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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm) and Garden Train Store (tm)

Trains running in your garden are fun. For many people, it's even more fun when the trains have a purpose, such as communities and industries to serve. Your stores, stations, and water towers will be out even when the trains are put away. And they give you many opportunities to bring realism, interest, purpose, and charm to your railroad.

This page is mostly a buyers' guide that reviews and provides links to sturdy, weather-resistant structures and accessories. As you can see from our Click to see articles about building structures for your garden railroad.Structures articles, we've been telling people how to make, adapt, or prepare structures for their garden railroads since 1999. But most garden railroaders start off with "store-bought" buildings so we want to make certain you have access to those as well.

Structures You Can Buy - The rest of this page lists buildings that were created specifically for garden railroads. Since we first posted this page, many of the buildings we listed have sold out, but, fortunately, other buildings have become available online.

The buildings listed on this page are weather-resistant, sturdy, and designed to look good with most garden trains. A few can be set out on your railroad as soon as you level out a spot for them, although most of this year's crop of buildings are kits you have to put together. I also have links for detailed painting and assembly instructions for several of the buildings.

To place the buildings on my railroad, I usually bury 2"x8"x16" landscaping blocks. This gives them solid, level foundation and keeps plants from growing up when you move them off the railroad. They also make nice stepping stones when you have a lot of landscaping or trimming to do.

A Note about our "Buyer's Guides" We post these descriptions to help you make informed decisions and to learn what is available, even if the suppliers we usually recommend have a short supply. In some cases, we will allow a description to remain on line, even without a supplier link, if we have reason to believe that the product will become available again later. If you want a particular product, but we have no supplier button or the supplier's page says they are sold out, let us know, and we'll recommend a substitute or try to help you find one elsewhere. We apologize if this causes you any inconvenience or confusion.

For more detailed information about why model trains and related products seem to "come and go" and why I have stopped listing prices for products, please see my article "About Pricing and Availability."

Note about Suppliers: While we try to help you get the products you want by recommending good products from suppliers with a good record of customer service, all transactions between you and the supplier you chose to provide your trains or other purchases are governed by the published policies on the supplier's web site. So please print off any order confirmation screens and save copies of invoices, etc., so you can contact the appropriate supplier should any problems occur. (They almost never do, but you want to be on the safe side.)

Kit Buildings

When I first put this page online, several nice pre-built buildings were available. A few still are (scroll down to see). But most of the buildings available today are kits. That's okay; I always recommend painting buildings before you put them out, and it's a lot easier to paint a kit than a finished structure.

About "Beginning" Piko Structures The first several Piko structures listed below use essentially the same basic components and construction, so if you start, say with the smallest "Gingerbread" house, then move on to the churches, stores, or schoolhouses, you'll be able to apply any "lessons learned" as you progress.

Piko Gingerbread Houses
Piko Gingerbread Houses - These little houses are great for setting up a small town without a lot of space. They look tiny in the photo (taken from the package's cover art), but they're large enough to look fine with any garden train. In addition, I have a whole The Lewis Gingerbread House, repainted blue and white.  Click to go to article.article on how to paint and assemble these so that they'll last for many years outdoors. I started with the yellow one because I liked the trim the best. (Yes, it's blue now.) I've had this outside for four years, year-round, and it still looks as good as when I set it out.

In fact, starting with a "Gingerbread" series house is a pretty good idea. It's one of the simplest sets to paint and assemble, but it uses the same walls and basic construction as many of Piko's US-style buildings, including the Schoolhouse and the Church below.

King's Gingerbread House (gray)
Adam's Gingerbread House (blue)
Lewis' Gingerbread House (yellow)
Piko Little Red Schoolhouse
Piko Country Church - The schoolhouse shown in the photo above is also available as a church. The buildings are nearly identical. They have a few more pieces than the Gingerbread houses, but construction is the same and our instructions for painting and assembling still apply.
Piko Country Church
Piko Country Church
Piko Red River Station - This is Piko's smallest station kit, so it fits on even tiny railroads. On big railroads, it still looks good as a way station or serving small towns on your railroad. I don't have detailed instructions on painting and assembling these from the ground up, but I have embedded some painting suggestions in our Painting Plastic Structures article.

For this station, I used a color scheme similar to the original Red River colors, but added protective paint and detailing. Click for a bigger photo. For this station, I used a rust primer for the 'bricks,' then used a 'wash' of acrylic white paint to flow into the mortar lines. Click for a bigger photo.

In addition, I have made my own graphics for both stations (in case you want more variety than what comes in the box). If you want to take a look, go to our Large Scale Sticker Sheets page and look at the second sheet.

Red River Station
Piko Red River Station
Piko Old West Storefronts
Sample Pico Western Storefronts
Piko Old West Storefronts - This is one of Piko's best-known line of buildings. It uses many of the same components as the "Gingerbread" series, so if you started with that one, this is the next logical step. Or vice versa.

I don't have detailed instructions on painting and assembling these from the ground up, but you'll get a lot of good tips from our articles on painting a Piko Gingerbread House or on painting plastic structures in general. The buildings in the photo to the right are examples of a few of the dozens of Western storefronts Piko has produced.

In fact, I still have one of these new in a box, so when I get around to painting it up, I'll try to put a specific article together. In the meantime, the main differences between one building in the series and the next are:

  • The shape of the cornice
  • The number of windows
  • The colors
  • The included graphics

Since we recommend painting anyway, and we have plenty of free downloadable graphics you can substitute, don't be too nervous if you don't like the color scheme or business name of one you come across.

Piko has also made special versions of these for Christmas, to go with the (now discontinued) LGB Toy Train sets, to commemorate specific companies like Harley Davidson, and so on. The photo above is just from one collection of these. We'll list the ones we can find available online, but once you click on any of these links, chances are you see others we don't have listed yet. They all go together about the same, so don't be afraid of trying one we don't show.

Shown above, left to right:

Piko Hardware Store

Piko Leather Goods and Boot Store
Piko Acme Liquor Store
Piko General Store


Not Shown


Piko Lgb Train Hobby Shop
Piko Saloon

Piko Sheriff's Office

Piko Dentist Office
We Will Be Adding Kits More Soon, so check back. In the meantime, here are a couple of links that will bring you to some attractive useful structures. Piko G Scale Stores

Piko G Scale Stations

Colorado Model Structures

Colorado Model Structures offers a very reasonably priced set of kits. In fact, I used to do a "bargain of the year" article each year, and CMS kept winning it year after year.

CMS's structures tend to be less detailed than Piko's, and they aren't as easy to put together. But, ironically, what puts more people of than anything else is that they have to be painted before you put them together or put them on your railroad. Since I paint everything anyway, that doesn't bother me.

Now for the really fun part: CMS buildings are so inexpensive, lots of hobbyists have sliced-and-diced them to make new, very impressive buildings that still cost far less than competing brands.

I have now written articles about three of the kits below:

Unlike other brands, CMS buildings are ONLY available direct from the manufacturer. And I confess, the owner doesn't have the most impressive web page. In fact, every link on the following table will take you to the same page on the owner's site. But he has done more to make garden railroading affordable for families than anyone I know, so I cut him some slack on that account.

Bob & Toms Cabin w/Smokehouse - CMS 3016a This is probably the smallest house CMS makes. It represents a cabin in the woods with a separate smoke house. You could afford to build a whole logging or church camp or motorist campground (remember those?) with these. Bob & Tom's Cabin with Smokehouse.  Click for larger photo.
Go to the CMS kit page
Carls Homestead CMS3014 is one of the easier-to-build buildings. Main building Height is 8-1/2", Width is 9-3/4", and depth is 5-3/4". Annex is 2-7/8" x 5-3.4". Carl's Homestead.  Click for larger photo.
Go to the CMS kit page
Grandpa's House Need a house that doesn't like it belongs in Greenfield Village? This model is based on the design of several hillside homes built in the late 1970's and early 1980's around Colorado Springs, but it would be at home anywhere. It is a slightly more advanced kit with mitered corners. All door, window, and roof sections are included. The structure fits in a footprint of 18-1/2" x 11-1/2' and stands 9" high. Grandpa's House.  Click for larger photo.
Go to the CMS kit page
Cascade Summit Section House - This could be a yard office, a bunkhouse, or a starter home. All door, window, and roof sections are included. Building is 13" x 6-1/2" x 6-1/2" high. Cascade Summit Section House.  Click for larger photo.
Go to the CMS kit page
Cascade Summit Dispatch Office - Again, this is meant to be a yard office or the like, but its interesting shape could represent a very very tiny house. All door, window, and roof sections are included. Size is 9" x 6-1/4" x 6" high at the roof ridge not including roof overhang.

CMS Dispatch Office, finished as a residence.  Click to go to article.To see our article on preparing one of these for year-round use, click here.

To see a version that Robert Segessman fixed up to look like a tiny hobby shop, click here.

Cascade Summit Dispatch Office.  Click for larger photo.
Go to the CMS kit page
Fitzwell Inn - This Colonial-style design was created from a selection of several existing buildings in the York County, Pennsylvania area. It is a more advanced kit that requires filing or sanding of matching corners to obtain optimum appearance and has mitered corners. All door, window, and roof sections are included. The structure itself is 16 inches wide by 10 inches deep and 14 inches high. It is molded from high impact polystyrene(styrene). Fitzwell Inn.  Click for larger photo.
Go to the CMS kit page
Tower - This is one of CMS' most popular kits and one of their least expensive. Years ago, I wrote an article about painting and assembling these, and many of my readers have built their own. Because I prepped mine carefully, it's still in great shape, after several years on the railroad (including winters). Recently at a national convention, clinic attendees refused to believe the low price of these. Colorado Model Structure's Tower.  Click for larger photo.
Go to the CMS kit page
Market Street Buildings - This is a revolutionary new line from CMS that allows you to get a whole block of buildings for less than One of the Market Street Building fronts, complete with detail painting and signage.  Click to go to article.one building from anyone else would cost. Residential, commercial (shown), and industrial districts are available. For a recent clinic, I got ahold of several of the building fronts and demonstrated "before," "during," and "after" versions. Clinic attendees could not believe how much difference a good paint job made on the attractiveness of the models.

One of the "after" versions is shown at the left. I subsequently put together an article for readers who wanted to give these a try. They are not as easy to put together as the Piko or Pola store fronts, but they are much more affordable.

Colorado Model Structure's Market Street commercial district. Click for larger photo.
Go to the CMS kit page

Pre-Built Buildings

At the moment, most of what we can show here are classic AristoCraft buildings that have been discontinued but are still available in very small numbers. That said, there are still a few AristoCraft buildings on store shelves around the country. I can't help you track them down - sorry - but I have put up a description page showing these so you can find out something about them when you come across them. In addition the AristoCraft Buildings page occasionally lists discounted products you can get straight from AristoCraft.

AristoCraft Pre-Built Victorian Station - This station represents many passenger stations that were first built in the mid-to-late 1800s. You may have seen these on garden railroads, since AristoCraft has made this station available in kit form for decades. That said, they were not as easy to put together as they could be - I should know because I have one. So rather than frustrate customers, Aristo is now having these painted and assembled so you can get them new in the box and set them out on your railroad the same day. And the cost is actually lower than many similar station kits from other manufacturers. To purchase, or to check on price and availability, please click on the button.
AristoCraft Pre-Built Covered Bridge - This bridge represents thousands of bridges that were built a century and a half ago - the covers protected the bridges' structure and roadbed from the elements, which is one reason so many of them lasted as long as they did. This bridge is solid and weatherproof enough to give your trains a generation of safe passage over your rivers. Also, it is long enough that if you want to park a streetcar or some such inside to keep it out of the "elements" between running sessions, you can certainly do son. Like the Victorian Station above, AristoCraft has made this station available in kit form for decades, but it's actually become more popular since they offered it "pre-built." And the cost is still lower than many similar kits from other manufacturers. To purchase, or to check on price and availability, please click on a "check stock" button. Click for bigger picture.
Signal Bridge with Lights - This structure adds a lot of interest in a very small space. It's based on scaffolding that puts signal lights where they can be seen a long way off to protect trains and workers.

Conclusion

The products on this page will help you get your railroad, cities, and towns setup quickly. In the meantime. let me know if you want a specific product that is not listed here and I will try to locate it for you.

Best of luck,

Paul
























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Note: Family Garden Trains™, Garden Train Store™, Big Christmas Trains™, BIG Indoor Trains™, and BIG Train Store™ 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 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.


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