Build An Authentic Coal Staithe In 5 Steps

No steam model railway is complete without a coal yard. Here’s how to get make and paint your own staithe in 5 easy steps.

For my layouts, I want some coal sheds. I opted for the Plastic Ratio Models coal depot (number 229 for N scale and 532 for OO) as I’ve used their kits before and have had great success with them.

Here’s how I built and painted the coal sheds in 5 easy steps, this is for the N scale set but the technique work for their OO set as well.

#1 Unclip and smooth the edges

cutting pieces of sprue for model makingFirst of all, unclip the plastic parts from their holder.

On some pieces, you’ll notice left overs from where the piece was attached to the sprue. These should be cut away or filled down.

I prefer cutting them off with a scalpel as at this size ( 1:148) I can get a smother finish without damaging the patterning.

#2 Glue and assemble

Coal Shed AssemblingNext glue the pieces together.

For this coal staithe, I found it much easier to first glue the coal to the back wall, then attach the side walls and finally the middle divider – this provides more surface area for side walls to attach to.

#3 Paint base layers

Coal Shed Glimmer PVAOnce the glue is set, it’s time for paint.

First, I primed it and opted for a Black for this for the reasons explained in guide on the colour of primer to use. (For some models I prime before assembly, especially those where there are parts that are hard to reach and will be difficult to apply subsequent paint too, but for this model where everything is easily accessible I primed it after assembly).

The smell of Enamel paints bring back happy childhood model making memories and as much as I love their smell for this job I opted for acrylics. It’s probably just me but I find even in Matt finishes Enamel sometimes leaves very slight shine which no matter how faint would have been out of place on the wood in this model hence the choice of acrylic.

To get the tired, textured, effects for the wood needs several layers, so I applied a brown wood Matt (Humbrol Acrylic Paint No. 110) base on the wooden parts and then painted the coals with Black Matt acrylic (Humbrol No. 33).

Painting the wood first also means the Black on the coals will cover up any brown that’s accidentally splashed onto them and also flow down between the coal and wood walls to improve shadow.

Once this had dried, I used a thinned down the Black wash and went over the wood surfaces again smearing it loosely with my finger tip. This was left to dry for a few minutes while I returned to work on the coal.

I’ve been experimenting with using lighter colours to add the glimmer effect that real coal has but ModelRailwayEngineer friend @MattThorpe619 suggested an inspired idea that was so effective I’ve used here. Matt’s tip is simple but brilliant: daub PVA on some of the coals.

The PVA dries hard but leaves a slight sheen, producing the glimmer I wanted. As before, while letting this dry, I went back to the wood and applied a thinned final coat of brown.

#5 Apply final detailing

model railway layout coal shedLastly, I applied another a Black wash to the wood in places, solid Black to corners and between the planks and touched up the coal for the final look.

The end result is shown above. With the model constructed, all that remains is to plant it on the layout for that added extra touch.

Tools and materials used in making the coal staithe

Army Painter Black primer

Humbrol acrylic paint No. 110

Humbrol No. 33

Swann-Morton number 3 scalpel handle

Swann-Morton number 10 blades


> 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 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.
  1. Looking forward to the replies for scatter.I have kept the sawdust from cutting wood. Then mixed in color.spray tack adhesive then use a kitchen sive/colander gently tap side to evenly spread layer of grass . I then use more spray adhesive to add various color scatter.adding various bushes with a little pva glue

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