Scratchbuilding to scale

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Scratchbuilding to scale

  • I am brand new to Garden Railroading. I just completed laying my first section of rail, and the layout definately needs some buildings, outbuildings etc. My question is this: ILets say I'd like to build an enginehouse. How do I figure out the scale proportions of the building? I'm not asking for dimensions, just scale. 1"=xxxxxx, and any other dimensions available that I'd need to know.



    Upstate, NY where Summer is only 5 weeks long 


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  • Tony,

    G'day and welcome to our community.  The most important question is:- What scale are you modelling?

    'G Scale' as it is called is not a true scale.  We typically use 45mm gauge track, motor blocks and bogies.  The manufacturers (or scratch builders) then model different scales based on those basic components. 

    To represent standard gauge (4 feet 8.5 inches) and the correct scale is 1:32.  Marklin built their original equipment to this scale, and it was known as One Gauge.  Many manufacturers use this scale to represent mainline railway equipment, however some have branched off into 1:29 scale to make their equipment look better with either standard or narrow gauge equipment from other manufacturers.  If you model standard gauge or mainline trains, one actual foot equals 32 scale feet, or 9.5 mm equals one foot.

     If you use the 45mm gauge to represent European one metre narrow gauge (39.37 inches), then the scale is 1:22.5.  This is what LGB equipment started as, and where the term G Scale started.  In this scale 13.5mm equals one foot.

    I started in 1:24 scale, where 45mm gauge represents 3 feet 6 inch narrow gauge.  This was chosen as one inch equates to 24 scale inches, or 12.7mm (half an inch) equals one foot.  It is also exactly double 'O' scale (1:48).  This makes scratchbuilding easier, both in measuring and in using 'O' scale parts, as you just halve the dimensions.  (an 'O' scale 2x4 board becomes a 1x2 in the bigger scale)

    I later refined my modelling to 1:20.3 (sometimes called F scale), still using 45mm gauge track.  This represents 3 foot narrow gauge.  Bachmann's latest products are built to this scale.  Building in this scale requires a little more 'thinking' than 1:24, as one inch equals 20.3 inches, or 15mm equals one foot.

    Hope this helps.



    Chief Operating Officer

    Northern Timber Company - Mt Beenak

  • Tony: 1st let me welcome you to the world of railroading in the dirt. Like Mick said, the scale you end up using largely depends on the "scale" (brand) of equipment you plan on running. Bare in mind that some manufacturers vary their scale. Half inch "scale" (1 inch = 2 feet) is a fairly common scale for buildings as it looks close enough to pass the "Ten Foot Rule", unless you are a "Riviteer" (rivet counter, stickler for absolute scale), An advantage to half inch scale is that it is an almost common "Doll House" scale, which opens up a whole world of interiors.

    Tom Trigg

    Planning for tomorrow is time well spent; worrying about tomorrow is time wasted.....

  •  The really nice thing about building in 1/24 is you don't need a special scale ruler. a real world 1/2"=1' on the model, 1/4"=6", 5"=10', etc. Man doors can be quickly laid out at 3-1/4" x 1-1/2"... and they're right on.  Of course, if everything is 1/24, then the 45mm track works out to 42" gauge. A rather odd size in the US, unless you're modeling the Eastern Pa. Anthracite mine tramways, but quite common elsewhere in the world, especially in South Africa.

     The Aristo-Craft 'classic' line (ex-Delton), like the wooden hopper car and the c-16, and much of the HLW (ex Kalamazoo) stuff are actually 1/24 scale anyway, and much of the alleged 1:22.5 items from LGB were compressed enough to look just fine as 1/24 as well. Diecast vehicles are plentiful in 1:24, construction machinery in 1:25 will usually work, but farm machinery is often harder to find.

     OTOH, the true 1:20.3 stuff (where 1 real world foot = 20.3 feet on the model) simply dwarfs 1:24 structures. But you can always use them as background items to 'force' perspective.

     THAT said. You will find that most model buildings are NOT 'true to scale' but 'selectively' compressed.  An older 11 x 50 mobile home uncompressed would be 25" long in 1/24... a 6 stall roundhouse model with turntable and modest service facilities could easily eat up enough real estate to fill the average livingroom. A 100' x 300' backshop.... well, you do the math. Most people simply don't have that kind of room.  A scale mile of track in 1/24 is 220 feet long, in 1/32 it's still 165 feet. Any guesses on what percentage of layouts actually have enough mainline track to model an uncompressed 10 mile long shortline, let alone a short (50 mile) branch of a class 1? OTOH, I built a rather attractive large scale layout on a 5' x 8' tabletop when I was living in a 2nd floor apartment, and Vic Smith built an operating large scale layout that takes up about 10 square feet, or about the size of an average older industrial warehouse building uncompressed.... a little extreme, but it worked for him.

    Not intending to discourage you, but just a few things to keep in mind while you are planning your empire.  You can build true to scale, with just a few buildings, or compress things and fit more interest into the same space. No wrong answers here, just personal preferences.

    Mik, CMO, gandy dancer, and all around flunky of the Allegheny Valley Garden Railroad - the outdoor, indoor, indoor, outdoor line
  • I don't have anything else to add to what these guys have said about proportions, but I welcome you to the great hobby of Garden Railroading! Hope you have fun here. - Peter

    Planning to model Harrisburg, PA circa 1930 in N Scale

    Also Planning the Haymaker Railway garden railway.

    "We live and learn."

  • Upstate, NY where Summer is only 5 weeks long

    5 weeks? You must be in the tropical part of upstate. I spent 7 years in Rochester. Summer fell on the 2nd tuesday in August (and I usually had to work). Clown

    In the most generic sense for large scale buildings, many garden railroaders use 1/2" = 1' (1:24). They tend to look "okay" with the wide variety of scales that we run in the garden (mostly 1:32 - 1:20.3). Since many garden railroaders run multiple scales--either intermixed or at different times--the buildings blend in well with whatever they choose to run that particular day. Other garden railroaders are very specific about the scale of their trains, and will build their buildings to that same scale, whatever it is.



    PS - If you're in western NY, there are active garden railway groups in Rochester and Syracuse. There may be one in Buffalo, too. (There wasn't when I was there.) Not sure about the Albany area or up in the Adirondaks. If you're closer to Vermont, there's a decent sized group there, too. (I heartily recommend hitting their garden railroad open houses. They give away bottles of pure maple syrup as a thank-you. Smile Good stuff!!!

  • Welcome aboard! I'm always pleased to see another large scale modeler who is interested in scratch-building, and especially building "to scale". I model my railroad in 1/24th scale. This makes for a gauge of 42", which is unusual but not unheard of. Since it's a freelance railroad the gauge can be anything I want, and I'm not dead-set on a common gauge like standard, 3-foot, or 2-foot. . . . . . . . . . . I also like to build highly detailed models, and have a lot of construction info on my website: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I'm lucky to live in a much milder climate, which helps a lot. . . . . .
     Visit to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!
  •  Hi Ray ! I am new here too and this G scale is very confusing.I have a large scale Bachmann passenger car kit.Please tell me how close it is to 1/24 and should I modify it ? Cheers! John.

    Once Upon a time.........

    My photobucket:

    I am a man of few words but lots of pics


    I quit drinking beer because the download was taking longer than the upload !


  •     I understand your dilemma. You believe that a building is built to an exact scale size. That is not always the case. For example, a train station, in the real world, can be very large. Sometimes they are over 100' long. That means if you wanted to copy that particular station it would need to be 50" long. That size of structure would overpower your layout. Instead it would make more sense for it to be 2' long or less. 

       An engine house would be built to the same standards. Measure the engines that you have and then build the house to a size large enough to fit your own engines into it. The key to all of this is to keep in mind that the larger you make your structures, the larger you will also have to make your layout.

    Regards, Dennus.


  • I have six Bachmann J&S cars that I've modified by changing the wheels to metal and couplers to Kadee #1's.  I repainted the cars a standard pullman green with black roofs and undercarriages, installed track powered LED lights, installed glazing in the doors, and put individual letter decals for the car numbers and the railroad names.

    Yes, they're slightly oversized for my 1:32 RR, but I run them by themselves so no one (says they) notice!

    Model RR should be fun.  Let's keep it that way.

  • ?action=view&current=CONSTRUCTIONSITE.jpg

       The construction vehicles are 1:32 scale in a 1:24 layout. Because the vehicles are surrounded by figures of the same scale it all works and no one notices the size difference. Regards, Dennis.

  • Tony,

    Welcome to the world of G-scale where anything goes because it's your layout.  I've been building to roughly 1:24 size although I have 1:20 size engines.  My structures started with the plastic kit buildings but they were too expensive.  I found some plans and have been building all kinds of structures from cedar fence boards ripped to size.  I've even done some pure scratch from memory of barns and bridges. 

    My latest project is a baseball field.  What the others have said about space is certainly true.  That ball park "looks" way too big compared to the size of the town next to it.  400' to the center field fence means that the ball park is more than 120 square feet of real space!

    Anyway have fun and show us lots of pictures as you progress,


  • It's suprising that Garden Railways Magazine has never ran an srticle about building an engine house but after doing a search I can't find one. Try finding a copy of the Dec 1996 or the March 1995 issues of Model Railroader. Both have articles for enginehouses in HO.

  • JohnReid

     Hi Ray ! I am new here too and this G scale is very confusing.I have a large scale Bachmann passenger car kit.Please tell me how close it is to 1/24 and should I modify it ? Cheers! John.


    Sorry I'm late getting back to this topic....

    What's lumped under "G" or "Large Scale" is a mishmash of scales, and unfortunately the manufacturers do not always state the scale of a specific product.

    I'm not sure what scale the Bachmann Jackson and Sharp passenger cars are supposed to be. I couldn't find anything on their website that says what scale they are. Bachmann makes a lot of stuff to 1:20.3 scale but they also have some things that are 1:22 scale, and some that is perhaps closer to 1:24. 

    I have an older Bachmann coach and combine, they look close enough to 1:24th to fit in on my layout. But I don't know if these are the same as the J&S coaches they currently sell.




     Visit to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!
  • Hey Tony! If you want to build your own scale structures, rollingstock, etc to whatever scale you want, you simply divide the real-life dimension by the scale. i.e. 1/24 = d/24, where d is the actual dimension and 24 is the scale.
    Not sure if this is the answer to the question you were asking, but hope it helps.