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Fun Lover
On the other site there is yet another mitch and boan post about the high cost of model railroading. It is my contention that if you use the same energy creatively to save money as you do complaining, you'll have your layout done instead of stalled.

So what I'd like to do is see how veteran model railroaders beat the system.

I'll start the ball rolling.

I go to construction sites during insulation and I get scraps of 2" foam. I now have enough to do all the mountains of my basement layout for free.

I have 1000 popscicle sticks that I will use for building bridges and loading platforms. Cost: $3.25.

I buy selected lots of building on eBay and restore them with painting. Average cost of structures: $3-4


New Member
I was fortunate to get the benchwork from a friends layout when he decided to start over on a new layout in a new home. The track was hand laid so I was not able to save any of it, but I ended up with quite a bit of dimentional lumber and a few chuncks of plywood that I will be able to use on my layout that I am currently building.



Diesel Detail Freak
SALES SALES SALES, and eBay! Sure some things get up in cost but when you find $130 Kato units for $60 i mean...


Registered Member
Staff member
Let's see now, if I sit at the computer and do nothing on the layout, well it doesn't cost too much :D
Seriously all the 3/4" plywood on the layout was recouped from a construction dump ( mostly scraps which I had to clean the cement off) the rest of the 3/8" and 1/2" decking was left over scrap. 1x4's just spruce strapping (new) and dried in the garage loft for a couple years. Legs cull 2x4's utility grade also dried and just the straight pieces used. Ground foam well I make my own from old pillows car seats or whatever ground up and dyed with Rit or Tentex dyes. I'm not sure if I'll be saving on that as the grinder was plastic and the bearings did a melt down, it's still usable but I see there is a new metal grinder now available from Waring $99. Lichen, I picked myself I treat that with glycerin and water. Road bed, cut from Cork sheets purchased at a hardware store. Hardshell from 4x4" gauze (wife is a diabetic) and joint compound, (much cheaper than plaster of Paris) Recycle as much of the old Atlas and Bachmann ect structures as I'm able to use. Styrofoam, a good supply can be found along the highways, also the packaging in some large boxes is also useful. Craft paints I buy at the dollar stores, cheaper than Wal Mart. I have gathered more junk than useful stuff but I don't want to throw it out until I'm finished.
Glue and fasteners I don't scrimp on :D



Being a modeler in 2 hobbies (Model Railroading and RC electric planes) and on an extremely tight budget i could be the poster child for this movement :D

1. Scrap wood and foam from construction sites ..

2. for scenery i use twigs and weeds for trees ..

3. Ebay for used equipment and buildings ..

4. Be willing to fix something that is broken ..

5. Be innovative ..i do a lot of scratch building in both hobbies ..

6. Stop Mitching and Boaning this is a hobby its supposed to be relaxing and fun .. you have to make the best of what you have ..

I've said enough :D Ron


Avid People Watcher
I am as cheap as it gets.

I recycle old layout foam from the previous layout.

I recycle used track by prying it up with a putty knife then scrubbing it with a stiff brush.

I buy boxes of broken stuff then re-assemble/add/scratch to make something 'new'

I married a woman who had model trains and when she wasn't looking, put 'em with my stuff.

I buy 'see-thru' file folders for pennies, then cut 'em up for windows.

I use cheap bridges and piers and modify them to get the most realistic look from them.

I am as cheap as it gets

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Maytag "Danged Agitator"
:D :D :D I usually save my money at my local Credit Union:D :D :D

I do all of the above and never throw anything away until I have looked at it closely to see if it is of any used on any of my projects.
Save almost everything, watch for deals on Ebay and work slow so it lasts longer. Not to mention my wife always saying I bet this will work as good, and most of the time does.

grande man

Bonafied Grande Nut
So I'm the only clown on this site that pays full pop for everything???:D

Actually, we've been known to use scrap lumber, recycle track, scratch build trees, use dipped paper towels for hardshell instead of plaster cloth, and buy locos/rolling stock cheap on ebay. We also saved $$$ going thru our local Digitrax dealer instead of buying at the LHS.


Avid People Watcher
grande man said:
So I'm the only clown on this site that pays full pop for everything???:D

Pssssst!! Hey Buddy, come-ere', wanna buy a bridge?;) :D :D :D :D

Sorry Grandeman, I just couldn't let that one slip 'buy':rolleyes: .



Long Winded Old Fart
I rarely pay much for anything. I do what all of you have written on this topic & then some. The only thing that I buy sometimes at a premium is loco's & running stock. I don't think I've ever paid full retail for any of my engines or cars. I hardly ever buy anything from a hobby shop. I just purchased 2 HHP-8's from mailorder & got them for $71.00 ea. plus a small shipping charge. I usually hold out for new engines until they get in my price range.(CHEAP).
I buy quite a bit from train show flea markets, but only if it's cheap. I know my prices pretty well & that always helps. When you've been doing layouts for over 40 years, you learn just a little about a lot.
I've made mountains out of just about every kind of scenery product there is.
My new scenery item is celotex ceiling tiles & I go to the building supply stores & get their broken pieces & damaged pieces for free & 1 place I have to pay 25 cents for a 2ft X 4ft sheet.
So, everyone has their gimmicks, shortcuts, cheap stuff, & new ideas that we all learn about on this forum.



Saving money just lets you get more bang for your bucks.:cool:
My RR club layout used sifted real dirt for ground cover. We make our own rock molds, and break or turn the castings upside down to get different looks.
I have 5 gallons of drywall joint compound, left over from a remodeling project, that will cover the landscape on my layout. Three colors of latex paint will be mixed together to seal the compound before I use home-colored sawdust for ground cover.
Foam and styrene plastic meat and vegetable trays are sources for scratch building materials.
A protective pink plastic printer head will be painted gray, add a false front and I have a HO quansset hut type building.
A little imagination can save you lots of money!


House Mother, Cheerleader
As the rest of you have said, "found" items can save a bundle. I've found some pretty unlikely items in the junk boxes in the garage and at yard sales, that adapt well to G Scale:

Doll house = hotel
Planter box = gazebo
Rooted cuttings = trees
Flooring tiles = building pads / foundations
Toothpicks = fencing
Broken garden trellis = redwood building materials
Sandpaper = roofing


Long Winded Old Fart
Don't forget all those fake Christmas tree's that everyone throws away every year & also those fake wreaths. Cut off short pieces w/a pair of wire cutters for all diff. sizes of tree's for your layout, no matter what the scale.
I bought 2 after Christmas sales, 32" Fibre Optic tree's for 5 bucks a piece at a family dollar store. These are the real nice one's w/the colored wheel bases.
If you want to experiment w/fibre optics this is the way to go.
I scrounge thru after Christmas store dumpsters for all kinds of found items.
Everyone that has seen all my buildings knows that.
Hit the sign shops in your area for scrap sign material (free) for scratch built buildings. Carpet stores for scrap carpet for free that makes a lot of bushes, tree making material, etc.
Wood shops for free sawdust( take a big box). I color all of my saw dust for diff. areas. I also use sand, colored dirt(morrow) & small tree limbs for tree armatures. There's no end to the things that U can find to use. The more you look the more you find. Look thru the toy section for odd toys to use for buildings.
Wal-Mart will start their after Christmas toy sales tomorrow & the longer they keep it on the shelf the lower the price gets. Last year I bought 2 of those big wood train sets for 5 bucks ea. & they make perfect gifts all year for the little tykes. The reg. price was 19.95 ea.



I latched onto the tinsel that my girlfriend puts on the tree, the silver kind, and am now in the process of making scrap loads with them. Soon as I get one done I will post a picture, I have used aluminum foil also for scrap loads, even making a gig and making actual bales of scrap :)

One other way I am saving money, is working for trains at my LHS, it really doesn't feel like work, you get to talk to other model railroaders, read all the mags and books for free, play, I mean operate on the store layout and at the end of the day, I usually take home a car, after 2 days of "working" I have enough for an engine. You may want to see if the LHS near you can use your talents to "trade time for trains"...


Saskatoon railfan
Didn't think I had anyhting worthy of posting until I remembered this...

I pick small rocks at a provincial park (Airsaig if Willis is reading this!) and put them in my ballast hoppers. Thus they look like large rocks for ballast. You have to pick the real small ones though.

Now that I'm building interiors, I have some parts leftover where the detachable aprts are attached to. So I'll cut that up and have myself a scrap/pipes load for a gondola I can't find a proper load for. (it's IHC 48')

Finally, I've been saving all bottle caps, about 60 so far, to use on whatever scenery project! They'll be my first attempt at painting.

Very usefull thread BTW.


If you're new to the hobby, like me, you really don't know how or where to save.. yet.
That makes this a good thread with lots of useful ideas.


Diesel Detail Freak
dthurman said:
One other way I am saving money, is working for trains at my LHS, it really doesn't feel like work, you get to talk to other model railroaders, read all the mags and books for free, play, I mean operate on the store layout and at the end of the day, I usually take home a car, after 2 days of "working" I have enough for an engine. You may want to see if the LHS near you can use your talents to "trade time for trains"...
Great thought, one of the hobby shops I use, is moving to a vacant storefront about 2 blocks from my base :D *better then 10 miles*. Maybe I can work there on weekends! Or something like that, then I can afford more stuff.

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