If you create buildings for your model railway, at some point you’ll want to simulate glass for the windows. Here’s what did and didn’t work on my models.
I use plastic kits, kit bashing and scratch build techniques for the buildings on my model railways but no matter what I always struggled with the windows.
Even on plastic kits I often find myself needing more window material than comes the kits. Admitedly this is usually because I screw up while painting window frames and get it on the “glass”. And of course when recycling old models, working on buildings where I modified plastic from an existing kit (kit bashing) or am creating something from scratch I don’t even have pre-supplied windows to work with.
It was after a recent build project – modifying an existing railway workman’s hut and sure enough spoiling the supplied windows – and realising I had nothing to create windowpane with I set about finding a cheap glass substitute.
Wrapping It Up
I read on another blog (I’ve long lost the URL but if you come across it let me know so I can add a credit) that Cellophane worked well and that’s what I tried first, having some from a recent gift.
Although initially looking very promising, and is the cheapest, I found it problematic to work with.
Cutting it into small pieces was difficult and its flexibility made it troublesome to hold flat and in place. Several pieces folded over while being glued and fixed. After four attempts I gave up on wrap.
The next materials were even more disappointing.
Resin and Clear Glues
Various diorama making blogs suggest using clear resin and glues.
Applying these was more time consuming but less frustrating than the flappy Cellophane. It’s essentially a case of depositing layers of the glue from the window frame inwards until the window hole is filled or placing tape behind the window area and filling the space with the glue, letting it set and then removing the tape leaving just the hard, transparent glue aka window, in place.
Or that was the theory.
The application using the above techniques was fine, especially for small the windows that I work with in N scale, but for whatever reason the dried glue was rarely clear enough to serve as a window.
A Chance Coincidence
It was a chance coincidence that lead to the next and most successful material.
I keep notes of my model building activities – for this blog and future ideas – and store these a folder with acetate sheets. It was while writing up the notes for the previous failed window making trials and placing it into this folder that I glanced at the acetate sheets…
A few trials confirmed my hunch.
They are stiff enough to be cut easily and don’t flap around while being positioned and glued.
And best of all, pack set of A4 sheets is enough for a huge number of windows.
I now use these – unless I’m working with a kit build model and somehow don’t screw up the painting – and haven’t looked back since with result that the windows in my workman’s hut look good as new.
> 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.
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.