Dillon, MT 1942

As I plow through the details of developing a layout design, the subject of structures started to get my attention. There are a couple of scenes that I would like to incorporate into my layout.
I have had this vision of the railroad entering a town or village running by the small homes you might find down near the tracks. I have come across a couple of one-story cottages that are candidates. One that comes to mind was done by Colombia Valley in HO. I have the kit someplace in a box. It is a classic design. I found a similar design in Napa, California.


I came across this classic home in Rocklin, CA.  The color scheme reminded me of steam-era Santa Fe depots.

Rocklin cottage 1b

The current trend in the hobby is to recreate a specific scene or railroad operation.  Modelers are trying to follow prototype track layouts and structures.   The level of fidelity being achieved is remarkable.   The challenge is finding a scene for a railroad you want to model and to fit it into an available space.   In some cases, the modeler was forced to change scales to achieve a more workable concept.   Trevor Marshall and his Port Rowan blog tells his story about leaving Proto48 to pursue a Canadian National branchline in S scale.   He explains his reasoning and it makes sense.

I have come to the conclusion that changing scale at my age is not going to happen.   Building a prototype-based railroad in Proto48 in a two-car garage would be a challenge unless I was willing to focus a very simple industrial scene.   It might be possible to build a scene as the sole focus of the layout.   British modelers seem to carry this off very well.  Their prototypes lend themselves to small spaces with small equipment.   The decision to make radical change is not going to happen.  I have concluded that a few prototype structures and possible a scene would be the best I can hope for.

Structures and their architecture can give clues as the geographical location of the scene being depicted.  Simple bungalows often times carry trademarks that define Eastern, Upper Midwest or West Coast.   Picking buildings out of the pages of Model Railroader or some other hobby magazine with little regard for regional features may result in a “cute” layout that doesn’t look realistic.


How many modelers built something like Perkins Produce?  The building was so small that certainly would not have be rail served.   The model was a wonderful characterization that captured a lot of interest.  It didn’t make sense for a prototype-based railroad.   By the way, the building was recently produced in 1/4″ scale by Morgan Hill Models.

Sumner 1973 278D228 RWL

An example of a properly sized industry would be this packing plant that was once located near Auburn, WA.   The building in 1/4″ scale would be five or six feet long but in a diorama setting would provide the scale that would look right  behind  your rolling stock. It could be done as a “false front”.


8 thoughts on “LAYOUT PLANNING- Structures

  1. The “Aunt Dorothy’s House” kit in O scale probably fits your criteria for a little house in the neighborhood along the tracks. “No problem Joe’s” by Grandt Line is HO but should be easy to replicate in O. Another attractive small house (HO again) was the HSM “Queen Anne House.” I think using a model from another scale as the prototype for an O scale structure can be fun, and knowledgeable visitors to your layout will be mildly amused.

      • I’ll check when I get home tomorrow. Might’ve been Magnusson. An i’net search for “aunt Dorothy’s house” got lots of hits but nothing useful.

      • It’s DPM and it’s Aunt Eleanor’s House. “DPM Aunt Eleanor’s House” in Google gets much better results than Dorothy’s house. I’ll be 69 next week; I continue to be amazed at the names that refuse to come to mind when I ask them to. Oh, well.

  2. I completely agree with your point on the requirements of adequately sized buildings and industries is well taken. A few well chosen full, or nearly full, sized industrial and trackside buildings coupled with modest trackage will result in a more realistic setting for P48 sized models.

    My layout room has the square footage of a good sized double car garage but in a very irregular shape. Hence, like yourself, I have adopted the British practice of modelling a prototype scene as the layout’s central theme and this still requires some condensing of the trackage especially in the turnout sizes. The structures consist of an interlocking tower, a small water tank and a highway overpass that can modelled in their original sizes along with foreshortened interlock rodding and signal placement distances. This should allow completion of this initial stage in a timely fashion. Your comments on the “bucket list” should be kept in mind for all our modelling endeavours.

    Keep up with your thoughtful blogs.
    Bill Bear

  3. Pingback: Become a Railroad Modeler | Train Hobby Blog

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