How to

Ballast Machine?

Denny's ballasting method

How to ballast simple and sweet

Real dirt as scenery

Thanks to Pray59 from Railwire for this: I found a trick with real dirt that works pretty good, I mix 50/50 white glue with water, paint an area on my module with it, then sprinkle on sifted backyard dirt to about 1/64" thickness, or about 4 sheets of paper thick. I let it dry, then sprinkle on another thinner layer and spread evenly, then mist with water. The first layer is glued down very solid, but the second layer is a transition layer to hide any glossy look from the first, and after that drys I rub it with my finger, releasing a very fine powder which you can blow off later, and get a very, very fine natural dirt look. As an added bonus, the powder released by rubbing transitions with adjacent ground cover blending them together very realistically. Try a test area to see for yourself!

Modeling citrus packing houses in California 

Here's a great source for modeling the once mighty citrus packing houses that dotted the landscape in Central and Southern California. Packing houses This picture is like what I've done on similar layouts, using DPM flats for the houses against a backdrop. Modeling the houses here 

Weathering made easy

Years ago, Louie B from The Lehigh and Keystone Valley Model Railroad Club taught me the simple and effective way to weather in all scales. We start with three colors: Rust, Grimy Black and Concrete all in that order. Airbrush Rust on the bottom, sides, couplers, trucks and touches on the side. The Grimy Black in an over spray. Follow up with Concrete along the bottom of the car: Make a mix of alcohol and paint. The idea here is to weather all of the rolling stock the same to match the prototype. It will also blend with your scenery much better than to weather cars beyond recognition and not have it match the surroundings.

To create arid, dry and sandy Western US landscape

Try the Lou Sassi goop or Joe Fugate Vermiculite mix. Here's another look at the same scenery ground mix from Tim Kerkoff. Click through to Railroad Line Forum

The idea here is to gain a course and rugged look to the scene. Pele Soeberg uses a different concept, especially on mountains, so the talus and ground foam have something to grip. He uses an earth tone paint and then sprinkles dry sand, adds white glue diluted and then ground material.

From Joe here's the recipe:
1 part Portland cement
3 parts patching plaster
4 parts vemiculite (fine)

The goop can also be used when modeling industries, look how effective it is on this cool module built by Jason Lachlan:

Create depth on HO layouts

This small N scale farmhouse and garage sat on a ridge on my HO Face Creek and Wichita layout. It created the illusion of depth.

Here's the farmhouse on the ridge above the two units.

Make your own highway signs

This is a great website for making your own interstate highway signs, exit ramps to towns, state highways logos and numbers, attractions and more. Signmaker

How to make your own palm trees

If you've checked the prices for scale palm trees, you might need to get a loan. They are pricey. I found a cheap and great appearance way to make plastic palm trees you buy at a craft store, into good looking trees.

1.) Buy a bag of cheap plastic palm trees from a craft store or those ones on EBAY.
2.) Break off the palm fronds and throw away the plastic trunks.
3.) Pull the fronds apart so you have rings of fronds.
4.) Glue the rings to a tapered dowel that has been wrapped with brown paper for trunk effect.
5.) Point some of the rings of fronds up, down and leave some of them alone.
6. Shoot them with some tan on the trunks and various shades of green on the fronds

Sand has many uses

Filtered sand makes a great scenery aid. I use to build up roadbed before adding ballast. I use ro build up the ballast on the slope of the roadbed and went through so many bags of ballast, it was lame. The prototype has dirt and ballast mixed together of some mid-lines and on large mainlines on large slopes. In this picture the dirt (sand) maintenance road blends into the ballast.

This is sand from a lot near my home.
Overview of sand only on the roadbed.

View of only sand on roadbed.

Brush the area to blend sand and ballast.

Mist with alcohol and then white glue
and water.
Finished product

Joe Fugate's Siskiyou Lines 2007

Bruce Petty's Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley

Mark Lestico's N UP Cascade Division 2010

Charlie Comstock's Bear Creek and South Jackson 2010

Mike Danneman's D&RGW N 5x7 layout

David Barrows Cat Mountain and Santa Fe 1999

Fremo group in Europe Southern Pacific