£35 Model Railway Update: Building the buildings and cliff face, part 6

project update £35 model railwayIt’s been a while, too long, but here’s an update on my £35 model railway challenge project.

Since the last update, I’ve started on the buildings; added the foundations for the cliff face in the background and spent some more time on the track work. It’s starting to look like a model railway at last.

Building the buildings

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my usual choice for making buildings from scratch is foam board and clay. For this project, however, I thought I’d try something different for a couple of reasons.

A) Because cost is critical to this project and the cost of clay would have broken my £35 budget, and

B) I fancied experimenting.

The walls of the buildings were created from foam board as usual. Cutting them to size; sanding down rough edges with fine sandpaper and then glueing them together (using PVA).

foam board buildings engine shedThe experiment was on the outside finish.

Instead of clay, I used brick paper. I went to www.paperbrick.co.uk, picked a brick texture and scale and then printed it out. This was then cut to the shape of the building and glued on with white glue. It needs to be dulled down (having been printed it has a sheen finish) but this isn’t too difficult. (If the owner of www.paperbrick.co.uk is reading this, please get in contact).

For the doors and windows, I papered over them and then cut holes out after, leaving an overlap so the brick pattern could be wrapped around the inside of the windows and doors.

The engine shed work in progress can be seen in the photo above*. To this, I’ll add tin foil corrugated sheeting for the roofing.

The experiment has paid off so far. Scratch building in this way is a lot of fun and saves a fortune on the buildings and I’m moderately pleased with the result. I’ve still got to add the roofing as mentioned, the main doors, window sills and guttering but it’s looking acceptable for this budget project.

Background cliffs

making cliffsThe background cliff face is a key aspect of this layout in a box as it frames the railway and creates a realistic setting for the dock area.

To make this I created a cardboard lattice was made with strips of paper glued across the gaps. This was then built up with further strips of paperwork.

The shape is now complete (as can be seen in the above photo) and it JUST needs the rock face and vegetation added. This I’ll do with my old bark trick and homemade scatter material. Although you can’t see it in these photos, the cliff face continues around to the left where the track will disappear into tunnels to take them off the layout (to a fiddle yard).

Finally, this time I attacked the track work.

To be honest, I’m not happy with the track work.

Railways around docks and harbours are usually just rails — no sleepers visible — and I wish I’d done this here but what’s done is done.

To try and improve the look, I’ve painted the rails a rusty brown colour. I’m still not happy with it but this project wasn’t about creating a perfect layout but seeing if a model railway could be created for £35 so it’ll do for now.

All in all, it’s coming along nicely and I’m still within budget but I’m struggling to find a loco and wagon or two for the £10 I have remaining in my budget. (The loco seen in the photos here is just for testing).

My usual go-to source for cheap rolling stock is the local car boot sale but this isn’t open during the winter months so I’m stuck with hunting around online on eBay and so far nothing has come up.

I’m confident I’ll find one eventually but getting it for my self-imposed deadline of December / January could be a problem. I may end up having to pay the £100 penalty I promised to pay to a charity if I didn’t make it. We’ll see.

Project status


  • Track: Budget £5, Spent £5.
  • Materials (box): Budget £10, Spent £9.98
  • Electrics: Budget £10, Spent £9.99
  • Total: Budgeted for items purchased so far, £25. Spent £24.97.


  1. DONE: Choosing gauge, layout size, theme and track plan. End of August.
  2. DONE (two weeks behind schedule): Aquire basic materials: wood, track, electrics. End of September.
  3. DONE (one week behind schedule): Lay and ballast track and electrics. End of October.
  4. Get rolling stock and make scenery and/or buildings. End of November.
  5. Add finishing details. 2nd Week of January (allowing for Christmas holidays).

See a model railway for £35 for the previous development of this project.

The office in the photo is a Hornby model I had lying around that I’m using for positioning. It’ll be replaced with another scratch-built construction shortly.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
  1. Really interesting to follow your work on this layout. Exciting – because of the challenge; probably useful for recruiting new railway modellers (“see how little space and money!”); always fun to observe other’s solutions and ideas; and finally with some more photos of the building process, it might be a good and simple guide for making the initial part of a much bigger layout.
    I have also used printed out brick paper with success. However, I made the mistake to use an existing box, thinking that I cut several corners. It turned out that having the walls stuck together from the start and having limited access to the insides of the walls made the construction process very cumbersome. I will not do it that way again! Merry Modeling Christmas, SorenES

    • Hi Soren, for the outside walls I made the building and glued it together and then wrapped the brick paper around it (so a seam wasn’t visible at the corners where the paper on each side meets). For the inside however, where the corners weren’t visible, I just cut sheets of paper to the size of each wall and glued them in place. As you say, trying to wrap paper around walls and corners while working inside the building would be too much hassle. Cheers and Merry Christmas to you, Andy.

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