Mechanical Animation and Lighting Effects
for Model Railroads

This e-book is dedicated to my good friend Rick Spano,
who inspired my love of animation.

Some modelers have suggested I publish a book on the subject. That would be an enormous, costly, time-consuming effort to produce something that might sell five or ten copies. (Not to mention it's impossible to show objects moving on a printed page!) Others have recommended clinics, but they're even more impractical for a great many reasons. The solution was to create a web resource freely available to everyone.

Here I've gathered every one of my animation projects—over seventy of them—in one place, along with ideas for more, and tied them all together with core animation concepts to help other modelers create their own effects. I've also summarized my philosophies on the subject as well, in case you're interested.

Although all of the projects presented here are N Scale, most should be easy to adapt to other scales. Projects range from falling-off-a-log simple to absurdly, mind-bogglingly difficult; a few were done as jokes, but then took on a life of their own. Some projects have gone through multiple generations, which in most cases I've detailed so you can see the evolution and perhaps glean even more ideas. Most projects have videos showing the effect in action. Some project pages are further along than others; this is a "living document" (well, at least as long as I'm still living, anyway).


Before getting down to it, here are some fundamentals both to help you understand how these animations work, and to provide a foundation for your own designs.

Animation Fundamentals

Animation Projects

Animation Ideas


Lighting effects constitute a different form of animation. They create the illusion of being animated by means of dynamics—that is, changes in state over time, as opposed to physical movement. The projects range from simple to complex, silly to esoteric.

Lighting Fundamentals

Dynamic Lighting Projects

Lighting Ideas


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