Martin Tärnrot

Building Smart Cargo

Martin Tärnrot
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Duration:   8  mins

Modeler Martin Tärnrot builds smart cargo for open cars. He also shows how he builds on-layout storage.


Going to, for example, a coal mine, the cars should be empty. Coming from a coal mine, the cars should be filled. This is especially true for open cars like gondolas and flat beds. Depending on how much space you have, you may load and off-load cargo in another room. In this case, you would typically store the cargo in boxes, because no one is going to see it.

Martin prefers to have the cargo stored on his layout, which means it needs to look realistic. In this video, he shows us how he builds cargo and cargo storage.


Martin now uses thin sheets of styrofoam as a base for his cargo (this video shows Martin creating coal, but the process can be used for many cargo types). Cut the styrofoam to fit the car. Then fix a piece of flexible magnetic strip underneath or on top of the styrofoam. Make sure the styrofoam falls into and out of the car easily. Paint the styrofoam using water-based paints. After the paint has dried, add a layer of Elmer’s Construction Glue to the top, not the sides. Sprinkle some coal into the wet glue.

Since the car will return empty, weather the interior of the car using the same paint. After it dries, pick up the cargo with a magnetic stick and drop it into the cars.


When not in use, the cargo is stored in containers on Martin’s layout, as opposed to underneath the layout or in another room. The containers can easily be built using styrene strips and pre-engraved wooden sheets. Make the containers a bit larger than your cars.

Where to store your cargo is one aspect of Layout Planning. Browse this category here on MRA for many more videos on this topic.

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