Easy Lionel Depot Kitbash

The author created this depot by scaling down the common Lionel Passenger/Freight station kit to more manageable proportions for a narrow gauge railroad. Photo by Morris Smith

Easy Lionel Depot Kitbash

By Robert E. Ottosen/Photos as noted

Lionel Station KitLionel makes a perfectly good station kit. It has a timeless “railroady” look to it that could be appropriate for any period for the last century. So why kitbash it? Well there are several good reasons. My reasons were to make it smaller and a little less imposing and a little less likely to overwhelm my Bachmann On30 narrow gauge trains. I also wanted to make it smaller so it would take less space and look more appropriate with the small town surrounding it. I also wanted to see if I couldn’t inspire the On30 boys in looking at modifying plastic structures they might otherwise overlook. There are lots of those kinds structures out there, so let’s get busy.

Nobody ever seems to mention it, but one of the most important tools is a good flat surface to work on, one that can’t be hurt by cutting and painting on it. Since most structures are made up of flat surfaces joined at 90 degree angles a machinist’s square is as important as a razor saw and an Xacto knife. I also keep a large flat file handy to dress edges for gluing. A good steel ruler is also a must; never use plastic or wood for this sort of kitbashing.

First lets take our razor saw and carefully cut each piece off the sprues. Please cut them off, don’t just break them off. Then using your Xacto knife carefully trim off any excess scrap from the pieces. Refer to Drawing 1, and start by modifying Wall Piece One. Using your ruler measure 3 3⁄16″ from the left edge and mark it with a little scratch. Then using your steel machinist’s square (available from Micro-Mark) as a guide, use your razor saw to remove material from the right side (the side that connects to the bay window). Be very careful while you are sawing not to cut it crooked. After you have removed the scrap, dress up the edge by rubbing the edge back and forth several times on a big flat file.

Now we turn our attention to Wall Piece Two (refer to Drawing 1) and again using our ruler measure 3 3⁄16″ from the left and mark it with a scratch. Using your machinist’s square as a guide, saw the part to size and dress the edge with the big file. Now if you did everything carefully and correctly the total length of the two parts of the wall plus the front of the bay window should total 9 1⁄8″. Whatever the total of your parts might be, the rear wall must be of equal length so that your station will be square. Just find the total length of the front of your station and measure it against the rear wall. How you choose to cut it is your choice. I think I removed material from both sides of the rear wall, but you can probably get by with just one cut.

Measure the siding inserts and cut them to size. I did this by setting the insert in place then placing the wall face down on my cutting surface. Since you cut down the wall the insert will extend out and you can remove the excess from the inserts by using your Xacto knife to carefully cut along the edges where the inserts overhang. Make several light cuts, then place the insert over the edge of the table and apply a steady gentle pressure and snap! the excess should break neatly off. Again, dress the edges of the inserts with the file.

Lionel Depot Kitbash

Now if all the walls are firmly cemented in place, it is time to cut the roof to size and install it. Place the front half of the roof in place on the station with the bay window gable peak sticking up in its proper place. Since we shortened the walls there should be a lot of overhang at each end of the roof. You can either measure 5 3∕32″ each way from the center of the roof or you can eyeball it and decide that each side of the roof shall have 1/2″, 7∕16″, 5∕8″ or however much overhang you like; just remember that each end should have the same overhang. Remember that railroad Gothic design used big overhangs, tall narrow windows and transoms over the doors. Whatever length of overhang you choose just measure the same length on the other half of the roof.

Paint, weather, and attach the roof and the gable roof. I prefer to make the roofs easy to remove on my structures so that it is easy to fix the lights. To this end I applied cement to the top edges of the roof and set it in place on the station and let gravity take its course. Now I can lift the roof off easily if I need to.


Your station is complete and just needs a name. I named the small station Elmoore in honor of the late E. L. Moore, a very prolific author who used to write about backwoods country structures in a gentle, good humored homespun manner. Mr. Moore has been gone for twenty five years or more but it is always a pleasure to remember the older ones who inspired us. If you want maximum realism, remember to use some graphics. You might put up Railway Express Agency, telephone, Wrigley chewing gum, taxi advertising and others signs on your station to give it that “used” look.

Now that you have had a little experience you can probably tackle other structures for your pike. In fact, using basically the same techniques as those outlined above you could also enlarge this station by merging two kits together. I know kits are expensive, but I bought several of these station kits at a deep discount from a hobby shop that was planning to move, but if I do decide to enlarge the station I would do the following: Cut two Part Twos and cut the peak off the end that has the sliding door. I would lay out the front wall starting with Part One, then Part Two, then the bay window, then Part Two again followed by the freight door. I would then splice the rear walls and cut to match the front walls. Then the rest of the walls could be modified to fit and the roof pieces spliced and maybe modified to slope at the ends too. This would make a great station for a larger community. This is how kitbashing projects seem to pop into existence. I hope you enjoyed this one so you won’t be afraid to tackle another one.

This article was posted on: September 1, 2014