HO Scale Model Deck Barge Build Instructions

Inspired by a recent Model Railroader magazine article I decided to try and build a hopper barge and and got sidetracked on this deck barge. I chose to use card stock but polystyrene, matte board, or other products could also be used.

I started by using Elmer's Glue All to laminate 4 pieces of letter sizes card stock together to get the stiffness I wanted which is about 0.04". 

Tools & Materials

  • Building material options: 4 sheets of card stock, polystyrene sheets, or matte board. 
  • Glue: Aleene's® Tacky Glue, Elmer's® Glue All®, Thin Super Glue (CA)
  • Sharp knife or scissors
  • Printout of plans or ruler
  • Details: 
    • Cleats (6+). I put 3 on each side but I've also seen an additional 1 on each end. 
    • Bit Bollards (4)
    • Tire bumpers (about 60)
  • Sealer such as Matte Medium or Enamel Clear matte finish.
  • Paint
  • Weathering materials

Build Steps

  1. Build Material:
    1. Print out the provided template (PDF)  and laminate with 4 sheets of card stock. Or whatever thickness seems appropriate. Make sure to print at 100%. It is fine if the edges get cut off.
    2. Or mark pieces with dimensions listed in step 2.
  2. Cut out all pieces along the solid lines.
    1. Deck 4.25 x 11"
    2. Sides 1" x 11"
    3. Center support 0.5" x 11"
    4. Bow 1.75" x 4.25" with score line at 0.25".
    5. Stern 1.75" x 4.25" with score line at 0.25".
    6. Supports 6 at 2.25 x 0.25". This will need to be trimmed to length.
  3. Score pieces (deck, bow and stern) along the dashed lines. (Dotted lines will be glue lines).
  4. Score the line between Side A and the Deck enough that you can fold it back at the 90 degree angle. Sand or file the edge at a 45 degree angle so that when you fold it back the other way it doesn't bind.
  5. Repeat step 2 for Side B. 
  6. Cut the middle support and glue it along the dashed middle support line. Use a 90 degree block to make sure that it is vertical and weights to make sure that the deck is flat.
  7. Bend the sides up and put a bead of glue along the bend. 
  8. Trim the support pieces and glue in place along the dashed lines and ends. 
  9. Score and bend the bow and stern to fit. Some trimming might be required. Glue the bow and stern.
  10. Once completely dry spray the entire model with the clear matte finish to seal from moisture.
  11. Paint it our desired color.
  12. I added tick marks on the ends to indicate how much of the barge is submerged.
  13. Add details such as cleats, bit bollards, and tire bumpers.
  14. Weather


I painted with a sample of latex paint from the local hardware store. It left the model sticky so I sprayed with a clear coat first. Next I added a dirty wash followed by dry brushing burnt umber and burnt sienna for rust. Making sure to brush downward on the sides and leave dark spots. Next I added some pan pastels to help blend things together. I glued the bumper tires after weathering.


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