Bringing your Model Railroad to Life with Detail

What is detail?

Detail is something that many model railroaders never seem to get around to. It could be as simple as adding figures, and animals, or it could be a complex scene such as a complete factory complex.

If you have ever seen a new building under construction, you will notice that it just does not look completed until the landscaping is completed and the parking lot has had the striping painted for each parking space. That's detail!

Why detail?

A model railroad is nothing more than real life in miniature. Each house needs landscaping, a sidewalk, possibly a swimming pool, fencing, bicycles, dogs, cats, people, laundry, a newspaper or two on the roof, an old derelict car in the back yard, a swing, vegetable garden, a for sale sign in the front yard, someone on a ladder washing windows -- the possibilities are almost endless.

When should you detail?

The actual detailing usually starts after all the track has been laid, and most of the scenery and buildings are in place. The planning, however, should start much earlier. Think about what details you would like to include so that you can make room for them before you do the scenery.

How to detail?

During the planning or building stage, start setting aside figures that will complement each scene.

Do research by looking at photographs or by actually going out and looking for real life detail. Keep notes on such things as size and location of detail.

Don't overlook the junk and clutter that is everywhere.

Signs, telephone poles, cars, trucks, birds, garbage, or anything that will help bring life to your miniature world.

Graffiti on the side of buildings, fences, or almost any structure will help to make a plastic model look more realistic.

Many detail items can be found in magazines or catalogues. Things such as curtains can be cut from a page showing curtains or other material. Signs can be cut from adds for soft drinks, or almost any product. These adds can be glued to a sign board such as card board or styrene plastic.

One technique is to use fine sand paper to sand the back of these ads until they are very thin. The sign can then be glued directly to the side of a building or other surface, leaving a good bit of the surface detail to show through the sign.

Don't overlook the possibility of some sort of animation. This could be in the form of a smoke generator in a smoke stack in a building, a camp fire, or smoke coming from a burning building. Other types of animation could include a child flying a kite, an operating windmill in a farm yard, carnival rides, and of course the trains themselves.

Detailing can be a lot of fun. If you use your imagination you can turn any scene into a more believable setting.


Tools and other equipment

1) Paints and chalk in various colors for weathering.

2) White glue, super glue and accelerator, contact cement or walthers goo.

3) Tweezers, scissors, ruler, hobby knife, drills, paint brushes, files, sand paper, pins, cloths pins - (for clamps), scenery materials, and an imagination.


Reference materials

1) Scenery for Model Railroads by Bill McClanahan ( A Kalambach Book )

2) How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery by Dave Frary ( A Kalambach Book )

3) Detailing Tips and Techniques (A Kalambach book)



© 2000 HR Trains & Toys, Inc - Don Morris