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So How Hard Can it be to build a metal building?


Front view painted w/red roof, image size=31.7 KB

Not Hard, but here are some helpful tips and modifications you might consider when constructing a 3-Stall Roundhouse Metal Building by California Model Co.

Slow down, this is going to take some time.  This kit is still sold under a different name and can be bought from Walthers at   I do not recommend this kit for someone just starting to build kits.  The prerequisites for building this kit are previous soldering experience; tools, such as small c-clamps; accurate measuring devices, such as calipers; metal ruler; walthers goo; assortment of hand tools; cutters; scrap brass; miniature vise; small drill bits; and room to leave this project as it grows.  Familiarize yourself with the parts, even subdividing the various pieces into groups for later reference.  Above all, read all the instructions at least twice to get a solid understanding of what you will be doing.

Base material w/engine work pits, image size=35.3 KB Floor Material

Decide on a base material to use for the building, whether it be plywood, particleboard, balsa wood or some other hardwood.  Cut this out first and lay down the blueprint provided for the floor layout.  Tape the blueprint to your base material.  This step is crucial to achieving the accuracy in alignment of the walls, trusses, tracks and overall construction.   Maintaining the 3/32" measurement for the floor can be somewhat misleading until you realize the floor will sit beneath this 3/32" that has been requested at the bottom of the left and right walls and the rear of the building, including the small office building.   I recommend a 3/32" piece of balsa wood for the floor, cutting it out and pasting on top of your base material.   This helps as you assemble and adjust the building to fit the desired form of the blueprint.  b I would also suggest making the three floor cutouts before attaching the building to the base.

Truss Top View, unpainted image size=69.4 kb Truss Construction

Truss Construction:   In order to create the various truss sizes, create a jig to hold the various pieces that make up the trusses as you construct each truss.  You are trying for repeatability.  Maintaining consistency in measurements pays off when you start assembling the subassemblies.  Check your work as you make each piece against the drawing and requested dimensions.  Each subassembly should be checked for the correct dimensions and fit into the walls of the building, as well as the adjacent trusses.

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3 Doors soldered to front Brass Supports, image size=66.0 kb Framing the Doors

Framing and Mounting the Doors:   After the trusses are built, the sides are then soldered to each other.  I made an engineering change in the framing of the doors.  Instead of using the l-girders soldered together as a square, I purchased square brass bar stock and measured accordingly.  I consider this an improvement in the stability of the front section.  Additionally this allows easier mounting of the hinges that hold the doors and, hence, squares the doorframe and doors.  Be careful when soldering since the brass heats up at a different temperature than the tin does.  I used small alligator clips to provide heat sinks when soldering in tight spots.  When making hinges for the doors, I only made hinges for the bottom of the door.  The top of the door is mounted by drilling a small hole in the square brass rods used in place of the l-girders in the original plans.

Base Mount with 3 tracks to layout, image size=52.1 kb Base to Layout

Mounting the Base to the Layout:   Depending on your configuration, this may take some thought and time.  There are many different ways to connect this structure to your turntable or WYE type switch.   Using the 3/32” floor height matches well to any track height ties so you lay the rails on top of the floor over the work pits without ties.  However, a word of caution when mounting the track to the base: make sure, if the material is not soft, you have the correct size holes pre-drilled for your spikes that will hold the track to the floor.  Having a track gauge is essential to maintain the correct track spacing and alignment.  After finishing the placement of the three tracks, check the alignment and clearance of the three doors with the tracks in place prior to final assembly.  Paint the sides of the rails the same color as the top of the floor. This gives a very finished effect and looks as if the rails were concreted to the floor.  Leave yourself a back door in case of a problem.  Always think, "How would I fix this if something happens later on?"

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Checking Model against blueprints, image size=46.7 kb Soldered SubAssemblies

Assembling the Subassemblies:   Laying the back wall down flat and using some small metal C-clamps to hold the rear of the A-type truss to the back wall will allow the rear supporting member of the A-type truss to be tack soldered in place.  Once both trusses are soldered to the rear of the building and the building placed on the base, check for alignment of the building to the floor against the blueprint.  It may not be perfect; however, try for the best fit you can achieve.  The three vertical posts in the center of the trusses will be off the floor by 3/32” to allow for the underlying base or floor material.  Now the building starts taking form and, from here on you will be building on, this foundation of pieces.

Install lighting w/brass posts, image size=81.8 kb Lighting bottom view

Installing Optional Lighting:   There is no mention of interior lighting in the kit, but what roundhouse doesn’t have light to work on the locomotives? I used nine square brass posts cut the same width as the support roof pieces. The center has a hole drilled for the miniature light and at each end there are two holes at 90 degrees, allowing the wires from the lamps to come out at right angles to the ends. After drilling the holes in the brass girders, file all rough edges that might remove insulation on the wires when pulled through the brass posts. These brass posts are soldered to the existing superstructures with the same width as the tin L-girders used to connect the trusses to the walls. After doing this, you’ll have a large clump of 18 wires from the nine lamps.
Lighting top view w/brass supports, image size=42.9 kb Lighting top view

After mounting the lights comes the decision on how to route the wires from the top to the bottom.  This can be done in many ways, and probably better than I have done.  My methodology was to use some spare tin, cut, soldered and wrapped around the wires within the trusses, then route the wires to the back of the building through a brass post through the base material. This same idea was used on both left and right sides of the building. When finished, there are four wires, two, of which are then connected, creating only two connections that will feed to your power source.  Before powering on, check the DC resistance between both wires and the building, making sure this are no shorts between the wires and the building.

Side View bldg unpainted, image size=42.3 kb Attached Office
Temporary placement on layout with base, image size=44.3 kb Check fit with Turntable
Separate Roof piece construction, image size=16.8 kb Roof & Side Vents
Soldering Door Hinges,bottom view,image size=50.6 kb Soldering Door Hinges

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Complete window assembly, image size=15.0 kb Installed Window

After painting the entire model, selecting the method of installing the windows can be challenging.  If one chooses to create window sills, instead of just gluing the acetate windows behind the window cutouts, be prepared to be patient. To accomplish making the curved window frames at the top of the window, requires boiling the painted twelve frames in boiling water for five minutes. Being plyable helps with the next task. Try to form the frames in the windowsill, holding these frames with a supporting piece of balsa wood temporarily wedged between the bottom of the window and the center of the curved frame. The easiest way to do this is, hold the top curved piece of wood, starting the left and right hand side, at the same time pushing down on the center of the frame. When the curved piece reaches the bottom and is shaped to the curve in the window sill, insert the temp balsa wood brace in place.  Now you can apply a small amount of walthers goo on the painted side pieces and put in place.  After applying the window pane from the rear, apply enough walthers goo the hold the top curved window sill in place. Once you finish all windows, take a break, celebrate, you deserve it! As seen by the following pictures, the hard work does pay off.

 You be the judge of the Final Results !

Left Side View Finished w/red roof, image size=31.7 kb
Right Side View Finished w/red roof, image size=33.2 kb
Rear View Finished, image size=25.2 kb
Front View with/ Engine, image size=25.4 kb

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