Tasha Oates updated January 5, 2011


Tasha Oates's Tags


Browse Articles » How-To

  • Scenic Modeling: Power Poles In N Scale

    By Scott Seekins

    Recreating an essential element of any railroad right-of-way with N Scale of Nevada pole kits.

    In almost any railroad photograph, you see them; power lines strung across the sky overhead, on an assorted variety of roles closely paralleling the tracks. These communication poles, or “telephone poles,” as commonly known, may carry telephone, telegraph or signal lines. The poles are every shape, size and con­ figuration imaginable, from 16 feet to over 60 feet with crossarms having as few as two-wire capacity or as many as 10-line wires. For a layout or diorama to be devoid of rows of weathered poles, or power lines leaves the viewer with a feeling of emptiness.

    To achieve this sort of realism in finite N scale is tough, indeed, especially if you are trying to copy specific prototypes. Recently, an advancement of sorts occurred with the release of N Scale of Nevada Utility Line cast parts. These include realistic crossarms with insulators, high voltage crossarms, transformers (round and rectangular) and an assortment of insulators. With these, one can duplicate most any communication line across the country.

    Aside from already existing plastic telephone poles, such as Atlas N 2801 (which can be altered somewhat to suit needs), there is also the standard, and effective use of dowels and toothpicks. The N Scale of Nevada products, offer the most realistic possibility at the present time, however.

    Taper the dowels by sanding, an optional step, since some prototypical poles have no taper. Cut the tops of each at an angle to facilitate drainage. Sand these model poles with medium grit sandpaper to simulate grain and give more texture, which will show up later when each is weathered.

    Cement the cast metal crossarms and accessories to poles with Hot Stuff gap filling cyanoacrylate. Add or subtract insulators as desired. In the early, early days of line construction, as many as 15 crossarms were not uncommon, but who in his right mind would try that in ‘N’ scale?

    Various poles constructed with 'N' Scale of Nevada products.

    Painting & Weathering

    Stain the wood portions of completed poles with water based or oil washes, although the stain should be thin and subtle, as far as pigment goes. Most poles appear almost light grey from effects of the elements. Newly implanted poles are nearly black. Light sanding after staining will produce more realistic weathering.

    Paint the crossarms black/brown to start, then weather and lighten them with dry brush techniques. I often use a light grey oil pigment paint on the tip of camel hairbrush with no thinner.

    Paint the insulators white to start, and allow them to dry. Match the prototypical glistening green or turquoise color by mixing pigment to tint small amounts of Testors Cote Gloss sprayed on a flat palette. Use a fine camel hairbrush to glaze each insulator, employing an Optivisor to see minute detail.

    Planting Poles Power Lines

    Prototype lines average approximately 150 feet between each pole, or about 12 inches in ‘N’ scale. However, there is no hard, set rule for modeling, and shortening the distances may be convenient for smaller layouts or terrain limitations. Drill holes and cement each pole in place with wood glue or hot stuff gap filling cyanoacrylate.

    Painting insulators with fine brush, employing Optivisor to see detail.

    I find, in this miniscule scale, only one thing will do as far as power lines, and that is synthetic black human hair, the kind employed in wigs or exten­sions. Get the straight variety. Metal wire is out of scale, even more so once you paint it, unless you are duplicating larger cable.

    Touch the insulators, lower crossbars first, with a minute drop of thickened cyanoacrylate applied with the tip of a pin and cement hair “wire” to each. Allow to dry, then pull the strand of hair as taut as possible to the next pole’s respective insulator, which has been touched with Hot Stuff cement. Pull downward on the hair for 60 seconds while it sets. Continue to add “wires” as desired. Now all you have to remember is that they are there, so as not to snap them with careless hand movement.

    N Scale of Nevada high voltage crossbar on sanded toothpick poles. - Gerald Gustafson photo


    Article Details

    • Original Author Scott Seekins
    • Source Railmodel Journal
    • Publication Date September 1993

    Article Album (4 photos)

    Share - Report