Large Scale Central

Maintaining an Indoor Railway

Hi Gang,

My model railroading experience is totally outdoors, first electric and now live steam. As my wife and I consider relocating an indoor layout may be in my future. i have seen many wonderful indoor railways on this site in magazines and on the internet and they all make me wonder. How are they maintained (not the track, but the scenery) given the fine nature of buildings, land forms, trees and so forth. Dirt, dust etc must be a problem and you can’t just haul out the shop vac or can you?

Please help me understand what indoor based modelers do in this regard.



Hey Tom,

One really great thing to use on buildings and most trains (i do and most of my fellow modelers do) is a clean soft blush makeup brush. The soft bristles can sweep away the dust and will also get into the details and not harm the fragile stuff.

Depending on the scenic materials that you use, a shop vac can be used. Our club layout gets a shop vac with the smaller round brush tip attachment. With a light sweeping motion it picks up and freshens up our layout pretty well.

PLEASE NOTE: when using a shop vac on the layout be sure to put a filter in your vac. This helps catch any little stuff that you didnt mean to suck up and also helps keep all the material for use later.

A feather duster works pretty good, too.

Hey Tom,

Relocation? We just completed the move in to the Duplex, we have been talking about for years. If the indoor layout is in a clean room, you’ll find the dust is minimal. As far as the facial brush and small vacuum, its just like cleaning up in a mouth after grinding. You’ll need an assistant and a steady hand. (

Ken, try the makup/powder brush:

You will find that the feather duster does ok on larger flat surfaces, but does nothing for nooks and crannies.


In another life it was cans of compressed air and a big exhaust fan.

A small painting booth in that room, brought in the fan.

I’d put the dust back in the air and then change out the air.

It was an On3 layout and everything was weathered and dirty and not really brushable.


i use various things.

feather duster on not sensible things, like mountains or roofs.

soft brush on roling stock and figures.

and every few years, when the layout looks too shabby, a combination of industrial vacuum cleaner (nylon stocking filter in the tube) plus an air compressor.

a helper holds the vac high enough, not to suck up ballast and other things like bushes or figures, while i blast the dust into the air, from where it disturbes me.

My shop vac has an exhaust port that could have a hose that goes outside, thus the fine stuff missed by the filter would go outdoors.