How to Make Ho Scale Train Tunnels

Written by sean kotz
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How to Make Ho Scale Train Tunnels
A tunnel like this one on a model railroad adds a point of interest for both the viewer and the operator. (model railroad image by pearlguy from Fotolia.com)

One of the most common yet interesting features of a model railroad is a tunnel that allows your train to disappear at one part of the layout and emerge somewhere else. Viewers will often watch in anticipation to see where it will come out and if you have space to install curves or switches in the hidden area, you can create a few surprises. Basic tunnel building is fairly easy, though it involves a little planning, testing and patience. Supplies are readily available and you may even have most of what you need around the house.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • HO scale track
  • Cork roadbed
  • White glue
  • Rail nails
  • Tack hammer
  • Commercially produced tunnel entrances
  • Extruded polystyrene foam insulation
  • Hobby knife with #11 blade
  • Yardstick or ruler
  • 2-inch nails
  • Newspaper
  • Masking tape
  • Plaster wraps

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Instructions

    Building a model railroad tunnel

  1. 1

    Lay out your track by putting down the cork road bed first and tacking the rails in place. White glue is useful in holding down both the road bed and the track.

  2. 2

    Test the track to make sure the train runs smoothly before proceeding.

  3. 3

    Cut two sections of extruded polystyrene foam insulation in strips 5 inches tall and in lengths equal to the length of the tunnel.

  4. 4

    Glue the strips of foam insulation along the length of the track on both sides approximately 1 inch off of the edges of the track to ensure clearance to form walls around the track. Allow to dry.

  5. 5

    Cut another strip of foam insulation to fit over the top of the support walls around the track.

  6. 6

    Glue the roof of the tunnel to the walls. Use 2-inch nails to hold it in place.

  7. 7

    Wad large sections of newspaper to form a mountain landscape around your tunnel. Use masking tape to hold the paper in place.

  8. 8

    Cover the newspaper with plaster wraps to form a hard shell and put the tunnel entrances in place at either end of the tunnel before applying other landscaping elements as desired.

Tips and warnings

  • Since the rail line in the tunnel will not be seen, there is no reason to ballast the track. However, you still need the road bed to provide smooth, level and quiet operation.
  • It is a good idea to include at least one "re-railer" track to help avoid derailments in the tunnel.
  • While creating walls around the track, nails or screws inserted from below may be useful.
  • If you can create access to the tunnel from an unseen angle, leave gaps in the wall around the track to provide access in case of derailments.
  • Chicken wire may be used in between layers of newspaper to add additional support.

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