights that are normally mounted in the “Fascia” board at the edge of the layout. Personally, I would Prefer to have a “Fascia Board” to prevent mishaps from happening when you lean over the edge. Or have “visitors” who like to “Pick at your trees, trains or buildings” at the layout edge. That Fascia presents a “stop” for visitors to be aware of. Just my 2 cents. P.S. Laughing at the Giant Gummie Bear Dinosaur that is in that section of the layout. Do you have “Flintstone Mobiles” for the Park Visitors to ride around in? Or is that Dinosaur the Coronasorous ? Cheers.

  7. Dwight in Toronto says:

    Hmmm, sheesh, I don’t know about that ‘soft edge’ approach.

    Some might say that it looks like the modeller just got lazy, whereas a fascia gives a layout a finished display-case/show-table/art pedestal appearance. I’m on the fence here myself, but probably leaning towards the fascia side.

    The soft edge is kinda like leaving your walls without door trim and baseboards, or hanging a painting without a picture frame. Conversely, I have seen some stunning dining room and conference room tables with that “live edge” look. So, again, I dunno.

  8. Peter Farrington says:

    You have solved a problem I have been mulling over for my mountain section and tunnel, I have planned on using styrene foam for the basic shape and a layer of plaster cloth to cover it, I will now cover it all in some ready mixed waterproof tile grout I have left over from my bathroom rebuild, it will also get my wife out of my hair as she has been wanting me to get rid of for ages. My layout is in the garden so the method you have shown will work well for me, thanks again.
    An excellent method.

  9. NJ Mark says:

    I like what you’ve done. The before “gray wall” was not inviting. Nice job. Cheers! NJ Mark

  10. thomas bray says:

    great idea, and a beautiful job done

  11. Paul Case says:

    Mike Balog I am running DCC on this small layout have no blocks and only 3 switches have switch machines attached. The lower part of the fascia is still there. The switch contols, Just Plug lighting contols, power isolation switches are mounted on it. Rest of switches are manual control ground throws on my switching section of the layout as are sidings on the main layout section. The dinos apparently have developed immunity to the virus. As long as extinction isn’t a prerequisite we should be okay soon. Peter Farrington don’t use grout. It is too brittle and will crumble. Use plaster cloth over a simple support such as crumpled newspaper. Then use spackle instead of grout to fill voids and provide texture.

  12. Well done Paul , looking very good ..Dangerous dave

  13. Ben Olson says:

    Paul, this is an interesting idea that you executed well, nice job! I also wanted to say your scenery looks awesome and I really like the backdrop on the wall too. (And like Mike, I enjoyed the dinosaur!)

  14. Marklin ed says:

    Not sure if I like it maybe I need sometime to look at change. You did a great job doing the edge. Cow are smart enough not to fall over the edge.

  15. Mark Harter says:

    Paul, I love what you have done. I have previously just read these posts for the suggestions for re-building my own railroad. I recently started to read the comments and I must say all of you seem to be a fun bunch. I especially enjoy trying to interpret the British expressions. It makes me feel that I have friends “across the pond.* Keep up the good work.

  16. Roger Keyes says:

    That looks great! I had never thought of that. But in my case, the track runs close to the edge, so I’ve installed a short fence around the edge of the table to keep the trains from falling onto the floor in case of a derailment.

  17. Kenneth Oriel says:

    Very nice!
    I have been of the same mind, thinking as I work on the new layout I will do something similar, like sloping the ground away from the tracks. This will make it easier to get photos without a fascia board showing up. We’ll see if I ever get there!
    Also reminds me of the late John Allen’s Gorre and Daphetid where he ran scenery all the way to the floor. Very dramatic!


  18. Bill says:

    What a great idea!

  19. Joe Gennari says:


  20. Matt H says:

    That’s a really awesome idea, let’s spectators really immerse themselves, this is the way the way things should have been done long ago. Keep up the good work!

  21. Lee Hirsch says:

    Remember John Allen’s wonderful floor to ceiling layout? 70 years ago? What’s old is new again. Great minds think alike! I like the idea, but my walk around space is very limited plus very young grandkids always want to see the trains, so I need the barrier. Keep up improving your world to your likes! Good job! Lee

  22. Ray Z - Pa. USA says:

    Hi guys& gals: Just a comment. Plaster cloth can be “pinched” to create texture even rocks. I discovered this some time ago while building slopes down a gorge to a river. Bulk plaster cloth can be bought at Walmart and other places in 5-pound packages a lot cheaper than Woodland Scenic’s small rolls.

    Regards: Ray

  23. Joe Koerner says:

    Great job Paul. You’re very creative and talented.

  24. Victor Rivera says:

    Get pics and excellent way of using every square inch. I suspect the photos taken at or near the edges look much better than seeing a raw or Masonite end. Great job with colors and blending it all together.

  25. James Stuart Prentice says:

    What a great idea and creates a much softer edge to a good looking layout.

  26. george zaky says:

    You are a very creative modeler and stirred up a little food for thought. My layouts must have storage supreme underneath and a skirt to hide it -like Dangerous Dave so though I like your idea I may keep a facia- or maybe not- Hmmm.
    Big AL
    I am so glad many are expressing our gratitude for your hard work in keeping this site going. You have touched and affected a great number of people in such a positive way and you suffered thru trolls and saved us from the dark side. Thanks

  27. Mark says:

    You could add a rock climber getting ready to rappel off the edge. I like what you have done!!

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