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Heritage Model Trains Article

Best Part of Model Trains


Unbelievable – there are several hundred feet of meticulously laid-by-hand track (on tie plates no less), track side signals changing colors when trains roll past and sound effects coming from every corner of the room. No, sadly it’s not our train room but a fellow model railroader’s. The best part about model railroad trains surely is the finished product.


Our friend explained his Cimarron and Tall Timber RR as we watched another train go by, but it was all Greek to me. He had decided to switch to Sn3 scale a few years earlier and this allowed him to operate engines equipped with lighting and sound systems that were very realistic on his new layout. Yes, we could see the headlight beam bouncing off the side walls and hear the chugging engine diminish when it entered the tunnel. Even more impressive was the sound growing louder when it exited!


Rock Formation


How’d he do that? Lining model railroad tunnels he explained, was relatively easy to do. He made his own liners with a plastic mold made by Woodland Scenics. They offered a curved top tunnel liner for single or double HO track. He purchased one at a railroad meet and poured his first casting the next day.


Two castings are need for each complete lining and taping the two together with duct tape he placed the arch over the track and measured the clearances with the Sn3 NMRA Clearance Gauge. He adjusted the plaster by scraping some with a tool until his Sn3 just cleared.


Before installing them on the layout, he sprayed the tunnel sides with Krylon gray paint, and sort of a hit-n-miss spraying with black to suggest smoke or soot damage; but he cautioned that this was a mistake he won’t make again because it made the tunnel too dark. For longer tunnels, he suggested only lining what could be seen through the portals.


Since the tunnels all had portals, he didn’t try to hide the tops of them with rock faced castings, but used heavy cardboard across the tops. The tunnels are dark as a tomb when viewed through the portal anyway. It took a month of pouring, coloring and gluing to install liners to his tunnels on the scenic portion of the layout.


In the end, the liners are a nice visual effect to his model trains; they help the sound because when an engine enters one of the lined bores, the sound drops realistically, as in real life. It also adds to the realism when you look through one of the portals and see the light from the engine bouncing off the side walls as it approaches and blasts back into the open.


With much of his explanations going above my head, my husband nodded in total understanding. But I have to admit I was well entertained and felt lucky to have learned yet another facet of model railroading.


All Aboard…..



Esther Smith, author

Heritage Model Trains