Railroad ceiling tile scenery

Hall of Fame Dan has been back in touch with some railroad ceiling tile scenery:

“Al, here is a post about my first try at ceiling tile rocks. You have to start some place.

Railroad ceiling tile scenery

I don’t think many of us like to show our very first attempts at something new. This is my very first ceiling tile rock try in 1982. I learned a lot form this first try. This was a small diorama that fit in a display case at the high school where I taught.

I learned never to use paper towels and plaster as a cover. The towels and plaster want to stick together and is very sloppy. Later I used plaster cloth. The plaster cloth is placed and then I spray it with wet water. It looks 100% better. NEVER dip the cloth in water first.

I used a product called Perma Scene as the ground cover. This was made of vermiculite I believe. Today I use Sculpta mold.

I also used rattle can spray for the coloring of the rocks. Now it is the craft paints.

Railroad ceiling tile scenery

Railroad ceiling tile scenery

The diorama.

model train display case

The display in the library. (I do not recall the exact dimensions. I do remember that the top was 9 inches high. I did this for the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Trains were once traditional at that time. I got my first Lionel in 1947.

 model train display case

By 1984 it was time for something different. My next ceiling tile adventure was a complete N scale layout in the display case! It was not going to be a diorama this time. It was meant to run. I didn’t change the construction techniques by this time. The layout was a basic figure 8 up and over with the scenery hiding the grade.

There was a button to push for the train to run. Teenagers are a clever bunch. They found that when the train came down the grade a small bump caused it to derail. I placed a small rock at that spot and the trains never derailed again. I used this display for abut 4 years. I now resides at my model railroad club and runs from time to time.

Railroad ceiling tile scenery

Railroad ceiling tile scenery:

model railroad glass caninet

Railroad ceiling tile scenery

There always have to be a beginning. As I help new and even more experienced modelers, I hear “I saw such and such on You Tube.” I have noticed you don’t see the failures and not so successful tries. It is just the finished product.

I once watch a man show an EnviroTex river that ran along the very edge of the layout. He never once showed how he dammed up the side to prevent the “water” from leaking out. A very big shortcoming I think. I have seen the water “diaper” to places where you don’t want it.

Till next time,


A huge big thank to Dan for sharing his railroad ceiling tile scenery technique.

I really enjoyed seeing his ‘first attempt’ with the ceiling tiles – it’s amazing what a journey this hobby can throw each of us on.

Here’s a more recent layout of Dan’s that really does show case his ceiling tiles technique:

Model train Santa Fe

You can see more of Dan in the Hall of Fame.

When it comes to the railroad ceiling tiles technique, I’m always reminded of Jim’s excellent post too:

Model railroad mountains.

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 More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

9 Responses to Railroad ceiling tile scenery

  1. Don says:

    nice setup & display

  2. George Zaky says:

    You’re the epitome of a great teacher. You have benefitted many in this blog and as many of your old pupils have said ” Hey thanks Teach” we do too. As Henry Ford said success is built on the amount of failures and that applies here.
    That’s why you want to marry a teacher. When making love they say you have keep doing it ’till you get it right. LOL.
    Your fan club & classroom needs to hear from you so please keep posting.
    Big Al
    You’ve got a nice stock of Dudes we enjoy seeing! Great stuff. Merci beaucoup.

  3. robert dale tiemann says:

    i almost helped do something like this years ago, but got sick. they made a scale model of a small city that had quite a few railways going through it. nice job.

  4. Jim AZ says:

    Nice. Dioramas are a great way to start building a layout and try new and tried techniques. I’ve considered building one for photography use for outdoor shots, true daylight. Was wondering what you used for your base.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  5. Christine says:

    Great job, I love it.

  6. santafedan says:

    Jim, when I go to the club Tuesday I will take a look.

  7. Scott Johnson says:

    I remember using Perma Scene on my ho layout in the late 70’s-it was a step up from paper mache! I now use Sculptamold and the results are a huge improvement. Even on my current layout, my scenery techniques continue to evolve. All part of the fun/process. There are always many failures before the first success. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Jim AZ says:

    Great. Thanks santafedan.

    Jim AZ

  9. santafedan says:

    Jim,AZ. it is very simple. I used 2X2 to do the frame with cross bracing. I had some particle board on hand and used that as the base. I did not use Homasote for this. I painted the surface a tan color and used the basic white glue and ground foam for the ground cover.
    The dimensions are 55″ by 24″ by 9″ and it just fit.

    Do you belong to TrainOrders.com? I have posted there for years.
    Santafedan aka Dan*

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