Category Archives: Archistories

Laser-cut Buildings by 3 Manufacturers comparably priced!

A number of manufacturers offer laser-cut building kits here in the United States and abroad. Three German manufacturers are of particular interest due to their extensive line-up and varying design themes: Archistories, Faller, and MBZ. And their complementary European architecture suitable for German trains. I did not include Marklin’s fine laser-cut buildings because they do not offer anything as of yet in this price range. And some of their more modest size building kits come with freight car sets.

First I am a big big fan of Archistories thus a particular prejudice for these buildings need to be admitted to, but I want to compare options from these manufacturers that may make suitable companions in a town of your design.

I offer a simple comparison of one building by each manufacturer similarly priced, I purchased all three in the United States in price range $45 each. Archistories “Frye Railway House” purchased from (official USA distributor and also available from, Faller’s “Osterode-Sud Wayside Station” purchased through my local Marklin dealer by way of Walthers, and MBZ’s “2 Dimensional Building Kit” purchased through Reynauld’s (MBZ’s official USA distributor).

All three manufacturers offer something the others do not owing to each brand’s consistancy. For Archistories is a range of railway buildings including roundhouse, loco sheds, stations, water towers, and even operating grist mill and windmill all based on historically accurate examples. Faller is now offering townhouses, but they have released several small train stations, barn, and lumber mill. MBZ offers numerous railway buildings and rural buildings including barns and houses.

Innovations are hallmarks of Archistories and Faller, Archistories buildings include partition walls allowing for lighting specific rooms of there “Frye” house while Faller continues to use window masking with curtain detailing that is quite good (new LED technology makes lighting these masks much more possible). Faller also designs their open timber buildings (4 so far) with timber framework and individual inserts for stucco which give a very accurate prototypical look. MBZ offers excellent stone and masonry bridges for small rural settings that complement the rural structures of other manufacturers including their own.

Laser-cut is better than plastic with prototypical materials translated quite well into the matte cardstock of laser-cut. Precision engineering is also possible with laser-cut, thinner materials with fine detail etching creates the closest thing possible to the prototypes in Z, plastic is thick and chunky, its gloss distracting without painting intervention.

All three buildings could go on the same layout, each is accurately scaled. And in ‘Z’ many more buildings can be included on a layout in a given amount of space than any other scale, several towns can be realized with rural highlights connecting them.

A simple description of a building is often tied to construction value here it is most evident. Archistories buildings across their line-up are precision kits of the highest value with sharply delineated details at the corners, windows, and seamless marriage of materials. Faller likewise produces precision kits with realistically tinted materials and wooden features including doors and posts. MBZ is a less precise building kit bordering on primitive, their buildings are uniformly tinted so painting is necessary by the modeler, parts can arrive torn, parts are usually warped requiring extra attention to remove, and the materials have to be prepped before assembly to remove carbon dust generated by the laser-cutting that would otherwise impede gluing.

Instructions and constructions: Archistories instructions are the very best in the industry with no real comparison with any other manufacturer, if you follow the instructions in order you are assured of success: perfect corners and seamless roof. Faller’s buildings come together much in the same way as Archistories starting with a framework structure followed by exterior panels and detail work. Faller’s instructions are mostly excellent, I have assembled all of their laser-cut buildings and found that their roofs do not come together nearly as well as Archistories, a little gap is always found in the finished building. Roofing gaps are not possible with Archistories buildings unless a mistake was made during assembly. MBZ is another matter, their instructions are minimal, but so are the buildings which are simple glued constructions of floor, sides and roof. Just the roof is treated to an underlay making these kits a little more flimsy than I would like and no window masks or partition walls, chimneys are simple affairs with this MBZ kit and dormer windows are not possible to fully expose. The shutters are a nice touch with this kit, but foundation masonry is missing in the design along with a door. This kit is also described as a 2 dimensional building so it is also missing a back wall. The paper used for this MBZ kit is a lightweight cardboard that had the faint odor of having been burned, and the acetate had to also be cleaned of carbon. It sounds like a lot of criticisms for MBZ and maybe not!?! MBZ is producing kits based on prototypes of a certain age, and the reality of these prototypes may be accurately portrayed by these kits based on design but also materials. Well what do I mean by this? MBZ kits have a softer look to them than the other two manufacturers partly owed to the heavy laser etching and cardboard which may translate the time worn nature of these buildings much better than any other material.

Availability is a non issue with Archistories ( and, they are always available through these dealers. Faller seems to produce their laser-cuts in a limited number so buy’em when you see them available at Walthers or better yet preorder them from your local dealer if you have one, if not order from an on-line retailer. MBZ is available from their USA dealer Reynauld’s in Elburn, IL, but their available inventory can be quite limited and back orders can take months from what I have heard. EuroTrains in Canada publishes an accurate inventory on their website which can be helpful.

In closing, each manufacturer discussed is making consider contributions to Z, but each in their own unique way: Archistories creates buildings the closer to real-life than the other two, Faller creates buildings with the traditional open timber construction using real timber framework and stucco inserts, and MBZ creates buildings that have endured the test of time.


Faller 282780: Town House

Just hitting the United States market by way of Walthers are two new laser cut card multi story town houses: 282780 “Town House” and 282781 “Provincial Houses.” This post concerns 282780, my dealer just notified me that my pre-order for 282781 is in, its posting will follow.

What to do when modeling an urban or provincial scene after having committed to laser cut card stock building kits, so far the choices have been limited to some very good rural buildings, and hopefully more will follow with the release of these kits.

This Faller kit features good detail including carved sandstone ornamentation, silver foil facade, dentil molding, and window masking unique to Faller. Challenges with this kit include many small delicate parts for the facade, construction of chimneys, and multi-part construction of dormers.

In the days before LED’s I would not spend a lot of time discussing the merits of the window masking, I found it too dense to light with a proper bulb without starting a fire. I exaggerate, but success was very limited with what was available before to properly light these structures. Today LED’s are available for lighting Z scale buildings with a great success, they are cool, long lasting (10,000 hours), and priced right. Plus the illumination is adjusted with individual dimmers controls. Everything gets lit with Faller’s window masking, but this can be altered by placing electric tape over individual windows you do not want to light. Masking material is provided if you want to light the dormers, you will also need to cut the top of the masking material before inserting into building. I have built three of these buildings, and I plan to build at least three more, I will vary the lit window effect with those buildings by lighting maybe just one or two floors or variations between what is lit on the facade side versus the back side of building. It is also a possibility to install the buildings close together for a realistic look.

Maybe this should not be your first laser cut card stock building, but it is easy for those with a couple of other buildings under their belt.

American Scenics Plug-In LED System includes many options and choices. Starter kit includes a couple of led’s, hub, and transformer, it is the best value.

The finished 282780 assembled with three kits:

Siding: several companies have cleverly designed their building kits for realistic lighting: Faller with window masking and Archistories with partition walls. If you haven’t tried Archistories building kits you are missing out on something special, they are available in the United States at and

Marklin 89796 + 89797 “The Plant” – Archistories building kits reconsidered

I decided to include the word ‘reconsidered’ in my title for these two Marklin items because both kits have not been available for many years, but I think it is important to mention them here because of their connection to Archistories. The two building kits comprise sets 1 and 2 of Marklin’s “The Plant”: item #’s 89796 and 89797. Marklin lists them as being in the program from 2010- 2013, they were a departure from previous building kits offered by Marklin which were high quality plastic kits of both modern and historic design. Except for a few small companies no manufacturer was offering alternatives to plastic. Kibri, Vollmer, and Faller produced the only European architecture for z, each of the three manufacturers produced very high quality plastic build kits with excellent detail and even lighting masks, and one could further customize with painting and scale accessories. Painting techniques could further bring out the mortar lines in brick work as well as roof tiles, weathering gave these kits a natural look, but I found certain limitations with plastic, transforming this material to something more akin to the prototype was difficult. Then along came Marklin’s “The Plant” building kits which established a new direction for Marklin z gauge accessories. At the time of this writing Marklin has since released or announced the release of the 89792 Hamburg Dammtor Station, 89793 Dammtor arcades and bridges, two small maintenance facilities: 89805 + 89806, 89982 Turntable with roundhouse and administration building, and 82394 brewery building kit. Essentially all the plastic kits listed by Marklin have been phased out. There will always be nostalgia for the original resin and plastic Marklin kits, they were very good to scale and coupled nicely with z trains, but the new card stock kits will open up new possibilities for capturing the essence of real prototypical architecture. At the forefront of this movement is the manufacturer Archistories who have been mentioned numerous times on this blog, it was Archistories who was commissioned by Marklin to produce the kits for “The Plant”. Keeping these kits affordable while at the same time producing very good buildings was achieved successfully, they inspired me to want more. And they have since produced a very good line up of residential and industrial buildings with the architectural sensitivity I have come to expect from Archistories.

A description of “The Plant” is in order:

#89796 includes 1 production hall, 1 heat generation building with smokestack, and 2 heavy duty flat cars with cast metal trucks each painted blue and orange respectively.

#89797 includes management office building, production hall with ‘mansard roof’, factory workshop with ‘saw tooth’ roof, and 1 guard house.

In order to stay within Marklin’s budget for the project Archistories had to restrict incorporating certain elements they employ with kits under their brand name including detailing and partition walls.

In addition to great detail and depth of color laser cut card stock buildings are opaque so interior lighting is easy, entire buildings don’t glow, the light can be successfully directed  within an interior.

“The Plant”: #89796 + #89797 building kits with accessories.


electic generation building with smokestack from 89796


production hall from 89796


administration building from 89797, note: center facade has variations in window design



production hall from 89796


factory workshop with ‘saw tooth’ roof from 89797


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factory workshop with ‘mansard’ roof from 89797

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guard house from 89797


2 heavy duty flat cars with truck loads, note: freight cars and trucks were delivered in an unnumbered  standard Marklin plastic box


Archistories Roundhouse versus Marklin 89982


First let me say I have a bias for Archistories products, I have built them all and they are well designed buildings loaded with detail and historically accurate. I have a bit of a face-off between Archistories ARC-112121 Roundhouse in one corner and Marklin recently released 89982  which includes the turntable with 5 pole motor, transformer, turntable control, 2 building kits in the other corner plus you get 6 block sections of track . There is no knock out punch here which one you choose is personal preference, but I would like to point out some interesting reasons and options that might sway a choice toward Archistories. Archistories Roundhouse ARC-112121 is expandable with ARC-113121 Roundhouse Stalls: before you finish the building of ARC-112121 you add stalls in pairs. The Marklin set is a 6 stall roundhouse, they have not released an accessories building kit to expand the original roundhouse. 4,6,8,12,18 stalls the roundhouse prototype in Europe and the United States came in all sizes so choosing the Marklin could be a good choice if you want to model a more modern roundhouse versus the earlier Prussian roundhouse offered by Archistories. If you choose the Archistories Roundhouse here is a solution to add a turntable: Marklin offers a 5 pole motor upgrade for the early turntable 8998, that motor goes by part number 211914. Walthers currently has this in stock for retail $49.99, Trainz on Ebay is also selling them for the same price. Ordering through your local dealer might save you some money. The motor upgrade is easy to do, I will be following up with a step-by-step for this in the next week.

Price comparison:

Archistories Roundhouse with 6 stalls and Marklin Turntable w/5 pole motor: Archistories ARC-112121 + ARC-113121= $113.52, used/new vintage Marklin 8998 turntable= $150 (average Ebay price), and Marklin 211914 5-pole motor for $49.99= $313.51

Marklin 89982 is listed at Walters  for $549MSRP- retail train shops are selling for the discounted price of $449. This option includes 6 block sections of track, transformer and an additional building feature.

I made the choice for option 1 Archistories because I like the architecture of the roundhouse better.

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Archistories Blue, Yellow, Red, and Green

Blue, yellow, red and green are the colorful colors that adorn the small cottages produced by Archistories. In Archistories description  these four small wooden houses were inspired by 16th century Swedish architecture. And the color of each certainly attests to that inspiration. Each house is named: 1. Svensson (red), 2. Johansson (green), 3. Karlsson (yellow), and 4. Hanson (blue). Small in size but decked out in detail several options come to mind. A Scandinavian layout is a sure bet for these houses if your running SJ RC2 trains through the countryside. Due to their small size plan to consider them for a briefcase layout. If you are new to Archistories kits consider these for some of your first, they go together like all the rest in less time so good to learn from.

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Archistories: Wolkenstein Train Station


If you are modeling Swiss trains maybe consider this second variation train station by Archistories featuring cream color stucco. All design features are similar to the Torrnstein Station, but appearance is quite different. Archistories suggests using these buildings as public buildings also, they do not have to be train stations only.

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Archistories: Torrnstein Train Station


Train stations come in many shapes and sizes this three part Prussian design with connecting halls features a large passenger platform that can be expanded with accessory platforms.


Construction time is a bit on the long side you might need as much as 6-8 hours all told. The platform is made by laminating several pieces of card stock that tend to warp out of level unless even pressure is applied throughout the gluing process. Platform sort of slides into place with the station building leaving a fine gap, fill gap with similarly colored glue applied with a syringe; Elmer’s brown wood glue is a good choice. Red brick is used in this construction but stucco is available also of the exact same design. Partition walls of course allow for interior lighting that is realistic.


Archistories: Locomotive Shed “Zollern”


Here is a very interesting single track locomotive shed with exposed steel truss construction with red brick infill featuring a barrel roof. Experience building these kits is suggested, try building a few of the Archistories buildings before this one. The steel truss framework is made of very fine cardstock comprising four pieces: one per side. Very little room for error with this kit: gluing and assembling has to be quick. And re-positioning the fine lattice truss is not possible (tears easily). For alignment I lined up the bottom of each side with the bottom of the building, I then allowed the lattice framework to naturally fall into place before applying light pressure for gluing. Maybe as an alternative try placing the steel truss on the building and then apply tiny drops of glue in several discreet places. The whole range of z locomotives are easily serviced in this shed which features large windows and hinged doors.

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Archistories: Locomotive Shed



Archistories offer several locomotive sheds this one being a single track Prussian design shed of red brick construction from the late 19th century. It is a good example of an important railroad building for repair and maintenance of steam engines featuring an attached office space. This kit is not designed for variations, but clever planning and cutting makes it possible to come up with a pretty good variation placing the office structure on the right instead of left side. The side window on the office is thrown to the back of the building, in my example I used a sandstone insert which suggests age and modification.

_DSF8060 _DSF8061 _DSF8059 _DSF8058It is my opinion that this is the easiest building to assemble along side the Scandinavian cottages, it is on the small size but includes characteristics of other larger kits including partition walls, roof vents and hinged doors. All of the Archistories buildings are laser cut card stock and therefore absorbent of dirt or moisture that will leave permanent marks; dry brush weathering is possible but great care should be taken due to the absorbent nature of the materials. Correct assembly of this building can be seen in the following photos:

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