for Big Indoor Trains™
Spring Holiday Village
This project is another in our Tribute to Tinplate(tm)" series, a tribute to the tinplate villages that were served by tinplate trains in the early 1900s.
Like the original Building Tinplate Storefronts project, this project was inspired by a series of candy containers that were made in the early-to-mid 1900s by West Brothers. To create the lithographic-style graphics, I worked from photographs of the originals as much as possible to reproduce the architectural details and the fake 3-D entrances. I also increased the size of the buildings, to look right with Christmas villages and O and On30 trains. I also added a few extra details to keep the buildings from looking too plain at the larger sizes.
Update for 2015 - Howard and Paul have been pleased to learn about other folks building these great projects. However, a lot of folks who like the idea of these buildings seem a bit put off by the idea of putting a fresh blade in the Xacto knife and making their own structures from flat cardboard. So we have designed this set of buildings only to use a box that comes into many North American homes every winter and spring - sometimes in bulk. In other words, the graphics for the walls of these structures fit perfectly on standard 160-tissue Kleenex(r) boxes. You only get one building per box, because you need to use some of the spare cardboard for the crest of the building and to reinforce the hole in the back. But if your family's like my family most winters, running out of Kleenex boxes is the least of your problems.
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What You Will Need
A Note about ScaleAlthough Howard's Marx trains run on O gauge tracks, they are closer to S scale (1:64), the scale of S gauge American Flyer trains, and many collectible village houses. So we tend to publish buildings in S Scale first. These building will be slightly fatter and deeper than the other sets we've presented so far, but door heights and overall height are about the same. If you need a scale other than S, get in touch with Paul and he'll try to help you out. (However, if Paul rescales them, they won't fit on a Kleenex box.)
Store Front GraphicsTo help you decide which building to start with, I've supplied medium-resolution jpeg versions of the building faces. If you click on a thumbnail in the table below, you'll see a version big enough to see clearly. However for the actual project, please download the zip files from the text boxes below the thumbnails. Each file includes all four sides of the building in pdf format. Each zip file also includes a sheet that represents a "tar paper" roof.
It's easiest if you download the files to your hard drive, and open them there. Print these patterns on acid-free paper or card stock, using your color printer. Again, be certain that they print at 100% - so "shrink to fit" or "expand to fit" are not checked.
By the way, some printers will print these darker or lighter than they appear on this page. My color laser prints them much darker. But they are still charming. And this way, if they fade, they'll still look good.
If you can't get the graphics to work the way you need them to, contact Paul and ask him for help - that's his department. :-)
A note about Copyright - However you use these plans and graphics for your personal use, please keep in mind that the lithograph-style graphics are copyright 2015 by Paul Race and are not to be copied, re-used, republished, or repurposed without prior permission and appropriate credit. Commercial use without prior permission is illegal and expressly forbidden.
Building the BaseFor buildings like this one, Howard often makes the "sidewalk" in front of the building into a "boardwalk." This will eventually give you a very nice place to set figures, fire hydrants, lamp posts, and the like.
Howard often makes the base by laminating two pieces of the thin corrugated cardboard from Express Mail packages. You could laminate "matte" cardboard as well.
The "foundation" is a rectangle that gives you more gluing surface for gluing the building down. To get the size, simply trace around one end of the Kleenex box and cut your piece about 1/8" smaller in both directions. The foundation should fit loosely inside the open end of the Kleenex box once it's been cut apart.
Applying the Graphics
Then I carefully applied the graphic wraps to one wall at a time.
Note: For the following illustrations, I made a "mockup," taking some shortcuts I wouldn't recommend if you want a permanent addition to your village. For one thing, I used a Kleenex box that was intact, just to give you the idea of how the mundane recyclable turns into a charming little project as it progresses. I seriously recommend you cut the box first, and glue a bit of cardboard across the hole in the back to make it more stable. That way when you start gluing the graphics on, you can wrap the little gray tab around the lower part of the building to give it more definition.
When you measure the building for cutting, take into account that you will be wrapping a bit of the graphic over the top corner. (For the stone building, I would wrap one course of stone. For the brick building, I would wrap one row of bricks. For the clapboard buildings, I would measure out 1/4" and so on.)
I creased each graphic along the fold lines, then cut it out. Howard ordinarily creases only one of the fold lines first, in case there's a discrepancy between the graphic file and the actual printout. However, I had already tested the measurements of my printout against the box I was going to use.
On this building, I overlapped the top edge by one row of bricks, nipping the corner so I could fold it down flat, too. This way, I didn't have to worry about any of the Kleenex box pattern peaking through once I glued the roof on.
When you do this, spread a thin layer of white glue (like Elmer's) over the entire wall to be glued, and along the edges where the extra bits will wrap around the corner. Then fasten the graphic down carefully. For these illustrations, I used a fairly expensive glue stick, and the results were not encouraging - the sides of the Kleenex box are too shiny for the gluestick to really take hold. So I recommend liquid glue. In addition, liquid glue will give you a tiny bit more time to get things lined up exactly.
Consider using clothespins or the like to make certain the wrap doesn't shift during the drying process.
Once the first "wall" has dried, you add the next wall. Ordinarily, one of your "fold lines" on the next wall should actually be a "cut line." however, in this case, I wrapped the next graphic a little, and I thought that worked, too.
Finally I cut the rest of the cardboard off the building - something I'll do first next time. I traced around the end of the building to measure the roof, cut it out, trimmed it more precisely, then glued it on. I also glued the crest to a scrap piece of cardboard.
After the glue under the crest dried, I cut it out carefully, then used a black magic marker to touch up the edges of the cardboard. Finally I glued the crest on the front. I glued it fairly low so it wouldn't be sticking out so far that it gets bumped all the time. Alternatively, if you want to glue the crest on a little higher, you can another piece of cardboard to the part of the crest that will be sticking out.
All that remains now is the bass and foundation.
Touch Up the Cut LinesWhen all the graphics are applied, take a marker or fine-tipped brush and touch up the edges of the cut graphic media with a color that is compatible with the siding color.
Assemble the StructureOnce you have tested all of the fits, it's time to glue your structure(s) together. Double-check the fit of the foundation inside each building, then glue it onto the base. I'd give it a few minutes to set before gluing the building down on top of it. Again, the hurry-up-and-wait aspect of this stage of the project is reduced if you are working on two or three buildings at once.
Wait until the graphics, paint, and glue are thoroughly dry (at least overnight, if not 48 hours), then spray the structure(s) with several light coats of a clear glossy indoor/outdoor acrylic finish. This protects the surfaces from moisture and dust and also helps reduce fading. In addition, it makes the lithography pattern "pop." Do not spray such a heavy coat in one pass that you cause any streaks, runs, or drips, though, or you'll have to start all over.
Of course the structures will really come to life when you add accessories and put them into some sort of setting, even a simple one. Our article Add Spring Color to Your Holiday Village or Indoor Railroad provides some ideas for using scrounged weeds and leftover paint to provide a bright spring setting for your houses.
ConclusionIf you like this project, stay in touch - more are on the way. In the meantime, you might like to take a look at the following projects. You'll notice that we have the year pretty well "covered" with holiday storefronts, so if you wanted to leave a village up year-round and just swap structures in and out, you can. The other storefronts do require a little more work, but hopefully once you've seen how rewarding they are to build, you'll keep going.
Other Articles about cardboard houses include:
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Note: Family Garden Trains™, Big Christmas Trains™, Big Indoor Trains™, Big Train Store™, and Trains-N-Towns™ are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications™ (www.btcomm.com). All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 by Paul D. Race.
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