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Do you have a specific structure in mind? Maybe something local to you?  You can go walk it down and measure it (with permission of course if its private property).  Then using MikeCT's reply convert to O Scale.  Next, you probably wont be able to fit it on your layout so you use "selective compression".  You simply reduce it's size equally on all sides, or at least two sides at a time, until it fits, or "looks right".  If youre working from photos and a personal visit is not feasible, look for something in the photo of a known or estimated length.  I recently found a pic of a freight house i want to model with a ladder hanging horizontally on hooks on a wall. i can now estimate the building's length using the typical rung spacing of the ladder.  You can also use a commercially produced model to compare what you want to build to and get an idea of a "look right" size.  Have fun!

@Farmall-Joe and @Mike CT have it. I went to the one museum here in town. They have an open hearth furnace there taken out of a steel mill. The only thing it's missing is the heat. I asked for permission to measure it and they give me permission. So I sketched out approximately the shape and got to measuring. Then I shrank it down to 1:48 scale. It worked very well!

Considering that my RR is linear as opposed to a flat table top of loops with open mid circle space, here are a few guide lines I follow for what ever the dimensions are:

Primarily RR support buildings.

No residential or non RR business buildings.  Too much of a  real estate foot print.

No square boxie cube structures.  Too generic for me.  Mfg cop out for sku control.  If you have to see a label on the building to know what it is it is too "fits all" for me.

Essentially rectangular so as to demand minimum footprint between track(s) and platform edges or backdrop.

Preferably custom buildings picked up at train shows.

Scaled down building size from prototype can be very practical.  Scale buildings and trees can dwarf any RR.

Last edited by Tom Tee

I'm modeling a steel mill that's just enormous.  I would need a warehouse to represent it, even in 1:48.  So, here are a couple of tricks:

  1. If I can't duplicate a building or structure in its entirety due to size, I try to keep its proportions representative.
  2. I place buildings at an angle to the backdrop or a wall.  That allows me to model some part of a building and more buildings than would otherwise fit.


Check out My article in O Gauge RR August/September 2022 on page 77 A Stable for Streetcars. Modeled from a photo I found online of an 1880;s trolley barn in Atlanta GA.  A tip for sizing buildings, Usually the front door of a house and most buildings is 3' wide, you can take it from there with an O Gauge ruler!



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