Making Your Very Own
Model Railroad Tunnels

Guest Contributor: Frank Watson

Tunnels are a must when it comes to making model railroads. Not only do they give a sense of realism, they also make your layout look like the work of a pro. In the market there are a variety of ready-made products available that you can purchase if you don’t want to make the tunnels yourself.

On the other hand, making everything from scratch can be a lot more fun and fulfilling. If you have no idea how to make tunnels, then you have come to the right place. This article will explain many of the things you need to know about how to make model railroad tunnels on your own. 

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Tunnels Made of Styrofoam

One of the easiest ways to construct tunnels is from Styrofoam. You can easily get Styrofoam from the packing boxes. Use a sheet that has a thickness of half an inch so that it’s easy to cut. Simply use a sharp knife to cut Styrofoam into pieces, to make the walls and roof of the tunnel. Glue these together and paint them the color that matches the surrounding of your tunnel scenery.

To make a mountain over the tunnel, wad up newspapers and stick them on top. Spread plaster cloth on top of the newspaper and then paint it. Be sure to paint everything the right color so that it looks realistic.

Great Stuff Mountainous Tunnels

If you don’t have Styrofoam or don’t want to use it, you can even cover the train track first with newspapers and then with cellophane or plastic. Spray a product called “Great Stuff” on the entire structure, leaving out both the ends for entry and exit. Leave the thing to dry over night so that it completely hardens. Don’t touch once you have sprayed Great Stuff or it might leave impressions.

Once it has dried completely, take out all the newspaper wads and shape the mountains however you wish with a serrated knife. You can even add some plastercloth on top for effects.

Cardboard Tunnels

Tunnels can also be constructed with cardboard. Cut up a cardboard sheet into the shape of your tunnel and stick all the pieces together. Then add wads of newspaper on top and cover with palstercloth. Color it according to requirements.

Chicken wire is another material often used in tunnel construction. However, before making any tunnels make sure that you first measure very accurately the size of your trains. There needs to be enough clearance so that trains don’t derail inside the tunnel. You don’t want to end up with tunnels that are either so small that the train is unable to enter or so large that they look fake!

Tunnel Interior

The interior of the model railroad tunnel is just as important as its exterior. Especially the part that is visible to all. To make the tunnels look authentic, take a sheet of black or dark gray construction paper. Cut it according to the size of your tunnel, roll it up and insert it inside your tunnel. Position it in such a way it covers the inside walls of the tunnel and makes it look like the dark interior you see when you peek inside a real tunnel.

Accessing Your Tunnels

It is important to remember that there will be times when you trains get stuck inside a tunnel. If your tunnel is short, you can easily insert your fingers in and pull the train out. But if the tunnel is too long, you would have to come up with some other trick. What you can do is make a small hole in the side of the tunnel. This way you can take out a train if it derails or gets stuck.

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