Building Inspiration From Cut-And-Assemble Series of Books

A couple of years ago, I happened upon big paperback books containing models of structures to be cut out and glued together. The buildings are printed on cardstock, and there are pages that contain instructions.

(If you search “A.G. Smith” on your favorite online retailer site, you’re sure to find an example. There are many editions of these books, featuring buildings of different architectural styles – including an American Frontier city, an early 20th-century city, a seaport, a farm, several Victorian houses, etc. Edmund V. Gillon Jr. is another author of these books.).

Anyway, I tried building one once, but failed – they are harder to build than you think! At the same time, I began creating models of buildings in Sketchup.

It was then that I had the idea to use these books of buildings as the basis of Sketchup buildings. The buildings in the books are laid out in HO scale so that they can be used in model railroads. I bought an HO scale ruler that I used to come up with the dimensions in feet and then built the Sketchup models accordingly.

Each building contains quite a lot of detail, which you may choose to retain if you’re ambitious. Each book contains buildings of a particular style, so I found that I could borrow building elements from one building and use them in another. However, it’s rewarding to spend a little time creating building elements that will make each stand out. I found it useful to create a file containing all the unique elements, which can be used in new structures.

This idea has also led me to research the design of historical western towns. There is enough information that if you choose to alter anything, you can do research to see if your alterations are historically correct – if you choose to.

Once you get good at building the buildings of one particular style, it’s fun to experiment with creating different buildings, or making alterations of existing buildings. For example, I raised the bank building in the frontier city onto a foundation and then built a raised porch in front of it (seen below).

And here’s a building with a raised porch running around two adjoining sides.

I hope you find this approach useful, and I look forward to questions and comments.

Bruce Jennings


Nice. I’ve done a similar although sort of the reverse thing but instead of using a scale ruler to figure out the sizes, I model the buildings at full size. I unfold them to make flat versions and then send them to LayOut where I can set the scale of the viewport to match the scale of the railroad. That makes it dead easy to make HO-scale or N-scale models or whatever scale is needed.

As an example, I used the buildings with the textures which, in the case, were offered by someone else in the 3D Warehouse…

And made the flats to print for N-scale. Here’s part of that long building in the lower left.


In a similar way of thinking, it’s interesting to research the prototypes of the buildings from the books. There’s a book of small town buildings, and sure enough, some of the prototypes still exist – and they are easily found with Google Maps or Earth. After modeling them, it’s fun to see if anything you’ve improvised actually happens in reality.

When I get to my home computer, I’ll upload some comparisons between the model and the prototype.

Thanks for your reply!


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