How do you model buildings?

Discussion in 'Structures' started by trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017), Nov 14, 2009.

  1. trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017)

    trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017) Passed away September 22, 2017

    :confused: For you who model buildings...I need advice on what materials to use and any tips in general. Let me explain...
    There are 2 buildings that I would like to model but I don't know exactly how to get started.
    1st - The old (but still standing) "Sulligent Cotton Oil Company" building in Sulligent, AL.
    Photo at
    (Sorry but I can't figure out how to attach photos to posts yet!?!):(
    2nd - The last Frisco depot in Sulligent, AL (Demolished before I can remember but the slab is still there for measurements).
    Photo at
    I tried to model the Sulligent Cotton Oil building. I took measurement with a 300' tape measure and devided them by 87 (I think that's how you come up with HO scale). I used 1/4" foam board from Walmart to build the form. I modeled the outer appearance with computer graphics, printed them, cut them out, and glued them to the form. It was pretty OK for my first attempt ever but it was still a disappointment that I eventually discarded.:( It just looked like a paper building and I was really wanting more of a plasticville-like product...something that actually looked like the real thing only in HO scale...not just a little fake-looking paper building.:D
    Anyone have any tips about materials and just general advice for someone who has never really modeled a building before (at least not one that pleased me)?
  2. Frisco2008

    Frisco2008 Member Supporter

    The first building looks like it was bult from Walthers Modular parts.

    To attach photos, scroll down the reply page, past the message box, and find a buton called "manage uploads."

    Glenn Young
  3. Sirfoldalot

    Sirfoldalot Supporter Supporter

    In the message "box" there is a symbol of a paper clip - that will open a box that will allow U to browse U'r computer to the folder that has the photo you want - then click "upload" - then drag the bar to the bottom where it says "close window". Your photo's are now ready to post.

    Hope this helps.

  4. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter

    I agree with Glenn 100% on the first building about using Walthers modular parts. If you are going to move forward in that direction, an initial investment in some good modeling tools will really help. I'm not talking about the obvious, but about things like Coffman Right Clamps and maybe Splice Clamps as an example.
    Concerning the other building, possibly consider using sheet styrene for the walls and Grandt Line windows. This building because of it varience in materials and shapes will present a challenge.
  5. bootheel

    bootheel Member

    Just a side note there is a Cotton Oil mill still in operation in Kennett, Mo. It used to ship on the Frisco (BNSF), until it was abandoned in 90's. The brick building is similar to your building but there are many metal warehouses and a large storage tank for the oil. The siding usually had space for a few tank cars and several boxcars. The company now uses trucks
  6. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Take a look at some of the Walthers Cornerstone buildings and see if something might be able to be kit-bashed into what you want. Take for example the Cornerstone 2953 Freight Office (below). I believe several of these kits will help you build what you are after in the Sulligent, AL Cotton Oil Co.

    If you need old style window & door frames, check out this ebay item listing - I bought a bunch earlier this year:

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2009
  7. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Brandon -
    For your depot project, St. Louis-area modeler Gary Hoover used Foam-Kor as a base to build a very nice model of the ASTF San Bernardino depot - it was a 2-part series in Model Railroader in the last couple of years.

    He used the foam board as the base, cutting window openings and used styrene (one could probably use strathmore board or other similar cardstock) with commercial window castings, and then oversprayed it with a buff/concrete textured spray paint from a home center.

    I thought the model looked pretty good - the thickness of the foam board accurately represented the masonry construction and looked to be a great method for constructing similar but smaller Frisco depots (Sulligent, Valley Park, Boliver, Monett, Hayti and others).

    Once we get around to it, I'll probably use a similar method to represent the visible, on-stage portions of Kansas City Union Station.

    Best Regards,
  8. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year


    I'm with you on wanting my buildings to look "right." Cardboard or foamcore mock-ups are great for stand-ins but they don't really look like the building should look. Today's commerical kits are amazing but no one except Dale Rush has created an accurate Frisco structure kit. It's difficult to see a Walthers wood grain elevator and imagine it is Lenexa Feed and Seed Co. These signature structures need to be scratchbuilt in order to capture the character of the town being modeled.

    Bob Hoover is correct in stating that sheet styrene, Grandt Line windows, etc. are the best starting point for any scratchbuilt building. Don Wirth's amazing structures of Newburg are great examples of how signature buildings can be made from readily available materials.

    I included a photo with a bit of KCT Tower 4 included to illustrate my method for scratchbuilding a structure. While is takes a lot of time to scale and resolve problems, here are the main steps I use.

    1. Get the best photos possible and scale the features from something that is a standard size like a door. If you have detailed plans that is even better.

    2. Decide on the main structure material you will need. For example my Lenexa depot needed lap siding. Evergreen makes that so no problem there. For Tower 4 I needed concrete which is not in production. Second best? Sheet styrene is the next best so Evergreen was used again.

    3. Determine the best available commerically made windows and doors and use them. Sometimes you will find the perfect door or window but sometimes we can only get close. If something is real important, I will scratchbuild it like the transom over the door on the Lenexa Depot or the 6 panel doors on Tower 4. These can be easily made with styrene structure shapes.

    4. Once my materials are gathered or mostly gathered, I will build the shell of the structure out of sheet styrene. It will need to be braced and squared as you go. Believe it or not styrene will bend over time if it is not adequately braced. This is a good time to mark and cut out the window openings. Next, I laminate the final layer of siding on the shell and then carefully cut the door and window openings in the outer layer continually test fitting so I don't oversize the opening.

    5. The order of painting and detailing depends on how the structure will look. For Tower 4 the windows and doors appear to be white so I painted them separately from the building structure (concrete color) and inserted them after both building and windows/doors were thoroughly dry. I made my door/window openings just large enough so they fit snugly.

    6. Final details like signs, gas meters, hand rails, glass can be done after the building is painted and fitted with millwork.

    Brandon, the depot you are wanting is very interesting with lots of character. I hope you consider creating this out of styrene, brick sheet, etc. I think if you take your time, ask questions and post your progress on the website, you will have a unique, signature structure on your layout that sez "Sulligent, AL"

    Attached Files:

  9. Sirfoldalot

    Sirfoldalot Supporter Supporter

    Very nice post, Rick. Thanks for the details of construction. I would like to see several photos of the complete structure please - when you have time or get around to it. One of these days you better shovel some dirt under the steps before they break from the stress of being suspended. :D

    Whose brand is 4001?
    Where was tower 4 located?
  10. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Sherrel -
    Mark D., Rick, Karl or any others can probably better describe Tower 4's location but it was generally west of Kansas City Union Station in the "West Bottoms." It was where Frisco traffic NB on the Northern Division either turned to go east to Union Station, or kept heading north to 19th Street.

    Here's some prototype pictures, along with more pictures of Rick's model, on the KC Terminal Social Group...

    Best Regards,
  11. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    As Roseanne Rosanadana would say, "You ask a lotta questions, Mr. Weems."

    Yes I admit I am violating some law of physics and construction here. . . and there.

    2-8-2 4001 is a Broadway Limited and I love it although I need to figure out how to turn the volume down.

    Tower 4 (raized in the late 70s or early 80's) was just south of the SLSF 19th Yard and it protected the KCT crossing with the Frisco. Here are a couple of photos.

    This is a neat shot of a RI transfer returning to Armourdale. That white structure is Kemper Arena. About 1978.

    This shot is looking north a little closer than the previous shot and it was taken about 1958.

    Pretty neat area and structures. Maybe I am biased.
  12. Sirfoldalot

    Sirfoldalot Supporter Supporter

    Looked at the pic Chris directed me too!
    Looked at the pic Rick directed me too!

    Superb job on the proto and the model.
    Thanks, Guys :)

    PS: I sure wish that I had spent more time in the "bottoms" during the 60's .. and certainly made more photos.
  13. SteveM

    SteveM Member Supporter

    I'm wondering if in two days the gentleman from Sulligent has been overwhelmed. It wasn't clear how much experience he has in modeling in general. Since he's actually in Sulligent, capturing the feel of the buildings is an extra challenge. Non-modelers will be familiar with the buildings that he produces. Daunting, ehh?
    Also, Evergreen and Grandt Line may not be familiar to him. Does he have the Walthers catalog to peruse or a reasonable hobby shop to visit? What magazines does he read? Does he know about NMRA meetings that might have clinics to help him?
    I've read stacks and stacks of magazines; Rick has seen my shelves, I think. But when I start my first judgeable buildings (because I need a couple of signature structures to really say Fort Smith! and Van Buren!) I will have some of the same questions and trepidations.
    On the other hand, it must be great to have such a warm reception, which is the group's hallmark. One step further from Rick's post: could Richard's clinic from Pittsburg be uploaded for all those poor folks who didn't get to attend? Lots of modeling hints there. Who's in the general area of Sulligent who could provide advice?
  14. trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017)

    trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017) Passed away September 22, 2017

    Since I started this thread, let me be more specific. I have NO "scratch building" experience with "model" stuff. However, I'm pretty good at coming up with ideas and building other stuff...that is...when I can get my hands on the materials. So...
    What is the best one-stop source to get supplies for "scratch building?" Walthers? Hobbyshops? Ebay? How do you find exactly (or even close to) the items you need?
    I joined about a month ago I think and I've seen some extremely nice, mind-blowing, scratch-built, HO replicas of real buildings and that's what I want to do with buildings in my area.
    As for local hobby shops...
    From Sulligent it's a 100+ mi trip to the closest HobbyTownUSA (Birmingham area). There is a Hobby Lobby in Tupelo (50 mi.). Are there hobby shops in the Columbus/Tupelo, MS area or the Tuscaloosa or Florence, AL area? Sulligent is 5.5 miles east of the MS/AL line on the B'ham subdivision. I would be willing to drive 100 miles in any direction to find a good hobby shop.
    If I can get the materials, I'll figure out a way to built it or get hurt trying!
  15. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter


    There is no clear cut choice for supplies except for probably Walthers. They ship fast, have a great selection, and I believe have a set shipping charge no matter how large the order is. Having said that I would suggest starting with the following manufacturers and seing if you can find what you want.


    Look in ALL categories


    Look in the Architectual and Detail Parts, Trackside Details, and Augtmentables categories


    One of my favorite places as this was one of the original producers of cast pewter items back in the 1970's. They have everything from electric meters to windows and doors to barrels and feed sacks. Start in the 2000 series metal castings.

    Why don't you start here and some of us can probably think of some other favorite sources.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2009
  16. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter

  17. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Here here, Brandon. For a town of our size (Columbia, MO - approximately 100,000 there are NO hobby shops whatsoever. So it takes a drive out of town or mail order!

    At any rate...I was once in your shoes. The best advice: find some articles on kitbashing/scratchbuilding and let 'er rip. I have a few buildings from my early days that will not win any contests but I can tell what they are!

    As you get started, be sure to keep us updated and include pictures.

    Good luck, and best regards,
  18. trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017)

    trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017) Passed away September 22, 2017

    Thanks for sending me the websites. Grandt Line had pictures of doors and roofing that I think I could use on the Sulligent Cotton Oil Co. building. I couldn't find pictures for evergreen items. Someone is bound to carry sheets of "brick wall" large enough for a HO 2-story building. I didn't see any wall materials on Grandt Line's site. Any suggestions?
  19. Sirfoldalot

    Sirfoldalot Supporter Supporter

    Brandon - thought you may be interested in this site:

    I just came across it by accident. They seem to catalog almost everything. and their shipping is very reasonable starting at $6.00 up to order of $20.00.
  20. trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017)

    trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017) Passed away September 22, 2017

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