Model railroad scratch building

Mike’s been busy with his model railroad scratch building:

“Good Morning Al:

Hear a few photos of some of the scratch built structures on my layout.

There are many of us who just do not have a basement or family room to devote to large layouts. I am a retired golf instructor. I quit the game and teaching after 54 years in the game amid COVID.

I kept busy (at my wife’s encouragement, yes that is no typo) by entering back into model railroading. I converted my golf room into my train room. I am really glad I did.

Fellow model railroaders, our hobby is like no other. We have a keen interest in railroading and a need to model our dreams and memories.

I came from a railroad family. My great grandfather, grand father and father all worked for the CB&Q RR and a spur. Totaling all their time, 110 years.

They all worked many jobs as they rose up in the ranks. But the one quality that they enjoyed most was family. Not just those they were related to, but those they worked side by side with daily. That same family is carried over into our hobby.

We Model railroaders are family in the sense of sharing ideas and encouraging each other. Alastair Lee has allowed me to see, and be seen, layouts from all over the world.

My layout started by first analyzing two criteria, available space and budget. I’m retired and stay within my means. I plan my expenditures, budget for the things I need/want.

I could spend more, but I found that when I metered out the cash…. I stayed on track (no pun intended) with my individual phases goals as the layout progressed.

What I have now took just over two years. I took my time and did it per plan. Getting track down, turnouts working allowed me to run trains.

Now the real fun began… scratch building. I studied architecture in high school, have a reasonable art ability and like wood working. So when it came time to add character to the blank canvas of the layout… those three all came together. My waive was a graphic artist. We always had all sorts of materials around I could “borrow”.

When I started out, I wanted real buildings that existed in the real world.

I spent time driving around the Midwest small towns where history still lives.

I photographed structures with character that just called out to be remembered, at least in miniature.

I approached each structure with the thought… they are not board for board exact copies. No one was going to live in them. They need to reflect an impression I had at first sight.

I have built more than 50 buildings in three years. Some are for a cousin’s 8 by 20 layout.

One is for a young YouTuber in Canada (SMT Mainline) and even one for a small boy in Moscow, Russia.

I have used different methods of construction to vary the feel of the buildings to avoid all looking alike. There are elements that I like and use more often, but not on every building.

Here are a few of the buildings as examples of what I saw in my travels that would fit a theme, modeling the CB&Q RR in the rural area of the Midwest 1960 and prior.

I have three kits as well on my layout that were small and filled a small footprint.

My cousin has a lot of real estate to fill and buys RTR buildings. I can’t build them fast enough to fill the 8 by 20 layout.


model train layout overhead view

model railroad scratch building water tower

model railroad scratch building church

model railroad scratch building garage HO scale

model railroad scratch building buildings

I did enjoy Mike’s Model railroad scratch buildings – but I’ll bet Mike enjoyed making them more.

Now on to Hall of fame member, John:

“Hi Al,

Another update..

Around the start of this year I decided to depart from my Yankee ways to and build a UK themed layout.

The layout is a small shunting/switching layout and roughly 12×24 inches including the fiddle area.

All structures are built from card with the buffer stops being built without any print out kit. (Yes, the buffer stops are card also.

I have not yet figured out how to work with the tension lock couplers. While proper three link couplers would be nice, fitting them looks like more pain than value. I am also aware that many modelers in the UK are switching to Kadee couplers that are highly functional but look out of place.

I think that I need to add a few clouds to the backdrop/back scene and there is something else that doesn’t seem quite right but I am otherwise happy with this effort.

I like to name my layouts but so far nothing has really “stuck” — Penny Lane is way too trite (and while I know it is sacrilege, I much prefer Herman’s Hermits, the Troggs, and Petula Clark to the Beatles.) – Quay House Road has a good ring as does Canal Street Quay.  



model train warehouse

model train scratch build buffers

model railroad loading platform

model railroad shelf layout

model train shunting shelf layout

model railway shelf layout

A big thanks to Mike for sharing his model railroad scratch buildings, and to John.

Can’t wait to see what they come up with next, I really like any scratch building, and of course the printable buildings.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming though.

And if today is the day you decide to roll your sleeves up and join in the fun, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

10 Responses to Model railroad scratch building

  1. David Howarth says:

    Nice work on those scratch Builds Mike , and john you are making a nic dirama there , as or the coupleers they do a magnetic one now which are easy to fit and work very well , especially the new ones with double magnets ..Hunts do them ..Dangerous Dave

  2. Stephen Hill Woodstock GA says:

    Mike , Al is right that is a stunning layout . Serious detail both in the scratch builds and the overall scenery . Very nice , very well thought out . You’ve done a great job . Like the rest of us …. what’s next ?

  3. Rob McCrain says:

    Mike, I am impressed and admire scratch builders. Nice job of it. In fact, I like your whole layout. It looks very interesting and I would bet in person one could spend quite a time of studying the details. John, Nice shunting layout. Many folks don’t realize a small shelf layout can be just as satisfying as a large roundy roundy one. It all depends on the detail and effort one puts in to it. Great efforts both of you,
    Rob McCrain – Farland Howe

  4. Rob Schweitzer says:

    Mike, one question: where is the driving range on that layout?

  5. Theodore Eggleston says:

    What is a good remote video camera that I could mount on rolling stock to film the train while moving and see the results on a tv or Ipad? Thank you

  6. Dave Humphreys says:

    Beautiful work Mike.

  7. Timothy Morlok says:

    Mike: very nice scratch built structures .
    Theodore, if you live in the U.S., check out the new MicroMark catalog. They have the Scientific HO scale camera car w/ wood carry case that connects to your smartphone or tablet for under $145.00 total cost including S&H.

  8. Mr, Ron from South Mississippi says:

    Hi Mike, For a smalll layout, yours is one of the best I have ever seen.

  9. Will in NM says:

    Mike, excellent layout and scratch-built structures! I admire your skill as well as your method of photographing actual structures you want to model. I also like your philosophy of not trying to exactly duplicate the original structure in HO scale, but capture the feeling of it.

    One question: Are the upper levels of your layout connected to the lower levels? A track plan would help to clarify that question.

  10. william janmes palmer says:


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