Tips for Making Model Railway Structures from Scratch

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Duration: 4:39

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We have all done it. In the midst of building our layout and wanting to make progress, we’ve put a “placeholder” building to fill a space until we have the time to come back – sometimes years later – and scratchbuild a structure to take its permanent place. Perhaps we make a cardboard cutout with some general dimensions and shape while we decide what we want in the space, and how it might function during operations on your pike. Or maybe we’ve just been holding off because buying or building a structure can be expensive.

Watch as Allen Keller demonstrates how he scratchbuilds model railway structures quickly and relatively cheaply. Modifying store-bought model railroad scenery kits is another alternative.

Allen shows how he constructed three different structures to replace his “placeholder” building.

Using cardboard when making model buildings

His materials-of-choice are cardboard, stripwood, some plastic brick siding and odds ‘n end details he has lying around in his scrap box. His basic structures are built with cardboard and braced with stripwood and angle brackets to help keep its shape. He paints the inside to prevent moisture from warping the structure. The exteriors may be made from Holgate & Reynolds styrene brick sheets, or thin strips of cardboard from laundry boxes which he cuts, stains and weathers to look like clapboard.

Materials for making model railway building roofs

Roofs may be made from any number of cheap materials like paper cut and painted to resemble tarred roofing rolls. Plastic windows and doors are Grandt Line or Tichy, perhaps leftover from some earlier project. Details like barrels, boxes, vents, chimneys and figures are found in his scraps box and really enliven a scene.

For more ideas:

See what other experts have done to create unique model railway structures.

Another tip:

Allen never models what can’t be seen, so the sides of the buildings away from the viewer are simply painted cardboard without details. It’s an easy and cheap way to scratchbuilt just the right model railway structure to replace that temporary building you put on the layout ages ago!