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Mistakes that turned out great

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  • Member since
    March, 2018
  • 461 posts
Mistakes that turned out great
Posted by BNSF UP and others modeler on Sunday, June 10, 2018 9:56 PM

I have not been in the hobby as long as some of you have, so I do not have anything to share yet. But, has anyone else made a model railroading mistake that turned out well? If so, please share!

  • Member since
    January, 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 4,350 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, June 10, 2018 10:00 PM

My best example was when I was making the rocks on the portable N scale layout I built for Scale Rails of Southwest Florida in 1992.


I cast the rocks in place with rubber molds and crumpled aluminum foil. I removed the molds too quickly and the rock faces were ruined.


I went to the garage and got a very stiff and coarse wire brush and dragged it across the semi-hardened plaster. The result was a very convincing strata surface. It was not the igneous rock I was going for, but I was in a rush and sedimentary rock would just need to do.




Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 7,984 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, June 10, 2018 10:10 PM

BNSF UP and others modeler
But, has anyone else made a mistake that turned out well?

I married an architect and built a drawing room/studio for her in the basement.

We parted ways amicably. Today that very comfortable room is my model railroad workshop. She left behind a huge drawing table which is my modeling bench and the nice set of very wide but shallow drawers I made for prints is now stuffed with HO rolling stock, which fits perfectly I might add Surprise

When life gives you lemons... (or is it lemmings?)

Cheers, Ed

  • Member since
    March, 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 9,922 posts
Posted by dknelson on Monday, June 11, 2018 11:13 AM

My benchwork follows the David Barrow "domino" system, each segment 2'x4' - the legs come up to an initial boxlike frame, and then secondary risers (1x4 lumber) are used to support the top "box" of plywood sheet and 1x4 frame with additional supports).

Because I am 6'8" tall (or was when I started this project in 1996!) I knew I wanted a tall layout, taller than that of my friends.  So the secondary risers were 13" long resulting in a quite tall top of benchwork.  I made two such dominoes and started in on a third.  By that time I didn't even need to consult my notes or drawing for important dimensions (or so I thought).  Had a brain f*rt [not sure what words are censored here] and made those 4 risers 11" high.  Finished the domino, carried it out to mate with the others and -- what the hay?  But then I realized, no, this was the perfect height.  So I changed the two existing ones to match, and went forward with 11"

I suspect sooner or later I would have shortened all of them but I am glad I caught myself with just two to change - all due to my mistake.  One thing about the Barrow system is that it is way easier and less disruptive to change those risers than it is the length of 2x2  legs once they're installed.  

Dave Nelson


  • Member since
    January, 2015
  • From: Southern California
  • 1,567 posts
Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Monday, June 11, 2018 12:08 PM

I had finished the scenery on a flat section of my layout. It included a road. Then when I painted the mountains the paint was really watery and ran down the hill and covered part of the road. At first I was a little upset but then I noticed that it looked like a very believable mudslide which is common in this area so I left it.

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
  • Member since
    April, 2013
  • 840 posts
Posted by Southgate on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 5:35 PM

I put a 4% grade using Woodland Scenics Styrofoam grade (looks steeper to me) climbing up to what would have been a mine. Trains behaved horribly coming down that grade. But I discovered that by removing the track, and switch going to it, it made a perfectly proportional and well positioned road for vehicles to "enter" the layout, and also up to a little farm scene.


  • Member since
    January, 2006
  • From: Florida
  • 2,135 posts
Posted by traindaddy1 on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 8:13 PM

A few years ago, we had already finished the basic benchwork for a new layout and were ready to lay the plywood and Homasote board.

Somehow, we miscalculated and came up short leaving roughly an open space about 18" x 20".

Hadn't planned on it but it became a lake that really gave the layout some character.

Thanks for asking.

  • Member since
    January, 2018
  • From: Douglas AZ.
  • 329 posts
Posted by Little Timmy on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 11:43 PM

I scratchbuilt most of this car from stripwood. But the tender tank was an old roundhouse METAL tank. The wood in the frame couldnt quite support the entire weight ... and it developed a "Prototypical" sag.

                                        Exellent !!!

( I "meant" to do that.......) 

Rust...... It's a good thing !

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 47 posts
Posted by NS6770fan on Monday, July 09, 2018 10:27 PM

A few years ago, I had a Bachmann GP40 that I repainted and decaled into NS 4660, which I had seen near Harrisburg many times. About a month after I finished the locomotive, it developed cracked gears because I ran it with a large and heavy local. I did not feel the need to replace as the loco was just from a set, so I began the process of turning it into NS 710, which is a RP-E4C slug unit, another unit I’ve seen many times. This mistake actually turned out well in the fact that I now owned a unique locomotive in HO scale.

  • Member since
    February, 2008
  • 1,165 posts
Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 8:45 PM

Sometimes, I find that mistakes are only large to you and not others.  For example, I used a totally odd color of ground paint and no one bothered to mention since it was covered up.  Ok, poor example.

Perhaps a better one is all the newbie errors I made on the first one that are paying dividends since not making them on the current layout.  Experience is a great teacher!  Speaking of, time to work on the layout...

  • Member since
    March, 2018
  • 461 posts
Posted by BNSF UP and others modeler on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 12:18 PM

Ignorance is blissBig Smile

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