model buildings





Contributed by guest columnist Ben Thompson

Model railroads have developed into a thriving hobby for thousands of modelers worldwide. With many enthusiasts not satisfied with a round or oval track, this fancy is now, not limited to intricately designed railroad models at museums. A lot of people have taken to designing and depicting life-size railroads, and making life-like imitations of various famous railroads. While of course, the train is the most important part of the rail road, there are 5 important essentials that need to be taken care of while designing a railroad.

These include the following:

1. Railroad stations: train stations, both large ones, and remote smaller ones, add to the details and the realistic feel of the layout. Large stations can be used at the beginning and end of the track, and to mark bigger destination points. Small train stations can be used in remote places along the railroad layout to service small communities or industries.

2. Landscape: scenery adds dimension and depth to the railroad layout. Adding mountains, trees, and shrubbery, and maybe a canyon, can help make the model look life-like. Tunnels through mountains have always been a favorite.

3. Buildings: adding building like warehouses, railyard buildings, and even residential and street buildings will add to the authenticity of the layout. Buildings can be used as landmarks, and even for depicting ageing, in cases where the model railroad depicts a scene from the past.

4. People and animals: a deserted railroad can be scary, even if it is a model. Having people or animals scattered around the layout can make it more realistic and “add life” to the railroad.

5. Lights and signs: minor detailing such as adding lights and signs to the track can aid in making the railroad look more mesmerizing and interesting.



With more and more people taking up railroad modeling as a hobby, there are numerous aids for enthusiasts to build their models. From cardstock buildings available online, to stores where items are available. is one such website, offering various cardstock building plans that can easily be purchased, downloaded, and printed as per choice. Once purchased, the designs can then either be printed immediately, or saved for later use.


Cardstock buildings or paper buildings designs can be bought off the website, and printed on paper of choice. The models, on the website, are designed as per specific dimensions. It is important to make sure they are thus printed in accordance with the scale of the railway. The default scale is OO, but the building designs can be zoomed up or down, to suit the HO, N, Z, or S scales. Below is the conversion aid for the same:

  • If the model is OO scale, just print a 100 % zoom copy of the structure.
  • If the model is HO scale, the print should be reduced to an 87 % zoom copy
  • For an S scale , zoom to 118 %
  • For a Z scale , zoom down to 35 %
  • For an N scale, the copy should be 48 % of the original


Another important aspect of the printing is the paper quality and the printing quality. Light weight paper (90-120 gsm) is easy to fold, and print. Also, a high quality print is advised for the final print. For the first print, a low quality print works best.

Once the print is ready, it should be stuck on cardstock (hence the term card-stock buildings). Alternatively, cereal pack boxes can also be used. The extra areas should them be cut off, and scored along the folding lines. Care should be taken to not cut, but only score enough to provide ease of folding and sharp folds. Scoring along flap fold lines is also important to make sure the flaps fold properly. Once this is done, the model print should then be cut-out using 2-3 strokes, instead of one heavy stroke. Fold along the lines, and apply glue on the flaps. Stick together all the pieces as per the instructions included to have a realistic cardstock building for the railroad.


Real life railroads, tracks and locomotives included, get worn out and weathered. Constantly under the influence of weather and use, real railroads acquire a used, worn down look. Besides the cardstock buildings added for detailing, weathering techniques can make the railroads, and even the buildings look more realistic. Weathering techniques are specifically useful for scenes depicting the past, where it is important to show the wearing down. Below are 3 weathering techniques that can be used to achieve a more realistic looking railroad.

1. Dry Brushing Technique This technique requires the use of a dry paint brush and the appropriate color. Dip the brush in the paint, and then wipe down maximum paint off the brush. This can be done using a paper towel, or by sliding the brush along the edges of the paint bottle. Then, paint over the structure. The dry brush will leave streaks making the card stock building look old. Different brushes and strokes can be used to create various effects. Different colors can be used: a mixture of red, orange, and brown can be used to depict rust; exhaust stains can be depicted using gray; and oil and grease can be shown with black. Matte acrylic paints work best in most cases.

2. Wash to Highlight Using textured surfaces on train cars and buildings can aid in this technique. A mixture of paint thinner and paint in a 10:1 ratio can be used to add to the textured effect. This technique can be used to add texture to landscape and scenery also. E.g. the mixture of paint thinner and India ink in the 10:1 ratio can be used to add depth and dimension to cliffs.

3. Dull and Dirty Spraying with black or brown over the trains and the buildings in the model will make them look a little dirty. Squeaky clean and shiny looks fake and is never life-like. To remove the straight-out-the-packaging look, side motion airbrushing with a mixture of paint and paint thinner will help. It will make the train cars and buildings look dirty, and worn out, and hence, much more realistic.


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