top of page


Model Railroad Structure Building Practice

Shown above are two good options for launching your structure skills building program. On the left is AM Model’s “Williamsburg Yard Office” (Walthers pn 129-103), on the right is Pikestuff’s “Small Yard Office” (Walthers pn 541-5)

The clients that I see generally have many things in common. Typically they’ve been waiting decades to have a layout, building structures is the aspect of the hobby they are looking forward to the most, and they are at the beginning of the learning curve. Over the years most have accumulated a fairly large inventory of kits they are chomping at the bit to assemble.

If this description fits you, welcome to the club! While waiting for “the day”, the day you eventually have that dream layout why not start developing the necessary skills to build those kits and have some fun learning as you do so. Specifically, a practice program based on inexpensive, easy to build kits that will lay the foundation for the more involved structure models you eventually want to build. Shown above art two sheds that make ideal practice subjects, the AM Models kit for older eras, the Pikestuff model for more modern time periods. I suggest buying three or four of whichever one you choose, build all of them, and have the mindset that the first one will be pretty rough (and should likely be thrown away), the second one better, and by the third attempt, you’ll start seeing progress.

The tools and supplies necessary are relatively basic, and will be needed as you move on to more involved projects.

  • An X-acto knife with a number 11 blade

  • Sandpaper in grits ranging from 200 to 400 (hardware store)

  • MEK for adhesive (hardware store)

  • A small brush to apply the adhesive

  • White glue to use for gluing the windows in

  • Toothpicks and T-pins for applying adhesives

  • Modelers putty (contour putty) to fill any gaps where you join parts together (Testors contour putty pn 3511)

  • Rustoleum Light Gray Primer

  • Flat white spray paint

As far as building the kits, begin by slicing the parts from the sprue with the X-acto knife. Remove any remaining burrs with a few passes of sand paper. Join the parts by applying a film of MEK at the seams. This will take practice as you learn where the line is between not enough and too much adhesive. Fill any gaps in your joints with the contour putty. Work the contour putty in sparingly, in several layers (as opposed to one thick pass). Sometimes the putty application can be aided by working it in with a small brush dampened with MEK. Gently sand out any blemishes with the finer grit sandpaper you purchased. Once assembled, spray the model with the light gray primer. After the primer has dried a few minutes, fog on your structure color using spray paint of the color of your choice(I suggest white when just starting out but whatever color you choose make sure it is flat, not glossy). If your roof is sheet metal, paint it with light gray primer, if it’s tar paper use Rustoleum “Dark Gray” primer. Finally, glue the windows in using white glue for adhesive. With each successive kit practice making cleaner joints and smoother paint applications.

795 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Loren Clarke
Loren Clarke
Aug 04, 2021

Great beginner tutorial. I wish that I would have read something like this some 30 years ago. Like they say "You have to learn to walk before you can run".

bottom of page