Looking for free buildings for your model railway? Paper and card-building kits are simple to make, realistic and best of all there are lots of them available for free just waiting to be printed. Yep, free! Here’s where to get them.
Paper buildings are nothing new. They’ve been around for years, decades even.
Metcalfe will be a familiar name to many. What’s changed in recent years, however, is that there are now loads of high-quality kits freely available on the Internet.
You just go to one of the sites that offer them, download the file, print it; cut out the shapes and glue them together. Free model railway card kits!
This video shows how it’s done. It’s from one of the websites I’ve listed below.
Better yet, once you’ve downloaded a kit you can print it out as many times as you like to have multiple buildings. Compare this to buying traditional card kits and it can save a fortune. Better yet, you can get all manner of templates, from shops to houses and railway buildings, and even accessories such as packing crates, as seen in the photo below.
Update: Since writing this, I now use this glue for card kits. It’s easily the best for card construction.
What’s the catch?
So what’s the catch I hear you ask? Why would anyone offer downloadable model-building kits for free? The general answer is their samples to tempt you into buying more templates from the supplier in question although in some cases they’re offered out of simple generosity by modellers for other modellers.
Where can I get free building card kits from?
Here’s the bit you want. Here is where you can get free model railway building kits.
Kingsway models offer a reasonable range of OO and N gauge paper card-building kits. The link above takes you to their sample page where you can find a semi-detached house, an Underground station, shops, and the insides of garages and underground stations etc. They also offer a range of free back-scene images.
Only one kit, a downloadable PDF file, of an empty shop front from a building in West Yorkshire but it’s a great little kit and well worth getting if your layout is set in that area although it could fit into many other settings. Download available in N, TT and OO scales.
This is a lovely collection of houses, shops, churches, railway buildings (engine and goods sheds, stations, bridges and more) and signs with them. My go-to resource when I want a free kit for early-stage layout (to see how things will look etc.)
It took me a while to figure out the navigation on this site – ignore the confusing messages in the middle of the web pages and just click on the building types in the menu at the top of the page – but once I got there’s a great collection of town building types here. Some of the images seem a little blurred in the website photos but others, such as the modern retail premises under the industrial category, are great. This is definitely one for modern-era builders to visit with many big-name chain shops and branches on current high streets available – McDonald’s, Tesco, ASDA, Nationwide, Curry’s and Argos to name a few.
If this has whetted your appetite for card kits, there are plenty of other related resources that will help with your model building.
- Ghost-signs: Who doesn’t love old faded signs? They’re a classic feature of many old buildings and now you can get them for your models. A variety of ghost signs are available at fairly reasonable prices with colouring to match the red brick of Metcalfe kits although with slight modification they could be used on other card kits.
- Posteriza: Not a kit but an application that allows large photos to be printed on an A4 home printer as a series of sheets that can then be glued together to make a long back scene.
- Texturelib: I’ve mentioned this site before but it’s worth talking about again. It’s a huge collection of high-resolution material textures, including brick, paper, stone and rock, that can be scaled and printed for your own scratch building. Definitely one to bookmark.
- Kirtley Models: Free building papers from modeller Peter Smith.
If there’s one tip I can give you to improve card kit construction, it is to always change the blade on your knife or scalpel before cutting the card. It’s surprising how quickly blades become dull and even a slightly blunt knife edge can tear or rip a card. Using a pristine new blade will give you a better finish. Try it now with one of the above kits, use a blunt blade and then a new sharp and then share how you get on with a comment below or see my other tips to making card kits.
Subscribe to my free email newsletter for more articles like this, plus the latest model train news, regular and exclusive tips, tutorials and guides. It's free, you can unsubscribe at any point and i promise never to sell your information. Click here to subscribe now.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.