Scratch builds on Mike’s layout

Mike’s been back in touch with more of his fantastic scratch builds:

“Good morning Al:

Here are more of my scratch builds.

The church and Merchantile are for my cousin in the Midwest. The others are on my small layout.

Everything except windows and doors are materials I have in my wife’s art room art room. Until I can figure out a jig to make the windows, I’ll buy them.

The Union hotel is a building that is in Union Nebraska. It was a place that train crews stayed half way between Chicago and the west coast.

The Post Office is a small town in Nebraska. Both buildings use the same technique you employ in your structures.

The Mercantile is actually a mill in Nebraska, but the layout needed a small town merchants shop…so it became a Mercantile.

The best part of modeling is the flexibility and diversity in building structures that fit a layout’s theme and era. It was through your site the first time I followed you that a modeler right her in Central Florida reached out to me to get involved in his potentially new club.

One of his friends has a Lionel 3-rail scale layout. I am helping him get his buildings and landscaping up to a finish. He likes what I do and wants the same detail, just on a larger scale. It took me a while to get use to building on big boy’s scale…😬.

It is always good to see what others are doing as they share on your site.

I only wish that I had started many years ago while my father was still alive. He had 40 years with the CB&Q railroad, a wealth of knowledge. Because of his extensive knowledge, he road with the Flying Scotsman when it toured here many years ago.

scratch builds model train

scratch builds model train

scratch builds model train

model railroad building

scratch builds  model train building

model railroad track curve scenery

scratch builds  model train scratch  built scenery

model train building scenery

scratch builds  scratch built model railroad apartments

scratch built model train house

scratch builds  model train display shelf freight

scratch built model train buildings

Recent comments/criticism of my layout after your last post missed what my layout is intended to accomplish.

My study model was just that, a study of space availability. The space was used to showcase my builds and run my trains.

I sent you an overhead of the layout and the wall display cases built to store my trains. The small covered case holds most of my engines. I have always contended that a small space can contain plenty of detail and interest.

model train shelf

model train shelf

model train shelf

model railroad overhead view

A couple of the comments on the last post wanted to know/see how the raised rib roofing is made.

Here are three pics of the jig I made and what it looks like and the materials I used to make the roofing.

The jig is a piece of MDF with two piano wires drilled in at both ends, parallel to one another at a 12” O Scale spacing.

I use the same one for HO…. All of the buildings I sent photos of had the roofing made on this same jig.

I use Coke can aluminium and copper sheeting to make the roofing panels… each panel will be what ever I want to make it, but usually six ribs or about 48” in scale.

I would estimate that I have spent 40 hours per week working to always improve what is there. I have built 20 structures for my cousins 8 by 20 layout in the Midwest.

I have plans to build a dozen more for him. Each building are models of actual structures I find traveling the small towns of America…. No plastic RTR that can be bought in a store. That is not meant to be critical, but to say… they are all one-offs… no other layout has them. Again, my passion for preservation of the past.

Cheers mate and a Very Happy and Blessed Christmas to you and family.

Clermont, FL”

A huge big thanks to Mike.

There’s one particular line in his narrative that jumped out at me:

“My study model was just that, a study of space availability. The space was used to showcase my builds and run my trains.”

Amen to that!

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

25 Responses to Scratch builds on Mike’s layout

  1. Philip Underwood says:

    Lovely layout, I love the design, amazing what can be achieved in small spaces. Keep up the good work 🙂👍

  2. Robert Brady says:

    Mike I think you just inspired me to make display cases maybe with clear crystallite doors .
    The Critic

  3. Bob Cassidy says:

    What great workmanship! Great job Mike!

  4. DJfromNJ says:

    Mike, I love the jig for raised rib roofing … genius! It is an excellent example of “KISS.” Also, your entire layout area is very well organized and displayed.
    And we have Al to thank for providing a place for RR modelers to share ideas.

  5. Stephen Hill Woodstock GA says:

    Wow Mike those are just incredible, very realistic detail . There is indeed an acquired skill to that level of modeling and you have excelled . Thank you for sharing your tips and insights, your display is amazing , look forward to seeing your continued work.

  6. NJ Mark says:

    You are a pretty lucky guy to be able to spend 40 hours each week on your buildings, etc.

  7. George Zaky says:

    Awesome stuff you created.
    Your walls are fantastic- how do you get them to look like real brick?

  8. Old Taz says:

    Beautiful job Mike Looks like you and your wife are both artists I’m not sure what kind of windows you’re buying . What about making a Mold of the windows And cast again in resin. I make molds Of things that I’m going to use a lot of , like automobiles , like automobiles And plastic buildings That I want to extend or use the fronts To make a bigger building . Some of the molding material I use is flexible That would make it easier to get your windows out of the mold . If you have to assemble these windows the symbolum then make a mold of them That way you can make as many as you want to . I have molds of things that I molded 10 years ago and still you’ll use them.
    Season greetings And quickly click

  9. Larry Schweitzer says:

    A beautiful collection. Thanks for showing us. I use pop can aluminum to protect surfaces when clamping on my lathe and milling machine. Thin section of wood or card stock can be die formed using moisture and clamping or vacuum forming. Dies can be mad of hardwoods or soft metals, aluminum and a Dremel tool. Textures add 3D enhancing the look. It also makes adding aging, dirt easier. All you need is a very soft brush and some powered colorants. Test first!Even a wire brush can add texture.

  10. Roger Jenkins says:

    Excellent work Mike, you’re a craftsman for sure.

  11. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Mike…..great job……great detail on the buildings and especially the roads.

  12. Timothy J Smolinski says:

    Mike, YOU are a true artisan! The weathering job really brought the structures into scale! GREAT WORK!

  13. TOM WALKER..... says:


  14. Will in NM says:

    Really classy layout! Especially the scratch-built structures and all the details. Your jig for making corrugated metal roofs is simple and well-designed for its purpose.

    I have a similar train room in my house with a test layout and display cases for some of my rolling stock that are similar to your locomotive display case. My layout has not progressed to the level of completion that yours has, but it does give me a place to run and test my trains.

  15. william janmes palmer says:

    awesome buildings nicely done

  16. Kevin McArdle says:

    Wonderful train room and I love the display cases, thanks for sharing. Oh, and great scratch builds.

  17. Brian Olson says:

    Yep, that’s why someone invented the word “Craftmanship”

  18. Steve Ruple says:

    Mike, a awesome way to build your own buildings. I like the way you make the roof sections a clever way to do it. I also like your display cases and how you arranged them, very sharp !!!!!

  19. Bob From Towson says:

    Love your buildings especially the awnings on the windows. I would love to do that but I dont have a clue how. I wonder did you purchase them or fabricate them???

  20. TOM HIRSCH says:

    Mike do you have a Track Plan of your Nice Layout ?

  21. Gerald Edgar says:

    Structures (esp Hdwe bldg), the “dirt” embankment AND of course all the CB&Q rolling stock are 1st rate. See you @ BRHS Spring Meet? Gerald Edgar

  22. Matt says:

    Excellent post. Great buildings. You are a very talented builder.
    I keep seeing where people find uses for piano wire, among other things. Recently, I had to dismantle a 100 year old Weber Grand. It was a great piano, and we kept it in tune, but when we moved, the new house was too small. We tried selling, then giving it away. Nobody wants big pianos anymore. Well, the point of this is that I have been throwing out so many pieces and parts, and I had better stop, so I can find ways to use some of the things on my new layout. I got rid of the bigger strings, and now I have the thinner ones. Metal guitar strings too. Lots of little wooden contraptions with springs and screws and hinges….

  23. Terence Plunkett says:

    The scratch built stuff from both Richard and Mike is just extraordinary in its detail and quality. Got to admire that level of skill and patience!

  24. robert dale tiemann says:

    ive seen this kind of display case making before. its always cool. i also like the building on a lazy susan.(i gues thats what it is), makes it easier to looks at all sides.

  25. Don says:

    the water tower & church are just right, the pillars to hold up the tracks are great as well

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