the art of making model buildings
The cottage shown above built by Roye England highlights how important it
is to mount your buildings on sub boards because it is a lot easier to
detail the building exterior on the workbench rather than on the layout
itself. I use foam board for that job.
Some still use this material and some very
good results can be had too. Care does have to be taken to protect the
material from humidity by using shellac or some modern equivalent.
Many ready made models, (Hornby Scaledale for
instance), are now available to the modeller. There are some exceptions,
but for the most part, there can be distortions which spoil the model. It
is a medium that can be used at home to make multiple copies. I personally
find it a far better system to make multiple chimneys than whole
plastic kits and
There are now some really first class kits
available. Of note are those by Wills and Ratio. They can be easily 'kitbashed'
to produce unique structures. I will always look at their ranges before
embarking upon a scratch build. In addition, Wills produce a comprehensive
range of plastic sheets well moulded to simulate brick, slates, cobbles
etc. They also produce an excellent range of building accessories such as
drain pipe, windows, etc.
Many of the structures on County Gate are
produced from these materials. In 20/20 hindsight, I would not have used
some of their roofing sheets. I should have laid individual tiles or
engine shed at County Gate
Some buildings, often semi-relief, are
supplied as vacuum mouldings. Langley supply a good range and with a
little work, excellent models result.
As mentioned earlier, a huge range is
available, mostly for American prototypes. A large selection of of timber
is also available for scratch building.
A few manufacturers have developed this
technique to near perfection. In the UK, Townstreet is about as good as it
gets. I used many of their panels and kits to produce the buildings on the
County Gate harbour module.
I have to say that working with plaster could
not be more messy. Some things are better not in plaster due to excessive
thickness. An example would be open doors. I favour using such castings in
conjunction with photo etched and metal cast details for the best effect.
It is certainly harder to glue components together but without doubt, the
texture is perfect for brick or stonework and it is a breeze to colour
wash for realistic results.
The downside? Well the models weigh a bloody
ton and if you intend to exhibit your layout, you had better get some very
strong friends to help!
These days, we are spoilt for choice. Plastic
details from Wills and a plethora of excellent photo etches from folks
such as Langley, Muswell Models, Shirescenes and Scalelink. A huge range
of detail castings are available so frankly, there really is no longer an
excuse for not getting it right. Some suppliers can be found in our
This versatile material is available from
most good model shops. I use it when I have to scratch build. The walls of
my Glenthorne Hotel were built in this way. I now wish I had not used
plastic sheet for the roofs, though.
The technique was pioneered by Emmanuel
Nouaillier and frankly, these days I am a disciple! The results are near
perfect and light structures are a result.
When people used to have pride in their
buildings, a great deal of ornamentation would be found. Fancy brickwork,
bargeboards and detailing can be quite hard to make. Luckily, folks like
Scalelink have an excellent range of details in white metal castings
and brass etchings. Details are available from many other sources too.
You will start to have problems if you decide
to accurately model an actual building. Details such as those shown above
are very challenging to make. This is when you have to blast into the 21st
century and use some new technology.
For computer Luddites, give up at this point
and go buy a kit!
Flat bed lasers can accurately cut certain
materials with extraordinary accuracy. They are also capable of engraving.
They usually work with a material called Rowmark, which is a bit like
Plasticard but stronger. Companies such as
York Modelmaking will happily take on special commissions. They prefer
that drawings are produced in vector (CDR, AI, DXF or DWG formats) but for
a further charge will convert a normal drawing to this format. Dimensions
must be given on the drawing of course. Below are examples of their work.
Rowmark can be glued with MEK and takes paint easily. They also supply a
comprehensive selection of doors and windows that will cover most needs.
Langley Miniatures supply an extraordinary
range of white metal cast details such as carved stone windows, porticos
and corbels. If you wish to model a specific prototype and require
several, you are going to have to make a pattern and cast them in resin.
I start off by carving the pattern in
modelling clay and then follow the methods described by
Sometimes you may even have to produce
guttering of a shape that is not commercially available. It is possible to
manufacture a die and form aluminium foil to the shape you require. The
result is good but delicate. Your other alternative is to make masters
have cast in resin.
Chimneys can also be challenging,
particularly if you have a lot to make. Again, you may very well have to
consider making a pattern and cast in resin.
You can have the best possible model but it
will look dreadful unless properly painted. At times, I take longer to
painted than I have taken to scratch build the model! Painting is covered
in the next chapter.