Sunday, September 20, 2015

N Scale Thompson River Canyon 5: Building the Snow/Rock Sheds

On my HO scale layout, I subscribe to the three foot rule (or 0.9144 meters, as we say in Canada): The trains, and everything else, look best from three feet away.

The same holds true for the Thompson River Canyon N scale layout, but I think that I might want to increase it to six feet!

The reason for this is two-fold: First, my modeling skills, and related to that, second, the snow/rock sheds.

I will be the first to admit that the snow/rock sheds I built are not like the prototype. But that’s OK: 

An area that inspired me.

My goal with the layout was to create something that represented the canyon, not be exactly like it.

(As I have said before on this blog, my goal in model railroading is plausibility, not realism.)

That out of the way, I made the snow/rock shed and tunnel portals out of cardstock.

Another area that inspired me.

Making the Sheds

There’s nothing elaborate about these models; after eyeing-up what I wanted to make, I cut the cardstock to shape with a box cutter knife.

To present the illusion that the supports are thicker than they really are, I cut another piece of cardstock at an angle and glued it to the inside of the snow/rock shed.

Test-fitting the shed on the layout. 

In addition to making the supports look thicker, I also angled them out more like the prototype.

When done, I spray painted the sheds with grey primer to help with painting later.

Next, it was time for the roofs. They are also made from cardstock, cut by eye to fit the canyon wall. I added supports on the shed supports to help with gluing them down.

Since it was impossible to get a perfect fit along the walls, after they were glued to the supports I used small cardstock and Styrofoam pieces to fill the gaps. Later, I added ballast to cover the area.

Painting the Sheds

Painting concrete is always a trick for me. It isn’t grey—it’s more whitish, with grey and brownish hues. I used a mix of white, black and brown to come up with the colours you see.

I added a mixture of grey, black and brown ballast (both fine and medium) to the roofs of the sheds to simulate rock fall. I affixed the ballast with diluted white glue.

Before painting and ballasting.

In order to disguise the sharp radius curve coming out of backdrop, I followed the prototype and made a different kind of snow/rock shed out of Styrofoam. The portal is also made from cardstock. After painting, I glued ballast on top of it.

Before installing the sheds, I painted the canyon and painted and ballasted the track. But that’s for the next post!

Previous Post: Making the Canyon.

Next post: Painting.

To view all the posts in this series, click here: Thompson River Canyon. 


  1. Hi,

    I'm impressed by the speed at which you proceed with building this model railroad. It's like an impressionists layout: Details might be missing or slightly crude, but the overall impression it makes is spot on and convays the feeling of a scene very well. I'm excited to see the progress and feel slightly inclined to try out a scenery-focussed layout with minimal technical equipment and quick building techniques myself!


  2. It wasn't my goal in making this layout, but if it inspires people to try to make their own--then that's a good thing. Sometimes people get stuck on "best" when thinking about making a layout. They should shoot for "better" or (in my case), "good enough."