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My Railroad Without Scenery

Phil models HO and writes:

“My main interest is in the technical aspect of the hobby and I built my own control panel. The problem, a perceived problem, is my layout still doesn’t have ballast let alone a tree. I know I should make a start on the scenery, but it really doesn’t interest me. I’m almost too embarrassed to let non-railway people see my layout because their eyes gloss over when I start talking about Arduino, switching, and tech stuff. Their first question is always along the lines of, when are you going to add some trees and animals? I know it’s my layout, but I feel I should make the effort. Can someone reassure me I am not the only total geek in the hobby?”

20 Responses to My Railroad Without Scenery

  • Hugh Williams says:

    I’m the exact opposite. My brother set up most of the wiring and systems and I did most of the scenery. We both enjoy op sessions.

  • Jim Johnston says:

    I’ve been in the hobby for most of my 73 years and the one thing I’ve learned is just be happy with what you’ve got. Do what you want for your own enjoyment, let the world worry to its own problems.

  • Rudy says:

    The nice aspect of this model railroading hobby is that YOU decide how to run your trains. If it’s just track and no scenery, so be it. Enjoy running your trains!

  • Gary Stazza from Down Under. says:

    Hey there, Congratulations on building your own control panel. Well done you. If you are happy with what you have, it is irrelevant what the rest of the world thinks. The railroad you made is for you and your enjoyment, not for our enjoyment. Yes, some extras might be nice, but really, who cares? The ultimate question is, “Do you enjoy it?” Away you go and enjoy. And again, well done you for the control panel!

  • Hervey says:

    Listen to Jim. It’s your railroad you set the rules for your enjoyment.

  • robert says:

    I too don’t have any scenery. I just enjoy what I do. I have an end to end system, just like the real thing.

  • Nigel says:

    I love tinkering with Arduinos, control panels, computer control, DCC and the like. I also love running my trains and currently just have a bare baseboard to do this.

    There may come a point when you decide it’s time to add a bit of scenery but until that day comes, enjoy every minute of what you’re doing and don’t bother what others think – if anyone has a big problem with your layout having no scenery, maybe they could build their own masterpiece?!!

  • David Stokes says:

    I can only endorse what the other guys have written. It’s your railway, your hobby. No-one has the right to stick their oar in or make you fell bad because you have followed your own path. Good on you! The earliest models were built by railway companies, and they didn’t waste time or money on frivolities like scenery and buildings. Theirs’s were training aids.

    Models that depict the world in HO or whatever scale are works of art, some good and some bad (just like art), and some actually run like proper railways. My Northwest Bend is a plywood pike with a few scratch builds of local buildings. Scenery will come, but all in its own time. But if I decide to leave it flat and paint it CHARTRUESE, that is my problem. Just have fun.


    My layout is also devoid of scenery, except for the hand built station platforms with lighting, and I too built my own control panel using meagapoints control systems.
    I can’t seem to gather any enthusiasm for adding scenery, and the thought of hours of ballasting appalls me.

  • Bob says:

    I always thought a Christmas tree and a few colorfully wrapped packages were enough scenery.

  • Robert Gunter says:

    I mainly built to RUN, RUN, RUN trains! The only real scenery that I have put together is a round house. I have used empty train car boxes to make a tunnel and have played war games with miniature soldiers on mine. Do what you what to do, whatever makes you happy is all that matters!

  • Mark Vogelpohl says:

    I too am an “operator “, no modeling just a layout with 2 tracks and accessories. In fact, there’s no room for the trees and buildings. I like to tinker and keeps all working while my family really enjoys all the movements on the layout. Just have fun!

  • Frank B says:

    I think that in any model railroad club you go, to you will find people with a wide range of interests and specialisations. Your expertise in technical matters with surely be welcome !

  • Hubert McDonald says:

    I am like you, I enjoy working on the trains and not the scenery. Good luck with your hobby.

  • Morgan Bilbo says:

    Relax: I too, have no scenery. I’ve dabbled at it. Ballasted about a meter of track. Some flats of buildings. Some plain cardboard – representing buildings. Just a bit at a time, as I feel like it. As mentioned, it’s your MR, and you are it’s god. So do what pleases you. I too, have people asking me the same. I just tell them in a nice way – it’s my railroad and I’m boss!

  • phil johnson says:

    My friend, you have more friends than you’ll ever know. Most if not all modelers have faced what you’re facing. Start a small section with something simple and easy. Don’t be afraid to practice. I joined a club many years ago and that’s helped me with scenery… FYI practice makes us better. Check out videos. Have fun and good luck

  • Bill Poehlman says:

    Phil, You probably have gathered by now that Model railroading is a multi-faceted hobby. I got my first train when I was 6 ( a windup toy that probably had a 15 inch circle. Then in 1942 I was given my first electric train (O27 Lionel). Throughout my life I have dabbled with HO trains every few years with Christmas tree layouts until 5 years ago ( I am now 91 ). Presently, I am tearing apart a Harry Potter scene and will soon start building an Altoona, PA Train Museum diorama. I have a 4X8 plywood board that severely limits the technical things that can be done; however,I always start from scratch and build the best track system that I can fit on the board. I use both DC and DCC components and make sure that the electrical controls work before starting the next scene As you can see I like to do both technical and dioramas and I enjoy both. In summary, if it isn’t fun don’t do it. Bill.

  • Ralph Furth says:

    I agree to what ever everyone is saying about their response to Phil’s concerns. I for one am interested in how I like to play with my ideas and make changes to my layouts on the fly. My first layout started with me trying to understand what goes where and when. This led to many problems with the length of my layout. (5×14) Next it was the wiring. What I found out later it was better to lay the track down without scenery and do the wiring in steps. I changed my configuration to a more modular layout (4×4) so I can work on each section individually. This made it easier for me do decide
    where to place a scenery if needed. “Good luck to you Phil”.

  • geoff says:

    Your railroad, your rules.

  • Jay Ross says:

    I can relate because I love to focus on the technology side of this hobby. My layout has “just enough Scenery” to get by. I love making operating accessories, here are a few I’ve made: 12 HO scale RC vehicles, including two fully functional fork lifts in HO, and three operating dump trucks. An operating rotary dumper, operating Trummel tower, that sorts grades of gravel into hopper cars, four, fully functional, modified loading cranes, Dcc controlled, two fully functional rail cranes, Dcc, Also, two camera cars with built-in track cleaners. So, I spend much time tinkering. If you ever come across a great deal on a layout that someone else built, that wants to sell, that may be an option for you.

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