A super realistic brazier with flickering flame effect for OO gauge model railways

Oil drum fires, also known as braziers, were and still are a common sight in railway settings. From sidings and depots to building sites and gardens, these small fires add a touch of realism to any model railway scene.

And oil drum fires are still around, often seen on building sites and under bridges and abandoned warehouses where homeless people shelter. (The later would make a great little scene for a modern image layout).

But they’re not just static details! Adding an LED flickering effect model train layout fire feature can transform these oil drum fires into captivating focal points, drawing the eye and adding a touch of fun to even the most mundane corners of your layout.

Here’s everything you ned to know to add them to OO gauge setups. If you’re impatient, you can get yours here.

Making a OO gauge brazier

First, the base. 3D printing is a godsend for these projects, and I found a design online that has a nice oil drum look complete with ventilation holes.

Once printed and cured, I used a scalpel to scrape away some of the resin around the ventilation holes. This makes the walls of the brazier thinner and allows the glow of the LED, added later, to leach through as it would on a real old and battered brazier. A hole is drilled through the base large enough to take the LED bulb.

With the basic form constructed, I added some timber and wood poking out the top of the brazier.

Making an oo gauge model railway brazier

Starting with a 3D printed oil drum, base paint it and add timber protruding from the top.

These were made from wooden toothpicks, filled on four sides to create a cut timber profile, as would be found near workshops and workmens huts. The point of scalpel was pulled along each side creating a wood grain pattern before they were painted.

A dark wash was applied to extenuate the wood grain marks before burnt umber was dry brushed on. White grey were flicked on in places to give the impression of wood ash.

The resulting timber sticks where superglued into the top of the brazier. When the LED is turned on, the orange glow reflects off the under side of the these timber sticks further making glow more visible and giving the impression they are burning.

To this, a small disc of plastikard and is glued to the base (with it’s own a hole for the LED) which is painted to fit the ground colouring on the layout.

A 9v flickering orange LED was then inserted up through the holes to approx. half way up the oil drum, providing a flicking flame look and this is glued in place with Superglue.

The LED was tested before and after gluing to check the glue didn’t break it. This has happened to me a number of times in the past. There’s obviously some aspect of Cyanoacrylate that the fine elements of the LED don’t like.

Extra: Placement ideas for braziers on model ralways 

  • The traditional place for a braizer in a railway setting, near a trackside workmen’s hut.
  • For interest, on a building site, the flckering glow drawing the eye to other animated elements – a digger for example.
  • For a human story element, under a bridge keeping homeless figures warm

Adding rust and weathering

With the brazier shape and timber in place it’s time to add weathering and rust look. Applying rust effects to the model is crucial for achieving a lifelike appearance. Start by blending and carefully applying rust effect paints to simulate the weathering of a miniature oil drum fire

Luckily, I had an old dustbin that I’d had a few fires in and served as a great reference for rust effects and colouring. 

A well used dustbin fire container that I used as a reference for weathering and rusting.

A well used dustbin fire container that I used as a reference for weathering and rusting.

Weathering and painting a model railway oil drum fire

Applying rust effects to the model.

A dark grey Vallejo was painted over the outside and visible internal edges. To this,  Ammo rust effect paints were blended, mixed and carefully applied to get the rust look.  

Hairspray was then distilled and then gently applied. The barrel was then overpainted with a black wash and left to dry. The hair spray provides a barrier that the black wash doesn’t cover well, leaving the previous rust coating visible.

Where to place the brazier on a model railway

With the model brazier complete, it’s time to place it on the layout.

Oil drum and steel barrel fires are used to keep workmen warm on cold days and they look very natural next to lineside huts (platelayers and brakesmans huts) on a layout. They also fit well alongside small work huts on quay sides and building sites, essentially anywhere were workmen would congregate. 

I like to create little stories around my layout and for this tableau, I created a little scene of a figure keeping themselves warm by the engine shed. The brazier sitting next to a pile of industrial junk on which a little OO gauge figure can be seen keeping himself warm. As seen in the first picture.

Fitting and wiring the brazier

The finished brazier paced on the layout in an appropriate credible location.

Wiring the incinerator so the LED lights and creates the glowing fire look is simplicity itself.

Once its location is chosen, a small hole is drilled through the baseboard and the red and black wires from the LED passed through. Superglue is then applied to the base of the brazier and it’s pushed into place, covering the wiring hole.

The LED has a resistor in it, adjusting the voltage down so all that’s needed is to the connect the wires to a suitable 6 to 12v supply DC supply. The higher the voltage, the brighter the glow and flicker. 

A 9V battery can be used but I connected mine to the accessory feed that runs the length of the layout. Connecting the wires is matter of soldering them to this accessory line.

Last thoughts

Creating this animated brazier fire is not only a rewarding project but also a fantastic way to add a touch of realism to your model railway. Imagine a quaint little station or a bustling market scene, all warmed up by the gentle glow of your handmade brazier

For those who love the idea but might not have the time or tools to craft their own, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered! I create and sell these animated braziers, perfect for adding to your model railway

Buy a pre-made brazier for your model railway

My braziers, available here, are  made with the same love and attention to detail as the one we just walked through. Details include:

  • Internal masking to hide the LED when viewed from above,
  • Additional texturing and rust detailing
  • Extra protection to hold the LED in place
  • 10CM wires
  • Ash and debris around the base
  • Increased fine detailing on timbers to give a burnt look

I hope you enjoyed this little project as much as I did. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and tales from the world of model railway building. Happy modeling!


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.

Add Comment

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.