Simple scenery ideas

“Here’s a easy way to build oil storage tanks,Buy round boxes at the hobby shop paint silver , cut clothes hanger and bend for pipes and draw lines for edges of sheet metal on sides




something I discovered last night, maybe you all know but I’ll tell you anyway.

I was changing filters on an RO water purifier. I dropped the old activated carbon filter and the case split, look what is inside! Of course, its full of carbon……scale coal.

Empty out dry and you have endless supply of coal or black track ballast.

Havent tried yet but I think it could be mixed with PVA glue rolled out as tarmac roads.

Rub it on your fingers then rubvtge sides of buildings, dirty buildings, fantastic…it was going to go in the bin!

All the best




It’s funny how the simple ideas always work the best!

And if there’s one thing you do today, make sure it’s having a quick look at the ebay cheat sheet. There’s a huge number of bargains to be grabbed.

It’s here.

Keep ’em coming.



29 Responses to Simple scenery ideas

  1. Ivan Gould says:

    Thanks Chris great idea will try with our next filter change

  2. Peter says:

    ref carbon coal. if you break open the filter bag from your fish tank you will find that the contents are also the same. .

  3. Frznk says:

    I use carbon from used fish filters,just dry it out and you have scale coal.

  4. Barry Pearlman says:

    Everyone. When you make a submission, please indicate the scale or gauge somewhere on the submission. I for one am still just about to build my first layout and the scale would be of immense help where applicable.



  5. David says:

    A not of caution Chris, if using the carbon as track ballast. Carbon conducts electricity so it may cause a problem.

  6. yup….scenery can be found just about anywhere
    and yep good post about carbon being a conductor of electricity…!!
    keep it runnin…!!

  7. Gene "Hat" Hatfield says:

    Keith, The inside of toilet paper rolls (what’s left after the paper is gone) make HO tanks. Finish with paint, piping & logos. Have not tried to put to gather for taller stack, yet.

  8. Jerry (Mitch) Michnewicz says:

    WOW! What a grand idea for HO scale coal. As for the oil tanks, PVC pipe from local hardware or Home Depot store works too. The PVC comes in many sizes for all scales. I’ve even used toilet paper rolls and detailed them with ladders, hatches, piping (made from cloths hangers) and lettering. I also use, for ballast, what I can collect from the road at the curb. Then I sift it through a window screen to get rid of the big pieces.

  9. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great tips i have used cut down baked bean cans for town water tanks on n scale.

  10. John Reynolds says:

    Love these ideas…
    Have personally had one problem with toilet paper rolls… That seam… I have tried covering with paper but when the paint goes on, that seam reappears!

  11. paul Otway says:

    You can also use toilet paper rolls to make oil tanks as well.

  12. Thomas Meleck says:

    Better make sure to “nuke” those filter contents dry to eliminate any possible bacterial contamination before using it as decoration.

  13. Matt Jackson says:

    I model in O scale, so the items need to be significantly larger. But it opens certain other items up for use.

    Round drawer pull knobs make great roof vents.

    Twist-off toothpaste or other tube caps make good small trash cans.

    For water storage tanks. the cylindrical boxes used by Quaker Oats for oatmeal are a good size to make two tanks.

    Adding styrene and a few beads to modern pill bottles turns them into transformers for your substation.

    Certain types of moulding can be used as cornices for buildings.

  14. Ian Brown says:

    Your local pharmacy keeps a wide variety of plastic tablet vials to fill prescriptions. If you are a regular, they may give you some. Certainly you can buy several of different diameters and heights. These can be used for trackside tanks, flatcar loads, and many other uses. Plastic insulated single strand wire as used in homes makes excellent piping, as it bends and holds the shape.

  15. David Hodges says:

    The storage tanks I use on my HO layout are white PVC ‘caps’ found in the plumbing section of the big home improvement stores. They look great and have a rounded top just like the real tanks do in our area.

  16. Tom says:

    Thanks everyone for the great tips!!
    Thanks Al for all you do!!
    Here is another great tip …
    everyone; have a very …

    Happy Railroading … Mercy!!

  17. Tommy says:

    If you have a linens shop, like what we have in the USA called Jo-Ann Fabrics. they sell large bags of lichen, mixed colors, that can be run thru a food processor (one or two pulses) to chop down to any working size you want. Also sell large bags of ground material used for flower-pots that makes nice ballast also.

  18. 50 years ago when I was a kid I had Lionel trains and in some magazine that I can’t remember it said to use a empty coffee can and spray paint it white and go to your local gas station get a road map. Back then they gave them out for free and cut the logo of the gas station off and glue it to the can. I remember making 2 of them and put them side by did with the Amoco flying horse and they looked so good.

  19. Kevin McArdle says:

    Since size is usually a major consideration for most layouts, and limited to 4×8, or smaller, I personally feel one must be careful of industries and buildings dominating what is already a limited space. My layout is 5×9, and I focused on lots of scenery and specifically chosen buildings and scenes. Many times we modelers literally can’t see the forest for the trees. I want to run trains, not having an overcrowded layout that is too busy and has no or limited focal points. Just an opinion.

  20. Chalee TG says:

    it would be nice of these guys to show the TRACK PLAN of layouts they photograph. this one on storage tanks would be MUCH better if dimensions of the tanks, and the scale modeled were included. it’s hard to implement some of these suggestions without knowing the scale or dimensions.

  21. Paul Case says:

    Fish tank carbon full of poop—water filter carbon full of all the contaminates you didn’t drink. Just go to any craft store and buy a container of all different color granules they have to make coal or whatever else you plan to model.

  22. Robert Brady says:

    Paul Case is totally correct. arts N crafts store has 1/87 size black cinder slightly glissons in the light.$1.50 a bag .You all have spent more money on less.

  23. Ray Z USA says:

    Hi Guys and Gals:

    I used aquarium gravel for ballast on my16 x 22 Foot O gauge layout. It looks fantastic and saved a lot of $. Keep on railroaden!

  24. David Varner says:

    Go to about any big box home store and buy a 50# bag of black blasting media. It makes a good black ballast or a fine coal. It can usually be found in different grades of size, A mix of watered down white glue will stabilize it to most surfaces. I agree with the comments about letting us know what scale we are dealing with.

  25. Sam Walls says:

    For the HO layout at the Cleburne (Texas) Railroad Museum, I used an old 35mm film container and a spray can top to make storage tanks for a rural water co-op. Piping was some pieces of sprue from building project and the pump house is some scraps of styrene. Water tower for small yard is a medicine bottle painted black with Santa Fe logo and a ladder from another project. (You do remember when photos were made using film, don’t you?

  26. John Frye says:

    All of us have made those plastic models that have the pieces presented on “trees” of molded plastic obviously the same color as the pieces. I clean these tree lengths up and use them for any piping I need, oil, steam lines or water pipes as an example. I’ve used these as flat-car loads and stacks of pipe laying around as scenery details. If the piece is too short, another can easily be glued to it. If you need them contoured, just heat them with a soldering iron, bend ’em to the angle needed and when they cool, they stay bent. I add rings of styrene for flanges and valves. Actually, I don’t throw much out in terms of what comes in a model kit, eventually most everything gets used.
    John From Baltimore

  27. Peter Stilts says:

    The comment about carbon conducting electricity is why there is a problem with riverbank fishing near electricity pylons with the new carbon fishing rods.
    If on your models you have a river with fishing and also have powerlines near by. Include an ambulance on a nearby road for authenticity. I know I’m just a sad EMT.

  28. Dave Karper says:

    Don’t let the soldering iron touch the plastic as it will melt instead of just soften it.

  29. George Ketner says:

    Coat the toilet paper tubes with “sheet rock mud” let it dry, smooth with fine grit sand paper. Paint if you wish. Light. Sturdy. Cheep.

    George in NE.

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