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matt varnish


Using a glue-stick (there are various brands) is an easy “non-messy” way to apply the printed paper to card backing. The card will provide stiffness to give the model railroad building strength and help it keep its shape. The cardboard from cereal boxes can be used. You can even use foam board or core flute sheets if you want to.


Before applying the paper to the backing card, apply a light spray of Artist Clear Matt Varnish or Artist Fixative (optional). Artist Matt Varnish (there are various brands to choose from) will help protect the model during and after construction. Varnishing (several light coats) can help seal the structure to protect it from humidity, dust, and fading.


Cardboard from used cereal packs is ideal.

Apply the glue evenly to the backing card taking care not to apply it to all areas and not too thickly. An even coat will prevent wrinkles and bubbling. You should be able to gently lift the paper and reposition it before it dries (if required).

mount on card


When you are satisfied with the position of the paper on the card backing, carefully roll the paper with a roller or squeegee.


gluing models  If you need to apply thin beads of glue or do spot gluing, then solvent-free glue with a fine tip nozzle (UHU works well) would work best. Otherwise you could use white PVA glue from a squeeze bottle. Remember to press the paper down after gluing to prevent lifting.


Super Glue is excellent for instantly gluing small parts. Some tweezers are handy for holding the model in place as you apply the adhesive. Be very careful with super glue (read the instructions on the pack) as it dries almost instantly so needs to be kept away from skin. This pack of 7 tubes cost just $2 at a local discount store.  

super glue 

clear adhesive


This twin pack of clear adhesive also cost just $2 and was useful to pour around the inside of the model after construction to add strength. 





craft knives

Use a Craft Knife and steel ruler (to give a straight edge) to cut the model out. It is difficult to get a really straight edge using scissors. Remember to replace the blade on your Craft Knife regularly as a sharp blade gives best results. To avoid cutting yourself, use several light strokes rather than pressing hard on the knife to cut through the card. Score the surface of the paper lightly with the knife before folding should give a cleaner fold. Use sharp blades for cutting and dull blades for scoring.



Fold all parts before gluing. Check to see the folded model fits together snugly before gluing.  


Cut around the model shape leaving plenty of white space. It is usually easiest to score and fold the areas that need folding before cutting the model shape to its final cut-down size. 


To get sharp folds, use a steel straight edge (a steel ruler works) to apply even pressure along your score line. A pair of thin needle nose pliers might also be handy. 


Internal bracing using card or foam core as a stiffener will help give strength to your models. You can cut triangular gussets or glue simple “L” shape pieces of card in place. This will help keep the model in plumb. Another idea is to double-up the thickness of the card walls by gluing another layer of cardboard inside the model.



Gently score along the fold lines to provide a clean fold.

When assembling small parts (eg. chimney stacks), consider mounting the printed plan on thinner cardboard to make folding easier.

Super Glue (because it dries quickly) is handy in areas where joins are difficult to hold in place for any length of time. Use tweezers as a temporary clamp to hold the card while the Super Glue dries.

The model can be strengthened after assembly by pouring clear glue on the inside joints, or by gluing cardboard supports inside the model if required.



series 1 - model railroad buildings  

series2 - model railway buildings


 constructing models 


Paper clips, masking tape, and clothespins can be handy tools for holding a model in place when gluing.

Avoid the temptation to rush the assembly especially when gluing parts together. Don’t just form the railroad building by dropping a few droplets of glue and hoping holds and keeps its shape. It is usually best to glue one seam and then let it dry before gluing another seam, because this prevents the joins from moving when the glue is still wet. Having one strong solid seam will help the others fit tightly into place properly (without moving). So, take you time and you’ll get a better result.  



It is not always practical to shape cardboard into very long thin shapes, so materials such as balsa wood, wire, plastic rods and tubing can be very useful for making posts, beams, railings and building supports. In some situations clear acetate can be used to replicate glass. Just use your imagination to add your own finishing touches. builng models

Some card kit buildings (e.g. silos) need curved parts, for which thinner card is used. To make a smooth curve gently pull the card up from under your ruler. 

shaping card


craft items

This photo shows items purchased from a discount store. The wooden skewers, toothpicks and matchsticks cost just $2 a packet and are ideal for posts, poles etc. The mini clothes pins (also $2) are perfect from holding the models together when gluing. The balsa wood is soft, versatile and easy to work with. It is can be used inside a constructed model to add support if required.




felt tip pens Various methods can be used to weather the model railroad building and give it the appearance of age. One method is to scrape a tiny amount of artist pastels (brown and black) onto a piece of scrap card. Then (using an artist brush) dust tiny amounts onto the edges, corners, and surface of the constructed structure as required. Slowly build up the layers before sealing the structure with another light coat of Artist Matt Spray Varnish (don’t spray too close).  


Felt-tipped pens can be used to touch-up edges after construction.



This video demonstrates scratch building model railroad buildings

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The Basics of Model Railroad Mountain Building

Contributed By Dave Walker

For some railroad enthusiasts the thought of buying a premade mountain or mountain tunnel for their layout is anathema and they would never do it. What is important to these railroad lovers is both the authenticity of their railroad layout and the fact that they made most of it themselves from scratch.

So how does one go about the art of model railroad mountain building? It is not a terribly difficult process if you like to work with your hands and if determining the dimensions of your mountain through simple mathematics is within your capabilities. Will your mountain have a tunnel? That is the first thing to decide before you even consider purchasing the materials needed to build your mountain. Trains look spectacular weaving though tunnels and over bridges.

With our without the train tunnel, building your own mountain makes so much sense in several ways. First of all it will be considerably less expensive for you to build it than to buy it. Secondly if you build it, you can make it match your railroad exactly. If your railroad is a winter one, your mountain can be covered in snow. If your train layout is an autumn layout, your mountain can be covered in trees decked out in brilliant fall foliage. On the other hand if your layout is a summer one, those same trees on the side of your mountain can be brilliant shades of green.

Regardless of the scale of your railway, the basics of model railroad mountain building are pretty much the same. One of the most popular materials with which to construct your mountain is insulation foam board. This material and method of constructing a scale model railroad mountain has surpassed the more traditional wood ridged frame method, because it is typically cheaper and somewhat easier.

However, perhaps the cheapest way to make your mountain is with chicken wire and paper mache. For this reason, we will look at this way to construct a mountain.

Constructing a Mountain from Chicken Wire and Paper Mache

The first thing to do whether making a ridged mountain or one made with foam insulation board is plan and measure. Lay out where you want your mountain and then take the measurements for the size mountain you want. Now make the frame of your model train mountain by bending a molding the chicken wire. Make plaster slurry with flour and water or a watered down plaster mix. Tear one foot long, one inch wide pieces of newspaper and soak them in the plaster slurry. Piece by piece cover the chicken wire with the newspaper and glue it with plaster slurry.

Once you have completely covered the “mountain” and let it dry, now you need to cover the paper mache with a layer of modeling plaster, making sure your mountain is the shape you want it to be while it is still wet. Allow the molding plaster to dry before painting. Now the fun of model railroad mountain building shifts into high gear, as you can paint your mountain to match the season and décor of the rest of your train layout. You can also glue grass, groundcover, trees, stones, streams, anything else you want onto the face of your mountain. With the paper mache method of mountain making, the mountain will not usually be strong enough to support the weight of track and trains, so you will need to take this into account when considering design options.

On the other hand, if you make your mountain from either the insulation board or ridged wood structures, you will be able to lay and attach track to the mountain and run the trains without any issues at all. The paper mache model is purely for the decorative effect of your train layout. More details at NMRA divisions.


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