Adding Structures and Model
Buildings to a Railroad
A recent internet poll of 490 modelers asked them if they scratch built their own structures.
65% of them said sometimes; 25% said never; and 8% said always. How you go about making your model
railroad building kits is entirely personal preference and over to you.
The structures you include in a layout will truly bring to life to your model. Structures
completely depend on your layout, so if you have a rural model you will have less structures but
more opportunity to make those few structures extremely detailed and perfected. If your layout is
more urban then you definitely have your work cut out for you, but that may a good thing. If you
are a hobbyist of model trains then you enjoy this, so the extra time it takes to develop well
constructed structures shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Quick and Easy:
You can get lost in so many aspects of modeling; that is understandable. If the structures in
your layout is an area you don’t want to spend too much time working on then there are pre-made
structures to purchase. These structures can be purchased at your local hobby shop or here online.
The downside is that some of these structures may not be completely realistic in their appearance
unless you add your own weathering effects. The downloadable buildings come already weathered and
detailed, but plastic model kits usually require painting and weathering. However, you can do some
simple modifications and upgrades to better prepare them to be showcased on your layout. Also, if
you are working with a more irregular scale, then you may not have too much variety in structures.
They are more limited when you are working with a less popular scale. When buying plastic model
kits you need to buy the kit in the particular scale, whereas the downloaded kits can be easily
resized to HO, OO, or N scale to suit your needs. So there are advantages and disadvantages for
both types of model railroad kits.
If you are having trouble locating good structures for your layout then you may want to attend a
local show. Modeling shows are perfect to find any materials and structures that you need. There
are people in the hobby who love to build structures and are very talented at it. Find them and see
if they are willing to sell their creations.
Taking more time:
The structures you include in your layout may be your passion. This may be the area you want to
dedicate the most time to, and that is great as well. You may prefer to build your structures from
scratch and that is an option. This leaves the door open to plenty options on how the structures
will look. There just aren’t always perfect structures to be purchased, so you have to make some of
your own at times. This allows you to truly customize your layout and make it fit the prototype you
are modeling. Art minded people tend to shine in this area, but if you aren’t that type don’t let
it scare you away.
If you are planning to show your layout in a model show or in a large display then you may want
to take it to the next level by building your own structures. There is a lot to be said for
structures built from scratch.
Planning structures for a layout:
Some people are well organized and plan their layout perfectly. They have their track drawn out
and where each structure is to be placed and it all comes together with the correct amount of
space. This a good approach if you are the planning type and fairly organized. You will have less
complications in the long run, that is definite.
For people who are less organized and prefer to place structures as you go, that works as well.
Realize that you may come across a few problems. You may lay your track and notice that you don’t
have as much space as you wanted for a structure. This is bound to happen. To compensate you will
learn how to modify your structures and use kits together to get a good size structure that fits.
The less organized you are the more modifications you will have to make, but you may enjoy working
on your model in that fashion.
Bridge the gap in your model
Bridges within your model railway are often a necessary component. You will want to add
different scenic structures, and a bridge is perfect for getting your train above water and other
roads. The type of bridge you incorporate in your layout is also key. The theme or setting that you
have chosen will determine the type of bridge you use. Obviously some bridges were more popular
than others in certain eras, so if your model depicts an historical setting, you will want to
research what type of bridge was around in that era. This is useful information, and important for
your layout to be perfect in all areas.
The types of bridges:
- Through bridge - a particular bridge with the supporting structure located above the train.
The train will go through the supporting structure, hence the name of the bridge.
- Deck bridge - this bridge has the supporting structure below the bridge. The train is open
and visible from above the supporting structure and rides across the top of the bridge.
- Trestle - a bridge that is several segments of track supported along the length of the
track by trestles of timber or steel.
- Arch bridge - these particular bridges are used for long distances. The arch bridge
requires strong supports at each end in order to cover the long distance, along with smaller
supports in the middle that create the shape of the arch.
- Suspension bridge - a bridge that can also run for long distances. Two towers on each end
that have suspension cables attached to the towers and the bridge to keep the bridge
You may want to include guardrails on your bridge. This technique and component will add more
stability to your train traveling across the bridge. I know you want to keep your derailments to a
minimum, so adding guardrails is a great way to keep any conflicts minimized.
Building your bridge:
There are several bridge kits available on the market. The bridges listed above should be
available in the form of a kit along with other types of bridges that were not mentioned. If you
wish to construct a bridge from your own pure talent then you can find books and articles that tell
you how to do so. If you are new to the hobby I would not recommend building a bridge on your first
attempt, unless you already know how to build a structure like this. These construction projections
on your own can be very time consuming and leave you empty handed if you don’t quite know what you
are doing. I recommend constructing your own bridge to those who have been modeling for a while
now. Constructing your own components is very rewarding, but only when you can get them to function
properly in the end.
There are plenty of forums online by hobbyists all around the world explaining their layouts,
techniques, and answering any questions you may have. This is your best chance to learn how to
build a good bridge from scratch. Ask the community of modelers how they do it.
You may have absolutely no use for a bridge within your layout. Bridges are mainly for crossing
your train over bodies of water, valleys, and other portions of track or road. If you are not
including water elements to your layout then you don’t need a bridge over them, simple enough. This
may be your first model and you may not want to cross your track piece over each other with a
bridge, and that is perfectly fine as well. Bridges should be used in larger more detailed