Creative Ideas for Making Model Railroad Scenery

There are plenty of places to buy ready-to-use models for your model railroad – building, scenery, etc. – but making your own is often a better way to go.

The “do-it-yourself” method gives you much more freedom to design exactly what you want. If you’re prototyping your favorite railway, in your favorite little town, it’s going to be next to impossible to find a ready-made model that matches the buildings and other scenery exactly.

Making your own gives you complete freedom to duplicate the scene the way you want – or to make whatever changes you feel are necessary.

A lot of model railroaders shy away from making their own scenery, thinking they’re not crafty enough or artistic enough.

The fact is, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. There are plenty of common household items that can be used to create scenery for your railroad.


Some of these items include:


Small stones and rocks used judiciously and embedded into mountains as boulders to add realism – just be certain the stone matches the miniature environment you are trying to create. Crystals or granite in a meadow for instance will ruin the effect immediately.

Rubber Gloves

Items like raincoats and umbrellas can be made by cutting and fixing rubber from gloves and are available in a variety of colors.

Talcum and Baby Powders

Baby powder, especially when mixed with colorants can be a wonderful substitute for substances from snow to dirt or even sand. Use of real dirt or sand in miniatures is often discouraged due to the ‘graininess’ being too large giving a false look to the substance, but the fine nature of baby powder is an excellent substitute.


Various tissues such as toilet and hand-tissues can be very useful for textures such as stucco on buildings or projection screens for drive-ins.


Available in almost any yard, small twigs make excellent trees when herbs are glued to make the leaves appear. Using small ‘hanging wire’ to create the smaller leafing braches can create a very realistic approach, as can a light dusting with ’snow’ for winter scenes.

Wax Paper

Wax paper can be used for a variety of purposes anytime a slick-appearing surface is needed. For instance, properly painted it can make an excellent pond or coated with crushed nuts and painted a road surface.

These are just some of the things you can use. If you think creatively, you’ll be able to come up with lots of other ideas. You might also want to take a look at my previous article about making your own model railroad scenery.

Who knows? You might just find a use for all those coffee cans full of stuff in the garage that you’ve never quite been able to get yourself to throw out!

About the author

Bill Murphy

Bill Murphy

Bill Murphy is an avid model railroader, offering advice for model enthusiasts on the YourDiorama website. For more helpful tips and information, visit

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