Model train scenery tips

A trip down memory lane today, with some model train scenery tips.

The first ever post of this blog was just a collection of tips – just like the ones below.

So today, I thought I’d publish some more, and ask you to scratch your head a put your single biggest tip in the comments below.

I think it’ll be fun to see what we come up with. Fingers crossed!

(As usual, the comments section is full of more good tips.)

“My Best Model Train Tip? That’s an easy one:


Plan well…. Execute slowly. Check and double-check. Let the paint dry, then let it dry AGAIN (no pun or joke intended).

My best work always seems to happen when I get interrupted and cannot continue at the speed I wish…. Slows me down and everything turns out better.



“Old cell phone chargers can be used in place of batteries to run DC accessories like street lights, neon signs, etc. Most of these run on either 3 or 4.5vdc. There are 3.7 volt and 5 volt chargers. You can pick them up for $1 or so at Salvation Army and Goodwill stores or garage sales. I have 2 buss bars and several terminal strips. I wire the chargers in parallel until I have enough to handle the current load.


“My tip: Be sure to label your storage boxes from last year so you’ll know which ones to pull out for this year’s Christmas display!!!

I really find it disheartening to open a mislabeled box to find Last years Christmas ornaments, which should have gone to Salvation Army, and HOPE TO GOD, I didn’t take the trains over to them instead!!!



You are no doubt already aware of this but, in case you are not, I printed one of your buildings directly to card stock. By doing this the step of gluing to an empty cereal box or whatever is being used is eliminated and greatly speeds up the process. Further, the card stock accepts the glue far better than cereal boxes and appears to be quite sturdy.

I strive for convenience whenever possible. As the Pennsylvania Dutch say….” Ve grow to soont ald und to laid smardt.


And here’s a video that keeps getting sent in, again and again.

So I’ve relented, here it is. Just goes to show you how unforgiving model trains are…

Have you seen the latest ebay cheat sheet? It’s here.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming and don’t forget to share your model train scenery tips in the comments below.

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.

23 Responses to Model train scenery tips

  1. Steve B says:

    Measure twice, cut once!



  2. Eric says:

    I agree with Mark. Do things slowly and double check each joint and that each set of points work properly it pays off in the end, never take anything for granted or you’ll come a cropper or your rolling stock will.


    Finish the layout room before starting to build the layout

  4. Roland Aldridge says:

    When laying track, “that’s good enough” never is. Mutter some select unprintable words and do it again.

  5. david howarth says:

    Biggest problem for DCC is keeping track Clean make sure you get a good track cleaning device with a good cleaning fluid …I use a CMX track cleaner with Goo Gone ..Dangerous Dave

  6. Don’t let any one issue bog you down when it cones to scenery. Sooner or later you will come up with a better idea anyway. I have more redevelopment projects than the city of Las Vegas.

  7. james says:

    I wouldn’t stand that close to the track when a train was coming by!

  8. Roger says:

    As I’ve aged, I find that trusting my fingers is a better judge of my track joints than my eyes. When laying track, lightly run you fingers over the joints as you go. You will feel flaws long before you will ever see them.

  9. Dale Popula says:

    Russ what make & model printer do you have? How do you avoid curving the card stock?


  10. chris jordan says:

    Hi Al, I thought I’d make you smile after trick or treat night and the big bag of sweets and( odd change please Mister) as the most enterprizzing youngsters of today ask nay demand at you front door and 2(TWO TIPS) Be very aware of today or when you get to 69 and have built 8(eight) layouts complete and running trouble free( well 30 o/o of the time anyway in various countries of the world and you then start with a blank cellar carpeted walls waterproofed etc etc please please please remember to build your fiddle yard and:storeage tracks for South African Yanks Aussies Canadians STAGEING YARDS at the outset so you have somewhere to test AND PLAY TRAINS whilst contemplating design etc
    together with never never never pack your precious railway and send it via FAIRVIEW ocean ship from Aussies to UK back in 1971 they are still trying to locate the 2x2x4 packing case to this day and the liner did not sink but like me properly de-commissioned by now and cut up for next generation of floating and vanishing mystery ship so the best tip of all is to sell it the country your in or even give or donate your now old layouts to the boy scouts; girl guides: boys clubs girls clubs et al so as to encourage future participation in our wonderful hobby give up the booze give up the gags and spend what you have saved creating your own little world that you can video etc and pass on all those fantastic tips you learned thru reading AL’s emails kind regards CJ

  11. Sgt. George Ross says:

    Outstanding Tip’s Once Again.

  12. Rob McCrain says:

    Good advice today, something different. Rob

  13. Doug Tanzer says:

    Yep I am on my second layout and find the most critical thing is to have trackwork working perfectly before putting anything else onto the layout. Too difficult to try to change after

  14. Trevor says:

    If you don’t really feel like modelling, take a day off, otherwise, you might have to start again……. been there, done that!

  15. dave says:

    I have seen lines that were abandoned in far better shape I wonder how they are allowed to operate with that bad of shape track A 5 MPH speed limit ?

  16. Lester Larrew says:

    Sometimes I need 2 drill holes of the same depth in the scenery, so I wrap some masking tape around the drill. This allows close enough.
    Lester, Georgia USA (83 years young)

  17. NJ Mark says:

    If your layout is in your basement, the best thing to have nearby is a dehumidifier. It removes the moisture in the air and prevents, or at least, slows down the oxidation of metal and it promotes the drying process of paints and other water based building material such as paper mache, which I use in my scenery. Get one with a pump to automatically discharge the collected water down the drain or to the outside; it’s worth every penny. Cheers! NJ Mark

  18. Chris Fishburn says:

    Track cleaning
    If you’re using liquid cleaners, make sure your scenery materials, building details and wiring won’t be stained by, or chemically react with the cleaner.

  19. Chris Fishburn says:

    Industrial spurs attract attention on every layout because operators have to know where to spot cars. At track’s end, a bumper, wheel stops, wedged or bolted ties or a simple pile of dirt usually keep cars from rolling off the end of the rail. Unless the track is new, spurs seldom have manicured crushed-rock ballast and shiny rail all the way to the end.
    The last few feet before the bumper usually look a lot different than the working part of the spur. This area screams for additional detail because cars seldom make it this far. Besides your choice of bumper, add pieces of broken pallets and some grass growing between the rails and ties. On older spurs, blend the ballast with mud or bury the ties in mud altogether. For really prominent scenes, add some standing water between the ties and/or rails. And don’t forget weeds and small bushes.

  20. Chris Fishburn says:

    Abandoned structures or older industrial buildings with large banks of windows often have broken panes. On buildings with plastic window glass already installed, cracks can easily be scratched into the glazing with a hobby knife. Cracks usually have two appearances; a point of impact with crack lines radiating out, or cracks running across the piece of glass from side to side or in an arc. To add cracks, use the sharp point of a hobby knife and gently scratch in lines to simulate the style of crack you want. Don’t overdo it, subtlety is key to a convincing effect.
    And here in Australia it is currently 11.08pm/night ( which will say 12.08pm/day ) as my previous 2 , Track cleaning & Spurs/end of line are giving an English time I assume ?
    Cheers Chris

  21. Peter Pocock says:

    With regard to the video, the reason our trains are unforgiving of rough track is they are not flexible in their suspension as the full size are! I have some old Athern bogies that have tiny springs fitted and they will run on anything that resembles track. Unfortunately our 3 axle diesels and most bogies are not sprung and as a result any bump can put a set of wheels in the dirt. Bit of a pity really, it would be fun to model a short stretch of secondary track and watch things bump along!

  22. Ian McDonald says:

    Design your layout so you can always work on it easily, this is a life time hobby enjoy it,have rests from it and even make some changes now and then.Most of all it has to give you a laugh and good times with some mates.

  23. Thomas Murphy says:

    I yery much appreciate The Cell Phone Charger Tip from Jerry. I had read something similar before but now he reminded me.

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