The Realistic Road Vehicles Guide for Model Railroads

Model railroading is a hobby that captures its enthusiasts’ imagination and attention to detail. One key aspect of creating a lifelike and engaging model railroad is the inclusion of realistic road vehicles. These vehicles add depth and realism to the scene, enhancing the overall display. Whether you’re modeling a bustling city scene or a quiet rural area, incorporating well-detailed road vehicles can significantly elevate the authenticity of your model railroad.

Choosing the Right Scale

The first step in selecting road vehicles for your model railroad is to ensure they are on the correct scale. The most common model railroad scales include HO (1:87), N (1:160), and O (1:48). It’s crucial to match your vehicles to the scale of your trains and the scenery to maintain proportionality throughout your layout.

Variety and Era

Variety is the spice of life, which also applies to modeling road vehicles on your railroad. Including different types of vehicles, such as cars, buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles, can bring your model to life. Additionally, it’s essential to match the era of your vehicles with the period of your railroad to keep the scene consistent. For instance, a 1950s-themed layout should feature vehicles from that decade.

Weathering and Detailing

To add realism, consider weathering your vehicles. This technique involves adding subtle color changes, rust, and dirt to make them look used and exposed to the elements, just like in real life. Detailed painting, such as highlighting door handles, adding license plates, and enhancing the interior through windows, adds to the realism.

Placement and Integration

How you place and integrate vehicles into your layout can make a big difference. Vehicles should be contextually placed; for example, trucks near industrial areas, buses in city centers, and tractors in farm scenes. Also, consider traffic patterns – having all vehicles neatly aligned may look too orderly. Instead, some should be parked, and others should be positioned as though moving, perhaps even including a traffic jam or an accident scene to add narrative elements.

Scenic Integration

Incorporating roadways, parking lots, and bridges into your layout helps integrate vehicles seamlessly into the scene. Ensure these elements are also scaled appropriately and match the overall aesthetic of your layout. Adding road signs, traffic lights, and pedestrian crossings can further enhance the realism.

Advanced Techniques

For those looking to enhance their layouts further, incorporating motion can bring dynamic realism to model road vehicles. This can be achieved through motorized vehicles that move on hidden tracks or magnets under the surface.

Small Business Saturday

Shop Small Business Saturday on Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday, November 25, 2023, is Small Business Saturday. A day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. This year, we know that small businesses need our support now more than ever as they navigate, retool, and pivot from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Please join SBA and Arizona Rock & Mineral in supporting your small businesses by shopping at a small business.

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday Shop with for

Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to celebrating and supporting small businesses across the country. This year, why not dive into the fascinating world of model railroading with

Discover the Wonders of Model Railroading, also known as Arizona Rock and Mineral Co., offers an extensive collection of model railroad ballast¹. They manufacture model railroad ballast for N scale, HO scale, O Scale, and G Scale layouts¹. They also have scenery products for ground cover and other scenery needs like pigments¹.

Support Local Businesses

By shopping with this Small Business Saturday, you’re not just buying a product. You’re supporting a local business and contributing to the local economy. Small businesses like are the backbone of our community, providing jobs and contributing to the local economy.

Let Your Adventure Begin

So why wait? This Small Business Saturday, embark on a journey into the world of model railroading with Every purchase helps them continue their mission to share the wonders of model railroading with you. Shop with them and let your adventure begin!

Remember, when you shop small, you make a big difference. We can’t wait to welcome you!

Source: Conversation with Bing, 11/24/2023
(1) Shop – Model Railroad Ballast.
(2) Ballast Archives – Model Railroad Ballast.
(3) Ballasting and Product List – Model Railroad Ballast.

Rail Fastening System and Tie Plates

The two key components that connect the rail to the tie (also known as a sleeper) are Fastening System and Tie Plates

Rail Fastening System: An Overview

A rail fastening system is a critical component of railway infrastructure, providing the means of fixing rails to railroad ties or sleepers². This system plays a vital role in maintaining the stability and safety of the railway track structure.

Components of a Rail Fastening System

A typical rail fastening system includes several key components⁴:

  • Rail Anchors: These devices are used to prevent the rail from moving or ‘creeping’ along the track.
  • Tie Plates: Also known as base plates, these are used to distribute the load from the rail to the tie, reducing wear and tear on the tie.
  • Chairs: These are used to support the rail and keep it at the correct height.
  • Spikes, Screws, and Bolts: These are used to secure the rail, tie plates, and chairs to the tie.
  • Fasteners: These are used to hold all the components together.

These components not only keep the rail in gauge but also prevent the rail from lateral movement⁵.

Evolution of Rail Fastening Systems

The earliest wooden rails were fixed to wooden sleepers by pegs through holes in the rail, or by nails². By the 18th century, cast iron rails had come into use, and also had holes in the rail itself to allow them to be fixed to a support².

In the 1830s, Robert L. Stevens invented the flanged ‘tee’ rail, which had a flat bottom and required no chair². This design was initially nailed directly to the sleeper². In North American practice, the flanged T rail became the standard, later being used with tie-plates².

Modern Rail Fastening Systems

Today, companies like Pandrol define the industry standard for rail fastening systems and aluminothermic welding³. They engineer and deliver industry-defining solutions for the entire rail infrastructure sector, from inner-city light rail and ports through to large heavy haul and high-speed lines³.

Modern rail fastening systems prioritize safety, low cost, and reduced environmental impact³. They use repurposed materials wherever possible and insist that high quality, low maintenance, and long life are at the forefront of product development³.


In conclusion, rail fastening systems are an integral part of railway infrastructure, ensuring the stability and safety of railway tracks. As technology advances, these systems continue to evolve, offering improved performance, safety, and sustainability..

Source: Conversation with Bing, 11/12/2023

Tie Plates: A Key Component of Rail Infrastructure

Tie plates, also known as base plates or sole plates, are an integral part of the rail fastening system used in railway tracks⁴⁵. These steel plates are used between the rails and sleepers (or ties) on rail tracks⁴⁵.

Function of Tie Plates

The primary function of a tie plate is to provide a uniform bearing surface for the rail and to distribute the load from the rail to the tie⁶. This not only reduces wear and tear on the ties but also makes the track more stable and greatly lengthens the life of wood ties⁶.

Tie plates are usually tapered and have some holes and shoulders⁴. The holes in the tie plate allow it to be fixed to the sleeper using rail bolts or rail spikes⁵. The shoulders help to keep the rail in place⁴.

Types of Tie Plates

There are different types of tie plates available, each designed for specific needs and types of rails⁴. Some tie plates have no shoulders and are used in specific situations⁴. The type of tie plate used can depend on various factors such as the weight and speed of trains, the type of sleepers used, and the condition of the track bed.

Manufacturing of Tie Plates

Tie plates are typically punched and sheared from hot-rolled steel sections⁶. The manufacturing process ensures that the tie plates provide the proper cant (or inclination), a uniform bearing surface for the rail, and better load distribution to the ties⁶.


In conclusion, tie plates play a crucial role in maintaining the stability and safety of railway tracks. They ensure a uniform load distribution, reduce wear and tear on the ties, and keep the rail in place. As rail infrastructure continues to evolve, the design and manufacturing of tie plates are also expected to advance, offering improved performance and durability.

Source: Conversation with Bing, 11/12/2023
(1) The Tie Plate overview: History, Function And Types.
(2) Different Types of Rail Tie Plate Upon Your Need – Rail Joint.
(3) RAIL ANCHORS, TIE PLATES – Harmer Steel.
(4) .
(5) TP 1-13/16 in. x 5 in. 20-Gauge Galvanized Tie Plate – The Home Depot.
(6) TP Tie Plate | Simpson Strong-Tie.

  1. Rail Fastening System: This is a means of fixing rails to railroad ties or sleepers. The components of a rail fastening system may also be known collectively as other track material, or OTM for short¹.
  2. Tie Plates: These are used to improve the load distribution on ties, which extends their lifespan and holds the rail to gauge².

These components work together to ensure the stability and safety of the railway track..

Source: Conversation with Bing, 11/12/2023
(1) Rail fastening system – Wikipedia.
(2) 5 Common Rail Parts | Rail, Rail Joint, Rail Fastening System, Turnout.

(1) Rail fastening system – Wikipedia.
(2) Core Components of a Rail Fastening System – SafeRack.
(3) What Are Components Of Rail Fastening System | AGICO Rail.
(4) Homepage – Pandrol.
(5) .

Model Railroad Ballast – Building Your Model Railroad

Building Your Model Railroad: A Comprehensive Guide with Railroad Ballast

Building a model railroad is an engaging, multifaceted, and artistic hobby that opens a new world to you, your family, and friends ¹. This comprehensive guide will take you through the process of creating your own model railroad, focusing on the importance and usage of railroad ballast.

Getting Started

The first step in building a model railroad is choosing the right table or platform³. Once you’ve assembled the table, you can start installing the track³. It’s important to lay and secure your track properly to ensure the smooth operation of your model trains³.

The Role of Railroad Ballast

On real railroads, ballast serves several important purposes. It holds the track in place and keeps the ties and rails from shifting⁶. It helps drain water away from the track⁶. Ballast evenly distributes the weight of the rails and equipment to the subgrade⁶. Finally, it keeps the track level and in alignment⁶.

In model railroading, the role of ballast is purely cosmetic⁶. However, it adds a significant touch of realism to your model railroad. The type of material used for ballast varies between railroads⁶. In model railroading, you can use fine granite chippings, ideally in a scale smaller than the one you’re working in⁹.

Applying Ballast to Your Model Railroad

After setting up your train engine and cars, you can start creating a landscape for your railroad³. This is where ballast comes into play. You can add buildings, trees, and other details (scenery) to make your model railroad more realistic³.

To apply ballast to your model railroad, start by laying larger, less weathered ballast along the sides of the roadbed⁷. This will serve as the base of the prototype railbeds⁷. Then, add a top layer of smaller stone, more prone to being ground down and weathered by the elements and the weight of trains traversing the line⁷. Depending on how well-maintained you’d like your line to look, you can add a different shade of medium ballast to add some variation and a more weathered appearance ⁷.

Finishing Up

Once your ballast is fully laid, make sure to brush it into the spaces between the ties to the best of your ability, as you want it to appear neat and tamped⁷. After you’ve finished applying the ballast, you can add the final touches to your model railroad³.

Building a model railroad is a rewarding hobby that allows you to create a miniature world that’s limited only by your imagination. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced model railroader, you’ll find something in this hobby that will interest and inspire you¹.

Source: Conversation with Bing, 11/12/2023
(1) Building Your Model Railroad – A Comprehensive Guide.
(2) Starting Your Model Railroad: Build a Basic Train Table.
(3) Track ballasting made easy – Trains.
(4) Ballasting model railway track: All you need to know.
(5) How to Realistically Ballast Your Railroad – ModelTrainStuff.
(6) Beginner’s Guide | National Model Railroad Association.
(7) Ultimate Guide for Model Train Beginners.
(8) Build a Model Railroad – Trains.
(9) All about prototype ballast and how to use it on your layout – Trains.



The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, dealing as AMTRAK (reporting marks AMTK, AMTZ), is a passenger railroad service that offers medium and long-distance intercity transportation in the United States and nine cities in Canada. Founded in 1971, AMTK began as a quasi-public corporation to operate U.S. passenger rail services. While it is managed as a for-profit organization, AMTK receives state and federal subsidies. Amtrak is headquartered in Washington, D.C, and serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states and three provinces in Canada; and operates more than 300 trains daily over 21,400 miles (34,000 km) of track. Approximately 623 miles of this track are owned by Amtrak, as it operates an additional 132 miles of track. Trains are allowed to run as fast as 150mph (240 km/h) on some track sections (


The name Amtrak was formed from the combination of two words, America and track; the track is a sensational spelling of track. At its inception, Amtrak received no rail tracks or right-of-way. Although Amtrak pruned almost half of the passenger rail network, all of its routes were continuations of previous services. Amtrak continued only 184 of the 366 trains which operated previously (Cook, 1971). On the continued routes, schedules remain the same with only a few minor changes from the Official Guide of the Railways and under the same names.


As required by law, Amtrak operates a national route system. Amtrak is present in 46 of the 48 contiguous states (the states missing are Wyoming and South Dakota). Amtrak’s services can be categorized into three; short-haul service on the Northeast Corridor, state-supported short-haul service outside the Northeast Corridor, and medium- and long-haul service known within Amtrak as the National Network. For a large portion of its operations, Amtrak receives federal funding. Some of these operations include the northeast corridor and the National Network routes. Amtrak collaborates with other transportation companies in 18 states to run other short and medium-haul routes outside the Northeast Corridor in addition to its federally funded routes. Amtrak, in addition to its inter-city services, operates commuter services for three state agencies, including MARC in Maryland, Shore Line East in Connecticut, and Metrolink in California.


In 1972, Amtrak’s first full year of operation, Amtrak carried almost 15 million passengers. Ridership has seen steady growth since then, with a record 31.7 million passengers in the year 2017, which was double the figure of its first year. Additionally, through its various commuter services, Amtrak serves up to 61 million passengers annually in a joint effort with state and regional authorities in California (through Amtrak California and Metrolink), Connecticut (through Shore Line East), and Maryland (through MARC). In some cases, Amtrak will share trackage rights with independent commuter services. Examples include California (through Caltrain), and Illinois (through Metra).


  • “ – Amtrak’s Track”. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  • Cook, Louise (May 1, 1971). “Many famous trains roll into history”. Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. p. 1.


Hello. I’m Phil from Arizona Rock and Mineral Company. We’re going to show you how to apply stucco to a carb matte Board building. This is a real old one. I’ve had one of these on the layout for over 40 years.

A couple of decades ago, I thought no matter what color I painted, it still looks like cardboard. So I stuck it up, turned out pretty good. I sold it on ebay. Well, I want another one, so I bought this one. What you do is you assemble it so you just have the shell.

No windows, signs, nothing, just a shell. And what we use for Stockhol in it, we use that water glue mixture. I use carpenters wood glue, one part glue, two and a half parts water. You want to have it a low viscosity so it comes out to spray jet. Then for small repairs, patches, bear spots.

I have the same mixture in an eyedropper bottle. The product we’re going to use is my pink granite powder. And it has a little bit of grit to it, so you’ll wind up showing some texture on your job. And for applying the powder, I use this strainer. Pour the powder through a strainer to disperse it, and then you shake it off.

So what I do is I wind up spraying the building first, one side at a time. If you get too much, if you get puddles, tip it off, get rid of the puddles. There’s going to be some soap oils because you put a little bit of soap in there and you pop the soap owls with your finger because those are the bear spots if you don’t. And make sure that the glue mixture falls back in there for that bear spot. So once you get it wet, like I said, you take the powder, sprinkle it through your strainer, shake it until it’s all covered with that.

All covered. And then what you do is you’re going to have extra. So you tip it off on some newspaper and you can reuse the stuff. Now, if you have a bare spot, you have to do this. Here was a bare spot and I did it wrong.

I put the powder down first, swept around a little brush, and then I wet it with the dropper. Don’t do it that way. Take your eye dropper, get it wet, sprinkle some powder on it, tip it off. What you’re trying to do is attach the stucco powder from the bottom side up. That way you’ll wind up with a nice dry look to it and just do the same for all four walls.

I started the backside first, trying to develop a technique, and it’s a little bit heavy places. So I got a little bit more cautious when I did the very front wall. Now this is ability with a flat granite end scale for a pitch and gravel lock. And flat roofs. You want them to drain off.

So you have these little scuffers that are made out of brass tubing, and you want to get the water off the roof as fast as possible. So you build these little slope areas in the corners. We call them crickets. It gets the water out of the corners. Then I added a little more detail.

We see our roofs more than anything else. I put a doghouse on top. That’s a stairway coming up so men can service whatever needs the vents, the cooling tower, whatever. Then I added a couple Campbell Skylights to the roof. And when you like a building, they’ll blow a little bit.

Then after that’s all done, one last thing. The pair fits on the inside. You’d want to brush out some black acrylic, paint it’ll look glossy, like real tar. I have yet to do that. So then you go ahead and install your signage and stuff.

The building comes with some real El cheapo cardboard gang planking. So I went and used some real wood gang planking, chipped it, weathered it, stained it, and canopy the overhang for the loading dock. Comes with some real sticky aluminum, cardboard, aluminum. So I used canvas, corrugated aluminum for that and weathered it. So that’s it.

CSX Transportation


CSX Transportation (reporting mark CSXT) is a Class I freight railroad operating in the eastern United States and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The railroad operates approximately 21,000 route miles (34,000 km) of track. The company operates as a subsidiary of CSX Corporation, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. CSX Corporation was formed on November 1, 1980, by combining the railroads of the former Chessie System with Seaboard Coast Line Industries. CSX Corporation was formed on November 1, 1980, by combining the railroads of the former Chessie System with Seaboard Coast Line Industries. The name came about during merger talks between Chessie System and SCL, commonly called “Chessie” and “Seaboard”. The lawyers decided to use “CSX”, and the name stuck. In the public announcement, it was said that “CSX is singularly appropriate. C can stand for Chessie, S for Seaboard, and X, which actually has no meaning (Dolinger, 2006).

CSX Transportation



CSX operated the Juice Train which consisted of Tropicana cars that carry fresh orange juice between Bradenton, Florida, and the Greenville section of Jersey City, New Jersey. The train also runs from Bradenton to Fort Pierce, Florida, via the Florida East Coast Railway. In the 21st century, the Juice Train has been studied as a model of efficient rail transportation that can compete with trucks and other modes in the perishable-goods trade. All Tropicana trains are now added to other Trains such as Q442 and Q032. CSX also runs daily trash trains Q702 and Q703 from The Bronx to Philadelphia (via Selkirk Yard) and then Petersburg, Virginia, where they interchange with NS. These trains consist of 89-foot (27 m) flatcars loaded with four containers of trash. Another pair of trains, Q634 and Q635, operate between Selkirk, New York, and Columbus, Ohio.


CSX has been significant in rebuilding locomotives. CSX has 3 rebuilds of its 4 axle EMD Locomotives. The EMD GP38-2, GP40-2, and SD40-2 have all been rebuilt to then Dash 3 standards with updated Wabtec Electronically Controlled Air Brakes, Electronic bells (E-Bell), electronic handbrakes with a mechanical backup, an airstarter on the motor with an electric start backup, a new designed crash safe cab, a new electronic control stand, YN3B paint job, and Positive Train Control (PTC) computers. They became EMD GP38-3s, GP40-3s, and SD40-3s respectively. In 2015, CSX traded its 12 EMD SD80MACs for 12 SD40-2s from Norfolk Southern. They have all since been rebuilt as SD40-3s. Most are also Positive Stop Protection ( PSP ) equipped Remote Controlled Locomotives (RCL) and have amber strobe lights on each side of the cab, a Cattron Locomotive Control Unit computer, an Air Brake Transfer Valve ( that transfers brake control from manual to computer control), a speed transponder scanner on each end, and a GPS Receiver on the cab roof to pinpoint the engines location.


Because of Ross Rowland running C&O 614 above the speed limits, in 1995, CSX started a new liability insurance requirement of $200 million to introduce their official policy, “no steam on its own wheels”, banning the operation of steam locomotives and other antique rail equipment on their trackage due to safety concerns, and increased risk (Spradlin, 2010).


  • Spradlin, Kevin (June 24, 2010). “CSX disputes claims it pulled support for Petersburg festival in ’11th hour'”. Cumberland Times-News. Archived from the original on April 3, 2019. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  • Dolinger, Milt (2006-05-01). “How CSX got its name”. Trains.


The following are the business cars of the southern pacific railroad:

99 “Houston” was built by Pullman in November 1926.

110 “Los Angelese” was built by Pullman in December 1925, #4923, as Pullman Co “Monte Leone”,  It was sold as SP 110 “Los Angeles”, business car and sold to Ferrocarril del Pacifico.  It was sold to a private owner.

121 “Western” was built by Pullman in 1903 as Chicago Indianapolis & Louisville Ry.  It was rebuilt in 1926 and became SP 121 “Western”.  It presented to City of Oakland for display and acquired by Pacific Locomotive Assn in July 1990.

127 “Alamo” was built by Pullman in June 1926 as Galveston Houston & San Antonio 999 “Alamo”.  It became Texas & New Orleans 999 “Alamo” in 1931 and air conditioned on May 29, 1937.  It was renumbered 127 in 1960 and became SP 127 “Alamo” in 1966.  It was recommended for retirement on November 24, 1975, and retired in March 1982.  It was sold and plynthed at Houston.

128 “Santa Rosa” was built by Pullman in 1917 as El Paso & Southwestern 500.  It became SP 128 “Santa Rosa” in 1924 and rebuilt in 1937.  It was sold as Yreka Western 68 on March 18, 1968, and was transferred as Kyle Ry 13 in May 1993.   It was sold to an individual in 2004 and moved to Port of Redwood City.  It was repainted as Pullman and renumbered RPCX 415, “Niles”.  It was sold to Oregon Pacific RR as 128 “Santa Rosa” in 2011.

400 “American Milemaster”, observation, was built by Pullman-Standard on April 20, 1939, #6567.  It was renumbered 9500 in November 1949 and rebuilt in 1957.  It was sold to General Motors Corp as ET800 (locomotive test car) in 1965 and became Consolidated Railroad Corp 22, rail analyzer car, in February 1985.

2212 was built as Chicago & North Western 3478.  It was transferred as SP 2212 and became National Railway Passenger Corp 4466 (800161).  It was sold as Columbus & Greenville 3 “John H Hough Jr”.

2445-2446, was built by Pullman Standard Co, as Texas & New Orleans 504-505.  It was transferred as SP 2445-2446 and sold as Yreka Western RR 2445-2446.  It was resold as Grand Traverse Train 300A-300B, and resold as Central States Rail Association Inc as CESX 300A-300B. in February 2011.

3000, parlor car, was built by Pullman-Standard in 1937.  It was rebuilt in May 1955 as 3604, dome lounge, and rebuilt in 1968.  It was retired in 1970 and leased by Amtrak as SP 9373 in 1971.  It became Amtrak 9373 in 1972.  It was retired in 1981 and sold to Standard Industries in May 1981.  The owner, J R Reed, died and it was sold to Jim Stephenson.  It was then sold to David Paredeau in June 1987 and rebuilt as Minnesota Zephyr Limited “Grand Dome”.

3712 was built by American Car & Foundry in 1954.  It was sold as Alaska RR 600 in 1990.  It was sold to Alaska Metals Recycling in November 2005 and sold to Al’s Alaskan Inn in 2006.

6009, RPO-baggage, was built by Pullman in 1911 as Houston & Texas Central 251, RPO. Class 40-P-1.  It was rebuilt as RPO-baggage in June 1925 and became Texas & New Orleans 251, Class 40-P-1, in 1931.  It was transferred as SP 6009 in 1944 and remodeled as caboose 475 in 1956.  It was retired in 1972 and acquired by Pacific Coast R&LHS.  It was purchased by California State Railroad Museum in 1979 and stored.

9110 “Golden Mission” was built as 211.  It became 9110, “Golden Mission” and sold as Vinewood Management Co as 800144 “Golden Mission”.

10259-10260-10261, articulated three unit diner, was built by Pullman-Standard in 1941.

10277-10278-10279, articulated three unit diner, was built by Pullman-Standard in 1941.  When it was retired, it was sold to Garrett Ranch in Texas.  In April 2013, it was sold to Grapevine Vintage RR.