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How To Make A Fire Scene

model railroad fire scenemodel railway fire


Ron K has N scale and asks readers for advice:

“I want to model a small fire scene in a building complete with smoke, flames, fire trucks etc. Can someone give me some hints on how to make this look real?”

Ron, I included a couple of fire scenes I spotted at recent train shows.

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19 Responses to How To Make A Fire Scene

  • Mikesays:

    Woodlands Scenics makes a burning building. It has fire damage to the top floor of a building, a orange light inside. They also sell a police car with headlights, taillights and a flashing red beacon on the roof. Hope it helps some.

  • Anna noesays:

    Hi, I’ve seen blinking lights added inside of a building on fire where they used smoke(looked like cotten balls pulled apart and spray painted shades of grey) to look like fire. I’ve seen some scenes that looked real until I looked and didn’t see any hoses hooked to fire hydrants. Fwiw

  • Bobsays:

    As a stagehand for 45 years, one thing I don’t recommend is real fire! There are a number of theatrical effects which can be incorporated into your layout which will work nicely without endangering the household. In terms of the fire itself, you can use a small video projector, the gadget they use in electric fireplaces, or a small fan blowing red and yellow strips of silk in front of an orange colored light source. I’ve seen all three work very well on stage.
    As far as smoke is concerned, why not try the stuff they use in train steam engines. It would produce a nice effect without caustic smells.

    • David Liverettsays:

      At a recent train show that we had, some people were using incense for chimney smoke. Not only did it smell great, it looked very good.

    • Neil Glennsays:

      Another source of ‘smoke’ could be thin silk or nylon strips of grey & black-striped sheer (VERY sheer is better, like spider-webs!) material attached to upper window frames & doorways with a small ducted fan blowing them up and out. Be sure to also have well-blackened ‘soot’ trails up from these openings!

  • Bobsays:

    There are several burning building kits out there, you should be able to find one online. There are battery-operated tea candles (about as big around as a quarter and about 3/4″ high) that flicker, resembling a real candle. One or two of those with some flame-colored dye on the “flame” part of the candle could simulate the fire itself. Maybe a smoke unit from an old steam loco for smoke? I think there are even smoke units you can buy for just such a purpose. Good luck!

  • Stevesays:

    You can buy cheap coloured LED’s from China for not more than a few cents each. Add to this a circuit board that has numerous flashing outputs and scatter them on the walls that face you. It gives the effect of genuine flames bouncing off anything inside the building. Likewise cars with head and tail lights. Either HO or N scale available ex-China (12vdc required for all of above) – I bought the cars and have drilled holes and wired in red and blue micro LED’s, and inj turn, wired them into the same type of board as the “flame” LED’s….tis a work in progress…but don’t even think about doing the above if you dont have patience – the wires and LED’s for the cars are as fine as a hair and the LED’s smaller than a pin head…I destroyed a few when learning the best way to work with such tiny gear…oh, and don’t even try to solder the wires – twist & insulate only

  • Ken Mylcrainesays:

    Flickering amber LEDs. Put the LEDs out of direct view. The effect is of a flickering fire. I have a couple of trash burn barrels with flickering amber LED in the bottom of them. At night time it looks like there is a fire in the bottom of them. For a building fire I would recommend several flickering LEDs and if one could get red and orange flickering LEDs that would ad even more affect. I do not know if anything other Amber (yellow) can be purchased though. I am very happy with my amber flickering LEDs.

  • J E Wilsonsays:

    I have purchased several smoke generators and the fluid on eBay and use them on my mining layout under smokestacks and in one boiler house and they work and look great. I also have 3 simulated welding light systems in use – 1 for a campfire, 1 for a boiler fire where the smoke generator is also being used, and 1 in a burning building with smoke generator. They all look great and add realism and life to my layout which is mainly HOn3 with Dual gauge track around the perimeter for both narrow and standard gauges and I have a high section with N rail for HOn2 1/2 and will have a lower section using Z scale track and equipment. This is in a 9′ X 11′ room. Hope this gives you some ideas for your layout. Happy Railroading J

  • noelsays:

    small bulbs with flasher units covered by red celafane paper cut to shape

  • DEAN KINZELsays:

    Hey Ron I had bought a plastic building painted it as if it had burned . I also took off the roof and had it look like the roof had fallen into the structure with the beams/ rafters showing. Under all that I put in a plastic square dish that will hold water for a small fog machine and with the “fire lights” that I bought through Evan Designs the burning building looks very real The fog comes out of the windows ,as well as the roof top. I have seen places on the internet where you can find a ready made building but I wanted to use my imagination and make one for myself – may have costs a bit more , but it was fun trying. sorry I can’t show you a picture, as I am trying to program my layout to be controlled by a computer and everything is down right now.

  • Docsays:

    At ITT products, you can buy a sound card with the sounds of a firehouse being called to a fire, if you get their sequencer with the push of one button you can have the whole thing done . On my layout you push a button and the fire call board calls the firehouse, then flashing lights start on two fire trucks driving down the road, then with various blinking lights in a building then using a smoke unit from a stream engine, I have smoke pouring out of the roof.

  • Connor Crossfieldsays:

    Firefighter here, while I cannot suggest what to use for scenery a typical response to a dwelling fire in my district will have four engines on scene, a ladder truck, a chief and a medic. Ladders to windows and roofs would be appropriate as well as water spilling over the road way. Hope I could help!

    • DanGsays:

      Thanks for the real world insight!

  • Rich Silviasays:

    I have been a career firefighter/ fire marshal for over 31 years.The fire building from Woodlands Scenics would work best. Fluff cotton spray painted grey/black is best for the smoke. The tea lights painted red/orange also work nicely. You need two engines at least one truck company, rescue/medic unit and chief car.Small black flexible tubing can be used for the hoses. There are firefighter figures you can purchase along with fire hydrants. Ladder Company to front of building to ladder same. First due Engine Company lays the hose to the structure, second due Engine back up the first one at the hydrant and lays a supply line to the first Engine. Chief directs and Rescue/Medic assist with firefighting. Hope this will help you. Good luck.

  • Jon Barkhurstsays:

    I saw a series of stories a few years ago by a guy named Matt Choboro. He actually modeled an “N” gauge fire of a Fire Extinguisher company. I hope this helps.

  • Petter Nygaard Hansensays:

    I use Arduino with a 3 led setup (red and yellow). I programmed the script and made a fireplace for a layout in H0, that belongs to a friend. It worked very good.
    If you are into Arduino I can send the complete script in C++ to you.

  • Howard c.says:

    Great suggestions. Now can someone tell me where I can find n scale equipment especially 1940 throu 1950’s.

  • Douglas Edwardssays:

    Fire is easy! But smoke could be handled by using the smoke maker in an old Lionel loco. I don’t know where to get the pills. I’ve never done this so let us know how your fire scene turns out.

    Good luck


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