A Quick, Simple, Action You Can Take Now To Make Your Railway Look More Realistic

rails model railwaAdding that sought after ‘authentic’ feel to a model railway usually involves slow, intricate and detailed model work. But here’s a quick, easy, and often overlooked action you can take that’ll bring a dash of realism without glue or paint. Hint, it involves rubbish.

While on my way to the STEAM GWR museum for their Railway Festival recently I was looking out of the train window when something caught my model making-eye.

When traveling by train (which I do a lot) I always try to use the opportunity to make notes on the scenery, bridges and railway buildings that fly past for future reference. On this occasion, however, it was the track that got my attention.

Or more accurately the gullies and sidings next to and in-between the tracks.

As my train flew through the countryside on its way to Reading and then Swindon I noticed that the trackside was littered with debris from works on and around the rails.

railway line debrisOn subsequent journeys, I’ve kept a lookout and confirmed that it’s the same on pretty much every railway line.

“Railtrack revealed that more than 20,000 tonnes of rotting concrete and scrap metal has been lying around the network ‘since before privatisation’ The Guardian newspaper

Whether it’s old or new track on station approaches, equipment, rubbish and discarded equipment can be seen lying around rusting away. The picture to the right is just one example of old rails left next to the track at Woking in Surrey, which I pass on my daily commute.

I’ve commented on this before but seeing it on my journey reminded me how common this is and how adding such items to your track sides would be a quick, easy and simple way of adding extra realism to your model railway.

Prime Candidates

Old rails, sleepers, sandbags, axels, wheels and electrical cable coils are all prime candidates for trackside debris you can easily add.

Rails and sleepers left by the side of tracks can be obtained from spare track you have lying around, although obviously of the same gauge as your laid track. The picture at the top of this post shows this done to brilliant effect on the Miniature Wunderland in Hamburg.

I haven’t found a way of scratch-building sandbags and cable rolls yet as they’re too small to make in N scale in which I’m currently working, although it would be easier in OO or O scale. Instead, I bought some second hand off eBay. As they represent discarded items their condition doesn’t matter, in fact, some wear and tear adds to the realism,

One final thought, if you have fences (see the previous post on model railway fencing) by your railway lines make sure the rusting rails etc are places inside of the fencing. The fences are there in part to prevent railway works spreading onto nearby land.

I’d love to see how your layout looks before and after you’ve added trackside building materials. Tweet or send me your pictures.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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