Tye adds a building to his layout


So, yes, it is scratch built.

I sat down and drew the front of the building. Trying to stay within the 1950/1960 time period.

The structure is balsa wood.

I want to stay true to realism and add as many features as I can to make it look as realistic as possible.

I added personal touches naming buildings after my family. HO scale is fun I can’t imagine trying to recreate N scale. I use as many recycled products as possible which is the fun of construction and creation.

I have a strong building/construction background as I grew up with a father who is a building contractor. Though I work in the oilfield now I find that the layout is a big stress reliever.

I continuously read all your emails for tips and find lots of useful information. In fact the coffee ground ballist came from your site. Awesome tip. I color it and use it in lots of different ways.

Technology is awesome so yes I cheat a little and use the computer for signs and logos and different things to give my layout realistic features as well.

The TEXACO gas station is next on the agenda.

I’ll be sharing progression photos from time to time. Hope to see them on the site.

Thank you,








“Hi there,

Enjoying the tips.

Here’s a cheap way of illuminating insides of buildings.

A set of 80 bulb Christmas tree lights uses 3v bulbs.

Disconnected from mains Cut into sets of 6, for 18v or 4 for 12v supply.

Only needs two end wires connected to suitable low voltage supply.

Picture shows interior of Bachmann village hall with 6 lights.



Big thanks to Tye and David. Please do keep ’em coming.

Please do keep ’em coming folks.

And if today is the day you rekindle your love of this hobby, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

34 Responses to Tye adds a building to his layout

  1. Hennie de Ruyter says:

    If you use 5 or 6 lamps for 12V the light will be dimmer but the bulbs will last far longer. Also, the dimmer lights give a very pleasant, natural look.

  2. Brian Messenger says:

    I use 12v grain of wheat bulbs on my layout but at 5 or 6 volts. It gives me a better light for the 1940s era. As said above, the lower voltage makes for a longer bulb life. Brian, Cape Town, South Africa

  3. Joe Regal says:

    Very impressed with Tye’s buildings, built with Balsa Wood. Could I have the scale to work on for the HO scale. I have the old Tri-Ang train set given to me on my 12th birthday and would love to start building it up for my Grandkids.
    The tips from all is fantastic and will help to get me started shortly. The EBay Cheat Sheets or similar is it available in Cape Town South Africa? Joe

  4. Paul Goddard says:

    I love these tips about Christmas tree lights as they are always failing & I have to throw them out.
    I have a question for all your experts – but I particularly like Tye’s work. How do you obtain a good road surface?
    Paul (Reading, England)

  5. paul Otway says:

    I use a power tech plus transformer to supply power for my lights.


  6. Peter P says:

    Tye, well done with your scratch building. I liked your roof detail, we often over look that stuff (I think because we dont spend much time flying around in helicopters!).
    I also got a giggle over the attitude of your middle fuel bowser. 🙂
    Have fun
    Pete from West Ozz.

  7. I don’t even work and still can’t find the time to start my N gauge layout?? Too many other “toys” in my hooch!! Well, at least I got the table built…..for now.

  8. John Parker Clayton, CA says:

    Awwe, the Golden Key must work, You are still there…tips are great, and the pix make it real… thanks for everything Al… you are a delight to follow everyday…

  9. John Reynolds says:

    Love the detail on the gas station…

  10. THOMAS says:


  11. Ian Mc Donald says:

    great tips. love the detail. i use the full amount of xmas lights leave what i dont use on my layout under it so i find my gear and replace lights when they go. keep on the tracks.

  12. Austin Wilson says:

    That is awesome Tye, love the detailed scratch building. Love the gas pumps,excellent work. Thanks for sharing. David, thanks for the tips on the lights, not there yet, but someday my buildings will be lite. Working on a huge Diamond Mine kit now from Wathers. Working in HO scale as well.

  13. Peter jacobs says:

    Good idea for the lights. I have a silly question.
    If you take the xmas lights as mentioned, you cut off 4 to get 12volts, the one end (2 wires ) gets connected to the power sorce what happens to the other end after the 4th light? do the 2 wires on the end get joined?

  14. Roy F says:

    Good detail on the garage forecourt.
    Agree that you use more bulbs and have the lights dimmer.
    For Paul about road surfaces, try using old emery cloth or sand papers colored grey/black or alternatively if you save your tea from used tea bags, dry it thoroughly and then mix with dark grey watercolor paint. Allow to dry again thoroughly and this may take a couple of days but you must keep separating the accumulations or knots. Then paint 50/50 PVA and water over the previously painted road surface and sprinkle the coloured tea over the road. When dry lightly nbrush off or use a small vacuum cleaner with a cloth over the nozzle. and Wallah there you should have it.

  15. Chris says:

    Are they LED christmas lights or regular incandescent christmas lights?

  16. I use 8 CHRISTMAS lights in series for 24 volts. Can separate into two groups of 4 in series any combination of 8 in a series. Use 120 volt to 24 volts transformer. House switch to turn on 120 volt transformer

  17. you guys are amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. David Tanenbaum says:

    Try fiddlersgreen.com while this is mostly airplanes there are some buildings in both “HO” & “N” scale.

  19. Paul Case says:

    I would be concerned if those Christmas tree lights are incandescent bulbs instead of LED’s. That could be a lot of heat in a small closed space.

  20. Paul Case says:

    I would be concerned regarding heat buildup if the Christmas tree bulbs are incandescant instead of LED.

  21. Chris Sylvester says:

    That’s a great job on the building nice detail on it thanks for sharing the pics Chris

  22. Bob Amling says:

    Great attention to detail Tye. I appreciate seeing handmade and admire the craftsmanship.

    I have a question for David. Regarding the miniature tree lights. I had thought about using them but never thought about separating them. I recently purchased a Hallmark moving ornament that plugs into a mini bulb socket. I was trying to determine the proper voltage to install it in a building without the string of lights but I think you’ve answered my question.

  23. Richard Gregory says:

    As already asked, what about the heat from the lights and do you join the wires on the opposite end to the PSU? Love the scratch build.

  24. Colin. Edinburgh says:

    Hi Tye nice building and pumps. Wonder about the garage access. You appear to be able to enter and leave the garage from any direction. I think if you added pavements limiting access it would add a quick addition and look more realistic.

  25. Interesting on the concern about incandescent lights.
    Incandescent bulbs are hotter than LED bulbs. That said, Incandescents were the hobby standard for years. Even in the days where card was standard there were no known issues.
    Just a note from someone who remembers “the good old days”.
    LED lights seem to have a fixed voltage. Incandescents are not as picky and running incandescents at lower than labeled voltage has many advantages for the hobbiest. The first advantage is that the dimmer light looks a bit more real. The second advantage is that you can get your light more evenly distributed. The third advantage is that the bulbs last longer.

  26. robert dale tiemann says:

    the gas pumps- nice touch. nice layout.

  27. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Very good use of Christmas lights -agree they work well in small groups.

  28. George Zaky says:

    You nailed that roof equipment. Since there is no gas piping those RTU’s have to be heat pumps and so decent sized conduit required and one circuit per unit from the power panel. Bullseye!. If you wish to add an exhaust fan and some cell phone stations just to dirty it up a bit is just my mind going.
    Please keep us posted.

    Clever use of lighting has been a keen topic here and we all learn something all the time.

    Big Al
    Mr-2-a day. Much thanks

  29. Mike Street says:

    Replying to Peter Jacobs, no definitely don’t join the other ends together. The circuit is already complete, current goes up one wire through bulbs and back down the other wire.
    Nice idea to re-use old Christmas lights, must be very old, as only LEDs have been available in UK for some time now. In any case I wouldn’t bother with bulbs, LEDs much better, use less power resulting in less heat in small buildings, and last indefinitely. Where as Christmas bulbs can go any time ruining your hard work installing them. MIKE S

  30. Bob Pitlock says:

    You can’t splice the cut off ends of the Christmas lights together. It will create a dead short. Better to just use some scotch 33 electrical tape and tape each end up

  31. Rob says:

    Nice work! As a commercial roofing contractor I agree with Peter P that modelers’ roofs are a good source of super detail that is often overlooked. You don’t need a helicopter to see it either. Just put an address in Google Earth and zoom in and see all the equipment and pipes and swamp coolers, HVAC’S, condensors, fans, patches, workers, ponding water… etc. It’s a gold mine!

  32. Steve Ruple says:

    Great idea on the Christmas tree lights, that’s what I’m planning on using for my layouts.

  33. robert dale tiemann says:

    really nice setup.goo work

  34. Terry Plunkett in Oz says:

    A small note of caution to those using incandescent Christmas tree globes or grain-of-wheat lights. Both of these are incandescent and give off significant heat. I have had plastic building walls begin to melt due to the bulb being too close to the plastic, and have had paper liners char, which means they had potential to catch fire. Make sure your bulbs are well supported and spaced well away from plastic or paper/cardboard to avoid problems.

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