Good Design.
Good Engineering.
Take Your Pick.

Opinion by Ron Hildebrand 12/31/03

It seems Railway Design Associates chose design, and left good engineering standing on the station platform.

Let me explain. A while ago I purchased two kits from Railway Design Associates, the Delaney Iron Works and Durham's Tool & Die. I dug them out recently to begin assembly, and found some disturbing problems, mostly in the fit of important parts like walls, windows and doors. I thought I'd outline these problems, and let you know what it may take to fix them, as RDA has chosen not to rectify even the problems that are easily within their power to fix, and to dismiss them with a two sentence email. But more on that later.

You should be aware that many of RDA's kits are based on different configurations of the same wall components, so the problems outlined here may be common to other kits using the same components. Lastly, these are only the initial problems found in the first inspection. There may be other problems that show up during assembly.

Delaney Iron Works
We'll start with the Delaney kit. The stone building that is the main structure of the Delaney complex has twenty-seven windows and six doors, and a clerestory roof with an additional eight small windows.  Unfortunately, the window openings in this building vary quite a lot in size: the narrowest opening is .465", while the widest is .493". This is a variation of nearly .030" between different openings. Since the window insert castings average about .475"-480" wide, one can understand how some of the wall openings are to narrow for them.

The height issue is even worse. The casting inserts are all very close to .761' in height, while the window openings are about .800". This means the window openings are about .040" too tall (that's five scale inches too tall!) for the window inserts supplied. Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done here--you'll have to live with this huge gap if you use the stock windows.

The Tichy window castings, 8024, that come with the Durham Tool & Die kit appeared to be a similar size to the Delaney kit's windows, so I tried them as a replacement. These are a standard frame window with a front facia trim, but like most window castings, will work for masonry style windows by inserting them from the rear of the wall. Used this way, they are much closer overall to fitting the height of the approximately .800" high Delaney window openings, as they measure about .780" in height.  If you split the difference between the top and bottom of the windows, you only have a .010" gap at each end--not exactly a tight fit, but a much less noticeable space to deal with.

The clerestory windows have the same problem: the openings are too tall by .030" or so for the castings. Tichy makes a small window, 8023, that will work. It isn't an exact fit, and some filing may be required, but since the wall is wood, the windows can be inserted from the front with the facia trim covering any gaps, and still look "right". I have the appropriate Tichy parts on order, and will show how they fit when they arrive.

I emailed Railway Design Associates, mentioning the problem with the windows fit, noting the hugely visible gap in in the difference between the windows and the openings. I requested they send the better fitting Tichy windows they supply in the Durham kit. The reply, from Carole Gutherie of RDA:

Ron:  You truly are the first person to complain about our windows, which my
husband spent hours on doing the tooling at great expense.  I am sorry you
are having problems fitting in the windows, but those are the ones we

Carole, RDA

A somewhat cavalier and dismissive response, considering the extent of the problems as documented above. Obviously, this is a company that has definite and measurable engineering flaws in their product, but do not seem ready to do anything about it.

The windows aren't the only problem with this kit, there are other issues, too.

1) Some of the door openings have the same fit problems as the windows.

2) The brick office building portion of the complex has wall size differentiations that cause alignment problems. The only fix is to align the floor lines, try to minimize the gap at the top with the roof overhang, pile up ground cover to hide the gap at the bottom of one wall, while the loading dock on the opposite wall can be used to hide the base of that wall.  (The front and rear walls could also have a bit trimmed off the bottom, which would then eliminate the gap at the bottom of the side walls.) Unfortunately, the alignment of the windows in the second storey will still be off a bit, no matter what you do. Also, one of the end walls of the brick office has better modeled trim than the other, so you'll want to use that one as the front wall--see the photograph below.

3) Finally, the illustration sheet does not fit with the actual model. For instance, the office building is shown with casting inserts for the loading doors, while these doors are integral to the wall casting. Also, a notation indicates that the office building windows have an arched top, while in actuality, they do not.

Durham's Tool & Die
The resin cast doors supplied for the end wall door openings for the Durham's Tool & Die kit don't fit all the openings. They're all sized to fit the two attic doors, and are therefore too small for the first and second floor openings. I haven't looked at this kit too closely as yet, so there may be more issues to come.

If additional problems become evident during the assembly of these kits, those problelms and any solutions will be posted here.

Below are some photographs illustrating the different problems.

This opening is too narrow for the window casting, but like all the window openings, is 5" too tall, leaving a large gap between the top of the window casting and wall opening. Huge, isn't it?

But here, the window opening is not only too tall, it's also too wide due to the very inconsistent die work. The door opening is much to wide by about .025"-.030", but too short to accomodate the casting.

The clerestory window openings are also sized incorrectly.

The office building's side walls are too short. As can be seen here, when the floor is properly aligned, there is about a 3" gap at the bottom of the wall, the 2nd floor windows do not align properly, and the wall is about 6" too short. (Further, there is no brick detail on the wall edges, so they really should be beveled to a 45 degree angle.)

You'll want to make certain to use the best end wall in the most visible position, as one of these castings has better features than the other. As can be seen here, this end has poorly aligned curved brick trim in relation to the doors beneath.

This is an end wall from Durham's Tool & Die. While the window castings fit the openings much better than the Delaney stone building, there is a problem with the doors. The side wall freight doors have nice Tichy castings to fit their openings. While there are six resin castings supplied for the six doors in the two end walls, they only fit the smaller attic doors, and are too small for the first and second floor door openings. You'll have to scratch build doors of the correct size.