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Home :: Resources :: Articles :: A Scratch Builder'sTreasure Chest

A Scratch Builder's Treasure Chest

Scratch building the buildings

that go on a model railroad has been described by many model railroaders as the ultimate in creating your own vision of how things should look on your layout. For these types of craftsman there is a great deal of pleasure that comes with the completion of each house, store, factory or any other building that is destined to end up on their model railroad.


For many modelers the idea of using a kit straight out of the box is unthinkable as there is no way to make it look right and fit into your layout without spending hours trying to change the way it looks. If you are going to do all of that why not just build it from scratch in the first place. If you have ever taken the time to look around the town you live in or any other town for that matter, you will have noticed that no two buildings are alike, so why would you want to use kits to build your railroad?

Scratch building a house or any other building

is a lot like building a house in real life only smaller, you start out with a pile of pieces and create a building from them one piece at a time. This can mean building the walls one board at a time and using individual pieces of wood stock to create the window and doorframes. This is part of the challenge that many builders enjoy when it comes to scratch building for their model railroad.

For many builders this process gives them the chance to accurately recreate specific buildings that they have seen in and around their hometown or in pictures. It does of course mean that you are going to have to find a way to accurate replicate each facet of the building. For some parts of the building this will be easy as it may mean you simply have to paint the walls to match the colors of the original and then add weathering and minor details.

But what about the details that you just cannot paint and make them look right? How can you paint a brick wall and make it look good, if you have ever taken the time to look at a brick wall you will see that no two bricks look exactly alike. Not only that but there is the cement that is in between the bricks, details such as this can be very difficult if not impossible to replicate. Model Builder has hundreds of texture images to help you make your building look just right. There are over a dozen different brick images to help make your walls look exactly the way you need them to.

Walls can easily be dressed up by simply printing out the image of the pattern you want and glue it in place on your wall structure either before you assemble your building or after, you can decide depending on which method is easier for the building you are working on. There are more than just brick walls in the world and Model Builder has cement block images and several types of siding, both wooden and metal. If you are building a factory or other industrial structure you will find an excellent selection of industrial sidings to give your factory the perfect finish.

What would a building be if it did not have windows and doors, these are essential to making your building look right and can be very difficult to reproduce, especially if you have several windows of the same type in one building. Cutting out the individual pieces needed to make windows and painting each of them can be a very slow time consuming process. Model Builder has a much easier solution to this problem with dozens of different door and window images that you can print out and apply directly on to your building. If the building you are modeling is one from your home town and you do not see the window you need in the image file you can always take a picture of it and use image editing software to crop it. Then then import it into Model Builder so that you can adjust it to scale for your project and put it onto siding.

In fact, you can take pictures of any surface or structural piece that you would like to use. Use photo editing software like Adobe Elements, Corel Paint Shop, or other free software and crop out the piece you need. Then import it into Model Builder where you can adjust to the scale you choose to work in.

Many scratch built models feature excellent exteriors which when using Model Builder's images can be made to look extremely realistic, but the fun does not have to stop there, especially for those who like to model in larger scales. One of the beauties of modeling in the bigger scales such as "O" is that you can take the time and effort to make the outside look very realistic when you scratch build but when you are done you can turn your attention to the inside.

You can use some of the over 500 images to improve the way your building looks through the window by using the window images included in the software. Many of them have interior detail that can be seen in the image to make it look like your building has an interior. It is also possible to printout several different images and layer the parts of them that you want, to create individual windows and doors to better suit your needs. The possibilities are only limited by your patience and imagination.


Model Builder software is so versatile
that you can literally take an image, for example from the wooden siding, and crop it down to represent one board and create your own lumber. This way if you want to add your siding one board at a time you can or if you are building a deck or platform you can lay it out any way you need to. This also works great for roof beams and trusses along with porch roof supports. It is easy enough to make the basic structure out of balsa wood and then cover it with the appropriate image.

Roofs can be treated the same way; Model Builder features dozens of patterns from rusty corrugated tin to shingle of all colors and tiles. You can recreate almost any type of roof you need for your project. If you want to weather the image to make it look a little more realistic, art pastels such as those you can buy in your local art supply store work great. Once you have the effect you want you should spray the whole finished building down with a finishing spray such as Krylon Matte Preserve It or there are several others that you can find in your local art supply store. Not only will this help keep the pastels from rubbing off, it will also protect your printed image from fading due to UV lights.

There is no doubt that the best way to make truly realistic buildings that represent the real thing as closely as possible and are individually unique is to build them from scratch. To help make them look great, especially with those hard to replicate finishes, the images in Model Builder are the ideal solution. From brick walls to windows, door and tiles roofs there are over 500 images currently available and updates will be available adding more images and features in the future. Now you truly can scratch build a new building for your model railroad that will look exactly the way you want it to without spending dozens of hours trying to create each individual piece.


A Scratch Builder'sTreasure Chest

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