Extra Details Bring Life to Your Layout

AndrewRossCola

Extra Details Bring Life to Your Layout

Adding details to your model train layout can extend beyond just weathering and detailing your model train engines and train cars. The world is a lived in place that is often vibrant and yet dirty, empty and yet crowded, all at the same time. When building your layout, remember that these extra details bring life to your layout and make it more fun for you to operate and more fun for others to watch.

You can add detail to many different things that will bring life to your layout. Below is a short list of the myriad of different things you could do.

  1. Adding Realistic Details to Vehicles: Vehicles that travel along any streets or roads your model train layout shouldn’t all look factory new. And if you weather and detail your model train engines, why not do the same with these vehicles? The 18-wheeler should look road-weary, an old flatbed truck should look dirty and rusty, and a backhoe or bulldozer should be coated with dirty, especially on the treads.In the video below, Luke Towan gives a good, 20-minute visual walk-through on detailing and weathering a pair of flat bed trucks.
  2. Building, Weathering, and Detailing Trash Dumpsters: The world is a dirty place, producing copious amounts of trash and garbage on a daily basis. Every restaurant, most businesses, and even some homes or neighborhoods have trash dumpsters. These dumpsters accumulate garbage constantly and are generally emptied once a week. Especially busy businesses, like restaurants, will fill dumpsters to overflowing in a very short time.In the video below, from Scale Model Trains & Colorado’s Joint Line, you get a combination of how to assemble HO scale trash dumpster kits produced by Hi-Tech Details. In 12 1/2 minutes, he walks through the assembly of the models, gives tips for extra details like signage and trash, and shows the final project.
  3. Soda, Coke, and Beer Cans: If you have trash dumpsters you have to have trash. One of the most common forms of trash is aluminum cans – soda/pop cans and beer cans. Unfortunately, many of these cans don’t make it into waste bins or trash dumpsters. You find them scattered all over the place – parks, city streets and alleyways, shoulders of highways, and even railroad tracks.In the video below, again from Scale Model Trains & Colorado’s Joint Line, you get a quick, 4-minute walk-through on making HO scale pop and beer cans from small styrene rods. Filling your model trash bins with them or scattering them around your layout in different places will give your layout a “lived-in” look.
  4. Ghost Signs and Old Buildings: Many old buildings in small towns and large cities across North America and many other parts of the world have faded, painted-on signs on their sides. Often, these old signs have nothing to do with the modern usage of the building – if the building is still even in use at all. The signs were for one of two purposes – they either labeled the building for what it once was (maybe still is) or they advertised a product. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, painting advertising signs on buildings was the billboards of that era, and the owner of the building usually received a fee for allowing the advertising to be painted on their building. These photos are great examples of ghost signs.
    OReilly_Hotel_ghost_Iowa

    Ghost sign advertising the Hotel O’Reilly, which the building used to be. Photo by Bill Whittaker, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

    AndrewRossCola

    A perfect example of a ghost advertising sign, for Andrew Ross, Carriage & Wagon Builder and Coca-Cola. Photo by Rick Cordeiro, who has released the photo into the public domain.

In this video, from DJsTrains, you get a quick, 3-minute walk-through on kit-bashing a commercial kit, painting it, and detailing it, especially by adding ghost signage to the building.

5. Junkyard or Abandoned Train Engines: Okay, so this one does involve train engines, but it is a completely different project than detailing and weathering one you will run on your layout. It isn’t uncommon to find abandoned, partially scrapped steam and diesel locomotives all over the world. In some parts of the world, there are train “graveyards” or “cemeteries” where many trains were abandoned en masse. In other places, you might find just a single old, rusty train engine sitting on tracks that no longer go anywhere.

A portion of the train cemetery outside the city of Uyuni, in southwest Bolivia. Photo by Martin St-Amant. Used under the under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

 

 

 

 

 

The photo below is a 1:87 (HO scale) diorama of a rusty, abandoned, partially scrapped Alco RS3 diesel locomotive. The model was built and photographed by Bob Boudreau. You could easily add a scene like this to your model train layout. Since it will be abandoned and partially scrapped, you don’t even need a new, working model. You could buy a damaged one, a dummy (non-powered) locomotive, or track down an old plastic model kit by Hobbytown of Boston like I recently did.

"End of the Line" diorama in HO scale 1/87th. by Bob Boudreau.

Posted by Bob Boudreau on Thursday, July 6, 2017

I found my mint-condition kit on eBay by happenstance, but if you search every now and then, one might turn up.

So, there you go! These five extra details bring life to your layout. If you want more ideas, check out the Facebook page Abandoned Miniatures. Modelers of all types post photos of their amazing models of various types – including railroad models. There are literally hundreds of ideas and concepts you can borrow from in the photos on that page.

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Robert Thomson

Robert W. Thomson is a life-long railfan, the son of a former L&N Railroad B&B gang foreman, and an amateur photographer. He was born and raised in southeast Tennessee but now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife, Connie and cat, Charlie. Robert has worked as a park ranger, underground mine tour guide, freelance roleplaying game writer, and ran his own roleplaying game publishing company until selling it in 2012.

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About The Author

Robert Thomson

Robert W. Thomson is a life-long railfan, the son of a former L&N Railroad B&B gang foreman, and an amateur photographer. He was born and raised in southeast Tennessee but now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife, Connie and cat, Charlie. Robert has worked as a park ranger, underground mine tour guide, freelance roleplaying game writer, and ran his own roleplaying game publishing company until selling it in 2012.