Tips for Great Scratch Built Model Railroad Structures

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A lifelong model railroad enthusiast, Gil Freitag, who built the spectacular Stony Creek & Western Rwy, has always scratch built model railroad structures; it’s what enthuses his most about the hobby. ‘Little wonder he’s received so many national and regional awards for his structure building. In Part 8 of his series on the SC&W, Model Railroad Academy’s Allen Keller takes a tour of some of Gil’s prized structures. Several scratchbuilt structures so impressed the legendary George Selios of the Franklin and Manchester Railroad, that he used them as the basis for his some of Fine Scale Miniatures kits.

Gil says he doesn’t generally start with drawing model railroad building plans when scratchbuilding an entire structure or even just an extension – he just starts with stripwood and sees how it ends up! That way, he always ends up with a structure that’s unique, and unlike any other model railroad scenery kits. He also never builds a model that won’t appear on his layout – somewhere.

To aid in assembling repetitive pieces, Gil usually constructs a jig, such as for stairs or fences.
He also shows Allen his tricks for creating thousands of individual hand-cut shingles for his structure. He stains two or three sheets of shingle material (always include more material than youll need for the square inches of roof to cover) slightly different wood shingle colors and cuts thin strips of the sheets three at a time. He then tapes them together with poster tape, cuts columns of the shingle-width pieces and glues three rows of them together on the roof using white glue. Later, when dry, he peels off the tape and finishes with weathering chalks.

It’s a unique way of fashioning and affixing thousands of hand-cut roofing shingles in a most efficient manner – a great tip for roofing your scratch built model railroad structures