Individual Plans

Fun to Make HO Scale Background Buildings and Structures Give the Illusion the Railroad Scene Stretches Miles in the Distance

Inexpensive Highly Detailed Printout Paper HO Scale Buildings For Backdrops
(suitable for OO gauge and N scale too!)

The downloadable paper kits for building backdrop structures for model railroads can be assembled using corflute (recommended), cardstock (an old cereal box), or foam board. They can be printed out on a home computer for making N scale, OO gauge or HO scale background buildings. Plans for the printable paper model buildings can be glued directly to corflute and put together with good quality instant “super” glue and/or a clear reasonably fast drying adhesive.

The Plans are For Sale in N scale, or OO Gauge Which Can Be Easily Scaled to 87% of Constructing HO Scale Background Buildings

Plans are in full color and can be purchased separately or in multi pack deals that are discounted between 50% and 87% in price depending on the pack. That makes them excellent value for money considering the cost of a pack comprising several individual download plans is considerably less than the cost of just one plastic model kit even excluding the added cost of postage and handling when purchased over the internet. The plans for these HO scale background buildings are available by download directly to your computer almost instantly after your purchase is processed. You can these print out one (or multiple copies) of each plan depending on your personal requirements.

The other big advantage is that the plans for these paper HO scale background buildings are photo-realistic and finely detailed to the highest quality. That’s not to say they look pristine and perfect. Far from it! The plans included highly detailed weathering and detailing to make the assembled printed models look incredibly true to life. They don’t look shiny and plastic. The buildings have cracks, and water marks, stains, signs of mold, and even rust. That’s what makes them so good to buy.

The thing to remember is you don’t need to print on cardstock. Just print the PDF plans onto ordinary paper and then glue the printed paper plans on to card from old cereal boxes, or better still, glue the paper plans directly onto corflute. That’s a product that is inexpensive to buy in large sheets at DIY stores, Discounters, and Art Supply shops. It is also very sturdy so is perfect for constructing background buildings. Some model railroaders use foam board for constructing their HO scale background buildings. There are video demonstrations on this website https://www.modelbuildings.org/videos-ideas

Nowadays with the internet, model building paper printouts can be downloaded and printed on your hone printer. Watch the videos, but generally the printed sheets of paper get glued onto the corflute and once dried can be cut out with a sharp craft knife and a steel ruler to keep the cuts straight. The glue tabs and corners can be bent and glued together. Watch one of the videos for a step by step demonstration.

It is best to work off a solid flat surface with a cutting mat. I use a piece of 25mm MDF 300mm by 500mm and a craft cutting mat when constructing HO scale background buildings. A small metal square is used to keep the building square and the MDF keeps the printable building level as it is glued together. The cuts require a sharp blade and you may need to change the blade quite often. Do not throw away the old blades as they can still be used to score the card for bending. Care should be taken if you are cutting out the windows with the use of a pointed blade and then these can be glazed with some thin celluloid that can be purchased from your local hobby or craft shop. You can even use the clear acetate from product boxes you would usually throw out. Cut it larger than required and glue in place taking care not to get glue on the window where it can be seen. Most of the printable paper plans include windows. Some have curtains or blinds in the windows and some panes of glass on background industrial appear to broken or cracked (for extra realism). Shop windows even include items on display.

These printable HO scale background buildings are easy to make providing you follow the instructions. I recommend you leave a tab at the base of the walls so that it can be folded inwards so that you have it to help adhere the backdrop building to where you want it on the background scene. If you want a bit more realism with these printable buildings you can get molded corrugated iron card from your local hobby shop for the roof, but it will require painting especially if you want the roof to look the same as the printed one.

Adding Details to Printable Paper HO Background Buildings
(these paper plans can also be constructed in N scale and OO scale)

If plastic people figurines are to be part of the scene, then you can leave some doors ajar just by cutting the door along three edges or printing another copy of the door and recessing it behind the main piece of corflute. Doing this can give added dimension to the background model and the same technique can be applied to windows (optional). If you want the HO scale background building to be on a foundation, then simply cut a piece of card the right size and glue it to the base. Piles foundations can be made of square timber (balsa wood is ideal) or fold the card to look like a concrete foundation. There are numerous possibilities and most model railroaders like to add their own personal creative touch to what they are building.

These scale model HO railroad building can be lighted inside with LED lights providing all the joins are sealed with black acrylic paint so that the light doesn’t show through the joins etc. The other thing to consider is safety with electrics and heat. Any modifications or additions are at your own risk. Remember if you add a light to make sure the light position is near to the ceiling height so that the light shines down and is shown on the ground. A lot of people forget and have the light shining upwards so it doesn’t look right. You can add all sorts of junk around your constructed HO scale background buildings like wheels, tires, bits of plastic to look like steel off-cuts etc., depending on what the backdrop building is to be used for.

With houses you can add lichen or small shrubs etc for a garden with wooden edges (balsa wood), shingle paths and of course people, not just adults also small children playing in the garden. You can add a dog or a cat, maybe some chickens if it’s a country house. I usually add internal walls to the houses and an LED light in each room on separate switches. I am careful with accessing the fire risk associated with heat on plastic, card or corflute. Then decide if you want older yellow type lights that flicker with an electronic circuit to represent an oil lamp or brighter lights in a more modern background building. As I said; the important point is to always consider safety when adding electrics to plastic buildings, wood, corflute, foam, or card printouts. You don’t want to be responsible for starting a fire, so be safety conscious and never take risks with electricity or hot wires or light bulbs. Typically LED bulbs give off less heat. Remember, LED lights are not just for buildings, they’ll work well with signals and in HO scale model trains.

Making Poles and Fences

I always add telephone poles and cotton to represent over head wires in older scenes. Older country scenes need only two wires per pole and no arms as the older type had an insulator on each side of the pole. Poles can be made from meat skewers or tooth picks depending on scale. Country fences are usually post and wire and these can be made from tooth picks and cotton, add trees bushes etc some had nicely trimmed hedges other had over-grown bushes. A scene like this can look really good especially with the backdrop softened by adding HO scale background buildings against the backdrop skyline.

Constructing Industrial Scenes Using HO Scale Background Buildings

Industrial buildings can have scale 6 foot fences made from fine zinc mesh netting with gates made of the same or none at all if placed in a rail yard. Some industrial buildings have a gate keepers hut and they monitor vehicles coming and going. Nothing needs to be prim and proper. Some building can be a bit run down or derelict. Many of the download paper plans on this website are derelict industrial buildings, or ones that are certainly in need to cleaning or repair. Believe it or not, having things not too perfect adds to the realism of the scene. In real life, most industrial buildings are not shiny and new. Far from it, there is often the old cracked or broken window, signs of rust on steel, calcium leaching from concrete, cracks or slight fractures in walls, peeling paintwork, moss, mold and dirt in some areas etc.

Add variety as this makes the scene more interesting and don’t forget the workers and vehicles and industrial junk scattered around, derelict cars trucks etc., even an old railroad wagon weathered and rusted that can serve as a shed in older style scenes, containers in more modern scenes. A timber mill generates saw dust so a pile of that behind the mill will add authenticity to the scene. A clever techniques by some model railroaders with large layouts is to use N scale buildings in the background on an HO scale layout. This actually gives a depth to scenes that are far in the distance. They also use smaller N scale trees, people vehicles etc.

Careful Placement of HO Scale Background Buildings Adds Realism to Model Railroads

Placement of foreground and background buildings is very important to the overall look. Place the paper buildings you made on the scene before gluing them down and stand back and view from different angles and heights and shift them around until you are satisfied with the positioning on the scene. Sometimes I will leave them and go back the next day with fresh ideas. Run the trains and see what works best. Your trains need to be planned also… no need to send cattle wagons to a saw mill.

Most railroad yards would have a dispatcher’s office, a small shed with windows in a small yard or something larger in a city yard either with the freight shed or separate office elsewhere. I put my dispatcher’s office near the exit to the yard so that the dispatcher can view the departing trains. I have workers amongst the wagons on the sidings to look as if they are recording the wagons for the next consist. A rail yard is a busy place and needs to look busy on your HO scale model railroad. While your mainline trains can take care of themselves or someone operating them, a switching or shunting engine changing wagons at the freight shed adds some interest. One thing to consider is the size of some structures like engine shed. They can be very big and take up a lot of space on an HO scale model railroad layout. HO scale background buildings by comparison are very space efficient because they have on the frontage and part of two sides and part of the roof.

Planning a town or city requires some fore thought. What printable paper model buildings will be needed and how many will you need? This all-depends on what space will be needed. Cost is another factor. Just like buying rolling stock, plastic building kits can be pricey especially if you need several. Printable paper buildings by comparison are relatively inexpensive even if you are buying corflute for the construction. They also generally look more real than there plastic counterparts due to the pre-detailed and weathered textures used in the designs.

Space Efficient Low Profile HO Scale Background Buildings

Most of us would not have the space for a full-blown town so we use backdrops and low profile buildings to make the viewer believe the scene extends further than in reality it does. Low relief HO scale background buildings have a front and sides about 1/2 inch deep and are placed against a backdrop to make the transition between the picture in 2D and model in 3D. You can still have these background building illuminated and people on the side walks.

Vehicles are a different story; my mate runs a couple of street cars (tram cars) in N scale on the front of his town N scale background buildings with a row of shops and houses in HO scale and a street car in HO scale in front of them with the railroad station in front of that then the railroad track. What you don’t see is the return tracks as they run behind a wall the two street cars looking the same only different scales running in opposite directions and only one is seen at any one time. Whether you use plastic, corflute, wood or cardstock buildings is up the individual modeler as each has its own merits, as does the use of various train scales. HO scale (and OO gauge in the United Kingdom) are the biggest selling scales, but N scale trains and buildings are still very popular with many because they utilize less space.

If you don’t want to try printable plans then Hornby has a range of buildings under Skaledale and these come completely built up in Polly Resin and you can weather them or use them straight from the box. They can be lit and placed on your layout. The walls of these buildings are about 3/16 of an inch thick and can be easily glued in position. They do not have internal walls, however their range covers building from a small shed to larger stations and generally cover the English buildings including terraced housing.

With the advent of 3D printers on the market modeling buildings will reach a new stage for the modeler where any type of buildings can be made and in any scale, but the price of these printers will deter some, as will the lack of realistic detailing that still needs to be added.

Other places to purchase model buildings is online auctions like eBay or on Craigslist where a lot of railroad accessories are available, but be careful as sometimes the items can be bought in the shops new for the same price or cheaper. Remember too, you still have postage to pay for unless you can pick the item up yourself. In saying that some good bargains are still available and also if some parts are not in the kit you don’t have much of a come back. Some traders will refund the purchase price if you return the kit however you have to pay for postage both ways.

These days model printable HO scale background buildings are very realistic resembling real photos of the actual structure. They are cheap to buy (with many below $15) and they are easy to strengthen using extra card or even balsa, foam board, or corflute. Have fun operating your trains!

IMPORTANT: The buildings displayed on this web page have weathered already, therefore is no requirement to include additional detailing.

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