Restoring an eBay Junk Building

My latest project is a demo and rebuild on this cute little building I picked up on eBay.  Despite all the other projects I should be working on, this little building was so pathetic that I started to clean it off, then one thing led to another....

The first thing I had to do was remove the base at the 'foundation' of the building.  Most German manufacturers seem to have a base that is about 1/4" wide and precisely follows the footprint of the walls.  Once this piece was removed, all of the major components (walls, roof pieces) came off in short order.  To remove the detail pieces was a little bit of trick, requiring careful application of an Xacto knife.  In many cases, merely slipping the knife blade under the piece was enough to get it to 'pop out'.

Then its off to cleaning all the old glue, sanding where necessary, and then painting!  I tried to find colors that would be realistic but also different from the manufacturers plastic mold colors.  Additionally, I gave the inside walls a coat of spray paint (dark gray primer) to provide further opacity.

Before reassembling, I had to start thinking about what I wanted this building to be.  The generic stickers were no good (they got trashed), so I went to Intaglio (an illustration program for the Mac) and started to mock up some different signs, using both 'real' logos and brands as well as 'made up' or 'freelance' businesses .  In this case, I decided two 'real' business would make for good company....a classic American Pizza Parlour, and a Japanese train store!

For this building I decided that since there were two doors, there will be two shops on the ground floor (yes, I forgot that the apartment dwellers above also need an entrance, but I'm going to forget that and make the renters enter through one of the back doors).

Of course, the large windows on the ground floor demanded detail. So I used some excess park benches, various Tomytec and Prieser figures, and made the pizza parlor interior (I'm skipping over the obvious part here about creating the ground floor interior walls and such, its just styrene and spray paint, with some homemade 'wall paper' from the trusty ink jet printer).  The train store got 'retail shelves' which, for the most part, are small pieces of styrene or plastic with something that looks like shelves with items on them.  A couple of 'train-oriented' stickers and image search derived photos decorate the walls.

For the apartments, the third floor will have a bedroom and a living room.  Both will hopefully contrast given the paint selections I used.  Details here were more random bits of plastic, quickly sanded and painted to give some reasonable illusion of the real world item they're meant to imitate.  Hopefully when you look at the photo, you can tell what the sofa is versus the coffee table....

Apartments on the second floor will be 'dark', with some ambient light showing through the center window, but masked with some paper so as to not reveal all the wiring that will really be on the second floor.

Which leads me to lighting, which is going to a whole bunch of LED's.  Perhaps I'm getting too cocky, but there's a lot in this model.

Signage for "Shakey's" is a piece of clear acrylic that I filed down to the sign dimensions with my (new!) Dremel tool.  A 'hole' was created for the LED to fit in, and the LED itself was filed down a bit to closely match the width of the 'sign' and not bulge.   The leads for the LED will be the 'arms' holding the sign as well.

The Japanese train store (of which I have been a customer, but am not being paid to promote! :-) ) was created using a color laser-printer on transparencies (i.e. the clear sheets used for overhead projectors) and then glued to a piece of channeled plastic from Evergreen plastics.  I now go out to Kinko's to rent a computer to print my signs and decals on their color laser printer due to the need for the superior quality of color laser printer versus ink jet on lighted signs....inkjet just looks too 'splotchy' when you try to light it from behind (but is good for backgrounds, etc...).  

After calculating my resistor needs (which I've gotten down to a simple method, I do everything in multiples of threes), everything is soldered together.  You can see the LED's in their allotted positions in some of the photos above.  In the end, this building used 21 LED's, a mix of both 'warm white' (for the aparmtments and restaurant) and 'white' (for the hobby shop and sign).

Here is a 'before' photo of the building where the Pizza restaurant went, and the 'after' photo with the LED/acrylic/laser-printed transperency sign:

Here are some close-ups of the other side of the building where the hobby shop now is (again, before and after):

And finally, here's the whole building (90% complete) all lit up!  Believe it or not, this little building was proabably a good 4 days of work.

And, just for fun...here's what it looked like 'before':


  1. What's all that horrific brown crud in the "before" shots? At first, I couldn't believe you actually paid money for this structure, but then I see what you did, and am amazed. Very nice work.

    BTW, you didn't put a demo layout in the shop? Don't you want to make an N-scale N-scale layout for the window display? Yes, I am laying down a challenge! (No, it doesn't have to actually run!)

  2. Wow - amazing job. I'm inspired and will keep an eye on eBay for potential fixer-uppers!

  3. LOL. Yeah, that 'brown crud' didn't actually show up in the eBay photo, so I was a bit shocked myself when I took it out of the box! I actually got this building for a couple of dollars (it was shipped with another that I really wanted, this was sort of an impulsive bonus!). Apparantly - and I'm sure you already knew this - that brown stiff is what some glue looks like after several years!

    I actually considered putting an N Scale layout in the shop, but towards the end, I sort of got lazy! This building took up way too much valuable Christmas vacation train time as it is!

    Thanks Sudasana! I actually kind of enjoy working on these old junkers. If you can get them cheap, you haven't got much to loose, and their kind of fun to experiment with!

  4. Jerry it's Bob. I have this kit unbuilt at my house. Cool work again.

    I need to email you or contact you in private.

    let me know.

  5. Jerry,

    I really need to learn how to light up my buildings like this. I love the interior shots, the lit up sign.

    Just outstanding work!

    I still need to build this structure one day. hehhee. -Bob-