Above: A selection card models, both kit components and completed models.
If necessary, card models can be built using a single-sided razor blade, a cutting board and a glue stick. However using a sharp-pointed scalpel blade, steel straight edge, self-healing cutting board and good quality white glue will result in a much better model.
PDF files can often be rescaled during printing to build models in any scale from N to O. [1:48 to 1:64 = 75% (S), 1:48 to 1:87 = 55% (HO), 1:48 to 1:164 = 29% (N)]
Most kits are set up to be easy to cut out doors, windows and other details and apply them in layers to create a 3D effect. While any of the kits can result in quite reasonable models at normal viewing distance, newer photo-realistic kits include weathering and other details that enhance the appearance.
Card models are great for attracting new modellers into the hobby. Several times I've built a Moreton bin (with minimal tools) in a couple of hours at local train shows while talking to visitors... then given tham away to young viewers, along with a print of the Comeng diesel.
I've also kit-bashed commercially available card buildings, both through computer modification and using more traditional modelling techniques, as well as designing my own unique models. Several of my photo-realistic card buildings can be found on the Capricorn Sugar Rail Museum (CSRM) site.
Modelling with Card: CaneSIG 'Basics' Handbook 31 (notes and techniques, 229 Kb).
Paper Modelers: Member-based (free) discussion forum, support and downloads: www.papermodelers.com
Clever Models llc: Excellent source of North American oriented structure and other card kits, including extensive texture sheets and 'how to' information, user discussion service, etc. www.clevermodels.net
Clever's Creeky shingles and other textures are excellent kitbashing and scratch-building resources. A good introduction for beginners is on their 'Freebies' page.
What about instructions?
If you've already downloaded or purchased a card kit or two you'll have noticed that the kits usually have only minimal instructions for assembly. This is partly because card kits are often assembled by experienced modellers, and partly because of the cost (in time if nothing else) to prepare instructions for a kit that can be downloaded free or sold for a minimal amount.
I design and build my own card kits. Typically it will take as long to design the model as it does to build it, and it takes several times as long to document and write up the assembly so that it can be followed by other modellers. For this reason many of my models have led to design and construction articles in Narrow Gauge Downunder magazine.
However there are lots of 'how to' resources available on-line, see the links at left, and the discussion groups can help with specific questions.
Conventional card versus photorealistic card models
The photos at the top of this page show a variety of photorealistic models and one conventional kit (the Comeng loco). The kits themselves are likely pretty much the same, the printed image is what makes the difference.
Typically the surfaces for a conventional card kit will be defined with edge lines, and may have density variations across a component, but will be otherwise a single colour. Photorealistic card kits, on the other hand, will show significant colour and texture variations since they were sourced from photos of actual buildings.
The corrugated iron sheathing on one of my photorealistic models, for example, came from a photo of a now demolished local factory building. Similarly some of the doors and windows on one of my current models were Photoshopped from photos of local hotels and other structures.
Copyright © A C Lynn Zelmer or the contributor as appropriate. Last updated: 16 June 2021 [lz]; e-mail: Lynn @ ZelmerOz.com