Rural stations... Not just a backwater, a wealth of detail information
The trick is not to swamp the layout with incidental features.
The whole purpose of building a model railway is to have somewhere to run your locomotive stock, carriages and wagons and so forth. You've got your track laid, the points work, and although you may have weathered the sides of the rails the tops are clean. That's the important bit. Moreover, to enjoy running your stock you keep them clean.
The buildings are in place, station(s) signalled, coal and goods depots are laid out and you know which direction your 'Up' traffic comes from. You might have industry or mining adjacent to the railway, sidings and gates to keep out unwanted visitors. There's a farm close by, or terraced houses and shops - a corner shop maybe ('Open All hours'). There might be a cafe or snack bar near the goods depot. A friend, Colin Snowdon (Chairman of the Double O Gauge Association - DOGA) has a Southern-based layout. Near the station is a cafe called 'Sam and Ella's' (Salmonella, in a light-hearted frame of mind. He takes his model building seriously, but it's not a religion).
Have you thought about the trees, the vegetation, under- and overgrowth, field fencing, walls, ballast and so on? It pays to have your buildings and other structures 'bedded'. Any platform surfacing laid around the building bases, roadways that pass buildings are usually kerbed unless you've modelled the countryside. Even then, at a station you'll have a kerb outside a station and nearby buildings on a terrace-front. You can buy etched brass gutters, electric, water and inspection plates on roads and pavements. You might have grass growing on the edge of the pavement, and a telephone kiosk, pillar boxes in town or collection boxes by the side of village or country roads. Level crossings (gated or barriered) will have lines drawn for approaching traffic from either side to stop at, maybe lines own the middle of the road. Wet and Dry sandpaper can be used for a road surface, grey or sandy side up, the finer the better for town or village roads, rougher for moorland or farm roads. Your powers of observation and imagination are all that limit you. This is all incidental. Go for an overall impression. As long as your lines don't look too thick you're all right. Where you have field access tracks make them muddy. Use plastic filler, plenty of grass scatter for around gate posts, leave gates ajar sometimes. Add a tractor, trailer or baler (you can get all these in 4mm and 7mm and other scales in kit form or boxed). Land Rovers - i've got several! - come in all forms, hard-top, estate, canvas topped, open.
'Bed' stone walls and fences, make them part of the scenery. Lots of grass and foliage growing over and around, trees and bushes abound. More of that later...
Vegetation on the branch - fine for the rabbits, not for railwaymen
Grass scatter, trees, lichen, bushes etc
Use these to make the walls and fences look part of the scenery. Use grass scatter on tops of stone walls, around them, 'growing out' of them. Lichen can be added to look like bramble bushes, thorns, vines. Use them to smother tree trunks. Observation: take pictures of trees being overpowered by thorns, ivy and smaller bushes. Take pictures of gateways, old abandoned buildings, farm buildings, derelict buildings. Stone barns in the Dales are sometimes distressed, neglected, rooves falling in, tiles or slates missing, walls crumbling through lack of upkeep.
Mud is an issue for ramblers, especially in gateways where a footpath is waymarked. It sometimes looks like dried plaster on vehicles in summer. Trees grow by gateways, and sometimes.field boundaries are hedges with broken fencing or walling. You might come across a whole length of dry stone walling that's collapsed where road vehicles have gone out of control or walkers have ignored in-built steps and tried to climb over, bringing the wall down with them (painful!)
In farm yards you get stone setts with mud trails from cattle being herded out of a field. I've got a binder of photographs I took when on holiday around the Cleveland Hills (North Yorkshire, not Ohio), the North Yorkshire Moors and the Dales. I make sure not to mix imaging, as the character of one area (Dales) is noticeably different from another (Moors, Hills).
Buildings, on and near every railway - signal cabins, waiting rooms, booking offices, sometimes all in one in an 'H' shape together with the stationmaster's and porters' house. Then there are lineside huts for gangers (permanent way workers), stores, lamp huts, goods sheds. Nearby might be a grain silo, factory, farm, tannery - you name it, and/or housing. These might be detached, semi-detached, terraced or blocks of flats. If you're going to model a real station you're going to need pictures, track diagrams etc., and techniques, tried and tested ways of producing buildings that look like the real thing - to exhibition standard if needed. Take a leaf out of Trevor Booth's book, enjoy the hobby.
Industry's wheels - what makes the world go round, and coaling facilities - what made the steam engines' wheels go round
Past industry is always attractive as a backdrop, as is ongoing (active) industry...
Various types of industry, steel, gas, oil and chemical installations can be found close to towns. I lived in a town flanked by a steel plant on one side and a chemical plant on the other (Dorman Long Steel works and Imperial Chemical Industries or ICI). Just a shame you can't model the funny smells, like that of rotten eggs when the chemicals were being mixed in the Bessemer Converters at Dorman Long, close by Grangetown!
You have industrial detritus, old wagons, steel ladle wagons with layers of molten iron around the rims, rusting lengths of steel rail, empty shells of industrial shunters with broken glass in the cab and rust around the engine casing. And all over there is vegetation trying to reclaim the site.
Ever seen a slag tip? Massive mountains of waste material. We had them everywhere with all the ironstone mines in East Cleveland and on the southern rim of Teesside. Kilton's conical slag tip could be seen from as far away as Saltburn, eight miles or so away. We had one that stretched a mile between Eston and Grangetown. A housing estate was built there after most of the tip with removed for road surfacing (you see a lot of reddish-surfaced roads in the area), it was called 'Whale Hill'. Kilton's vanished a long time ago.
Ironstone mines look different to coal mines in many respects, except at shaft mines where there are similarities. For instance the winding gear looks alike. Sidings abound, often uneven and haphazard but they all serve their own purpose, whether for storage or shunting. Where mine lines join the railway company's running lines they're more uniform. Exchange sidings will be generally ballasted with cinders, pretty much like locomotive sheds. it's cheaper. Stone chips are usually used for main running lines, for passenger or generally express routes. High, soot-covered, mortared stone or brick walls may be found near older sheds and works, replaced in part by high wire fencing, again part overgrown with thorns, bushes and weeds.
Photography might have to be done from an outside vantage point or through the wire here. Access might be gained in places by contact with the company who owns the site, or if deserted there might be some kind of unofficial access. But be careful, abandoned industrial sites can be dangerous..
Harbours should be approached with caution. If you can't find archive material ask for access to less busy areas if the harbour's fenced or walled off. Oil installations might be best avoided. Use archive material preferably. Nobody wants to have to rescue trespassers..
Bedding-in and blending structures and lineside features
That's the countryside and industry taken care of...
What about station environs? Your station might be in a town or city.. Cuttings and bridging are evident here. Streets of terraced houses, blocks of flats, warehouses, factories, small foundries, large foundries... Grist to the mill! .
Bed buildings. Gardens can sometimes get out of hand or neglected with abandoned cars on bricks, old motor bikes, children's tricycles, prams. Washing lines are stretched across gardens or back yards with sheets and so forth billowing in the wind. Hedges hide many things, such as bicycle frames, broken door frames. Cold frames and greenhouses abound in nicer gardens or allotments near railway lines. You get them all.
Who ever models slums? Some city routes pass these, with semi-derelict housing, window frames and doors missing, window glass broken and the odd 'oasis' of a cared-for back garden or yard with neatly painted window frames and doors. There's always somebody who refuses to give up.
Railways in cities often run on viaducts. Below them are arches, in the arches are car workshops, taxi companies have their garages here, and you get carpet warehouses, builder's yards, cafes (greasy spoon types) or just empty, waiting to be let. Alongside viaducts are streets, pubs, the odd mobile snack bar, back alleys, dark and foreboding. Youths hang about in gangs, sometimes you get someone dealing in contraband (from time immemorial, when railways cut through slum districts those displaced were their best customers out of desperation rather than choice).
Take photographs but not risks. Some people don't like photographers, even the ones who stumble across them accidentally..
Locomotive shed environs, prior to (ash) ballasting
Some former railway premises and sites are private property...
Where branch line stations are still in use, premises may be leased or bought by private individuals or businesses. If you intend to carry out research or take photographs ask permission in advance, or on the day if this is impossible. Where stations you want to take photographs are on closed branches the premises may well be in commercial or private hands. The same applies here. No-one wants the aggravation of trespassers where privacy is desired.
Use archive material where possible. Scenery might be copied or improvised. There's always room for interpretation if accuracy is not an issue. In the case of a 'freelance' model archive material will only be to get the atmosphere of a region or area. This is your licence to add or absorb character. The main thing is you have pleasure in creating your model. Don't copy slavishly. That's where a hobby turns into a drudge!
Have you followed this series?
Double O Gauge Association
- The Double O Gauge Association
The OO Gauge Association, ideas (and some of mine) and suggestions to help you on your way, an online forum to air your problems and views or offer solutions, and a quarterly magazine you can contribute to with illustrations, images and/or diagrams
Mines and environs - industry at and below ground level
EM Gauge Society
EM Gauge Society for all those interested in 4mm scale and is the largest of the Societies covering 4mm scale. If you are planning a new layout or just starting out why not go the whole way and use fine scale techniques? The EM Gauge Society is here
Here's a list of books that might help you on your way to railway modelling if you aren't already one of the fraternity:
LAYOUTS FOR LIMITED SPACES, Nigel Adams, The Silver Link Library of Railway Modelling, ISBN 1-85794-055-5;
BASEBOARD BASICS and MAKING TRACKS, Trevor Booth, The Silver Link Library of Railway Modelling, ISBN 1-85794-006-7;
CREATING THE SCENIC LANDSCAPE, Trevor Booth, The Silver Link Library of Railway Modelling, ISBN 1-85794-023-7;
DETAILING AND IMPROVING READY TO RUN LOCOS, Iain Rice, Modelling Railways Illustrated Handbooks No.4, ISBN 1-871608-54-6;
SIMPLY SCENERY An Insight into the Art of Landscape Modelling, Tony Hill, Irwell Press, ISBN 1-871608-36-8;
RAILWAY OPERATION FOR THE MODELLER, Bob Essery, Midland Publishing, ISBN 1-85780-168-7;
THE ART OF WEATHERING, Martyn Welch, Wild Swan Publications, ISBN 1-874103-11-9;
RAILWAY SIGNAL ENGINEERING (899890-), Lewis - Third Edition revised and enlarged by J H Fraser, B.Sc, A.M. INST.C.E, Publ. Peter Kay, ISBN 1-899890-04-1;
MAINLINE MODELLING:1 - Constructing & Operating SEMAPHORE SIGNALS, Challenger Publications, ISBN 1-899624-32-5
*Some of these books have already been featured in earlier parts of this series, some with Amazon links. Some are not available through Amazon, you my have to try through alternative retail sources. I bought some online, some through Foyles, Waterstones and at model railway exhibitions.
© 2015 Alan R Lancaster
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on April 12, 2015:
Have you tried 2nd-hand stalls at model exhibitions, or bring-and-buy otherwise known as 'swap-meets'?
As for buildings you could use plastic card and 'scratch-build' based on photographs in books or the internet. You can buy detailing such as laddering and half-etched sheet from Evergreen (Strip Styrene) for planked buildings. Peco in Devon do sets of 2mm window frames and doors that wouldn't look out of place in a US based model location.
Join a modelling club or 2mm modelling association, where you can get ideas from others. Try also rmweb.co.uk, although it's owned by the publishers of a magazine called British Railway Modelling there are ideas for constructing model buildings applicable anywhere.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on April 11, 2015:
;) Thanks for all that info. Actually, my railway is not modeled on a real one; it's a fantasy scene out of my own mind. It includes a town with both industrial/run-down areas, as well as an "out in the country" section, and some rich-folks areas, and a mountain hiking/camping scene with a lodge.
All I have in so far are the tracks and some of the landscaping...very few structures. I have probably more rolling stock than I can ever use, collected over several years, but I still wish I could find a Shay loco..but in N scale, I've had no luck. Besides, they are pricey. ;)
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on April 11, 2015:
Hello Dizzy Lizzy, you've got another 21 before this. Start with the first one that deals with deciding where your railway will be based. I don't know a lot about railways in the US, but I know this much, you're unlikely to find buildings, stock or locos in California or Pennsylvania that you'd find in Texas and vice verse. It's the same here, even now but especially in the days before the 'Big Four' from 1923, e.g., London & North Eastern, London Midland & Scottish, Southern and Great Western railways. Even within fifty miles here you could have everything of a different character (and nowhere in Britain is more than 75 miles from the sea), as in the early days there might be three companies building and operating their system within the same county. In Yorkshire we had (in the south) the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway, the Midland Railway, the Great Northern and Hull & Barnsley. In the middle we had the York & North Midland, Leeds & Thirsk (later Leeds Northern), the Great North of England Railway (GNER, that ran from York to Newcastle). In the north of the county was the southern end of the Stockton & Darlington (up to 1863). Four companies operated north of the Tees in County Durham, one a rope-hauled mineral line (the gradient was too steep for locomotives then).
Several of our senior railway builders and engineers were employed in N. America and Canada, and we borrowed ideas from the Pennsylvania and New York railways (such as 'Pacific' and 'Atlantic' wheel arrangements.
Cheer up, the Doldrums won't last forever. Take a look at the series and take heart. 'Thoraldby' should appeal. At least you can get a lot more in 2mm than you can in 4mm.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on April 10, 2015:
This was awesome and inspiring! I have a 4 foot by 8 foot plywood with an 'in-process' N scale model railway. However, it is FAR from complete; we ran into rough times, and there is no more money for hobbies, so it sits, collecting dust.
However, I remain a 'train nut,' and fascinated by model railways, and admire the talent of folks who can scratch-build! (I rely 100% on kits and pre-fab scenics.)
I did not cast a vote in your poll, as my answer was not available, namely, "I did not know this was a series." I came across this Hub on my news feed today because it was shared by one of the hubbers whom I follow.
Voted up++++, pinned and shared.
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on April 10, 2015:
Go get your box Ron, see what you can conjure up with a bit of help from Woodland Scenics etc (there's lots of kits'n'bits available to turn a 'trainset' into a railway, supplied through the Internet). If you've got the time and the imagination, and lots of reference, who knows what you'll come up with. Take a look at this series from part 1, see what you need and off you go.
Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on April 10, 2015:
Wow! I had model trains as a child, and still have some of them in a box in my basement. I remember doing my setup on a big piece of plywood in our living room. But it was never anything like this! You've almost motivated me to go find that box in the basement and set it up again. Almost.
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on February 02, 2015:
Blossom, there's lots of tinkering to be done. Why don't you get in touch with a railway modellers' club. They'd appreciate help from someone with smaller fingers to get into small spaces or assemble fragile parts. (Just a shame the wife isn't interested, there'd be lots for her to get on with). You don't have to know much to begin with, it all comes with practice (I've botched a few kits in my time).
Bill, you don't have to spend any time or money or take up too much space with a virtual layout. Besides that there is a way of getting into the game without massive investment: Nigel Adams' 'LAYOUTS FOR LIMITED SPACES' published by The Silver Link Library of Railway Modelling (see ISBN above in the book list).
We had a competition in the Double O Gauge Association for small layouts assembled in box files (A4 size). I built a layout for my son, you've visited the page, 'Here's One I Made Earlier', which measures a mere 8' X 1'-4". Buying rolling stock can be inexpensive at swapmeets or model railway exhibitions, where dealers sell second-hand items. Tools to assemble wagon/coach kits don't have to cost the earth either. The options are limitless, the choice is broad and ideas come free.
Go for it, Billy boy!
Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on February 01, 2015:
My late husband was a model railway enthusiast and had a great set up, particularly in one of the vicarages we lived in, as there was space for his hobby. Not that he had a lot of spare time, but all the family participated and it was fun. He was most interested in the engines and rolling stock, and the stations, and I loved tinkering around with the scenery, people farm animals and other vehicles. Love your hub it takes me right back to those times.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2015:
This article was painful for me to read because I have always wanted a model railway. I don't have the room, the money or the time to do this now, but that doesn't make the longing any less. So thanks a lot, my friend, for making me more impatient. :) Great information of course....I just wish you would follow up on this article and deliver a set of tracks to me. LOL