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Written by Paul D. Race for Big Indoor Trains™




















































In 2007, I started posting cleaned-up high-resolution photos of buildings that could be used to make inexpensive backgrounds - or in some cases 3D models for any railroad, even outside, if you use the right materials. The photos have gone around the world, been used in every scale, and (with permission) in more than one virtual world. One was even "borrowed" (without permission) for an American Idol video. So they were a success, but they represented a lot of hard work, and it has been hard getting around to this sort of thing again.

Still, when we spent several days in London and the greater Dublin area recently, I couldn't help but be charmed by many of the buildings we passed.

So I've gotten my "cloning tools" out of mothballs and cleaned up six storefronts that indicate the sort of charm we encountered on street after street after street "across the pond."

As I did before, I squared up each photo, cloned out power lines, electrical boxes, fire hydrants, passers-by, automobiles, flower-pots, street lamp posts, etc., so each file represents something close to a "pure" building facade that you can trick out with your own accessories if desired.

The "Real" Isle of Sodor?

You may feel that there's nothing particularly "Irish" in this collection. I doubt that anyone would feel funny about seeing these on an "American" railroad. But they're part of a pattern of "old country" architecture that would be right at home in Thomas the Tank Engine's world. In fact, if you spend enough time in Ireland, and especially bumming around Irish railroads, you'll start to feel that you're on the Isle of Sodor. Yes, I realize that Thomas and his friends are mostly based on Great Western (British) prototypes and countryside, but that's not as far removed from Irish railroading and countryside as you might think. In other words, if you're a Thomas fan and you want to have towns to go with those stations and roundhouses, these six buildings should steer you in a fairly authentic direction.

Scales of Buildings

I went to a lot of effort in 2007 to provide really big versions of some of the buildings, the kind you could print off on 11"x17" printers, etc. As far as I know, only two or three people ever took advantage of the oversized graphic files, but a lot of folks asked for smaller versions. Well, these photos are almost all of 2-story versions (and the ones that aren't I converted to 2-story versions for simplicity.) And you can get a printout that's useful for large scale on an 8.5x11" sticker or sheet of paper. So that's as big as I went. Each building is available in five formats:

  • "Large Scale" - the largest version that would fit on an 8.5"x11" sticker or sheet of paper. Printing photos of real buildings to fit the paper size instead of to a specific scale means that some of the buildings are closer to 1:26, some are closer to 1:32, and most are in between. Frankly, unless look REALLY close, you won't notice the difference in scale. You can't even use the door height, since some of these buildings have 84" doors, some have 76" doors and a few have 72" doors - let's face it, a century ago, when most of these buildings were built, people weren't as tall as they are today. The point of these is to look good behind Large Scale trains, whether you print them on weather-resistant labels and use them outside, or whether you print them on acid-free card stock and use them behind your storage tracks or indoor railroad.

  • 9" Height - This is a "special case" for folks who are intrested in recycling "road spam" to create easy, inexpensive temporary buildings for outdoor use. For an article on that topic, click here.

  • O Scale - Assuming an average door height of around 78" and modeling in 1:48 scale. If you have tinplate trains and Plasticville houses, you may find these a little large overall for your O gauge railroad.

  • S Scale - These are about 3/4 the size of the O scale structures - they're the closest size to the average name-brand ceramic village. They're also the closest in overall size to most buildings made for O gauge railroads. Of course, if you're running American Flyer, you may find these especially handy.

  • HO Scale - I made these about half the size of the O scale buildings, so they should average out pretty close to your HO scale structures. If you need N scale, try printing one of these at 50% (using the setup feature of Adobe Reader) and adjusting that up and down depending on what you like.

About The Store Fronts

Although I captured a few English pubs and many storefronts from other towns that were just as charming as these photos, these represent the "downtown" buildings of the smaller East coast villages fairly well. The "Happy Pear" and "Sweet Shop" were from Greystones; the rest - if I remember correctly - are from Black Rock, where, contrary to Hollywood, we had a good day. Both towns, as well as several towns in between, including Bray, depend on tourism for much of their income. So there's a financial incentive - and in many cases - zoning laws that force the businesses to respect the traditional format of their storefronts. As an indicator, almost none of the lettering on any of the storefronts in the photos is over 40 years old (several cases are closer to 20), but they tend to use old-fashioned lettering to give the impression that the storefront looks the way it did a century or three ago. One exception to this seems to be the multitude of "Chinese" restaurants, which use the kind of fake Chinese lettering you might have seen in American "Chinatowns" a generation ago.

As another example of this dedication to traditional appearance, we saw at least two structures which were being completely rebuilt, but the storefront itself was being retained in place. To fill the visual gap while the work went on, huge pictures that represented the buildings' upper stories were hung in their place.

That isn't to say that these towns are live-in historical recreations. A block west of Graystone's candy store is a glass and steel shopping center that must have looked very modern whenever it went up (1980s?). It's where the local kids go to buy American-inspired, Chinese-made skater clothes and other cool stuff you can't get on Main Street. Needless to say, we didn't spend any time there.

Although the "Happy Pear" is the least-traditional-looking building of this collection, I included it so any reader who ever gets to Greystones, Wicklow County, Ireland will know that it's a great place to get locally-grown organic fruit, sit-down dining, and expresso. Don't order "American-style" coffee, though - they make it the same way everyone else does in Ireland as far as I can tell - by starting with expresso and watering it down. :-(

Legal Uses and Recommendations for the Photos

You are encouraged to:

  • Download these photos, print them on your own printer or take them to a print shop for printing, glue them onto card stock or foam board, and use them on your indoor railroad or holiday village scene or on any public display where no admission is charged (in fact the first use of this will probably be in a children's hospital wing, if that gives you some ideas).
  • Click to see Howard Lamey's Log Cabin Flat project Idea.Print multiple copies, glue them to card stock or foam board, cut them apart and glue them back together to add a sense of three dimensions. Our designer friend Howard Lamey has already done this with the log cabin photo below - the possibilities are endless. To see Howard's project, click here.

  • Print multiple copies and splice them together to make bigger buildings.

  • Make your own signs or adapt signs from our Business and Station Signs page.

  • Cut out the windows and doors and glue them onto other buildings or other brick paper to make your own creations. (We even supply downloadable brick paper and other textures on our Building Textures page.
  • Paint a strip of wood gray to use as a sidewalk in front of the buildings. Add lampposts and fire hydrants to give a greater sense of depth to the scene. Again, our friend designer Howard Lamey as used cutouts of several of our original building photos for a street "background" scene that cost pennies. (He built this one in HO, but we have the images for many scales.) Click on the image below to see how he did it.

    Click to see Howard's How-To article on this project.

  • Send us photos of any unusual or particularly creative use you find for these.

  • You may even use these images in gifts you give to your friends.

If you think of another noncommercial use for these that you'd like to try, contact me me and I may make this list longer:

However, you are not allowed to:

  • Publish these images or any image that uses any element of these images.
  • Sell anything you've made using these images.




Building Files

Thumbnail
Description
Large Scale
O Scale
S Scale
HO Scale
Aunty Nellie's Sweet Shop
Nearly every town we stopped at had at least one traditionally-appointed "sweet shop," probably a sign of how important tourism is to their economy. Many of them seem to compete to carry lines that the other stores don't carry; a person with a sweet tooth could get into real trouble. This one was in Greystones.
Large
Scale
O Scale
S Scale
HO Scale
Pharmacy
This is actually the "short wall" of a larger building which now has the owner's name on the front, and not just the generic name "Pharmacy." That said, in the small towns that only have one druggist, that's all the signage says. You'll also occasionally see a sign that just says "Bakery" or "Shoes." It's only when competition moves in that the signage gets more specific.
Large
Scale
O Scale
S Scale
HO Scale
Savills.ie, Real Estate
The "signage" is painted on the awning in 6"-high letters that I cut off of the Large Scale version so it would fit on a page. Each "postcard" in the window lists a house I can't afford. I checked, really, this is a beautiful country.
Large
Scale
O Scale
S Scale
HO Scale
Black Rock seems to be a shopping as well as a tourist destination. It has several housewares, furniture, and related stores within a few blocks. Although if you took the DART to Black Rock, you'd need to arrange for the bigger stuff to get shipped back to your house.
Large
Scale
O Scale
S Scale
HO Scale
Black Rock Credit Union
In the small towns, the credit unions and banks seemed to work the hardest to maintain a traditional appearance. The National Bank of Ireland storefronts look almost just like this except they are blue. In downtown Dublin, though, the banks tend to look big and new.
Large
Scale
O Scale
S Scale
HO Scale
Happy Pear
The Happy Pear in Greystones is actually twice this wide; but there were little tables and fruit crates in front of the other side. One side is grocery, specializing in locally-grown and or organic food. The other side is a cafe/restaurant, with a dining area up a narrow stairway. Everything we bought or ate there was good. Plus they are very close to the DART station, so it's a good place to meet up with people you're going to be traveling with.
Large
Scale
O Scale
S Scale
HO Scale

    Finally, I would like very much to see any projects you make using these resources. For one thing, it might give me some ideas for other resources to add.

    Please stop by every once in a while - we have several other buildings to upload when we get a chance. Again, please contact us if you would like to see more of a particular kind of building.

Return to the Resources for BIG Indoor Trains™ page.




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Return to Big Indoor Trains Home page Return to Family Garden Trains Home page Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden RailroadingBig Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads


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