Model Railroad Scratchbuilding


Model railroading not only comes in many scales and has a variety of gauges (distances between rails) available, but also permits a broad variety of opportunities to enthusiasts. This space focuses on one such opportunity, that of creating models from scratch.

For purists, scratchbuilding means making everything from basic materials such as wood, metal, and plastic, but a practical compromise is to use commercially available castings, gears, and similar items to enable modelers without professional machining skills to participate in scratchbuilding.

Many modelers have assembled buildings from kits. Kits range in complexity from basic plastic or laser-cut wood kits to elaborate craftsman kits which often cost $100 or more. Some modelers construct kitbashed buildings from parts of two or more kits. Once a kit is completed, some modelers like to add details, such as weathering the exterior.

In a sense, scratchbuilding lets modelers extend their horizons. A modeler can build things that are not available in kits. A modeler can also add large and small details to existing structures, whether kit-built or otherwise.

Scratchbuilding isn't limited to buildings. Railroad bridges and trestles may be scratchbuilt, perhaps based on prototype plans. Freight cars and passenger cars can be scratchbuilt with just a few commercial items, such as trucks, couplers, and a handful of castings. Locomotives can be scratchbuilt similarly, including an electric motor, gearbox, and DCC unit.

Model railroaders often select an era and a geographic locale, although this limitation is optional. A transition era layout, presenting the flavor of the 1945-50 period, might contain a variety of structures that are no longer in existence. A little research in railroad books, railroad history societies, and the Internet can turn up jewels of structures, railcars, and so forth that pull the observer into that place and time.

This wikispaces location is designed to echo a Railfun presentation on scratchbuilding given to the HUB Division of the Northeastern Region of the National Model Railroad Association.