Making Cardstock City and Scenery

Recycled and Re-purposed Model Railroading

Making Cardstock City and Scenery

Downtown Columbus 2016 Phase One 001 Downtown Columbus 2016 Phase One 002 Downtown Columbus 2016 Phase One 003 Downtown Columbus 2016 Phase One 004 Downtown Columbus 2016 Phase One 012


By Giles Kennedy

Founder The Ohio Railroader Website

Chief Editor The Ohio Valley Railroad Gang Facebook Page


Nowadays; pre made plastic kits and modular building kits are normal for any skill of model railroader.

However; the lost art of cardstock construction can be an economical alternative for making realistic backdrops and buildings.


Deciding your images

Deciding if you wish to go for an urban/industrial look or a suburban look is what you will need to decide.

The HO Scale “Cinci Central Columbus Division” layout has all aspects of city scenery.

To start; the Downtown Columbus is the focus for these scenery tips.

Decide if you want to do one of two ways.

  1. Scan/copy an existing structure

If you have access or own a laser jet/inkjet printer to your computer; this can be done very easily. I own an HP F2400 3 in 1 printer. If not; your local copy/business doc center should suffice.

Place the side of the building that you wish to use for many images. Make sure the surface is clear and clean.

The two main large buildings were the base of the Bachmann Cityspaces Metropolitan Building and a kitbashed Woodland Scenics office building in my recent project.

Simply press the copy function and check clarity of the copy.

If it is to your linking; hold on for a master copy. Get as many sheets for cardstock printer paper as you wish. Then, print the copies. You can do either color of black and white. This can give varied copies for your future structure.

2. Have a download of a scene or structure off a trusted website.

Several NMRA divisions and other sites have downloadable backdrops for free to use for this image. Again, in the same fashion, do master copies. Check the image for clarity and liking. Decide how many cardstock paper copies and print.

Once that is establish and your prints come off the printer to your liking; set a backdrop, false background or “easy structure” for the space needed.

You can also use photographs of building to your liking. I.E. Nationwide Arena, The AEP Building, just to name a local few examples.


Building a ”City”

You can decide either media of what you want to do with the images.

The easiest is a backdrop. Get a sky blue piece of foamboard/project board for your area.

Test fit all the images for placements. Cut to fit. Glue stick on images. Test fit the backdrop. Done.


Now, here’s where you can get creative. Make your own skyscrapers.

I have recently built “The Ruggles-Welch Tower” for my home pike the Cinci Central Columbus Division.

I started first with of all odd things……A Power City Construction Expansion Set. What the heck is that you ask?

They are plastic girders and joints that you can basically square or rectangular structures in a matter of minutes. You can find them at Toys R US, Target and other major toy departments of retailers. You can also find them on line if not in your area.

If you want to use them as a base; leave them underneath the foamboard or poster board wall base. If not, once finish with construction and re-use.

After your base is built, measure your tower and cut out your wall base from your foamboard. The exterior diameter on my basic tower was 3 ¼ inches; for more wiggle room go with 3 ½ inches.

Once cut the wall base (easier to cut four corners for folding and image placement); repeat the steps from the backdrop.

Done. This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 minutes depending on how detail oriented the images used for the building.

Again you can use this method for many applications.


False Background

Using black foam board and images chosen, you can have an engine shop, a warehouse, a shopping district, etc.

You can have them stand alone or against existing backdrops.

Follow the steps from the backdrop and in matter of minutes, done.

I have a famous image from an office building that had a Painted Pabst Blue Ribbon in Columbus. Don’t like the product, but it is really cool and looks very realistic.

It fits right in my Brewery District section near a city park. The photo will be included on this article.

The false backgrounds and cardstock buildings can be replaced at any time with real 3-D plastic or laser cut structures.

There are many applications you can use. Your imagination is your own limit.

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