Cleaning Up an Old Model Railroad Scene

Perhaps you have a scene or series of scenes on your layout that have not aged well. They may be covered in dust or just generally need a little touch up. You’d be surprised how easy it is to clean up an old scene on your model railroad layout. In this post, I’m going to demonstrate a cleanup on this diorama that has been covered in dust for some time.

Related video: Cleaning Your Model Train Layout

You can really see the dust on the dock and the “water.” But what to do?

Even the ground itself is dusty as are the roof tops and all the nice little detail castings.

To solve this problem, I simply get out my airbrush after taking the diorama outside. Who needs more dirt or dust in a layout room? I fire up the air compressor and blast away the dust with my airbrush.

Below is a before and after photo. In the after shot you can see the dust blow away.

Even the “water” can be made sparkling again with some compressed air and a little real water.

To protect the big building in the back since it’s made of wood, I had to mask its sides with a piece of cardboard. But look how the water looks now with a spritz of water from an old hair spray bottle!

With the mask in place I could really blast the details, truck, and rocks in this scene.

I think you will have to agree the scene is looking a little better.

Of course it won’t hurt to add more ground cover if needed or even some more vegetation.

For a particularly dirty spot a big soft brush might be the answer.

Now your scene is ready to impress your visitors and keep the “neatniks” happy!

Related video: Model Railway Wiring and Dust Cleaning Techniques

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14 Responses to “Cleaning Up an Old Model Railroad Scene”

  1. John

    Thanks for sharing. All tips are appreciated

  2. James, MRT

    Great little article Allen. I've been reading your articles for many years and always find something helpful in each one. It doesn't take a lot of effort to refurbish a scene as you've demonstrated. I've found that the best way to minimize dust buildup is by installing an air purifier in my train room. the difference is night and day, and there are plenty of affordable options that will get the job done. James.

  3. Bart

    Retired, just getting started! Can use all the help I can get. Waited until now to do this, waited for years

  4. Carroll Shirkey

    Great build and great dust removal results. Thanks for the info. How many people have had that same question?

  5. Dienzel Dennis

    Use a car vac at the same time as you are blowing with the air brush. As you blow the dust away the car vac will suck it right in. This is especially true if you can not take your project outside. Many venues are built into the layout and can not be moved to the out side for cleaning. This way the blow and suck method works quite well

  6. Thomas Miller

    I just joined a club in York, Pa and some of us have been talking about cleaning up the layout. Some of it dates back to 1955/56 and it has the dust to prove it. I'm using a natural sponge blob as a dust pick up on the ground vegetation (a lot of it will need to be replaced) and if the sponge is barely damp, it works pretty well. One of the scenes is a coal mine and the coal dust around the facility had a major case of dandruff. This became obvious when I picked up some buildings to clean and got a gander at the actual coal dust surface. The sponge technique worked well. The ROUGH part is the trees. I'm at a loss of what might work. We discussed getting an old hair drier and cutting the circuit for the heating element. The plan, we hope, is to disturb the dust in the trees with low-speed blow setting and then use the shop vac to catch dust while it's just been disturbed. Have you any experience with cleaning major foliage such as trees? can you point me to resources that demonstrate such? Thank you, TJ Miller

  7. paul emch

    A great idea. Thank you.

  8. robert melvin

    Very helpful thanks

  9. Ronald Edwards

    When I saw the first photo, I thought the diorama was modeled with the "tide out" and I was looking at the sand bottom next to the pier. Wow. What a difference. Unfortunately, I cannot remove my structures, so am planning to use airbrush with a shopvac hose near to scene to catch the dust that I stir up.

  10. Robert wajerski

    I really like George to the ocean system but since I cannot use my scooting because I don't have a balance I use trash plastic trash bags to uh cover my my way out I gently pull them off easily and it helps keep the dust off