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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.

Structures You Can Build - 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.

Update for 2020

This page started out as a buyers' guide with reviews and links to sturdy, weather-resistant structures and accessories. We still have several of those, but, unlike a few years ago, they are almost all from a single source, and some of those are getting hard to find in kit form.

The PIKO buildings shown on this page have lovely details. They tend to be a little smaller than POLA or AristoCraft buildings, which used to be widely available. They work very well with PIKO and (now discontinued) HLW and AristoCraft trains.

Most of them look fine on a railroad that features LGB or Bachmann Big Hauler trains, especially the houses and storefronts, which usually aren't sitting right next to the trains anyway.

If you come across any hard-to-find POLA buildings (sometimes labeled LGB/POLA), you'll find that they are better suited to LGB and Bachmann trains in scale, but most of them model European prototype that won't look quite right with US-style trains. I am not linking to any because they are in such short supply that they will be gone by the time this page is posted.

The buildings listed on this page are weather-resistant, sturdy, and designed to look good with most garden trains. 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" stepping stones/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. Just move your buildings aside to move around the railroad and move them back when you're done.

A Note about Product Availability 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

Other Sources

Longtime readers know that I scroung for accessories, a habit that started when I first got into the hobby. At that time few North American-style buidings were available and, frankly, money was tight. I still scrounge, even though I don't, technically have to, largely because of the "thrill of the hunt."

Here are some ways you might consider scrounging yourself.

  • One example of a popular POLA building kit - a two-stall engine house, no longer made as far as I can tell - it costs double what it used to when it was in prouction. Like most POLA buildings, it's inspired by a Bavarian prototype, but this one could be used on a North American prototype railroad if you could find it for less than the cost of a major appliance.Remaining POLA buildings These are few and far between, and most cost as much as a locomotive, but if you search for them on Amazon or eBay you may find some you like enough to spring for. Just be sure to examine the eBay photos carefully - most of the buildings are damaged, some badly.

    I won't link to specific structures because they "come and go quickly," but this Amazon link will take you to a page with several of them (and many others that are useless for our purposes).

  • The 'long barn' from North States' Village bird feeder 'collection.'  The Long Barn, Long Church, and Old Town Pub work well with Garden scale figures.  I also like to use North States Village feeders as as 'placeholders' to keep my railroad from looking 'naked' during the 'off season. Click for a bigger photo of the barn.North States "Village" Bird Feeders - A prominent bird feeder company makes church and barn-shaped bird feeders that hold up to all kinds of weather. Unfortunately, they make them in batches, and the best ones aren't always available. I like the long barn and the long church, as well as the Old Town Pub. The houses and log cabins tend to have doors that are too big for garden train figures, though you could always tweak them if you wanted. You can slide the bases off the building and fasten them down to plexiglas or pressure-treated rectangles. Or fill the bases with gravel and raise the surrounding terrain to camouflage them. I use some of these that way through the winter to keep my railroad from looking "naked" when my model buildings are safe inside (the gravel in the base keeps our strong winds from blowing them off the railroad).

    Again, I won't link to specific structures because they "come and go quickly," but this Amazon link will take you to a page with several of them (and many others that are useless for our purposes). In addition, Menards and other hardware chains often stock pieces that aren't commonly found elsewhere.


These offerings have changed along with changes in the hobby, including LGB (who promoted the POLA buildings) changing ownership several times in the last twelve years.

As vendors and providers come and go, we may see new "players" and products in a few years. But in the meantime, the products on this page should help you get a start on your railroad, cities, and towns.

Please let me know if you need a specific product that is not listed here and I will try to locate it for you.

Best of luck,


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Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains.
Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains