Modeling a Railroad Bone Yard – An Introduction to Weathering Your Models

No matter how successful a locomotive or freight car design, eventually time and work take their toll. When these machines finally reach the end of the line, it is usually here in the bone yard.


Lionel’s animated scrap yard accessory is the perfect centerpiece for this industry! Follow along as we complete the scene.

These facilities do a lot more than just cut old trains up for scrap. Many are used for parts or even rebuilt and put back into service. For modelers, they are a fascinating industry where equipment from any era and railroad can be seen and the detailing possibilities are endless.

Whether you decide to build a yard like this on your layout or not, the techniques used here can be put to good use anywhere. From making realistic scenery, to recycling old models, to adding signs of age and wear to your trains and buildings – these techniques work just as well outside the scrapyard fence (we’ll show you how to make that too!)

So grab some old cars and get ready to play the part of Mother Nature as we model a railroad bone yard.

Modeling the Yard

Step by step instructions to create our bone yard. Each of these scenery techniques could be used on other projects as well.weathering

  • Prototype Background. Like any modeling project, it’s easier to create a realistic model when you follow the prototype. Since these facilities are often closed to the public (with good reason!) we’ll get you started here.
  • Creating the Scenery. We’ll create a realistic yard in just a few easy hours. Here you’ll learn tips you can use anywhere like:
    • Modeling Streets and Sidewalks (including paving over railroad tracks.)
    • Blending Accessories and Track into Scenery
    • Creating Realistic Groundcover
  • Converting Cars to Buildings. Learn how to make old model rail cars into sheds, offices and more – adaptive reuse at its finest. We’ll also show an easy way to create realistic corrugated metal siding for walls and roofs.
  • Model Chain Link Fences. Learn how to scratchbuild your own fences – realistic and affordable – for any industrial scene.


It just wouldn’t look right if everything in the bone yard had glossy fresh paint. See how you can add these effects in varying degrees to all of your equipment – even the stuff that won’t see the scrapper for years. You can use any or all of these techniques in combination to create the unique models you desire.

  • starting cutCutting Shells. For this project, we had to start with some surgery on our models. Learn how you can make the cuts for your scene, a unique gondola load, or the start of a kitbashing project.
  • Fading and Changing Lettering. This one simple trick will let you give your factory painted equipment the look of faded lettering, or remove that lettering all together to change numbers or more.
  • Weathering Washes. An easy way to simulate general grime.
  • Weathering Chalks. Perfect for learning – if you don’t like the results just wash them off!
  • Creating Rust. Oil paints and a sponge are all you’ll need to make rust so real you’ll want a booster on your tetnis shot.

Add a Gondola

Build on the weathering ideas used in the yard to create a gondola to carry away the scrap. Learn simple painting, decaling and weathering techiques to transform a model into something unique.

  • Bulging Sides. Create the look of damaged, bowed-out and bulging side panels with no mess.
  • Painting. Easy steps to painting a freight car, including adding a repainted patch for new reporting marks and road numbers.
  • Lettering. Decaling basics make lettering a model simple.
  • Weathering. Combine the steps we’ve shown above to create a unique look.
  • Loading. Create a unique scrap load to fill the car and complete the story.

0 thoughts on “Modeling a Railroad Bone Yard – An Introduction to Weathering Your Models

  1. Good morning Lionel, I need some help. When ever I sian up for one of your wonderful blogs, I never receive any notice about. Can you wonderful beautiful and highly intelligent people help me with this problem??? I would like to learn as much as possible. You Guys are awsome!!!

    • If you click on the link to follow this blog, it will prompt you for an email address. Entering that address should send an automatic update every time the main blog page is updated (usually two to three times per week.) Additions or changes to the other permanent pages won’t appear in an email, but these are usually timed with a blog post of the same topic on the main page. You might want to double check that you’ve entered the correct email address and that your email’s spam filter is not catching the emails.

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