Even the darkness will not be dark to you

making model railway tunnelsHere’s a quick tip for anyone building on tunnels for their railway.

When creating tunnels don’t just focus on the outside. You can have the most perfectly painted tunnel entrance brickwork and surrounding scenery but if you skip on the tunnel walls you’ll regret it.

Take a look at the photo here.

The surroundings of the tunnel look good don’t they? The rock faces look very believable and the stonework for the tunnel entrance is nicely done.

But look carefully and you’ll see the problem.

For whatever reason, the model makers left the construction of the mountain/hill exposed inside the tunnel. Look in the photo and you can just about see the building fabric but it’s a lot more evident when you’re up close.

It spoils the look and wastes all the effort spent on the exterior…

And don’t for a second believe the darkness of the tunnel will be your ally and conceal the building fabric. The light from around the entrance will illuminate the insides for further than you’d expect. Even the darkness will not be dark and viewers WILL BE able to see the tunnel sides for several inches after the entrance as is apparent in the photo above.

Here’s How To Do It

Instead, get Brick Sheeting (available from Faller, Vollmer or Metcalfe in HO, OO and N scale) and glue it to the inner tunnel sides so it looks like like a genuine railway tunnel complete with supporting tunnels walls. You don’t need to cover all the sides just those that will be visible from the outside.

I cut a simple cardboard arch to the shape and size of my eventual tunnel entrance in card and position this while constructing the tunnel so I can judge how far the light will travel into the tunnel and know how far the card walls need to reach.

Extra tip: If you’re looking for realism, get brick sheet cards that reflect the style and colour of the brick and stone work that matches those that the tunnel would have built with.

Also, if you have narrow tunnels remember to build in clearance room at the sides. Brick sheet may be thin but still takes up space, check the trains still run before permanently fixing the card in place.

Fixing card to walls can be difficult where tunnels curve so I tend to cut the card into narrow strips and apply it in steps along the tunnel.

Lastly, check you have the bricks in the correct orientation when fixing them. Realising the bricks run vertically instead of horizontally after you’ve glued them in place and sealed the tunnel from above isn’t fun – not that I’ve ever done that of course….

> 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 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,
  1. I’ve just started to build my hole in wall tunnel to other part of cellar and was amazed at the brick card or paper to inside curve idea. 

    I had been looking at the entrance and the length painted matt black but still didn’t seem to me to look right and when I read your article it is so obvious.

    Thank you for pointing that out we get so engrossed at things imaginary (well I do haha) that the blatantly clear seem to vanish in the big scheme of things.

    Ta again

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