How to dust your model railroad

Depending on the look you’re after, dust can detract from your model railroad layout’s appearance. Dust especially shows up in photographs. Here’s how to dust your model railroad quickly and easily.

Protecting your weathering

how to dust your model railroad
You can make quick work of unsightly dust by brushing your trains, accessories, and buildings with a soft paint brush.

If you’ve weathered your trains and buildings to make them look rusty or dirty, presumably you sprayed a clearcoat on them afterward to protect your work. If not, you need to. Dust may add more grittiness to your work, but it may also obscure detail you worked hard to bring out. If you spent time carefully painting items on your layout, it might as well look its best.

In my case, since I have a traditional Marx/American Flyer/Lionel toy train layout, dust definitely detracts. It makes my vintage tin look old and neglected, not shiny. The shine is part of the charm.

The camera hides some things, but it also has a way of bringing out things you never noticed before. Dust may very well be one of them. The camera is a fickle friend.

Where dust comes from

Dust of course just comes from sitting in open air. But frequently work on the layout causes extra sawdust and other debris. We drill a hole to run a wire, then forget to clean it up, then a pile of sawdust shows up in a picture we take.

Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

The easy fix

To fix it, use a paintbrush. The softer the better of course. Just brush the dust off your buildings, road, sidewalks, and track to return them to the appearance you always intended. Be sure to also brush off your trains and vehicles. The bristles get into the nooks and crannies to eliminate dust in those hiding places a cloth would miss.

Then, when you enjoy your layout, or photograph it to show others, they see your hard work, and not the dust.

I’m as bad about this as anyone, so now I keep a paintbrush by my layout. If I think of it, I give the area a quick dusting before I snap a picture. And after I drill a hole to run a wire, I grab the paintbrush and a small trash can or bag, and brush the dust away for disposal. That keeps unsightly sawdust off my layout and out of my pictures. I’m not a great photographer, so I need all the help I can get.

If you can’t reach something with a paint brush, a blast from a can of compressed air will help.

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