Common Household Items You Can Use for Model Railroad Scenery

Model railroaders are reputedly among the most frugal (read: cheap) hobbyists around. Why spend good money for details when you can utilize some very common household items? In the old days some folks swore by used coffee grounds for ground cover until the humidity turned their layout into giant Petri dishes of nasty mold and mildew. Or dryer lint for chimney smoke and who knows what? Wine corks converted into fuel tanks. Everyone has their favorite “free” scenery items and good on ya!

Here are some of Doug and my favorite “freebies”:

I save the bottle caps and seals from paper milk cartons for various rooftop vents. Spray painted aluminum and weathered, they’re passable for venting or rooftop “stuff”:

common household items used as model railroad parts 1

Doug makes a roof chimney stack (unpainted in this photo) from a brass water tubing compression fitting:

common household items used as model railroad parts 2

I’ve found using the plastic cap from a deodorant bottle (not yet painted here) makes a passable rooftop skylight:

common household items used as model railroad parts 3

Here’s a great use for finishing nails and some discarded screen material – Doug’s trackside cyclone fence:

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Have any small thin plastic bottles or old film canisters lying around? I use a jeweler’s saw to cut them in half lengthwise, and with a little dull paint and thin support wires, it serves as a building entry canopy:

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Doug likes to use wire caps (cut to desired height) with Adobe Red acrylic paint as flower planters – just glue some discarded ground foam bits in it for flowers:

Next time you’re in your favorite coffee shop, grab some coffee stir sticks. After some stain and weathering, I use them for scattered lumber piles or even at-grade railroad crossing timbers for my S-scale layout:

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Plastic flex straws make convincing culverts on Doug’s layout:

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I like to use thin wood skewers which I cut and round off the top to make those ubiquitous road and highway guardrails. You could also glue thin thread for cable supports:

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common household items used as model railroad parts 10

Who knows what half the stuff is that hangs off industrial building sides? If it looks and feels right, try it out. Doug uses Super glue nozzles for vents and other building details:

What are your favorite freebies to use in your layouts? We’d love to start a chat going and build on this list! Add yours in the comments below.

For more model railroad scenery ideas, check out the videos available here: Model Railroad Academy/Scenery

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