Stop considering scratch building and take the plunge. If worrying about model building problems is stopping you from diving in, those can be more difficult than the work itself.
Too, it may be harder to make the cash commitment when the supplies you need does not look like anything, i.e., wood, brass or styrene compared to a lovely lost wax part or injection molded component. The immediate gratification is simply not there. Hobby shops do not in most cases stock supplies for scratch builders so you have to source those yourself. These simple materials are not the sort of things we buy on impulse so it is understandable they are not sold in hobby shops.
Instead of a nicely made kit in a box with instructions, you the scratch builder as artist, engineer and craftsman can transform the wide variety of materials into something that is recognizably a part of a model railroad.
What comes with scratch building? Challenging, pleasurable, visually appealing, and an expression of your creativity and personality in your work.
To get started, go with something simple and develop your skills along the way. Get a hold of some plans, a scale drawing or a sharp photograph. Read about someone else's scratch building story and go from there. Then share your accomplishments here on the forum.
Jump in - the water's fine -- kit in a box with instructions (who wants instructions telling you how to build what you want to build?) is a bit boring -- most often then you're just being led by the nose on building yet another whatever it is out of the box. Pretty limited entertainment there! But when you are the designer and artist, now you are totally free to build as your creativity and personality direct. Liberating and invigorating!
Lots of good places to source the basics from and get started!
This B&O wagon top box car was scratch built in 1955, using a Model Railroader magazine "Dollar Car" article by Eric Stevens. Being O scale it was more like a 'Four Dollar Car" when adding in the cost of trucks and couplers. Walthers had milled roof stock for the B&O wagon top boxcar (and B&O wagon top covered hopper roof as well, which had a lower design). To make the body seamless between the sides and roof, I used some wood filler, sanded it smooth and glued on a Life magazine cover, cut to fit. The ribs are wire, per Eric Stevens' article.
With in a year or two, the Life magazine cover sheathing began to show its weakness with rips and bulges. The car was put away for a while. I got my first job out of high school as an offset press operator. The outfit I worked for used large sheet zinc masters. They had a small pile of worn out masters and I was allowed to take home. The B&O wagon top was first up for a rebuild. Take everything off the body, scrape off the Life cover sheathing, sand it smooth and cover it with the sheet metal master material. Further, I could impress rivet detail for the car ends with a pounce wheel and straight edge.
With that done, the body details all pot back in place, I added underbody detail for air brake piping and rigging, referring to a copy of a 1953 Carbuilders Cyclopedia I had recently bought. Another coat of Floquil paint and All Nation decals finished the job. My early attempt at weathering was done in the 1980's.
In the Year 2000, there was an "O Ship" event, where O scale modelers sent out a car for interchange with other O scale modelers on a regional basis. Each modeler sent out a car, which went to another model railroad for a month. Photos were to be taken of it and sent to the car's owner. There were six in the northeastern region, and 7 months passed to get all cars back to their original owners. This model was my exchange car traveling to layouts from New Hampshire to Virginia and back. A few regions in O Ship were not as successful. Sadly, some of the models that went out for interchange were never returned.
This is an even simpler model, scratch built from scraps and used parts on hand. I only had a small side photo of the prototype car, but knowing that it had to be no more than a scale 10' wide overall and that it was about 40' long from the photo caption helped.
The model is basically a dolled-up wooden box sitting on a pair of trucks. The wood body was made from scrap wood on hand, with a hand-planed pine roof. The body was sheathed with sheet aluminum offset press master material, with rivet detail embossed with a pounce wheel and straight edge. The doors and their detail were separate, fitted into holes cut into the sheathing before hand. Scraps of decals were used for the lettering. However, the "Sealect" had to be hand painted on an applied panel for each side.
This scratch built structure as built on a dare. The editor of the B&O Historical Society magazine, "The Sentinel," wanted to see how many of the members who were modelers coming to the Society's annual convention at Stanton VA would build a scale model of a B&O 'two-holer' privy and included a 1906 B&O drawing for it. In O scale, this little 'house of necessity' as the Chinese name it, measures 1" x 1". A very cozy two seater, to say the least! In following the B&O plan, screened locomotive cinders were used under the structure and the clean-out drawer for 'deposits' was lined with sheet zinc from one of those old offset masters I mentioned in another post. The gravel walk way is made with concrete driveway sweepings. Th grass is dyed saw dust. The structure is all wood, built and framed like the prototype. The door can open and close. The privacy fence is styrene. It has a hook on the outer post for a lantern, for night use. Inside are two more hooks - for the lantern and a coat as well as the proverbial Sears catalog. I little blob of glue by one of the rafters was left in place to be a hornet's nest - to keep dawdlers on the move.
Scratch building can become as elaborate as anyone desires. It is often done for contest models. However highly detailed a model may become, I think it should also be capable of running on a model railroad and not need to spend its days as a super delicate 'shelf queen.' This B&O dining car models one specific prototype car. It was built with a milled wood roof, wood floor and some castings. The sides were made from roofer's aluminum flashing, with correct belt line, rivet and other details matching the prototype car. The underbody has a dual brake system. The interior is fully detailed down to end wall decorative pictures, flowers in vases on the tables with menues and bottles of B&O Deer Park spring water, a signature item. Although this was custom built to be with a collector's display collection of B&O dining car china, it is also capable to operating on any O scale 2 rail model railroad. Some photos here and following will introduce you to B&O dining car 1035, the former Betty Zane. She was a Revolutionary War heroine who lived in the far west at Wheeling VA at the time. The first photo shows the mockup body of the dining car being track tested in a train. Best to make sue it works right now, rather than after it's "all gussied up! "
More details work followed and then paint and lettering. Here the car sides are painted, striped and lettered before they go on the car. They are also detailed with their interior walls glazing and window treatments. All much easier and neater to do when lying flat then being on the car body!
Interior detail work took up most of the time spent in building this model. The chairs were commercial castings but they model a 1920's era wood back chair. They were modified to be more modern, with upholstered backs. Tedious, making 32 of them all the same! Then too, table cloths made from facial tissue, menus, vases with flowers in them (being done here) and the Deer Park water jugs. The car is set up to receive patrons just before opening, rather than having them seated and dining. The completed roof with ceiling details is also shown here.
Finished at last, with a display track as well, this O scale model of B&O dining car 1035, Class F-4bc, its only member. This car's chief claim to fame was being assigned to the twelve car Royal Train of Queen Elizabeth II in October 1957, which ran from Washington DC to Staten Island NY under great secrecy as a US Army MAIN train. And to think Betty Zane, for whom this car was originally named, fought against British "Red Coats" in 1776! A second eleven car Press Train was also in that movement. The trip to Staten Island after visiting President Eisenhower, was for a ferry ride up New York Harbor.
I love scratchbuilding. I remember back in 1968 being given a stack of Model Railroader magazines that dated back into the 1950s. I loved the articles on scratch building buildings as at 10 years old, I thought "I could do that." I didn't think I could scratch build a brass engine. McCaffrey's Hobby Shop sold me a lot of balsa wood back then. It took me until the 1980s to build the Rock Products Bunker that was in the October, November, and December 1954 issues of MR. By then I was building with styrene and if I must say so myself, I nailed it. At that time I was in HO and when I made the move to O I passed that HO model onto a friend. I have compiled my shopping list to build it again - this time in O Scale. I am also planning on building the Leming Compressed Gas Factory from the March 1971 issue of MR.
As I am in the process of building my TR2 Cow and Calf unit, I have been holding off starting the Rock Products Bunker. My twin brother - who is a military modeler - has 6 different projects on the go. He has a large scale Sackville Class frigate of the Royal Canadian Navy in WW2 on the go. He has Canadian armour in Afghanistan on the go. He has an M3 Lee project on the go. He has a WW2 US Jeep rocket launcher project on the go. And more. I accused him of having ADD. He said he didn't, and that he found it refreshing to switch things up, especially when you ran into a problem on one of the projects. I think that is a good way to keep you fresh and motivated. Sure it might take longer to complete a project, but as John pointed out in his post, this is a hobby. Not a job. The journey is the fun, not just the finished product.
So back to the work bench. I am getting close to installing John's printed NW2 parts on the "laboratory" NW2 shell I have and want to share with you the results. I think the level of detail his parts bring will be amazing. If all works out, I will then go through the same process on the calf unit. And then I will get into an aspect of modelling I have not been in before - re-powering a locomotive - or at the bare minimum, re-installing a motor and hoping it runs.
You have to love the skills that scratchbuilding - and model railroading - can develop.
In 1973, Walthers published a revised, second edition of their soft cover book "Passenger Car Plans." It covers their parts, kits and gives construction suggestions. Also there is a section on how to alter kits to model specific prototype cars. It covered HO as well as O scale, since Watlhers kits in both scales were alike, using milled wood roofs, stamped, tinplated steel sides and metal castings. It covered Wathers then-new Santa Fe prototype heavyweight car kits as well as a series of "Favorite Prototype" limited run kits that accurately modeled specific cars. Last was an index covering many railroads, listing which Walthers kits fit best, along with a section on paint colors used by various railroads.
Here is a Reading RPO/ baggage combine built from ideas generated by that book:
Scratchbuilding is the greatest discipline for a modeler.
There are different levels you can select. So even with less experience you can realize successful projects. Just try it,you will see how big the sadisfaction will be.
Many of my buildings on "Orange Empire" are scratchbuilt. The advantage of scratchbuilding is that I can define the dimensions of the building to fit it into the space that is available. That would be more demanding with a kit and often not possible with a finished model. Quite often I use a mixture of scratchbilding and kitbuilding- the kitbashing uses available elements combined with homemade elements.
Using this techniques gives the chance to build unique "things" - this gives character to your railroad.
Try it and refine your skills! Thanks to the collegues for touching this topic.
Juerg - "Orange Empire"
Scratching my head comes with scratch building when trying to figure out things. And when you finally develop a solution, that knowledge is very satisfying accomplishment. For example, most models get a paint job. Who ever heard of a model that was not painted and expect it to look like the real prototype it represents?
So after building many stock car kits most out of wood, some resin and finally brass, the question came to mind as to what did those stock cars look like in service? With some research I found out that like any piece of equipment, maintenance and cleaning was routine. In the year 1906 or there about the time period I focused my research, the cars were manufactured from wood and cast iron as steel was not yet available. I believe the transition to an all steel fabricated car started to come around 1915 - 1920s replacing wood and truss rods. So when the light bulb came on in my head, the information I uncovered that might have been obvious to others but it had to sink in with me, was in the way they washed and sanitized cars. What actually happens to the wood and hardware? It is easy to assume it ages and when the articles I read said they use white wash, it immediately occurred to me to try chemically treat the brass. So I purchased some various chemicals from MicroMark and started experimenting. It just so happen on this brass model, I made the car ends using nickel silver. The end result was exactly what I was hoping and looking for once I mastered the use or application of the chemicals. The nickel silver developed a rather mold coloration in the lower corners, the brass sides took on the rustic look of aged wood so it all came together without paint. This is one aspect as to why there is happiness in building models from scratch.
John - "CGW"
A number of years ago when I was still an active bench chemist I put together a solution for aging copper since i was using copper film for flashing on the roofs of several building projects. Forgotten now the concentration of acetic acid (fairly strong....way beyond vinegar), some ammonium chloride, and I think a pinch of copper chloride. Paint it one and go have a cup of tea and come back to nice green verdigris