I think of scratchbuilding as a gift you give to yourself. A journey from I can’t to Yes, I can. 



Much of our focus is on the nuts and bolts of how-to. What size is that? How do I do this? Where do I find those? All important questions. But hardly the entire story.

We all have a philosophy of modeling, whether we’re conscious of it or not. For some, it’s a pragmatic whatever works mentality, while others will lovingly attend to the finest details. Your philosophy will impact how you model as well as what you model. The degree of craftsmanship a you bring to your work is a personal decision and your mindset plays a huge role in the choices you’ll make in this craft.

What happens when you can’t find critical information? How do you move forward, how do you make choices? When is it time to move on from a failed effort?

Volume 11 is the story of my first serious attempt at scratchbuilding a boxcar. This isn’t the typical step-by-step set of how-to instructions. Volume 11 shares the real process: the ups and downs, the discoveries and setbacks and, most important, the lessons you’ll learn about yourself as a modeler.

I hope you’ll find it encouraging in tackling your own projects.


  1. Ctown

    I’m also in the process of scratch building for the first time. Building a Great Northern Snow Dozer in 1/29. The first two attempts at centersills failed, but on the third try I finally got what I wanted. I’ve asked myself some of the very same questions you posed throughout my build. Since I have access to most of the original blueprints, I ask myself “why did they design part x this way, and should I do the same thing?” It certainly has stretched me as a modeler, and made me even more aware of the failures and successes that happen over time.

  2. mike

    Hi Craig,

    I have to make multiple attempts because I come up with cockamamie ways to do something. Then I figure out what did or didn’t work and do it again. Sometimes I think I’m my own worst enemy at the workbench but when something works, it’s worth the effort.