Opinions requested re: Kalmbach "How-To" books

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Train Newbie
Okay - I've finished my rough plaster landscape "shell" for my layout.

Now that I'm ready for scenery, what's everybody's opinion on the Kalmbach books on the subject? Were they helpful? Did they insult your abilities? I'm looking at #12194 - "Realistic Model RR Scenery", #12216 - "Model Railroad Scenery", #12233 - "Basic Scenery for Model RR's" & #12243 - "Scenery Tips & Techniques".

Thanks in advance for your help... :)

EDIT: Here's the latest picture of the layout... and pictures of the book covers for reference
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Railroad Photographer
Dave Frary's "Model Railroad Scenery" has been around for a while, and this newly revised edition is bigger and better than the first one (I have both). It has been referred to many times by many modelers in the past, and would probably be a good choice. I say this without having seen the other books, others may have more information.


House Mother, Cheerleader
I can't comment on the books you're considering, but I've found Kalmbach's How-To books for Large Scale and Garden Railways to be extremely helpful and well worth the cost. They're detailed without being condescending, and include lots of tables and charts to reinforce the text. The illustrations, as expected, are excellent.

They're well organized, which somewhat makes up for the fact that they're light on indexing. (I wind up with itty-bitty Post-It notes on nearly every page, but I may be extra picky since I used to index how-to books for a living. :D)


Train Newbie
Thanks for the info. Since these books can get a bit pricey, I just wanted to be sure. I've got plenty to learn! :)


Coal Shoveler
Some are good, some not so. In my opinion, the ones that are good are the ones that are written as stand-alone books by one author. That compares with some of the books which are a compilation of old articles previously published in MR over the years. As such, they may be of less detail; that's a function of page space that can be devoted in a magazine. Many experienced modellers have commented that MR articles tend to be a bit on the light side when it comes to details. If said article fits that category, it isn't really going to change when it's reprinted in a book along with a pile of other retread articles.

Having said that, if you're really new and green, they are worthwhile to get you started. Just don't expect a wealth of info in the articles, which I think a fair number of more experienced folk would want.



While its good to study on the way to do scenery I would like to say let the book learning stop there and go see how Mother Nature does things in the real world and allow how man has change things.By doing this you have have a realistic looking layout instead of a "painted" picture layout.:D
Books for scenery building

#12194 - "Realistic Model RR Scenery"
I believe this is the 3rd edition by Dave Frary (right side of photo)... If so, I highly recommend this one, and I have read just about all of them. BTW, there is only so much you can learn from nature - there are only a few model railroaders who have the capability of taking items inside (rocks, soil, etc) and actually making them work on a layout. So, you do need to learn about the products available to you that help you re-create nature. A book is the best way to start. Once you're more familiar with the techniques and products that are currently being used, you can ask better questions in a forum like this. ;)


Train Newbie
Thanks again, guys. I've just ordered the books; at the very least, they'll be interesting to read/look at the pictures. :)


Kevin, I think you made a good move. The books mentioned and others are an excellent way to get started. I started this way and still refer to mine. Please don't be upset when they fall short of giving you detailed instructions. They will get you in the ball park and a good understanding of the principles involved. For more specific and complete info. you will need to get books that are directed to want you want to learn,e.g. weathering, painting models, trackside detail, making water, and on and on.

Keep in mind that the methods are only suggested for you to start with. You will soon develop your own and with the additonal help of this forum and MR buddies, be able to tackle any scenery/layout task. As far as how things should look, Brakie said it all, "...go see how Mother Nature does it.";) :)


Pennsy Tuscan Red Blood
Back when I was a teenager I bought the 1st edition Dave Frary scenery book. I considered my "Bible" at the time. I looked at that book just for fun and probably read it 2 or 3 times from cover to cover. When I reference it now, I have to see through the coffee stains, plaster splatters, water soluble glue drips, etc. just to read the pages. I still find it an invaluable book for scenery techniques. I was at the hobby shop the other day and looking at the magazine rack I saw the new edition of it and found it even better the the original. New improved techniques and GREAT pictures.

Goose looking at that first picture you could do a killer snow scene and leave it at at that, hehe.
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Diesel Detail Freak
The only book I own is the Intermodal Operations book. Its were I got a basic sense for what Intermodal encompasses and "whats new" Vs. "whats old". Nice book, I want the two others (not published by Kambach though), on intermodal, just so I can learn more.


Pennsy Tuscan Red Blood
I understand what you mean by not Kalmbach. It seems like all their new books are just rehashes of articles that were in their mags from years past. they put ten articles in one book and call it new...Hmm?


Running the MC & Buffalo
I agree with you guys about Dave Frary's books but I think some of the techniques learned on this forum are also invauable !!
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