Cardstock Construction:

The appeal of Cardstock modeling is driven by more than just economics. Although there is a definite savings in not having to buy extra Scale Model Railroad Plans for Structures construction materials, there is also a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in creating a complete structure with just a few sheets of paper and an ink-jet printer.

This guide does not claim to be the all-inclusive ultimate authority on cardstock modeling, but may present you with some worthwhile tips and tricks to create structures that will find a welcome place in your model railroad layout or diorama.

model railroad cardstock model

This guide follows the construction of Plan 735c from ScaleModelBuildings.com – the Central Ontario Railroad Depot, but is intended to be a generic guide to cardstock construction, not a specific set of instructions.

The cardstock models from ScaleModelBuildings.com use a photo-realistic type of finish and may be a little more detailed than the standard versions included with the ScaleModelPlans plan package. However, you can achieve the same level of realism using Model Builder software, and the included WMF file templates.

This guide can also be used in the assembly of ScaleModelPlans projects finished with the Model Builder program.

model railroad cardstock model tools

As you become more comfortable with model building you will develop your own preferences, but here is a list of tools used in this guide:

  • Steel rule “Dry” ball point pen (no ink)
  • Single-edge razor blade
  • Plastic straight edge
  • Scissors
  • (Sewing) thread snippers
  • Scrapbook paper folder (optional)
  • Utility knife
  • Cutting mat

Refer to the Links page for additional help and hints.

model railroad cardstock model printing

The first step is to decide on how many sheets of cardstock or matte photo paper you will need, and place them in the printer. If using photo paper make sure to have the coated surface facing the correct way. To save costs, template sheets and plan views can be printed on plain paper.

Most of our cardstock patterns can be printed on 8 ” x 11” cardstock, but some of the O Scale versions require 8 ” x 14” sheets. See the website for suppliers and links.

Decide on printer resolution, (High, Standard, etc.). Results will be a personal choice and will vary from printer to printer.

model railroad cardstock model materials

Paper Selection:

Some builders print to color inkjet paper and apply panels over top of foam board or balsa, but my preference is to construct the entire model from paper or cardstock, and insert reinforcing pieces if necessary.

These are recommendations only - you may develop your own preference.

  • Z scale: use color inkjet paper
  • N scale: use matte photo paper
  • TT scale: use matte photo paper
  • HO scale: use matte photo paper or 64 lb. cardstock
  • OO scale: use matte photo paper
  • S scale 64 lb. or 110 lb. cardstock
  • O scale: use 110 lb. cardstock

model railroad cardstock sheets

Select Portrait or Landscape, depending on the Pattern orientation, (the way it appears on your computer). Do a Print Preview if possible.

* Make sure to choose Scaled Printing and Scaling: 100%, otherwise your structure will not end up the proper scaled size for your layout.

Not all printers will have the same settings, so you may have to experiment.


* See tutorial on printing other scales such as Z, TT, S, etc.

Once the sheets are printed out you should take some time to visualize how the components will fit together.

This is Plan 735c, “COR Depot”, but the assembly techniques are common to most plans, so it should provide a good example.

Note that on some plans there may be one sheet containing only floor and roof panel sub-surface templates, which can be printed out on ordinary paper as opposed to cardstock.

Plan 735 cardstock model sheets

Next, you’ll need to score along all the fold lines to allow nice sharp corners.

Scoring can be done on the printed side, but you can get much nicer outside corners if you score along the back side. To do this you’ll need to transfer the locations of the scoring lines to the back side of the sheets. You can do this with ordinary sewing pins. Poke a pin through the sheet at each end of the fold lines. Scraps of foam board underneath will help the process, and protect your work mat.

DO NOT score decorative lines that are not fold lines. This will weaken the structure.

Plan 735 Radville CNR Station cardstock model sheets

This is an example of a ScaleModelPlans.com WMF Template file finished using Model Builder software.  All ScaleModelPlans.com plan packages come with templates to be used in Model Builder.

The example is from Plan 2062 - CNoR 2nd Class Station in Radville Saskatchewan.

cardstock modelling railraod buildings

A ball point pen that has run out of ink makes a great scoring tool. Run the pen several times over scrap paper to use up any remaining traces of ink. Make sure that the ball is not seized, or the cardstock could tear.

A transparent straight edge helps to locate the scoring lines. Hold the straight edge firmly to avoid slips. You will notice that the tip of the pen will fit into the hole made by the pins. This will help to create the score lines in the correct locations.

Plan 735 cardstock model sheets

Before cutting out the sections visualize the assembly and how mating walls will attach to each other.

You can use scissors or a hobby knife to cut out the sections. If using a hobby knife make sure you have a cutting mat underneath, and use a steel straight edge. Be careful not to cut off any folding tabs.

To make the sections easier to handle, you can cut them out to rough size with scissors, then trim more accurately.

cardstock buildings for model trains

With all of the panels cut out, refer to the plans to visualize the assembly.

cardstock buildings for model trains

If you miss any folding tabs, or accidently removed them, you can easily make extras from scrap cardstock and add them in. Score and fold just as you would with the original tabs.

cardstock buildings for model trains

Use a straight edge as a mandrel to create sharp folds. Line up the fold line with the edge of the straight edge and gently crease along the length of the fold line with your finger. Repeat a few times, gradually increasing the angle of the fold.

building cardstock models

Ideally, you want to fold the tabs beyond 90 to create sharp corners. The final pass should be a sharp crease made with your fingernail. Once the sharp crease is established you can bring the folds back to the correct angle.

Alternate method:

For long fold lines a makeshift “bar-folder” can be fashioned with two straight edges held snugly together while drawing up on the tab.  Finish the fold by creasing with your fingernail.

HO Scale cardstock model Store

With the folding complete it might be a good time to take inventory to make sure you have all the pieces cut out and ready to assemble.

This is Plan 1200, Watson’s Store.

cardstock structures for model trains

Any raw edge that will be exposed after assembly should be touched up beforehand with chalk, oil pastel, pencil crayons, or marker of a matching color, otherwise, the white edge of the cut may stand out.

cardstock structures for model trains

You will develop your own preferences, but I find it easier to glue the inside walls rather than the joining tabs. Use scraps underneath to prevent glue on your work area.

Glue sticks, (not the purple school type), a thin coating of white glue, or craft glue will work to assemble the sections. Do not use crazy glue as it will soak through the cardstock and give it a transparency. Scotch tape or transparent tape applied to the inside surfaces will help to hold things together while the glue sets.

cardstock structures for model trains

With practice you may be able to line up the wall corners by hand, but a jig can be used as well. This homemade jig is used by forcing the mating edges snugly into the corner of the jig.

(Plan 1200 shown)

cardstock structures for model railroads

Here is the basic structure of Plan 735c with walls assembled.

cardstock structures for model railroads

A carefully cut out floor will greatly reinforce the structure and help to ensure “square” 90 corners at the wall intersections.

Photo mat board or balsa sheets work well, and are easy to trim to shape.

Hint: If you know anyone with a framing shop or photo studio you may be able to get some scrap pieces quite cheaply.

cardstock structures for model railroads

Run a seam of glue along the perimeter of the floor.

Place the floor inside the structure with the glued surface facing downward to mate with the inside surface of the bottom fold tabs.

cardstock structures for model railroads

For some models it might be easier to slide the floor into place prior to adding the final wall.

cardstock modelling Central Ontario Railroad Depot

Use a small square to check the corners, then press the floor into place to set the glue. A sheet of wax paper will protect the surface of your wok area.

cardstock modelling Central Ontario Railroad Depot

Scotch tape or transparent tape can be applied to the underside of the floor to hold the walls in position while the glue sets. The tape will also help to contain any glue that seeps from the seams.

cardstock modelling Central Ontario Railroad Depot

Scraps of foam core can be used on the inside of the structure to reinforce the walls. These can be random pieces, and do not have to fit precisely.

cardstock modelling Central Ontario Railroad Station

Reinforcements on the inside of walls will make it easier to add on any details such as this ticket bay from Plan 735c.

cardstock modelling Central Ontario Railroad Station

The roof for this model is not symmetrical, so the template will be cut in two stages – the larger panel first, the second, shaded section.

Again, you can use balsa or photo mat board for the roof sub-surface.

cardstock modelling Central Ontario Railroad Station

Here, the two roof panels are painted along the exposed edges. Photo mat board can be painted, or colored with marker pens, if required.

Line up the two panels along the roof ridge and tape together with transparent tape. Allow a small gap between the ridge edges. The gap will close up as you fold the two roof panels to the correct angle.

cardstock model roof construction

Test fit the roof onto the structure.

You can apply a few drops of cyanoacrylate (crazy glue) along the middle of the roof ridge line, being careful not to glue the roof to the structure at this time.

Once you have the right angle established, remove the roof and apply more glue along the ridge.

cardstock model roof construction

If you want to permanently attach the roof, run a seam of craft glue along the perimeter of folding tabs, and carefully attach the roof. Make sure that the roof is centered on the structure.

model railroad roofing techniques

Use a black marker along all exposed edges of each roofing sheet to hide the white edges.

A thin film of craft glue, or glue stick can be used to bond the roofing material to the roof sub-surface.

Use extreme care when lining up and applying the roofing material, as it may be damaged if you have to remove and re-position it.

model railroad roofing techniques


These scissors are from the Martha Stewart section of the craft store. The same effect can be done with a hobby knife, but this makes it easier to serrate the lower edge of the roofing panels.

model railroad roofing techniques

The serrated lower edges of the roofing material give a more realistic shake roof appearance.

Some plan packages include extra roofing material. Use this to create a “ridge cap” to cover the seams where the two roof panels meet.


cardstock model construction


Strips of roofing material can be cut to form roof caps.  Cut the strips to the approximate width of about one or two shingle tabs. Color the exposed white edges with a felt marker.  Crease along the length using a thin straight edge.


cardstock model construction

The roof caps provide a more realistic look, and can also hide gaps in the roof panels..



Making a Cottage Roof

cardstock model construction

Some models may require a “cottage” roof. A cottage roof is sloped on all sides. There are no gable end walls. They can be a little trickier to attach to a structure, but this method should make the procedure a little simpler.

Score and trim where necessary as described previously. Remember to leave tabs on one of the ridge surfaces as well as any roof surface that needs to be mated to another surface.

cardstock model construction  

Carefully assemble the roof, aligning the edges as closely as possible.

cardstock model construction  

Make sure that the fascia’s, (the vertical trim edge of the roof) are aligned vertically, then tape the soffit where it meets the underside of the roof.

cardstock model construction  

Use the floor plan as a template and cut the shape out of balsa, mat board, or other suitable material. It’s important that the material is perfectly flat and relatively rigid.

This piece will become a single-piece soffit.

cardstock model railroad construction

The soffit should fit slightly recessed into the roof assembly. Glue or tape the soffit to the underside of the roof.

cardstock model railroad construction

This is Plan 821 - Charlbury Station showing a typical cottage roof.

Attach the roof assembly by applying glue to the tabs along the tops of each wall. Assuming that the soffit was seated evenly into the underside of the roof, the roof should now sit evenly onto the structure. If for some reason the roof doesn’t sit evenly, you can shim it with strips of paper or cardstock.

That's it - one more structure for your layout!

Cardstock video tutorial Check out our Video tutorial

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