Monday, January 21, 2013

My British Buildings

I've had a few requests to reveal where the buildings came from that have been seen in the background of some of my VBCW and Doctor Who photos.  These are paper railway models produced by

I don't usually like paper buildings for the sturdiness issue, but there didn't seem to be much out there in the way of British buildings for 28mm figures.  Plus, I wanted to have enough buildings for some urban fighting, and I'd go broke trying to buy it all in resin.  I happened to stumble across the scalescenes site, and since they had a free trial warehouse facade available for download (pictured below), I thought I'd try it out.

Note:  The kit didn't come with a back wall, so I cheated with a section of cobblestone street and added some resin boxes

Now the largest size produced is in OO gauge (1/76), but since you buy these as downloadable PDFs from the website, you have the ability to scale up during printing.  Being in the US, the largest size paper I could fit into a standard copier/printer was 11"x17" (28cm x 43cm).  With this I was able to go up to 120%  (1/63) before I started getting alerts that the image was exceeding the paper size. (After printing, I saw there was a bit of white border around the edges, so I might have been able to push it further.  However, by that stage I didn't want to pay for reprints).  With larger European paper, you may be able to get closer to the 138% needed for 28mm figures.

Thant being said, the buildings don't look too bad even for being undersized:

At 120%, door sizes run about 30-32mm, which is just under the height of these Artizan figures.  The thicker bases magnify this a bit more, but when they are off the sidewalk, it is less pronounced.  Based on my initial warehouse assessment, I decided to take the plunge and order more kits.

Most kits come in a few texture finishes (you usually get one texture per purchased PDF), but they come with a variety of finishing details so that no two buildings have to look alike.  The details cover buildings from the start of the 20th Century up until the modern era. 
Various shop signs and interiors

Door variants, along with curtains and interior details
Most of the kits come with about15-30 pages, though some of these are for variant items and may not be used for your individual build.  Depending on the kit, they will either be full buildings or facades that are about 3.5cm deep (I'm using the later on the table edges).  Luckily, the company provides you with fairly decent directions for assembly.
My major worry about the sturdiness of the kits (I have small children in the apartment) turned out to be unfounded.  The paper sheets need to be glued on to various thicknesses of card stock for assembly.  For the light card stock (usually architectural details), I am using manila folders.  Medium and thick card stock proved harder to find, so I got some art board that runs about 1.5mm thick (these were doubled up when thick card was required).  By the time you've assembled your building, many of the main structural elements will be 3-8mm thick.
Low relief shop under construction. Floors and interior details can be altered. The vintage advertising on the side was added from images that come with the kit.

The back of the above model, giving you some indication of the layers of 1.5mm art board used during assembly.
 With the introduction out of the way, let's take a look at a couple of the kits.

First up is TO22, Small Terraced Houses:
 In these builds, I used additional building textures from add on kit T022a, and I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the shop fronts from kit T023 could also be fitted to these homes.  The chimney stacks were made out of small drinking straws, but I found these to break easily and switched to plastic tubing on my later buildings.

Next up is kit T005, Low Relief High Street:

Three of the five fronts in the kit
As you can see, these are half buildings
Close up of the shop details - the kit even came with the newspapers to put on the table
The kit even gives you a few blank signs where you can type in a custom shop name.  If you have Adobe Acrobat, you can further adjust the fonts and font colors of the signs.  For this shop, I've named it after my grandfather, who taught woodworking.
This kit gives you quite a bit a variety with which to work.  There are five different facades, two of which give you two different brick/stone textures to choose from. For the lower shops, there are two large and two smalls styles, available in a few different colors, complete with fixtures.  You also have about 30 shop signs from various eras to select from, along with advertising.  Since I started building this kit, scalescenes has released kit T005a, which is the back sides of these shops.  From the website, it appears this second kit can be combined with the first to form complete buildings.

 The kits were fun to build, but quite a bit of work.  I used a medium hobby blade (you will burn through a lot) and metal ruler for cutting, so hand fatigue became a problem after a while.  With manual cutting I also had trouble keeping the blade perpendicular, so ended up with unintentional angles on my pieces that required trimming for a decent fit (I cannot recommend dry fitting pieces prior to gluing highly enough).  Luckily, you glue a lot of the textures to the card after cutting, so that helped hide some of my errors.  If you have the budget and storage space, it may be worth investing in a mat board cutter jig for these kits.

Another thing that you'll have to watch out for is that, depending on the thickness of your card stock, your pieces may be thicker than what is is allowed for on the printed images.  A common example I ran into was with the interior floors; using the guides in the building, the sides of the floor sections were sometimes visible behind the windows below (luckily the board was white, and I had white window frames, so t wasn't completely obvious).  Again, dry fit before gluing.  Also, be sure to have a fair amount of clamps to hold things together while they dry and some touch up paint.

Overall, I have very happy with the kits, but they do have their pros and cons:

  • Not too expensive
  • High quality images/textures
  • Can get a good variety of buildings
  • Fairly sturdy
  • Couldn't quite print them large enough for 28mm figures (may not be a problem for others)
  • Take a long time to build and cutting is fatiguing for your hands (and hobby blades)
  • No easy way to make them so that figures can be placed in the buildings
I still have a stack more to build, so will add those to the blog when they are complete.


  1. These buildings look excellent! They give a great period effect. Thanks for sharing.

    A tip about craft blades. I make mine go farther by giving them a few strokes on a whetstone.