The Big Job (Marklin HO)

The job we here are Rail Tales refer to as ‘the big job’ began as a simple consultation in the spring of 2013. The client is a collector specializing in early postwar HO Marklin trains and early postwar pre-built structures, figures, and automobiles. He had already designed and constructed an impressive all-catenary operating track network with working signals and track controlled automatic operations. What he didn’t have was a scenery plan and that’s where we came in.

original board, right side
original board, right side
Original board, left side
Original board, left side


After extensive discussions with the client and his wife, we came up with an overall scenery scheme that would create several distinct ‘regions’ on the layout: a mountain village, a main ‘town’, a village serving the mills, and an industrial area. The regions would be divided further into scenes. Although the details evolved over time, the original plan was carried out.

Work began in January of 2014 and Rail Tales portion of the program was completed in September of 2014. Some of the work was done off site but most was done on location. The client was actively involved in the entire construction process, providing logistical support while we were working on site and then doing a great deal of the detailing between site visits. Rail Tales did the terrain sculpting, road work, water, bridges, and most of the painting. We also built the soccer field and town park. Rail Tales instructed the client on ground foam and tree placement and other detail operations but the bulk of these time consuming tasks were undertaken by the client. Most notably, the client built the fences and vneyard arbors and installed all the lights.

This layout is built on a plywood platform. We normally work on foam instead but the old style Marklin equipment needs to be secured to a base and foam is not good for this so the plywood stayed. The deep canyon area was cut out and boxed by the client.  In between all the tracks and underneath all the scenery on all flat areas is a base of ‘grass mat’ with a vinyl backing. This protects the plywood from moisture in the scenery making process. With layers of additional material on top, it is not actually visible anywhere but is an important step. The client did this very time consuming task a bit at a time.

Most of the structures were built in the 1950s. Some have been restored by Rail Tales but most were in good shape and only needed minor cleaning.

The client and his wife were also actively involved in the design process and in fact the design evolved almost continuously from the start of the project. The end result speaks for itself and is a strong endorsement for close involvement of the client(s) with the scenery building process.

lights on
lights on
lights off
lights off
view from the mountain chalet
View from the mountain chalet: each building on the mountain is linked to the road by a series of paths. The client’ wife made this suggestion and it adds a nice detail.
Two mills, race, & stream
Two mills and the stone mill race: the mill wheels are motorized. The fences along the road were scratch built by the client. The lake in the background is removable for access.








The soccer field
The soccer field: the turf is grass mat with airbrushed highlights and hand painted lines. Notice how the wooded ridge is used to separate this scene from the adjoining ones.
Alpine region with the vineyard in the foreground
Alpine region: this portion was built using standard hardshell techniques. We built the rest and all subsequent work using Shaper Sheets by Woodland Scenics. Much faster and less messy.
The roundabout with fountain
The roundabout with fountain: the fountain is by Viessman and the acrylic columns vibrates to look like water. The bridges and railings are by Rix.
the center of town
The center of town: the garden area was made removable as this area is not easily accessed. The lights in the town center  had not been installed when this picture was taken.








Vineyard and windmill
Vineyard and windmill: the vineyard consists of 30 individual arbor structures built by the client from 6 Busch kits. The grapes were even painted to represent different varieties.
mountain route and highway
Mountain route and highway: these raised roads were made of Foam Core with Sculptamold over that for stability. We started out using drywall compound for roads but switched to Smooth-It by Woodland Scenics.
lots of tunnels in mountain country
This layout has lots of tunnels and exposed rock faces: we do all rock faces with carved Sculptamold. It is sturdy and we can (with practice) sculpt faster than we can cast and fit plaster pieces.
the mountain village
The mountain village: the client cut individual platforms for each building so we could built level structure bases on sloped terrain. All the buildings have lights- good thing the mountain is hollow!








the main boulevard
The main boulevard: We used a lot of Smooth-It here! The sidewalks are all hand made from sheet styrene. The planters were scratch built with plant details added by the client.
the industrial yard
The industrial yard: the roads are all made from Vallejo textured paste over vinyl grass mat (with the grass removed). The rail crossings were made from styrene. The crane is operable.
the little mill and pond
The little mill and pond: the stone mill race was carved from Sculptamold. The water is made from products by Woodland Scenics and Vallejo. The bridge is scratch built.
the refinery
The refinery: this was built in the 1950s as a factory display. Rail Tales cleaned and restored it. It can be removed for service. The client built a network of pipes connecting the hill top tanks to the refinery and from the refinery to the industrial area.


















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