The City on the Edge of Forever

city edge of forever startrekNo, this isn’t about a StarTrek themed model railway — how cool would that be! — but a quick tip on how to stop views into a different time and space from spooling your layout.

If you have a tunnel portal through which your trains pass on their way to and from an off-stage fiddle yard you’ll know the problem. Light from the rear beaming through the portal or the fiddle yard being visible through the tunnel.

One moment you are looking at a carefully constructed scene of railway life from the past, the next your eyes alight on a gap in the space-time fabric of your tiny world revealing the real larger reality beyond. The wonderful micro illusion you’ve created comes crashing down.

In some circumstances, you can cloak the portal from view or have a long curving tunnel with decorated walls hiding the exit off the main baseboard. But sometimes you’re stuck with an exposed tunnel portal that just leads off the set.

It’s like peeking through a doorway and seeing a whole different world or time, as Kirk and team faced in the classic City on the Edge of Forever Star Trek episode.

What to do? 

How can you hide the world behind the backscene from viewers of the miniature world of your layout?

While visiting the Warley model railway show, I saw took some pictures of one practical solution.

It’s on the Longnor layout by Hugh Williams, seen below.

Hugh has hung flexible flaps just inside the entrance of the tunnel.

model railway tunnel tipThese hide what’s going on in the background but by being flexible allow rolling stock to pass through easily, the flaps just lift as the train passes through.

This collage shown of the portal on Longnor shows it in place and an engine passing through to illustrate how it works. Click a photo for a larger view.

Rubber or paper strips, painted a dark colour, are attached to the tunnel ceiling. Weighting them down slightly at the bottom will keep them in place.

As an added extra tip, you could also attach brush hairs to the flaps. Doing so adds nothing to the operation of the flaps or visual benefit but it will give your rolling stock a dust off and keep them clean.

It’s a simple, elegant solution, and easy to implement. 

Now “lets get the hell out of here” and go and try it this out on your layout. Let me know how you get on. Even better, join the MRE Community and share photos of your tunnel entrances.

>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.


  • For those that haven’t seen the episode, “Let’s get the hell out of here!” was Kirk’s closing comment at the end of City on the Edge of Forever. It perfectly captures the emotion of the tragic ending to the award winning episode.
  1. Strategically placing trees and bushes also helps, but this flap idea is great.
    Ensure that the material is flexible and light enough to not hold the train and wagons back or off the track. Also that it will not snag on fixtures such as stacks, whistles, goods etc.

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