How to build a Metcalfe industrial unit

15 December 2022
Phil Parker builds this accessible N gauge modern warehouse kit – a great entry point to learn new skills in the hobby.

The theme for this Metcalfe Models (PN185) 2mm:1ft scale industrial unit build is, 'keep it simple'. Sometimes we can get bogged down in a layout project, and a quick build can be refreshing. Card kit assembly can take a few evenings, but the results are admired forever.


In the packet are two, folded, die-cut, printed card sheets, some plain grey strengtheners, and a sheet of windows. All the modeller has to add is glue. I use Deluxe Materials Roket Card Glue.


All the exposed white edges need to be touched in with colour. Humbrol 121, Pale Stone, is a pretty much perfect match for the walls and 173, Track Colour, for the brown bits. Dabbing it on with the side of a flat brush seems effective, and if any escapes on to the printed side, it can be quickly wiped away with a finger.


I'm not going to repeat the instructions other than to say it's worth dry-fitting every piece before opening the glue. There is a lot of seriously clever design in here, and if you make sure the right edges line up, you'll be fine. That office folds up out of one sheet, complete with rebates to locate the walls squarely.


More nifty rebates locate the inner roof supporting card. It's important that this sits flush with the top edges of the walls. I find it easier to put it in place, then add drops of Roket card glue to the inside corners from the end of a screwdriver, letting capillary action draw it into the joint.


The corrugations on the ends and roof benefit from gentle embossing with a rounded tool (a dried-up ballpoint pen will work) to add texture. I had considered replacing these with plastic corrugated card, but in N, the relief required isn't great. Be careful to score the card and not push through the printed surface, though.


Since I plan to weather the roof with washes of paint, it's a good idea to give it a few coats of matt varnish to stop the liquids soaking in and cockling the cardboard. Do this before fitting the windows, or you'll mist these up.

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Even painting the fold lines along the edge of the roof doesn't entirely hide them, but a little household wall filler applied into the corners does the job. I always keep a knife blade that has lost its sharp edge for this sort of job – it allows very precise application of filler.


Modern buildings don't seem to get very dirty, so I'm weathering the roof with nothing more than a patchy wash of Precision Paints weathered concrete colour. Depending on where the finished model ends up on the layout, a bit more dirt might be required, but it's easier to add than remove.


The finishing touch is a nameboard from the pun-filled selection included in the kit. Don't forget to colour the edges with paint or a felt-tip pen, then fix in place with PVA. You don't want the glue splurging out around the edges.

More useful guides

Tied up with the model railway terminology? Visit our Glossary section.

Undecided on which railway era to model? We explain the eras of railway history in our guide.

Looking for trackplan inspiration? - Our guide explains all.

If you're thinking of tackling water on your layout? Our guide on how to model water here should be your first port of call. 

Need more advice? Take a look at the Techniques page for all our latest guides and advice articles.

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