u Card Models in Miniature Buildings

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Some thoughts on building models of all types and sizes

Some thoughts on building models of all types and sizes

Welcome. If you have not visited Minature Buildings before can I suggest you begin with my Aims and Scope article or at the Home Page. If you have visited before - welcome back. I hope this article is of interest to you.

Card Models

There are some exquisite models made from card. And, it has to be said, some pretty horrid ones. It is a medium which is versatile and workable, yet at the same time quite hard to get right. My understanding of the genre is that there are four major classifications.

* Perhaps the most traditional is simply the use of card as a raw component in the construction of scratch built buildings.

* The second is the extensive range of printed card models produced primarily for the model railway market.

* The third is the (mostly) continental range of printed models of famous buildings. Sometimes sold as collectibles in their own right but appearing in my viewfinder most often in the gift shop as I leave an historic sight.

* Lastly, models produced as toys or novelties.

If I have oversimplified or missed something please do e-mail Miniature Buildings and we will correct this.

Card as a component

Using card as the raw material for models of buildings is not something new.  I recently discovered a blog by Matthew Beckett on the 'The Country Seat' website grandly entitled "Supermodels: the rise and fall of architectural models of country houses".  It features (among other interesting items) two wonderful card models.

The first is a William IV period cut-card model of Newtown Park, Hampshire, dated 1831 by John Bellamy.   1831 !  The second is a model of Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire, a vast Gothic edifice built for William Beckford between 1786-1807.  Matthew comments that the model was notable not only for its scale (built at a ratio of 1 inch to 10 feet), but also for its own evolutionary construction with the model corresponding in part to the earlier designs from 1790, though overall the composition is similar to the engravings from the 1820s.  The irony is that this model, built of fragile card, survived more completely than the ill-fated abbey itself.

Work in progress on Lilac Cottage by Nick Salzman

I have long been a fan of Pendon.  You may have seen mention of it in other postings.  What I hadn't realised was that work still continues.  While looking for images as I was writing this I stumbled across the blog of Nick Salzman.  He once described his blog as "The ramblings of a retired General Practitioner's hobby of Railway modelling and Model engineering."  He undersells himself.  Take a look and admire some really high class work.

Work in progress on Lilac Cottage by Nick Salzman

I have not fully explored it but the YouTube channel "Chandwell" appears to be full of ideas about card and paper modelling.  But to get full access you do need to pay.

Another exceptional modeller using foamboard (which I'm happy to regard as a species of card) is French artist and master craftsman Emmanuel Nouaillier.  These photos are copied from the interesting buildings pages within the County Gate website - built by an anonymous enthusiast (at least I couldn't find a page where he identifed himself).  Within that site, take a look at this wonderful masterclass by Emmanuel.  Though I have included foamboard within this article there is a whole separate discipline of modelling with foam which I hope to write about soon.  In the meantime here is a link to a dedicated Facebook group.


Printed kits for model railways

Ten years ago a company such as Metcalfe would probably have been considered as the archetype of this genre.

This photo of their 00/H0 Scale Stone Built Wayside Station (PO238) shows all the detail and texture they continue to be proud of.  It comes as a die-cut card kit, with added laser-cut canopy brackets and awnings.  They say it is based on Brunel's original drawings for a standard wayside railway station as used at Twyford and Bradford on Avon.  But it is not cheap at £18 and the platform is extra.  My biggest issue however with this style of precut kit is the corners, as seen front left next to the black poster.  The fact the blockwork does not wrap around the corner really spoils it for me.  I expand on this a bit in my modelling article.

And one more little gripe, which is not unique to Metcalfe who are just following common practice.  The OO/HO designation really bugs me.  It may make sense for track but for a building it simply does not.  Either it is made to 1/76 or 1/87.  It cannot be both but is maybe something in between.

Superquick's Railway Hotel SQB33

Another long standing name is Superquick, who say they have "been manufacturing ....for the railway modelling industry for nearly 60 years".  They say that "the innovation, that is the Superquick pre-cut card kit, has been developed and refined into the product you see today".  As with Metcalfe, they use the meaningless HO/OO desigation.

Superquick's Railway Hotel SQB33

Despite the range of subjects,their long standing position and their attention to details, there is something that doesn't feel right for me.  I just cannot quite put my finger on what it is.   A little too bright and shiny?  An old bias based on their offering from decades ago?  Their continued presence means they must be doing something right.  If you are an advocate for them please do write in.

By Nick Wood using Scalescenes material

But today I get the impression that Scalescenes, featuring the work of John Wiffen is the market leader.   Home printing and internet usage has led to the domination of downloaded images to be printed and assembled (and modified?) by the individual modeller.

By Nick Wood using Scalescenes material

I just wish I was able to make them.  Put together well they produce wonderful models but they are hard work.  Certainly I have struggled, especially with window openings.  Others have however mastered the art and the Scalescenes site features a gallery of what can be achieved.  The two photos copied here are just a tiny sample of what talented modellers can create from PDF files downloaded from John's site.  The range is not exclusivly railway prototypes but includes a church, castle, school and canal material.

Scalescenes material reduced to T scale (1/450) by Ian Wigglesworth

Scalescenes material reduced to T scale (1/450) by Ian Wigglesworth

He also supplies plain sheets for scratch builders.   You will gather I am a big fan.  My last uses were some of his stone walls in constructing a nativity stable and the slate roof texture on Wallis Manor.

Returning to my gripe about HO/OO, there is no problem with this kind of downloadable 'kit'.  They are designed as 1/76 OO buildings but can just as easily be printed out that little bit smaller to make them 1/87 for HO layouts.

Or reduced dramatically to produce the crazily tiny Z or T scales.  How do people manage to work at this scale? My eyes simply could not manage it.  N scale is a stretch!  My first foray into 1/148 was the Petite Properties St Thomas's church.

MRS low relief model of a 1930s factory

Scalescenes is, of course, not the only company in this sector.  Model Railway Scenery is one arm of the Scale Model Scenery operation run by Justin Noble in Cornwall.   Their downloadable building kits are much grittier than some others.  As this picture shows, their model world is a long way from the nostalgic chocolate box style of buildings for villages that might sit in Midsomer or Borsetshire.  I will return to Justin's work soon in a piece I'm planning on laser cut models.

MRS low relief model of a 1930s factory

Other suppliers include Smart Models and Wordsworth Models.

Smart Models pub

If you are a fan of buses or the London underground you will probably already know of Kingsway Models.  As well as their more serious offerings you will find this free download of a fictional Tube station.

Smart Models pub         &       Kingsway East End Tube

Kingsway East End Tube

If this is your area of enthusiasm you are probably already plugged in to the Facebook Group Model Rail Buildings - Mostly Card & Paper.   If you are not you probably should be.  Interesting stuff posted several times a day and some great examples.

The more I hunt around for miniature buildings the more I stumble across the world of wargames.  Idle browsing led me to the site of Roly (aka Arteis), a wargames enthusiast from New Zealand.  His site seems to have the same motivation and approach as my own and I much enjoyed browsing around it.  A kindred spirit, also retired and interested in family history. Anyway, back to miniature buildings.  One of his articles, More cardboard buildings from Paperboys, features models he has constructed in 28mm scale from cardboard models from Florian Richter and Peter Dennis's book European Buildings: 28mm paper models for 18th & 19th century wargames.

There is more info in a separate article on Roly's experience of making the windmill.

There is more info in a separate article on Roly's experience of making the windmill.

These are building models made for another purpose than simply the joy of making miniature buildings.  They combine in a scene within which wargames can be played.  For some reason I do not fully understand (the practicalities of available space?) the buildings in Richter and Dennis's book are made a little underscale for 28mm figures.

The Peninsular war in 28mm.

An Italian display

Souvenir models

Wherever I travel, but especially in continental Europe, the souvenir shop at the end of the tour - of cathedral, chateau, bell tower, palace, etc offers me the chance to buy a kit to make a card model of what I have seen.  Sometimes a big fancy model (at a big fancy price) in an A4 sized pack and sometimes just postcard sized.

An Italian display

The display sample             

But there is clearly more to the genre. The example below came to my attention when it was posted in a Facebook group 'PhotoModelers.com'. What a rare subject. It was identifed by some knowledgeable commentators as a business promotional product, designed (in the 1980s?) by Thomas Plainer a German paper model designer for some of the German publishers.

For years I resisted the temptation.  So the only examples I had seen were the made up examples in the shop display.  But eventually I did try my hand at making one - the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot.  Take a look at how I found the experience?  Have you tried them?  Please share your experience.  My own view is that card and printed paper is a useful component in my models but that it is best when combined with other material - typically wood and plastic.

Produced by Heinemann

Toys & Novelties

I stumbled across this 1983 example in a charity shop recently.  It is waiting to be made up with a grandchild some wet afternoon.  Though, actually, it may prove to be too hard for young fingers.

Produced by Heinemann

I'm sure there are plenty of other examples.

As always, e-mail Miniature Buildings at MiniatureBuildingSite@gmail.com if you have something to add.  Comments, criticisms, errors you have spotted, extra thoughts, pictures, or even complete articles for inclusion in the Miniature Buildings site are all welcome.  Or if you would like to be added to my mailing list to hear when a new article is published.

David, December 2019
(last updated 1/9/21)