Printed Buildings on the Maple Valley Short Line – How to Print and Build Structures for Your Layout

Through over fifty years in HO scale model railroading, I have wide and varied experience building structures for my layouts. My first balsa and cardboard kit was the Purina Feeds Mill I was very proud of. I no longer have it and wish I did. Another was a scratch-built cabin my uncle and I made together in 1970. He is a very talented artist, now in his eighties, who skillfully drew the planks on the walls and the shingles on the roof. I just copied him. I no longer have the cabin I built, but I do have his. I also have several scratch-built structures my uncle made with balsa and foam board which will soon take their place on the Maple Valley Short Line Railroad. Photos of them will appear in future posts.

I have many kit-based buildings made of plastic. They look fine and they’re easy to light using wheat-grain bulbs for just the right amount of light shining through the windows. Until last year, I never would have believed I could build attractive structures using paper prints. Once I started, it was hard to quit! It was really fun!

I searched the internet for printable structures in HO scale and found many to choose from. Obviously, it’s important to have a good printer, which now, almost everyone owns.

The website that I believed offered the best variety of structures was The copyright and designs are owned and offered by Alastair Lee Ltd. On the website, several bundles of building designs are offered. Here is the great part! Once you buy a bundle of designs, you can print them as many times as you want! I paid about $17.00 and was able to print immediately!

I got carried away, but it was so much fun! I think I built about thirty of these little houses. Then I made some improvements by adding basswood posts, a pergola, and decks.

This is an example of a printed house. (I accidentally printed it in the wrong scale so part of the house was cut off.) I printed mine on off-white card stock. After printing, I used adhesive spray to attach the print to another piece of card stock. I suggest not using heavy cardstock because folding will be difficult.

Using an X-Acto knife, and a metal ruler for straight lines, I cut out each piece. However, I added tabs (white angular area) to each of the edge lines including the bottom. This provides more gluing area so the joints are much stronger. After cutting, I very carefully (do not cut all the way through) scored the outside of the fold edges which makes the corners sharper.

I used heavy card stock as the base for each of my buildings. I cut out the middle to provide easy access for lighting. On most of the houses, I included extra base area for a deck or porch.

There is obviously a learning curve. My skills improved as I built for structures.

“Build Your Own Lincoln Sites” is another printable building website I used. These are free and the prints are high quality. The cutting lines are highly detailed and the instructions are easy to follow. As you can see in the photo of my building, I added facia to the roof line and a balsa deck to the front.

This building from the same website turned out great. You will discover how important scoring the folding lines is when it’s time to finish the graduated edge of the building roof. A little bit of touch-up with some paint on the front completed the structure.

I printed a few pages of full color miniature advertising posters. I cut out several with attractively varied colors and glued them to the building. Another option is to scratch them lightly with a knife to give them a weathered appearance. (The billboard at the top of the wall is on the original print.)

I am very happy with my printed buildings. I still have a lot of scenery work to do. I am presently working on wiring the Maple Valley Short Line. I also have to get the next episode of Scandal at Maple Valley finished!

I used printable structures because the cost is so low. Search the internet and you will find just the right printable structures for your layout.

I would love to read about your layout. Please comment and let me know about your progress!

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