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March 2020

Model Railroader has been the leading model train magazine for the past 75 years.  Each month, we bring you step-by-step modeling projects, fascinating photo tours of model train layouts, unbiased product reviews, new product announcements, tips from the experts and much more!

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Building Wingate in O scale

Part 3: Scenery, structures, and rolling stock

No matter the scale or gauge you opt to model in, you have some homework to do before finalizing your choice of location, era, prototype (or base prototype from which to freelance), and so on. We discussed site choices in part 1 of this series (January 2020).

Now it’s time to consider the structures, scenery, locomotives, and rolling stock needed to model that time and place. Do we have enough information to scratchbuild accurate models of the key structures? If not, are there good candidates for kitbashing?


Taking scenery to the aisle

Fascia-mounted extensions add realism to this HO scale layout

In layout planning we typically like to use as wide of a radius as possible. Often this means pushing the track centerline close to the edge of the model railroad. Because of this we have to foreshorten the scenery, leaving little room for rocks, grass, and other vegetation between the edge of the ballast and the fascia. The lack of foreground scenery can be especially troublesome if you want to take realistic photos of your models, as the fascia always appears in the image.

There are many opinions on layout fascia. I’m in the camp that thinks that the fascia should be simple and not attract attention. On a previous layout

I painted it a reddish-brown color, which matched the scenery color. As an experiment, I repainted the fascia a dark chocolate color. The color minimized the importance of the fascia, shifting the focus to the layout, where it belonged. On my HO scale Cajon Pass layout, shown here, I used a semi-gloss color called Ghost Story. While the color was pleasing, it was distracting in photos. To remedy this situation, I attached scenery extensions to the fascia.

Model an abandoned right-of-way

A problem S-curve had to go, but its remains presented an opportunity to add some visual interest

Add interest with mini-scenes

These details help set the locale and era of your model train layout, and can tell a short story as well

Fireballs and Alpha Jets

Brian Wolfe's HO scale Blue Ridge Division modles the fast freight of the 1970s on the Western Maryland Ry.'s east end

How to model white birch trees

Natural material, craft store supplies, and paint are all you need to add these realistic trees to your model railroad scenery

Modeling a modern-era rail hub

John Schindler's 30 x 60-foot HO scale St. Louis Junction RR features action on both sides of the Mississippi River


Freight yard design and operation.

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