Scratch built scenery

“These loads cost just £1.19p to make. Sand loads. Made from flower arranging foam blocks.

It even looks like sand. I just cut the rectangular blocks to fit the trucks then shape accordingly.

I use a kitchen knife and your fingers to mould into shape.

You could plasticote them with matt acyrlic varnish to make them weather proof.


model train freight

model train freight

model railroad freight

And this in from Bob:


Here are some of my scratch build N Scale (1:160) buildings

I proud of them hope you enjoy.

Melbourne Australia.”

printable building

printable building

I loved ’em! Bob must have the patience of a saint – for everybody else, have a peek out these new models here.

You just print them out and stick the together.

Oh – and don’t forget the ebay cheat sheet to hold on to those dollars.

That’s all for today.

Please do keep ’em coming.



PS Beginner’s Guide is here.

55 Responses to Scratch built scenery

  1. paul starr says:

    good idea and very realistic.

  2. David Dunning says:

    Hi Al, I used one of your 2 story houses to make a replica of what is refered to as war-time housing. After several attemps they came out reasonable well. Let me know if you would like to see them.

    David D

  3. Al says:

    I would love to! Please do send.

  4. Trainman says:

    Your loads are great, I passed some on to my buddies and they love them. Keep up the good work

  5. Jan Boen says:

    Awesome n-scale houses.
    Being an n-scaler myself I can’t but admire Bob’s work.
    I just stick to expensive Faller kits and similar…

  6. Don says:

    Hi Bob,
    Love your scratch buildings especially the one with the fountain. What did you use to make the fountain?

  7. dave says:

    Both John and Bob ..well done.

  8. Dirck Hecking says:

    I have one remaining question… Is there enough relief to reach in the finished product so the units in hand can be appreciated for craft?

    I love how they look in 2D.


    Dirck Hecking

  9. Cord says:

    Sorry, I just have to ask: is English the second language of all model railroaders?

  10. Al says:

    I am impressed looks great. Natural slate rocks can be used for rock hills or walls. Just find the right one you can splint hey are like wafers can be separated and payed against each other or built. Cracks willed with dirt or ballast then flocked and trees added also trails and over hangs for cliffs
    Hope this will help.

  11. Ian says:

    very good look real send more pictures.

  12. ANGELO says:


  13. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Hi Guys, The ‘dust’ from flower arranging foam blocks is a respiratory hazard so take care … preferably do not use it. Sealing it, providing the ‘spray’ does not spread it could make it safer. Peter BB

  14. Bill Duncan says:

    I look forward to your info. Some have given me graet ideas Cheers from down under

  15. Bob Mackey says:

    Thanks for publishing them and for your comments . They give me a lot of pleasure and more are on the way.

  16. paul Otway says:

    nice loads

  17. james says:

    could’ve concealed the front walk a bit . still good!

  18. Gary Baker says:

    Super John and Bob good work, and good ideas….really need to look at all stuff with an open mind…that is why i like modelling so much…keeps the mind oiled.

  19. Roy F says:

    Great ideas and simple too – just how I like it!!

  20. seth says:

    What scale are the cars you built those loads for?

  21. paul says:

    many thanks, i have just started rail modeling in n gauge and have struggled with almost every aspect, the electrics and dcc in particular. Finding your contributions very informative and entertaining. My respect and dont worry about “dumming” things down, i cant be the only guy struggling to get a grip!!!

  22. aldo says:

    nice home made dont for get bushes are drying now so take the kids on the field trip to collect

  23. chief Lucky says:

    You know there are people that have pros and cons about anything, but I see is an outstanding job well done. I love the houses and the scenery

  24. Marion Each says:

    I am seeing beautiful work here! Many thanks for sharing your tips and photos.

    To the person who asked whether English is the second language of all model railroaders, I would just say that this is not an English class. This is a wonderful place, where modeling friends such as I, who have only a 10th grade education, can come together for fun, so please don’t be critical of anyone who is sharing and/or commenting. It’s all welcome and appreciated, regardless of the grammar. My daughter is a high school English teacher, and she would never, ever ask that question. By the way, I am surprised that you, such an authority on the language as you deem yourself to be, began your sentence with “Sorry”. That is incorrect. Besides, the only sorry thing I see here is the state of mind of one who would ask such an asinine question.

  25. Michael C. says:

    Great loads. Love the simplicity. I do remember many years ago an article on How to model a steel scrap load. The chap used aluminum foil shredded in a blender, then colored differing hues to achieve desired look. Chap glued shreds to plastic card, to be removeable. Also loads could be combined to make a pile of steel at a yard or whever. I do hope this idea also helps. Michael C.

  26. Colin Johnstone says:

    Does anyone have a method of fixing Skaledale buildings to MDF baseboards please?


  27. BW says:

    Coal Loads: I have cut balsa wood to fit the hopper. Then I’ve taken coal, wrapped in things like a thin towel or cloth and used a hammer. I select the small,pieces I want and shape it on the balsa. Then I glue it to the balsa. When it dries I use an acrylic varnish or shellac and when that dries I glue it into the hopper.

  28. joe says:

    Hats off to the n-scale buildings…very nice…..another idea for coal or sand loads…pc of balsa or decent cardstock,cardboard..with a little spray foam on it..when dry – you can shape and or color it – and coat with white glue..sprinkle any ballast material, coal, as example….on it to make a load….hope it helps….keep tips coming……still learning and enjoying

  29. Bumper says:

    Used balsa wood and coal on ” 0″ gauage on Hooper cars, works great with the varnish, never tried the shellac. Still waiting to hear if any “0” gauge readers can guide me to police, libary, gas, firehouse buildings .


  30. KR says:

    “Bob from Melbourne”, those are terrific looking houses. Can you add any info regarding your methods or materials?

    I’d like to suggest that when people make suggestions or send in pictures, that they identify the scale in which they are working. That would make it much easier to identify applicable ideas for our own layouts. What works in G may not apply at all if the reader is modeling in N or Z.

    On the subject of “English as a Second Language”, Al has quite generously put together a web site complete with a spell check app for us to exchange information. Is it asking too much for persons adding comments to at least review their inputs before posting? Some of the comments are close to being undecipherable.


  31. Joseph Starr says:

    I’ve been printing my own building facades for a while. My best use for the technique is in making Harlem brownstones for my Park Ave based layouts. I have no means for pictures right now, but soon.

  32. Frank Rothmann says:

    To you who are “Sorry” You must be a very sorry person to have the gall to suggest this, that “Is English your second language” Who are you to be such a high and mighty to criticize someone that might not have a ‘high education” as you may have. Shame on you !!

  33. Richard Carlson says:

    Coal can be purchased from, in small or large volume. The sand loads look very realistic, a great idea. thanks for the idea of filling the hopper with balsa wood, then gluing the load on thus reducing weight.

  34. robert fort says:

    hi, i think your stuff is cool. i have a question- i’m starting my layout, i have a large wooden table about 4′ by 20″. what is the best inch thick material to put above the wood. solid foam is ‘flamable’ , what do you use?

  35. Michael Flanagan says:

    I have just started to make the paper models……………………love them…………and I have found a card stock, which comes in a packet of 125 sheets. It is 0.2 mm thick
    and is perfect for directly printing on, then cut out and model away!!
    In Australia is goes under the brand of “J.Burrows A4 premium digital paper.” I find it just perfect and my printer, an Epson WF 2630 has no problem handing this card.
    Try it out

  36. Sheila says:

    Bumper, I have a program called 3-D Builder by
    Evans Design. this program can design buildings in any scale,it hac different doors,windows,wall materials and a whole lot more. I purchased it online hwre in the U.S., you should be able to do the same. Best of luck. To all who post here great job all. Sheila

  37. Rick D says:

    From Rick in Toronto Canada. I’ve been doing this for 55 years but I think it will take another 55 for me to attain your level.{ beautiful. } Don’t ever quit and you should be proud of what you have accomplished. Wonderful my friend.

  38. Jim Orner says:

    Bob, kudos to you on your scratch built buildings. they look magnificent I wish I had the patience to do this kind of work { more like the time to do it } as I can be extremely patient when I need to be

  39. Warren Ferguson says:

    Great looking buildings, Bob! I struggle with HO scale detailing on locomotives, so I can’t really understand how difficult N scale must be. Thank you for posting them.

  40. Paul Schwartz says:

    Buildings are unbelieveably realistic, I want to shrink and move in. The supporting posts have been very useful except for the disparaging grammar posts.
    I am a post graduate college person and didn’t notice the languistic issues, because I was so focused on the insights and info which was being exchanged. I think such criticism could discourage people from sharing valuable information representing hours and hours of work that could save me time and money. In fairness, I think the original comment was more “tongue in cheek” than spiteful. Anyway, let’s all be more careful and supportive as we learn and enjoy Al’s fantastic website. A wonderful example of a special interest forum developed to help us all do what we love doing.

  41. Susan Cannon says:

    Re: Sand….
    Is real sand out of scale, so to speak, to be used? Meaning if you used real sand, it wouldn’t look right because it’s too “big” for N scale? I model in HO scale and thought about using some real sand here and there.

    re: Coal…..
    There was a post not long ago from someone who used regular gravel and painted it glossy black. I was going to do that myself. I have a gold mine, and was going to paint small gravel with metallic gold paint for it. Or get some pyrite and crush it up. I guess using real coal crushed up would be fine if it was cheap enough.

    Thanks for the great ideas. I look forward to them each day!

  42. David says:

    For coal loads, I’ve set cardboard in the top of the hopper and covered it with kitty litter. The spray pant also gives a weathering effect to the rolling stock.

  43. Dan Hulitt says:

    Great ideas, and this site is really a hoot. I saw, maybe in a MR mag, about the idea of gluing a magnet under your load. That way you can empty you load quite easily once you have delivered it.

  44. Don says:

    Very well done!What are your roof shingles dimensions,as I am attempting to build a house,in n scale.

  45. Mike Ilkenhons says:

    Beautiful work… Craftsmanship… love the quality of the building and finish…

  46. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Just a note of CAUTION. When dry and friable the ‘dust’ from the flower arranging material is a GENINE HAZRAD so: 1 Wear a mask if cutting/sanding
    2 Clear up any dust particles before removing your mask.
    A positive in the description was that it was painted and SEALED – this will make it safer in use. as any damage will be noticed by a the ‘green’ appearing and can be repainted.

  47. Charles says:

    The comment about English as a second language may have been taken wrongly. I have only been s member of this great group for a little less than a year. I too, noticed several comments with a strange twist on spelling and word usage.

    It wasn’t immediately obvious to me that this group was primarily made of members in Great Briton. The use of pounds and pence, for the p, finally gave me the clues.
    With that being said, there are many, perhaps more than many of you know, differences in our English words.
    After realizing it, it became more interesting to me to catch these nuances. I still reread some of them as the will escape me on the first read, but the meaning comes through nonetheless.
    I would ask that others not get their “knickers in a knot” over it. It was likely not pointed out to shame anyone.

  48. Adam Stein says:

    Was wondering if anyone has ideas on how to make a wheat field? I am doing an O scale layout set in the oilfield of North Dakota. I appreciate any ideas.
    Adam Stein

  49. Ralph says:

    Great houses Bob
    , Something that looks Australian is always a good idea.

  50. Dwight in Toronto says:

    My suspicion is that the occasional post that is almost indecipherable due to spelling mistakes etc is not so much because of poor grammar, but rather is solely attributable to lazy and sloppy keyboarding! And yes, it IS annoying to some of us, simply because it is so easily avoidable and simple to correct …. take an additional thirty seconds to review your composition and clean things up before hitting the “Post Comment” button!

  51. James Harris says:

    Without covers or perhaps a level load, prototype sand will blow during transport, but the idea looks good at scale.

  52. Robert Conklin says:

    Great work … motivates me to do more.

  53. Tom D says:

    Damn good!

    We lostbears appreciate it!

  54. Deryck Howell says:

    Love the exchange of ides here! I have found the filter granules from Brita water filters excellent as gravel, rail ballast, loads in trucks etc etc. It consists of charcoal and a white substance and can easily be coloured. Just need to cut the used filter open and dry in the sun

  55. Ken Holbrook says:

    I make coal loads by cutting a piece of white styrofoam the size to fit in my hopper. Then I’ll shape a couple mounds to simulate a full load from the conveyor. Then I cover it with white modelers glue and sprinkle an ample amount of fine ballast on it. Once it’s dried, I shake off the excess and paint it glass black. It looks very realistic and doesn’t add a ton of weight to the already weighted car.

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