RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 19: BUILDINGS - Scratch-built vs Kits or Out-of-the-box?

Kit-built, scratch-built, kit-bashed and weathered out-of-the-box in evidence

Ayton Lane's coaling tower - kit needed to be adapted to its location. Right foreground is Hornby 'Skaledale' water tower based on Goathland; left is entry to scratch-built two-road loco shed - track since ballasted and weathered (cinder)
Ayton Lane's coaling tower - kit needed to be adapted to its location. Right foreground is Hornby 'Skaledale' water tower based on Goathland; left is entry to scratch-built two-road loco shed - track since ballasted and weathered (cinder) | Source
Looking the other way, with a Class J21 awaiting its turn under the post-WWII coaler - beyond that is the open end of the decrepit, war-damaged loco shed. An ash pit has since been added on the middle road (Peco Inspection Pit)
Looking the other way, with a Class J21 awaiting its turn under the post-WWII coaler - beyond that is the open end of the decrepit, war-damaged loco shed. An ash pit has since been added on the middle road (Peco Inspection Pit) | Source

Buildings, structures and 'platform furniture'

Three kits to show the versatility and variety of Metcalfe card kits, this one is the low-relief shops and terraced houses
Three kits to show the versatility and variety of Metcalfe card kits, this one is the low-relief shops and terraced houses
...The loco shed. Add more than one, either sideways for four-track or lengthwise for an extended shed
...The loco shed. Add more than one, either sideways for four-track or lengthwise for an extended shed
And then this is the single viaduct which can be put together as long as you like with further kits - get photos of these structures for several possible combinations.  Be inventive.
And then this is the single viaduct which can be put together as long as you like with further kits - get photos of these structures for several possible combinations. Be inventive.
These are the Peco Truss Girder bridge sides - you can also buy Peco Plate Girder Bridge sides - or Wills' Vari-girder  kit(s) to make any length girder bridge you need
These are the Peco Truss Girder bridge sides - you can also buy Peco Plate Girder Bridge sides - or Wills' Vari-girder kit(s) to make any length girder bridge you need
In the Ratio range is this GWR-style water crane with 'fire-devil'. Regional variations are available from other sources as white metal castings (such as Mike's Models NER water cranes seen on the Thoraldby layout)
In the Ratio range is this GWR-style water crane with 'fire-devil'. Regional variations are available from other sources as white metal castings (such as Mike's Models NER water cranes seen on the Thoraldby layout)
Ratio plastic platelayers' hut from a kit, plus coal bunker and drainpipes. Replace the clumsy-looking chimney stack with a piece of thin tubing, like the metal tube from a Revell 'Contacta' bottle. Use these for any kit-bash project  inc. drainpipes
Ratio plastic platelayers' hut from a kit, plus coal bunker and drainpipes. Replace the clumsy-looking chimney stack with a piece of thin tubing, like the metal tube from a Revell 'Contacta' bottle. Use these for any kit-bash project inc. drainpipes
And an 'N' scale GWR signal box kit. Most products are available in all three scales. Ratio also does a signal box that passes for LNER when painted suitably
And an 'N' scale GWR signal box kit. Most products are available in all three scales. Ratio also does a signal box that passes for LNER when painted suitably
Scalescenes downloadable set of workshops for free - other products are paid for before downloading. Looks convincing if you're doing an urban scene. Cut out the parts and reinforce them with stiff card. Good scope for kit-bashing and modification
Scalescenes downloadable set of workshops for free - other products are paid for before downloading. Looks convincing if you're doing an urban scene. Cut out the parts and reinforce them with stiff card. Good scope for kit-bashing and modification
More advanced are Wills' Craftsman kits semi-detached shops and flats. There's a lot of work  and a strong hand is needed for scoring cuts on the backs of the plastic sheets with opposite corners mitred  A range of Wills' kit variations is available
More advanced are Wills' Craftsman kits semi-detached shops and flats. There's a lot of work and a strong hand is needed for scoring cuts on the backs of the plastic sheets with opposite corners mitred A range of Wills' kit variations is available

Options open to modellers for buildings are the same

as there are for locomotives and rolling stock, insofar as you're only limited by your own imagination, observation and skills.

Again you need photographs, preferably colour images - lots of them and from different viewpoints - as well as your powers of observation and your modelling skills. You have the option of buying ready-made buildings available from Hornby, Bachmann and Ten Commandments, for example. There are also buildings available through Bachmann that are sourced from other manufacturers, such as the .Birch Hall Inn at Beck Hole near Goathland (of 'Heartbeat' fame) as well as the 'Aidensfield Arms' hotel and bar. In the 'Skaledale' range there are the Goathland Station buildings, a station shelter from Grosmont and lamp standards for the platform as well as out on the street.

In addition to these more recent additions to the Hornby and Bachmann proprietary ranges there are older buildings in the Hornby and Rovex range that could either be used as bought or modified. I remember the Rovex factory at Margate in Kent brought out a series of buildings in different styles, such as the booking hall and waiting rooms for Grantham in Lincolnshire. (I don't know that they were all that accurate, it was just a name for them to use for modellers of the East Coast main line) with stairways, underpasses (you could modify them with either plastic brick facing from Slaters or card from any number of manufacturers), footbridges, signal boxes and crossing keepers' cabins. There is also the equally effective Hornby range available now, with structures, platform fencing and nameboards etc.

Complete plastic kits are available for many building styles from Ratio and Dornaplas, for example, although Ratio's range is more wide-ranging in scope and style. There are signal boxes, lineside and station buildings suitable for most regions, with a bit of 'tweaking'. Wills have a small range of complete building kits, but their main claim to fame is the range of materials packs and their buildings etc packs that need more skill to complete and are therefore unsuitable for young hands. Some imagination is necessary to convert these kits for regions not generally covered by kits, such as the Great Eastern, North British and North Eastern Railways amongst others. The exploded diagrams included in the packs should be studied closely - and materials gathered - before you begin assembly.

Next you can find card kits with plastic additions, such as outside staircases for signal cabins and so on. These may need thin balsa or plastic reinforcement to keep them square. Manufacturers include Metcalfe, Modelyard and Street Level (who also produce card scenic backing that can be 'doctored' in different ways). You also have the option of having your panoramic photographs printed large and mounted for backscenes. I did that for my 'Reeth' layout a long time ago in the mid-1980s, which appeared in RAILWAY MODELLER. You can also buy low profile building kits that can be assembled for urban scenes. They take up little room on the layout, lending a 3D illusion of space. Card or plastic kits can be modified to 'bleed off' the background onto the backscene, but beware of angles when photographing your handiwork!

And then there are the plastic bits and pieces you can get from various sources to make structures or buildings more suitable to your own chosen area. You can use parts from kits, too - this is 'kit-bashing' with a vengeance - to modify an available kit and create your particular building/structure. Plastic strip, window, door and drainpipe mouldings, shapes, plain or moulded sheet can be bought from Peco, Slaters, Evergreen or Wills for the construction of girder or truss bridges, buildings, platform and so on. Finally etched brass sheeting, window and door frets, square or round tube can be bought from Scale Link, 4D (a large shop under the Fenchurch Street railway line that caters for architectural students and modellers), Langley and (if you can locate them, D&S window and door etches, and other shapes for all types of North Eastern Railway buildings. Many dealers have boxes of spares from manufacturers who no longer exist or from discontinued production lines).

As far as the Wills' Craftsman series kits is concerned, a good grounding in putting together straightforward buildings kits is desirable. I would go as far as to say they are advanced, almost on the level of 'scratch-building', but the end result is rewarding. Generally, some things go together like a dream, others need more work and it can be fiddly. I've found myself cursing my ancestors sometimes with some of the simplest but fiddliest kits I've put together! Scale Link used to produce some good etches, but they weren't cheap. Square-topped, arch-topped factory windows and doors, Then there are D&S kits around (if you've got the time to trawl through boxes of etches at your local model shop. I think I've emptied the Engine Shed's supply of D&S NER signal cabin windows and doors. The alternative is trawling through e-bay. Danny, the owner retired many moons ago and the line wasn't bought by anyone else. His main claim to fame was his range of NER carriage and wagon kits (many of which appeared on the famed 'Bramblewick' layout), but I found the detailing packs for buildings as useful.

Each 'medium' has its own merits for the modeller. Etched kits are good on detail, and you can produce a passable plastic kit. Add etched brass window frames and such like instead of the plastic mouldings that come with plastic buildings kits. That's the beauty of kit-bashing. Experiment, judge for yourself what the results might be just tacking on etches with mouldable adhesives. You'll find you're onto a winner. I've produced plastic buildings with Wills' plastic window frames, D&S etched brass window frames and with Peco window and door mouldings. It's what you feel comfortable with, after all. The point is to enjoy yourself or see it as occupational therapy after a hard day at work. It might seem like hard work at first, but persevere and you'll begin to enjoy your 'therapy sessions'!

In the way of 'street furniture' such as pillar and wall or post-mounted posting boxes, phone kiosks, telegraph poles, switching boxes, platform furniture etc., there are countless plastic, white metal and brass kits advertised in the model press. Your pocket and your imagination, observation are all that limit you. So get out and look, take photos, buy photographs of structures or locations no longer available to take photos of. I shall add a list of web or e-mail addresses and phone numbers to the bottom of this list as well as the usual picture gallery.

The greatest return in satisfaction is from creating buildings to specific plans and dimensions, or modifying them to suit your particular needs/space available. There are many layout builders who settle on a particular location for their modelling projects, and you might see parties of people with cameras and tape measures in locations that are no longer operational railway stations. I remember going to Picton near Yarm-on-Tees (now within the district of Stockton) to take pictures of station buildings, the nearby station hotel and an even further removed chapel. There were structures I couldn't get near to and had to rely on black and white photographs supplied by C&G (out of Neville Stead's extensive collection, many having been taken by the renowned Jack Armstrong, a founder member of the North Eastern Railway Association, NERA) in the 1950s-1960s of closed lines and now scrapped locomotive stock). Next I obtained a track diagram from the publishers David & Charles, who provided a service for would-be scratch builders and railway modellers. Picton would have taken up a lot of space, had I gone along with it. As the railway group I started for the purpose did not have the skill level or enthusiasm for the project. It lay on a shelf, gathering dust. The layout would not only have been a station but also a junction for one of the Whitby branches, initially the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway to Ingleby Junction (Battersby) leaving south-eastward off the Leeds Northern Railway. The model would have included cottages in the junction (towards the first halt, Trenholme Bar), represented probably as 2D against a scenic break. I had previously figured on producing a model of Marske Station (in the Redcar district), much more modest in dimension, and had a track diagram, photographs obtained from C&G as well as others taken by yours truly on site. Again it was a project too big for one, but there was no interest locally (I live in London, remember - anything north of Hertford is foreign country). Hence the creation of Thoraldby, a one-man operation. See the Thoraldby page for more.

Not forgetting, good luck with the model-making!

Give your layout the 'country' look with structures illustrated in this book or similar - adapt, adopt - and bring an air of rural pace. There were many differences between town and country, aside from the lush vegetation and presence of farm animals, mostly reflecting in the appearance of stations and ancillary buildings along the trackside - or over and under.

Kits, bits and 'bodges'

Provender stores replaced decrepit or burnt-out goods sheds to provide storage for animal foodstuffs or farm supplies with access for returned milk churns. Ratio kit, painted, weathered with BOCM feedstuff hoarding (Silcocks at front).
Provender stores replaced decrepit or burnt-out goods sheds to provide storage for animal foodstuffs or farm supplies with access for returned milk churns. Ratio kit, painted, weathered with BOCM feedstuff hoarding (Silcocks at front). | Source
Looking down on the gate cabin roof. Window frames are sliding North Eastern type, D&S etched brass, as also supports for cabin-front walkway, (half-etches bent to support the painted plastic 'planking'). Crossing gates are Ratio, planking is Wills'
Looking down on the gate cabin roof. Window frames are sliding North Eastern type, D&S etched brass, as also supports for cabin-front walkway, (half-etches bent to support the painted plastic 'planking'). Crossing gates are Ratio, planking is Wills' | Source
Goods depot roof was bought assembled. Pillars, side awnings and laddering applied to fit the location. The water tower and platform shelter are from Hornby's Skaledale range based on Goathland on the NYMR
Goods depot roof was bought assembled. Pillars, side awnings and laddering applied to fit the location. The water tower and platform shelter are from Hornby's Skaledale range based on Goathland on the NYMR | Source
Assorted lineside detritus, plastic axles and wheels painted to resemble rusted steel. At the back is a pair of Ratio sheds fixed together,  painted and weathered to look like creosoted timber
Assorted lineside detritus, plastic axles and wheels painted to resemble rusted steel. At the back is a pair of Ratio sheds fixed together, painted and weathered to look like creosoted timber | Source
Ratio again, this time the cattle dock with two pens to fore and room for two horseboxes at the end after modifying cattle pens down to two. The far end ramp is also useful for unloading farm machinery (WWII tank ramp)
Ratio again, this time the cattle dock with two pens to fore and room for two horseboxes at the end after modifying cattle pens down to two. The far end ramp is also useful for unloading farm machinery (WWII tank ramp) | Source
More ratio - the bracket distant bottom right from a kit set - a junction signal from the same kit is just out of view here beyond the small signal cabin
More ratio - the bracket distant bottom right from a kit set - a junction signal from the same kit is just out of view here beyond the small signal cabin | Source

Thoraldby buildings in glorious technicolor! - see the Thoraldby page in this series of Hub-page articles

Coal depot, scratch-built with Wills' 'timber' decking, double-thickness plain plastic cut to cell wall size, overlaid with Wills' stone. Timber wall by the slope is also Wills', cut to measure.
Coal depot, scratch-built with Wills' 'timber' decking, double-thickness plain plastic cut to cell wall size, overlaid with Wills' stone. Timber wall by the slope is also Wills', cut to measure. | Source
Thoraldby Station booking office, waiting rooms, SM's office, lamp room-cum-store. Scratch-built with Slater's plain plastic card and moulded stone sheet. As Pickering but shorter. Bus shelter is Peco, platform structure Wills' sheet on card former
Thoraldby Station booking office, waiting rooms, SM's office, lamp room-cum-store. Scratch-built with Slater's plain plastic card and moulded stone sheet. As Pickering but shorter. Bus shelter is Peco, platform structure Wills' sheet on card former | Source
The work area. Reference 'Library' above (bound magazines, paperbacks, preservation info, NYMR and WR share certificates). Other books below, tools & materials, cutting board etc
The work area. Reference 'Library' above (bound magazines, paperbacks, preservation info, NYMR and WR share certificates). Other books below, tools & materials, cutting board etc | Source

Use the real thing to base your model on. Color-rail provided accurate colour references for all purposes. The trackside views give you an idea of what you could/should aim for. Realism is appreciated, as is the effort put in to provide a 'show' for observers or visitors.

Dawn to Dusk: A Colour-Rail Journey In Britain

Here's a project for scratch-builders: a ruined bothy (workshop)

As I strode along the old trackbed of the Whitby & Pickering Railway, abandoned in the early years of the 20th Century, I crossed a small pedestrian/bridle bridge and took this and the following pictures for a project.
As I strode along the old trackbed of the Whitby & Pickering Railway, abandoned in the early years of the 20th Century, I crossed a small pedestrian/bridle bridge and took this and the following pictures for a project. | Source
Views around the 'bothy' would be useful, I thought, for a project - scenic backdrop or 3D structure in its own right close to the railway track. The old building might have been there when George Stephenson's navvies first worked on the line
Views around the 'bothy' would be useful, I thought, for a project - scenic backdrop or 3D structure in its own right close to the railway track. The old building might have been there when George Stephenson's navvies first worked on the line | Source
It would still have been pretty dark inside even with the three small windows - two front, one rear .
It would still have been pretty dark inside even with the three small windows - two front, one rear . | Source
It doesn't look as if there was ever anywhere to put feed and the doorway's too narrow or low to lead animals such as ponies
It doesn't look as if there was ever anywhere to put feed and the doorway's too narrow or low to lead animals such as ponies | Source
It's also too small for a family home. A labourer or two might live here, but not for long, and it's out of sight of any farm buildings.
It's also too small for a family home. A labourer or two might live here, but not for long, and it's out of sight of any farm buildings. | Source

Metcalfe Signal Cabin and Modelyard North Eastern Goods Shed modifications

I've been working on the modification of a Modelyard 4mm scale North Eastern type goods shed (there's a novelty!), having finished the modification of a small signal cabin for Ayton Lane motive power depot (mpd).

These two card kits had languished in one of the drawers downstairs, apparently unwanted or unloved. Eventually I gave in and brought one upstairs - the free Metcalfe LNER signal cabin from a Railway Modeller magazine I bought in 2012/13. OK, I thought, let's see how this one goes then maybe...

Metcalfe Signal Cabin: Ayton Lane Yard

One problem with card kits is that the walls warp or splay out, break apart even with frequent handling. I had begun the kit with the space below the operating floor unsupported, followed the instructions to the letter, although one way or another, from the word 'go', I had ideas about modifying the structure/interior or both.

There were a few components I junked, such as the short staircase. I would eventually create a plastic landing and steps from parts in stock. The plinth, interior, chimney stack and roof took priority. The card roof was discarded and Wills' plastic slate roof sections were cut, with the space for the chimney stack cut out but only the back part of the roof was attached. More on that later.

Also the card cabin floor, the operating surface, was discarded and replaced by a small, measured sheet of Evergreen grooved siding that looks like floor planking, and that rests on card formers attached to the insides of the base. I had a box of Wills' signal box interior detailing, including lever base, instrument shelf (to stand over the lever frame) and a single line staff dispenser to take the engines to the next section at Ayton Lane. An armchair, train register desk and step down to the outside landing were made from scrap plastic, as the original contents of the kit box were used on the Thoraldby Gates cabin. I had an etched brass set of signal levers that I'd bought separately, so there was no shortage there and there were enough block instruments etc left over after finishing Thoraldby Gates cabin to adorn the shelf. One figure i'd 'recycled' from one of my locos was put in the armchair and another stands at the levers with one arm raised to a repeater box on the shelf.

The landing was made up from a set of Evergreen steps and planking/siding, supports and a board with brass wire hooks inserted for fire buckets. Below the landing is storage for coal for the cabin's stove, a white metal casting from the Wills' Finecast box (turned out to be a little box of 'gems'). After painting another pre-painted white metal figure with a haversack over his shoulder was fixed on the landing, a signalman gone off duty, like at Thoraldby Gates. I kept the card chimney stack, but mounted a hollowed-out Springside chimney pot instead of messing about with the card version. Painted up to look like a pot one, a basic coat of matt red-orange, over-painted in matt anthracite and black enamel it looks more realistic..

Ayton Lane MPD signal cabin on the Thoraldby layout

What started out as a Metcalfe card kit (free with Hornby Magazine) became a hybrid with elements from a Ratio signal box kit, D&H NER window etchings, Evergreen siding painted to look like wood planking on floor and walls and Wills slate roof
What started out as a Metcalfe card kit (free with Hornby Magazine) became a hybrid with elements from a Ratio signal box kit, D&H NER window etchings, Evergreen siding painted to look like wood planking on floor and walls and Wills slate roof | Source
The same building has been 'bedded in'. All that remains is a Ratio LNER type trellis signal (distant) to add in front of the tunnel mouth, and the Poppy's ballasting box is ready for use
The same building has been 'bedded in'. All that remains is a Ratio LNER type trellis signal (distant) to add in front of the tunnel mouth, and the Poppy's ballasting box is ready for use | Source

Modified Modelyard North Eastern goods shed

The goods shed looking along from the office to the loading doors (sliding doors) seen on the work table - card kit modified with moulded plastic section, etched brass and white metal parts kits, and white metal figures
The goods shed looking along from the office to the loading doors (sliding doors) seen on the work table - card kit modified with moulded plastic section, etched brass and white metal parts kits, and white metal figures | Source
An overhead view of the shed showing the weigh office window facing the track
An overhead view of the shed showing the weigh office window facing the track | Source
One of the two loading bay doorways looking from the nearside (roadside) corner. Note the closure poster and 'enamel' signs. Lichen at the corner represents weed growth from a damp wall
One of the two loading bay doorways looking from the nearside (roadside) corner. Note the closure poster and 'enamel' signs. Lichen at the corner represents weed growth from a damp wall | Source

If you live in a flat, or have a room in your parents' or relatives' houses do not despair. Nigel Adams has the answer for you. 'Layouts for Limited Spaces' offers many solutions. You can even build a model railway (in 'Z' Gauge) on a coffee table or pizza plate. Try building a 3.5/4mm (HO/OO) layout in a box file as several members of the OO Gauge Association have done.

Go to exhibitions, ask questions, see what tradesmen have to help you achieve your aims. Enjoy your model-making!

A project from scratch

Front walls being applied to 'skeleton'. Brick sheet still to be applied to chimney breast formers. Peco doors and Wills' windows were  inserted into cut-outs. The walls have been applied to the base for the gents' toilet at the far end
Front walls being applied to 'skeleton'. Brick sheet still to be applied to chimney breast formers. Peco doors and Wills' windows were inserted into cut-outs. The walls have been applied to the base for the gents' toilet at the far end | Source
 Porch added after raised stone sheet applied to the base - Wills' greenhouse kit with bits from their conservatory kit, clear plastic sheet applied before assembly
Porch added after raised stone sheet applied to the base - Wills' greenhouse kit with bits from their conservatory kit, clear plastic sheet applied before assembly | Source
The station building, gents at the end. At left is staff/porters room, ladies' room, booking office and general waiting room far right
The station building, gents at the end. At left is staff/porters room, ladies' room, booking office and general waiting room far right | Source
End view with poster and timetable board (maker: Trackside Signs)
End view with poster and timetable board (maker: Trackside Signs) | Source

Suppliers forum

Bachmann Europe plc................ .www,bachmann.co.uk

C&L Finescale Modelling Ltd...... www.finescale.org.uk

Harburn Hobbies..........................www.harburns.co.uk

Scalescenes................................www.scalescenes.com

Warners Group Publications plc www.model-railways-live.co.uk

Langley Models.......................... www.langleymodels.co.uk

Metcalfe Models & Toys Ltd .......www.metcalfemodels.com

Ratio Plastic Models....................Ratio House, Wardle Way, Buckfastleigh Devon TQ11 0NR, ph: 01364 642764 fax: 01364 644466

Superquick................................ www.superquick.co.uk

Wild Swan Publications Ltd......... 1-3 Hagbourne Road, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 8DP,

ph: 01235 816478 (a series of quality card-back modelling publications and periodicals)

Wizard Models.............................www.wizardmodels.co.uk (model signal engineering and scenic modelling)

More by this Author


Comments 2 comments

Davesworld profile image

Davesworld 4 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

Nice work. I always used to have a devil of a time with the corners - well done.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Thanks Davesworld. The answer to everyone's prayers: mitreing. I've spoken with one or two modellers whose specialisation is in buildings. At the Alexandra Palace exhibition at the end of March I met someone who gave me an insight into a new way of scratchbuilding buildings - including derelict buiidings. David Wright, the owner of Dovedale Models, www.dovedalemodels.co.uk, also told me of his dvd @ £18 inc p&p, in which he outlines his techniques with card structures.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working