Working Successfully with Structures


Exercise self restraint when purchasing structures.  Determine what you need and only then start the purchasing process.  Avoid the natural tendency to randomly “buy and plop”.


Incorporating structures into your layout in a way that works visually involves a little more than “buying and plopping”.   Some things to consider………………

  • Color:  Color and weathering drives everything.  Successful color application and weathering can dig you out of a lot of holes. The colors you select and your weathering strategy should be your primary focus.   Paint everything.  Those light blue, totally appropriate, Rix Products light blue injection molded steel structure kits?  Paint them.  Those pre-assembled/built ups made from colored styrene?  Problematic.  Study photos carefully.  Work in subtleties and use ink washes.  Teach yourself to weather and repeat the mantra, “keep it subtle, keep it toned down” over and over.
  • Appropriateness.  Is the kit appropriate for the location you intend to use it?  When I attend a train show, and see the shopping bags stuffed with structures, I wonder how many actually get built.  Not many I bet.  Buying a kit and then trying to find a place for it doesn’t work.  You need to do the opposite.  Determine the structure you need and only then buy one.  Sorry, I know, this requires self restraint!
  • Be keenly aware of cross sections.  Overly thick rails, guy wires, vents/pipes and window mullions are tip offs that you are looking at a model.  There is a growing range of photo etched products that make replacing overly thick parts a viable option.  Tichy makes some very thin injection molded parts.  Many manufactures make etched stairs and walkways.
  • Basic neatness.  It takes practice but learn to produce gap free, tight joints at corners and joining points
  • Pay attention to what else is around the structure and the environment it is placed in.  Don’t place other structures, roads, or elements too closely to the model you’ve just finished.  Allow some space.  Again, I know, this requires self restraint.
  • Beware of “seen it before” disease.  Some kits are so immensely popular that you see them on thousands of layouts.  The Walthers ADM grain elevator and New River Mine are  two such examples.  The brain shuts down when it sees these on your layout and screams the “it’s a toy!” alarm.  These are nice kits and the work around is to creatively modify them.