Real railroads are disgusting.
They’re covered with dirt and grime and sludge and oil and waste. Modeling them effectively therefore requires an appropriate amount of dirt and grime and sludge and oil and waste. That’s easily done with weathering methods on locomotives, rolling stock, and even buildings. But the crud should also extend to other prototype aspects.
In looking back at old pictures of my former layout, the IAIS Grimes Line, one thing that sticks out is how clean the right of way was. I chalked this up to the fact that the industrial track was considerably less industrial than advertised. So much so that I often referred to it as a suburban shortline.
That’s not the case with The Hills Line, as the industrial spur lives up to its name. This time around, I’m making a concerted effort to dirty up the railroad.
There is obviously an entire industry made up of detail parts for model railroads. Used sparingly, they add a lot to a scene. However the costs can be prohibitive, especially when compared to the amount of space they ultimately occupy.
A far more effective method is to use scrap pieces from other projects on the railroad. A ubiquitous pile of rails stacked next to the Hill Track was made from leftover pieces of track. Each were trimmed to a scale 39 feet and painted with Rust-Oleum Camo Brown.
A lot of the junk can be created just by cleaning off your workbench. Scrap pieces of styrene and other cutoffs work well in dumpsters or along the line, as long as the pieces aren’t too oversized or garish.
Scrap paper also increases the lived-in look of a layout. Following advice from Lance Mindheim, I used pieces of tissue paper, torn and cut to size, then lightly doused with an India Ink and rubbing alcohol wash. They’re allowed to dry before being placed on the layout.
As with any detail part, it’s very possible to over do it. I reference prototype photos were possible when deciding when and where to place litter and junk. I’ll also use my iPhone to quickly snap a rail-height image to check how it looks at scale size, knowing I can always add more items as needed.
After all, real railroads are disgusting.