Some basic questions about structures

Matt Burris Nov 26, 2007

  1. Matt Burris

    Matt Burris TrainBoard Member


    Being new to the hobby and Trainboard as my main source of education, I need a crash course in structures.

    I have a Walther's catalog. I'm assuming from what I see that there are atleast 2 ways to buy structures. Kits and already built models. Beyond that I'm lost.

    Just so you know where I'm coming from, I'm not really picky. I want my layout to look nice, but at the same time, I'm not looking for anything like Rod Stewart has. Just looking for a few cheap plastic structures to get me up and running. Possibly looking for something coal related, grain related, general freight related, a few houses too.

    I guess I'm just looking for ready built types unless the kits don't require painting and are just a glue or snap together affair. I'll have more of a railfanning layout then actual hardcore models. I saw some Model Power ready builts in a hobby store and something along those lines was acceptable to me as far as looks. Here's a few questions:

    1. I'm guessing that some of these kits have parts that come molded in the color they need to be? Is painting the parts optional, or required?

    2. Who makes the least expensive ready builts that look half way decent? As said above, I have seen Model Power's ready builts first hand so if you could compare to them, that would be helpful.

    3. Are there any brands you would recommend or any particular brands I should avoid? I notice they really vary in price. Looks like Bachmann has some really inexpensive structures?

    I'm not really interested in painting and fitting parts, but if the kits of certain brands were simply a cut parts from the parts tree and glue in place, and have the final result look like that same companies ready built version, I may be interested in doing that to save a few bucks.

    If they are ready builts, I guess I'd be willing to spend up to $30 for my 2 or 3 biggest pieces like a feedmill or something. When it comes to houses and the smaller things, need to go as cheap as I can. In other words money is an issue.


  2. kristof65

    kristof65 TrainBoard Member

    In my experience, most of the kits from the major manufacturers come molded in enough colors that you can just assemble them without having to paint them, although they will look better painted. This isn't true for all kits/manufacturers though, so you'll probably want to ask before you buy any given kit.

    Almost all of the prebuilt structures I've seen look about the same in quality, with perhaps Kato's being a bit better off. There are companies and individuals out there who will build kits up for you as well, though they aren't cheap. Perhaps you have an avid model builder in your family who could be persuaded to build some kits for you, too?

    You can often find stuff on ebay as well - I just finished auctioning off a lot of HO Scale buildings from the HO Layout I abandoned, and there were numerous kits my dad & I had built. The winning bidder wound up with some $300-400 worth of buildings for less than $50. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has done this there.

    You may want to consider learning how to craft paper buildings. There are many levels of paper modeling, but you can often find books of preprinted structures that are nothing more than boxes you have to fold up and glue together. If you have a steady hand with a knife, are good with glue and conceptualizing turning a 2d printed paper into a 3d model, paper models can go a long way toward quickly populating a decent looking layout. Be careful - there are very complex paper models out there too which can take as long or longer to build than a comparable plastic/wood model - you'll probably be looking for the less expensive book based ones - I've seen a few in O and HO scale, I've never looked in N-scale. Or if you're good with a computer and have a decent printer, there are numerous programs out there for designing your own paper models. But not everyone can grasp the folding needed to turn a 2d print into a 3d model, even with the best of directions - if you're one of those who can, it's probably the cheapest and fastest way out there to build a halfway decent looking layout with little effort.
  3. onegreenturtle

    onegreenturtle E-Mail Bounces

    dear everetto, a lot of people boo hoo ebay but if you are patient and a little knowledgable you can get some good deals there. many people sell groups of finished structures all together for one bid. again be patient. there is always another group if the bidding gets too high for your pocketbook. that is the way i'm going about my layout. you hear guys in here talk about.." i ordered 10 of those at such and such a price." well, that is something beyond my budget. keep your enthusiasm going and get what you can afford. have fun. this is just my 2 cents.
  4. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    Well, the built ups are kinda nice just to get going but they'll drain your budget fast.

    I think the Walthers kits are nice kits. Very well molded and go together nicely.

    DPS makes nice town brick structures. They are really nice and fun to paint although time consuming.

    You will need tools:
    Xacto w/ #11 blades I use this to shave off excess plastic by holding the blade at a right angle to the piece being worked.

    Some kind of cutters to cut pieces off of sprues. I've cried my eyes out over pieces I lazily pried off of a sprue and got damaged. Learn to take your time and nip the pieces off.

    A small 00 paint brush for applying liquid glue.

    300 grit sand paper for sanding things.

    Glue, I use any of the liquid glues that basically soften the plastic creating a weld between pieces. the most critical thing here is having a good tool for applying so that the glue doesn't spread out onto the details of your plastic structure.

    Painting is not optional to my way of thinking. I use everything from spray cans to little jars of every brand of paint known to the model world. Humbrol makes the best paint as far as I'm concerned. With paint it's basically either Latex or Enamel. Both have their good and bad points. I prefer enamels as they just go on more smoothly, but they have their health risks from the solvents involved.

    Spray paints come in all sorts of "railroad colors", but I find the official model railroad products to be twice as expensive as just buying a can down at the hardware store.

    A good example of the price rip off on spray paint. On a previous layout I used Floquil rail brown the weather my track. It was a little half can of paint for more than what I paid for a big can of cammo brown paint from a regular paint manufacturer.

    Always wash out your brushes. I use hand soap and leave a little soapy water in the brush so you can shape it before it dries.

    I could go on and on about this subject. I would suggest you use search to find old threads about assembling and painting structures.

    I hope this helps
  5. Matt Burris

    Matt Burris TrainBoard Member

    Thanks for the information guys! :)
  6. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    There is another short term way to go.
    In the short run use various blocks of this and that to hold the location for your buildings. You might use blocks of foam or paper towel rolls or cracker boxes.

    Paint them all a solid concrete color, ad windows and doors.
    That will save your budget until you have time and resources to proceed.
  7. Matt Burris

    Matt Burris TrainBoard Member

    That's not a bad idea. Pringles grain silo, here we come!! :D
  8. Lark

    Lark TrainBoard Member

    Once, and probably in the...

    ...future I made photo copies of DPM kit wall fronts, Glue-stiked them to chipboard and used colored pencils to color. You can even score the corners if you need 3D models. A good way to play with buildings for kitbashing- roofline studies, height, etc.

    I also stop by a great hobbyshop near me that sells badly assembled kits at $2-$3. I guess they buy lots (prolly from ebay) but I dis-assemble for my treatment.

    Just another's thoughts.

  9. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter


    I hate paying good money for kits that everyone else has, and that are overpriced, IMHO. So I scrounge. I scan DPM modules and build skyscrapers from the scans around cheap foamcore or matte board "boxes". I take digital pictures of interesting buildings, print them, and wrap them around the same boxes. The key is to take the pictures straight on, unless you have software to straighten images. I look for bargains on eBay. I buy lighthouses for $10 or less when I visit New England. I buy, on eBay, some Christmas porcelain houses for $1.00 a piece. Some of them are hideous; others OK. I use Walthers printed papers from 1967 for stone walls. I scan them and assemble them with computer software to make bigger pieces. Most of my techniques require some fabrication, but nothing more than assembling, for example, a DPM kit.

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