Model Railroad Scenery, Step by Step

Model Railroad Scenery, Step by Step

Model Railroad Scenery, Step by Step

Ideal for beginner, intermediate, and advanced modelers, Model Railroad Scenery, Step by Step includes 20 step‑by‑step projects on different aspects of creating realistic scenery. This "hands-on" special issue from Model Railroader magazine features easy-to-follow instructions, tips and techniques, material lists, color photos, and diagrams. Whether you’re in the planning stage or in the building process, Model Railroad Scenery, Step by Step will bring life to your model railroad, regardless of size.

United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines


hey, how did you do that?

IT’S A COMMON QUESTION we all ask at some point when we see something that catches our eye on someone else’s model railroad layout: “Hey, that’s neat! How did you do that?” The great thing about model railroading is the social aspect, and passing along what we’ve learned to others that are interested in the hobby. But there are other places we glean ideas too, like the pages of Model Railroader. One of the areas of model railroading people are most interested in is scenery. The first thing we usually want to do is to get track down and trains running. After that, we want to develop a sense of time, place, and emotion, and to “set the scene” our locomotives and cars will pass through. Scenery helps us do that. Terrain, foliage,…

continue your roads into the backdrop

BUILDING SHELF LAYOUTS has many advantages, including easy access, less scenic work, and less expense. However, it has its drawbacks as well. Depicting roads that end at the backdrop with realistic depth is one of the biggest challenges of scenicking a shelf layout. Though my HO scale Pennsylvania RR South Bend Branch layout was more or less finished, I was unhappy with several spots where roads ran into the backdrop. I solved this problem with the help of my good friend Jim Six. Jim uses photo backdrops on his New York Central Michigan Branch model railroad, and after seeing the great results he got with this technique, I decided to do the same on my layout. Picture a road I took several digital photos of roads in autumn, which is the season I…

detail and weather an assembled structure

I BEGAN GATHERING STRUCTURES for my HO scale Union Pacific Daneville Subdivision model railroad as soon as I’d started the benchwork. Yes, I reused some of the buildings from my previous layout. However, I’d also add a few new structures, including this BLMA yard office. [BLMA details and structures are now available from Atlas Model Railroad Co. – Ed.] Though the structure comes factory assembled, there are some easy ways to dress up this model. The first thing I do with any factory-assembled model is weather it. Even if a building is molded to look like brick, metal, or wood, it still has that plastic shine. Simple weathering with pastels and an airbrush will give any structure a more realistic finish. If your structure is in the foreground and lacks an interior,…

model a concrete lot with embedded rails

AFTER READING the headline you’re probably asking, “Okay, how much plaster am I going to need?” Well, none. You can model a concrete lot with embedded rails quickly and easily with styrene sheet and strip and some basic tools. Styrene was the ideal medium for the lot at Kalmbach Feeds. Not only are the rails in the concrete, but there is a curved siding and a turnout to contend with. Fortunately, styrene is easy to cut and shape, so overcoming these obstacles wasn’t difficult. Of course, you can make styrene look even more like concrete with a little extra effort. Scribing expansion joints, painting the styrene a concrete color, and applying a weathering wash can turn plain pieces of plastic into what looks like a well-worn concrete lot. You can adapt the techniques…

build a highway overpass

STARTING IN THE 1950S, the railroad overpass replaced many busy at-grade crossings. In the Los Angeles area, as in other large cities, there are many street and freeway overpasses. On my HO scale Los Angeles & San Fernando Valley RR layout, I wanted to install a modern looking overpass for the 1950s Because of space, my overpass had to be a low-relief structure where the tracks will disappear under the bridge and into the backdrop. I modeled a generic, deck beam bridge from the late 1950s, using welded plate girder beams and concrete bents and abutments. Since the bridge starts at ground level and goes up and over the tracks, I needed to replace the old grade crossing. To make the project a bit more challenging, the overpass needed to gradually arch…

model a scrapyard

AN OFFICE, some scrap piles, assorted detail parts, and a device to load and unload the metal was all it took to model the scrapyard shown above. This industry not only fits in a compact 1 x 2-foot space, it has visual interest that draws visitors into the scene. Scrapyards (or “junkyards”) and metal recycling have been around for decades, but the scope of metal recycling has grown. Yards used to deal primarily in industrial scrap and old cars. They’ve since expanded to collecting and recycling soda cans, appliances, and metal lawn furniture, among other items. For this article, I modeled a compact scrapyard. However, yards can vary in size from small ones like the one modeled here to large operations that sprawl over several acres. Although I used commercial scrap piles and…