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Although a small image the scene below from one of our OO gauge model railway layouts shows the importance of structures to the final appearance of a model railway. Buildings can add the height to a flat layout and also provide a scenic break to access a fiddle yard or traverser. We group buildings and structures into three categories:

  1. Permanent way structures e.g. tunnel mouths, bridges, retaining walls, platforms etc. 
  2. Railway structures e.g. station buildings, goods sheds, engine sheds, signal boxes, footbridges, level crossings and any other railway related structures. 
  3. Non railway structures such as houses, shops, farms, factories, industrial buildings etc. 


The type of structures used on a model railway will depend upon the layout type. For the UK enthusiast the availability of buildings has increased dramatically over the last few years. Whilst cardboard kits are still popular from Superquick and Metcalf the ready finished Hornby Skalkedale/Lydle End and Bachmann Scenecraft structures have revolutionised  the quality and variety of buildings available. Higher end kits in both plastic e.g. Wills and stonecast resin e.g. Townstreet offer a little more for those willing to spend time constructing, painting and detailing with the scale enthusiasts often scratch building or employing the services of a specialist model maker. For the European and American enthusiast the availability of plastic construction kits from manufacturers such as Faller, Kibri, Vollmer, DPM etc has always been greater than the UK market with laser cut timber becoming popular at the high end American market. Professional Layout Services are not architectural model makers and as such do not scratch build bespoke buildings other than platforms. As a company we detail our layouts with proprietary buildings or kits according to customer requirements. We are also happy to work with structures supplied by architectural model makers.


Permanent Way Structures

Permanent way structures in our opinion give a model railway its engineered appearance. Careful use of retaining walls, bridges, bridge piers and tunnel mouths add so much to the basic layout and when designed correctly emphasise both the track plan and scenery. A simple retaining wall adds a change to the topography without the need for track on another level. Flat boards can be brought to life by a retaining wall perhaps with the classic arches or pillars to street level above. Bridges again dramatically change the ground plan of a model railway with a simple road over railway improving a flat board or providing a simple scenic break. Bridges can bring the most dramatic scenic features to a model railway with road and rail bridges crossing water features often in spectacular style. The humble tunnel mouth adds so much character to a scene and can become a small cameo in its own right - see image below of Ten Commandments single tunnel with wing walls. 


Railway structures add the connection to the model railway between man and the engineering. Stations, Engine Sheds, Signal Boxes etc are the structures created to use and operate the railway. Again even on small layouts huge detail and interest can be created around a small cameo scene such as a goods shed or engine shed with so much for the eye to take in. Model railways are a series of cameos and dioramas combined to create the overall view. The onlooker should initially be 'wowed' by the overall view then gradually drawn in to the many cameo scenes that create the overall layout.

In the UK some of the most grand Victorian structures were railway related. They were built to show status and to upstage their competitors. Take a look at the incredible structure that is St. Pancras station in London overlooking the adjacent Kings Cross station. Even the mundane structures such as goods sheds and engine sheds where incredibly well built with a huge amount of detail usually part of a railways corporate building style. Some of these structures have been captured extremely well by the likes of Hornby and Bachmann but for those willing to take the time to construct and paint the Townstreet examples will produce fine examples. The image below has been used again to illustrate the importance of railway buildings and show the quality of Townstreet models.



Often given a secondary role to fill the gaps on the layout after the railway and its associated structures have been located non railway buildings should not be underestimated in their importance. Take a train ride on any route and observe those cameo scenes adjacent to the railway. From the urban environment dominated often by the backs of Victorian terraces to huge factory units the hustle and bustle of daily urban life slowly blends into the countryside with idyllic villages and farms. Capturing these scenes brings a model railway to life.

European enthusiasts often take a more general view of model railways enjoying the running side more than the scale modelling approach. The images below show a clients European DCC layout based on an extended Fleischmann track plan. In contrast to this there are some highly detailed scale European model railways but this image shows a large layout for pure enjoyment. As time allows the client intends to increase the level of scenic detail.



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