How to build it wrong - basic scratchbuilding and kitbashing techniques

So you've built a few structure kits and placed them on the layout. But what do you do when the structure you want on your layout isn't available commercially? Build it anyway. Often, you'll be able to find a structure kit that is almost just like the structure you want or another kit that has a wall or two that would look right. It's times like these that you throw away the instructions and build it wrong!

Download the clinic handout

Tools required

There really aren’t a lot of tools you need, and you’ve probably already got all of these tools anyway. These are the basic tools that you need for kitbashing and scratchbuilding:

Quick and simple track ballasting

If you've never ballasted track, the process can seem a bit daunting. But it really isn't that difficult after all.  This video shows one quick and simple method for ballasting track. My teenage son, who has not ballasted track before we shot this video, is the demonstrator here. If he can do it, so can you.

One quick side note, this video does not deal with the problems of ballasting around switch points.  That will be addressed in future posts.

Makin' Copies - Casting parts in resin

Think that making a mold and casting your own parts is too hard? Think again. The hardest part is what you already do - make a model. No, really, that's the hardest part! After that, you're just measuruing two liquids, stirring them together and pouring the mixture in place. Once you get to casting the parts, you don't even have to worry about insane calculations because it's a one-to-one mixture! So, let's get started...

Ethical considerations

The first thing that I need to tell you about casting your own parts is that you should not use this method to duplicate commercially available parts. The model manufacturers paid good money to develop a kit for you to use, and making a mold of a commercial part is not only unethical, the commercial part is likely copyrighted and/or trademarked so making a mold of a commercial part may be illegal (but don't take my word as legal advice, I'm not a lawyer). If you make your own master, not only will you gain a few extra points on NMRA judging, but you won't have to worry as much about the legality of copying your own work.

Beyond the plywood plains - building the first ground forms

Once you've gotten to the point in your modeling where you've got trains running, it's time to start thinking about building the scenes through which your trains will run. If you've planned your scenes based on a specific prototype, then you already know what kind of vignette you need to build. If you're proto-freelancing, then you've probably got a good idea of the kind of scene you need to build. If you're just building something to look better than bare plywood, well, think about what kind of terrain you've imagined the trains operating through. Once you know what kind of terrain you're going to build, how do you do it? Here's one method to get the first landforms in place on your layout.

Tools and materials required

The items you will need (in approximately the order that you will need them) for this process are as follows:

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