Making a shipping container for your model railroad

If you’ve ever fancied adding some shipping containers to your layout, Mike shows how easy it is with the latest print-out scenery:

“Making the shipping containers took me a few trial runs – but once I had the process right, I was surprised at how quick it was.

The first one I made was too detailed and took forever (the white one).

The second one was really quick – no detail – but didn’t look great. I binned it (no pic of this one).

The third one was a compromise and looked good (the blue one).

The fourth one took around 20 minutes and I was really pleased with it.

So, here’s what I did.

First, print out the container, stick to card and cut out (it’s HO scale).

shipping container print

Then, turn it round and score (cut lightly with a scalpel) where you need to fold. Doing this gives you a crisp, sharp fold.

Then, make the folds. I used the ruler to help keep the folds straight.

Now an important point. On the print, there are two rectangles. These are struts. Just cut them out and glue them to the inside of the container.

If you don’t do this, the structures bend, giving a very unrealistic appearance. It makes them almost look like they are inflatable models. Not good.

I just glue, hold them in place for a minute, then leave them for a mo.

Next, glue the ends to the flaps. Make sure it’s 100% square with the container then use a clip or clothes peg.

Once this is dry, it will give you a passable container. But it won’t look quite right. That’s because each side is completely flat. There is no ‘relief’ as John calls it.

It’s easy to fix this. Print some copies out.

Here, I’ve cut out an edge that I stuck to one of the sides.

Don’t throw the middle bit away. Just chop it up every 3 or 4 struts.

Now stick these struts back on to the container. I’ve left one protruding so you can see exactly what I mean. Doing this, with the frame, adds just enough to make the container a lot more realistic.

For the white one, I thought I’d do every strut. Looks fab, but… my eyes were going squiffy by the end of it, and it also took forever.

Now the fun bit, the weathering. I just use cheap waterpaints. Don’t add any water, just dunk the brush in the paint, scrape it nearly dry, and then dab on the container.

Make sure you use lots of different shades, and always mix.

I was pleased with the way they turned out. I could have gone to town with the weathering – but that’s the fun of them, it’s entirely up to you.


And now on to Hall of Fame member, Dangerous Dave:

“Hi Al, just loaded this video showing my PD! Deltic running round the layout, and then follow up with it using the Mobius Camera… poor weather so what better than an escape up in to the Train Room.


A big thanks to Dave, and talking of Hall of Fame members, I have an announcement:

Would you please welcome our newest member to the Hall of Fame…. Bill!

Bill’s done quite a few posts over the months. He’s done a wonderful job of documenting everything, right from the very start of his layout. It almost feels like I’ve been watching over his shoulder.

Anyhow, I went through all his posts the other month and I think it’s very fitting he’s in the Hall of Fame.

Please do leave a comment below if you’ve enjoyed his stuff as much as I have.

But the good news doesn’t stop there. It’s time for a silly sale.

I don’t run sales very often, but when I do, I want them to be the real thing.

So how about this – The Beginner’s Guide for just $9 and lots of free print out scenery? And yes, that includes the shipping containers. And the barns. And the tunnel. And the exclusive videos.

Like I said, it’s a very silly sale (but not for long).

And if you are unsure, here’s what our latest Hall of Fame member has to say on the Beginner’s Guide:

“I bought the ebook last fall actually and have it saved in my phone. Whenever I travel I spend some of my flight time enjoying flipping thru the pages.

I got the ebook just as I started to pull my track plan together and really enjoyed using the book as a refresher since I’d been out of the hobby as an actual participant since the mid 90’s. I found the book to be very well written and while geared for those just coming into the hobby it can teach old dogs new tricks.

There is a tremendous amount of detailed information and great tips in the book that modelers of every skill level will find useful. It’s a must have in my opinion. It has something for everyone that will make modeling more enjoyable and pull armchair modelers off seats and into a space where our hobby comes alive.

All the Best

Bill in Virginia”

So there you go folks.

A silly deal. I know some of you buy the guide just for the freebies, and that’s just fine too.

That’s all this time folks.

Please keep ’em coming – and please don’t miss this silly deal.



PS All the print out scenery is HO scale. For N scale, just reduce by 50% when you print it out.

PPS And tomorrow, there’s another new Hall of Fame member! Can you guess who?

15 Responses to Making a shipping container for your model railroad

  1. Paul Case says:

    Dave —I am interested in the Mobius cameras –which model do you have and could you show us a photo of how it is mounted on the railcar?

  2. Brian Messenger says:

    Hi Bill, welcome to this wonderful site. There is so much to learn even from long time modelers – like me.
    Brian the HOn3 guy – a hall of fame member from Knysna RSA

  3. Dan Hulitt says:

    Nice work, Mike. Very realistic. I wonder how they would take decals applied to the sides.

    And to Bill, congratulations, you have certainly earned the ‘hall of fame” moniker. Your posts are as Al would say, “fab!”.
    Mn Dan

  4. You certainly belong in the Hall of Fame. You are inspiring.

  5. Danny Marso says:

    The containers look great,nice work.

  6. Bill W says:

    The piece on containers was great, the added features add a lot. I solved the issue of ballooning. I made
    Several shipping containers and did not like the fact the sides do not stay straight. My solution was to leave an extra tab on the lower edge to fold under works well and saves gluing extra pieces.
    I am very new to this and am assembling pieces for my first layout for my great grandkids, this page has been a real bonus for me. I also bought the beginners book. Most of my scenery is going to be paper on card stock buildings. I bought used DCC locos at a swap meet that are in various stages of DCC readiness that is my biggest obstacle right now, if anybody can help please contact me.

  7. Benjamin Wright says:

    Great video Dave and a wonderful layout! You are very talented sir!

  8. Norman Rosen says:

    Every time I watch your video’s, I sit here with my ,mouth open in awe!

  9. Mick Eichler says:

    Thanks for sharing Mike. Where did you get the container file from? Got the impression it may have been one of Al’s but couldn’t find any listed.
    Cheers, Mick

  10. The Mobious can be found on Amazon , its the same one I use , and I mount it on the chasis of a coal tender with the body removed …will try and show in a future video …Dangerous Dave

  11. Peter briggs says:

    Dave, your authentic track ‘aging’ is by far the best I’ve ever ever seen, it is quite simply, the bar set for others to emulate! Seeing as your layout is so stunning I hesitate to comment but…. to take the universal award for complete reality you now need to weather your coaches wagons and locos. i was particularly taken with your amalgamation of scenery into your backdrop. It is So enjoyable watching the culmination of your modelling efforts, well done old son!

  12. Emulate the container wall corrugation with cutouts is quite a task… was thinking right away about 3D printing the pieces and then glue them together… or making a press bed and roller – cogbar and cogwheel – for ‘corrugating’ the card stock and then glue it – by the inside ribs – to a flat paper so it keeps its corrugation, just like corrugated cardboard is created – but onside close only. — Then – Dave – thanks for the nice summer rainy attic video of a ‘keep the dust of’ run.

  13. Ross Johnston says:

    Great video Dave! I REALLY enjoy “cab view” videos. Cheers Rossco

  14. Ian McDonald says:

    great how to on containers the net gave me n scale containers size. great video Dave I never tire of seeing your collection of trains running. thanks all for sharing.

  15. Robert Brady says:

    Great Vid Dave as always missed you for awhile there buddy.

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