Structures Question: Wood or Plastic?


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I have been a collector of HO model railroad stuff for many years; and I am just now able to build a layout larger than the traditional 4x8 layout. The layout I will build will feature quite a few structures. I don't know if you can mix wood and plastic together successfully on a smaller layout (20x20). I know that wood offers pride of craftsmanship while plastic offers a larger variety of structures (But they always look like plastic when you're done). I also realize the BIG difference in building time between the two. I have just about every Campbell kit and most of the FSM (the latter being like money in the bank, they get more valuable every day). I would be leaning towards the Master Creations or older Builders In Scale type if I do decide to go to wood structures.
So my question is this: Which type of structures do you use on your layout, Wood or Plastic. I have intentionally ruled out plaster because of the limited number of kits

While wood looks like wood, plastic can look like brick, metal, concrete, stucco, stone, or wood. The key to a good looking structure (wood or plastic) is in the painting and weathering. Never just assemble and install a plastic structure, no matter what the manufacturer says about "Realistically Colored Brick".

If you're really determined to stick to one medium or the other, your era and geography will make that determination. The Campbell kits tend to follow an early (1870 - 1900) western prototype and would look out of place in a '50's eastern city. BIS and FSM tend to be all over the place: old, new, eastern, western, rural, and urban. Plastic kits are made to fit all eras and locales.
Yes. And cardstock as well.

The answer is simple, build what you need. It is the finish that makes or breaks a model not what it is made of.
THere have been excellent articles in MR and other magazines as of late and what I'm finding is a "wash" is the key to making plastic look non-plastic.

I use mostly tole paints and india ink to take the "edge" off.

I use the plastic kits mainly because of availibility, cost, and the time I have for this right now. I understand what you said about plastic looking like plastic or at best an over colored toy. As already said, the finishing will make the huge difference. Your on the right track with India ink and washes for the finish, but I always paint every part before assembly as if it were a new structure and then weather it according to the time frame.

There is no reason why you can't do both.

Take a good look at the difference in my post of the Avery Gold Refining. From Toy land to HO Boiler house.
AS said before, finish is the key. My models get several layers of paint whether wood, metal or plastic. As the variety increases, I'm liking plastic more and more. I'm even taking one of my Muir craftsman kits and building it with styrene because I like the finish better.

You'd be hard pressed to tell any of my plastics from wood and vice versa on the layout. You might if you looked really close. But you'd have to be too close for me to care.
I buy whatever works! lol By the way, search craftsman style modeling sites, like they have a large selection of plaster kits ;-), there's more then you think.

Plastic can work, if you paint it correctly. Wood is the same way, infact they're all the same...
The only issue I have with plastic is that waxy residue on the surface that water based paints or washes bead up on. I've sprayed on dull coat to help stop that. Is there other ways besides primer to get that waxy sheen off?



The station is a resin kit and the other is a Cornerstone plastic kit. Some of my first attempts at weathering.
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One thing I've always hated about plastic is the way light penetrates it. That's why [on light-colored plastic] I always apply an undercoat coat of gray primer - makes a world of difference in making plastic look "unlike plastic."
Fergie: PolyS makes "Plastic Prep" that you wash down the plastic with. This cuts the greasy residue and etc. off the plastic before you paint. Just apply with a brush and let dry.

KenL: I agree that you should take some measure in blocking light penetration, particularly with light colors. I like to paint the inside of building some dark color and if I am going to install lights, black.
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ALLWAYS paint the interior of a building, that has any sort of windows, and, plastic, allways... Well DPM style, maybe not, but. If you got windows, you may as well detail the interior, at least partialy...
Your right Josh about detailing the interior. If I can see in my buildings and don't plan on detailing, a quick dose of Dullcote on the inside glazes them over just right.
I prefer Testors Primer, and just about everything, lol, I love testors paints, and Wal*Mart has to be de-stocking them... Now I'll have to pay premium prices. Dullcote counds interesting though, may try that on the next one I build (have a few dozen to help my dad build).
The waxy stuff is probably mold release. You can wash the parts with detergent.

Most of the time, I prime the stuff I want to paint, but not always. I use acrylics, water based, so I think with rubbing alky, which gets rid of the surface tension of the water.

HaggisKennedy said:
The waxy stuff is probably mold release. You can wash the parts with detergent.

Most of the time, I prime the stuff I want to paint, but not always. I use acrylics, water based, so I think with rubbing alky, which gets rid of the surface tension of the water.


I have a bunch of black airbrush paint that I hose everything down with. Then I bring the colors back, often to close to what the model maker had in the original. It creates highlights in the relief.