How to Build a Model Modern Footbridge in OO Gauge

Updated on October 26, 2019
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Model railroading is a hobby, and I enjoy creating miniature models of modern-day structures—especially where not available commercially.

Anyone who regularly reads my articles will have gathered that I am building a modern OO gauge layout. When I started, I realised that many modern items were not readily available in kit form or ready-to-run. While I am not a natural scratch builder, to complete my layout, I had to develop this skill. This time it is a modern British footbridge which is not produced by any manufacturer that I have discovered to date.

The German firm Faller make a good contemporary European footbridge, but it lacks the brick elevator towers that are an essential modern component on UK stations, and it looks, well, European and out of place.

So here is my scratch built modern UK FOOTBRIDGE.

Modern footbridge (Alvechurch)
Modern footbridge (Alvechurch)

Getting Started

The biggest recent change in footbridge design in the UK was driven by the modern need for accessibility. The challenge was to make it possible for all people to use the bridge including the elderly, the infirm or anyone burdened with a lot of luggage. So most new footbridges incorporate a lift tower.

Fortunately, this structure is fairly simple. Just four pieces of plastic card joined together in a rectangle as shown. While dimensions vary, a good guide is 8cm long, 5 or 6cm wide and 14cm tall. You can venture out with a tape and measure the real thing for accuracy or create a cardboard template and play with your own layout to see what looks good.

The tricky bit is that the upper half houses the lift framework while the lower half also has to support the stairs. As such the actual structure is L shaped. To decide where this point rests, it is best to use your intended staircase and find the height (roughly 7 cm in my case) where the steps look right or are horizontal. More on the stairs or steps later.

Creating the towers
Creating the towers

The Crucial Steps

Building realistic steps is beyond my modelling skills, so I had to use a ready-built option. This is not easy because most steps are part of a full footbridge kit. I was lucky to have a Hornby R076 kit to hand. These cost anything from £7 to £20 on eBay, so it is best to rummage around or keep an eye open for a bargain.

At this point, I took the supports off the footbridge and replaced them with my towers. I had the satisfaction of instantly getting an image of what my footbridge will look like, albeit very rudimentary. There was one remaining problem; modern steps are considerably wider than 20th-century designs. So I either had to settle for narrow unrealistic stairs or buy a second Hornby kit.

As I mentioned earlier, the Hornby kit is quite expensive, and needing two could be prohibitive. I was lucky and was able to buy one for a reasonable price. The kit comes up quite regularly on eBay and sometimes even as component pieces sold separately. There may also be other auction sites, but in this regard, I will have to leave the reader to his own devices.

Early inspiration
Early inspiration

Crossing the Tracks

I very much like modern designs as long as they are done well. I think the modern footbridge is quite attractive except for the section that actually crosses the tracks. Here it seems inspiration failed, and they are simply a steel corridor. No lattice or windows, and they are usually six feet high. Consequently, there is no view of the railway whilst crossing the bridge!

But there is a silver lining, the simple design makes a simple model, and for that I am grateful. I created mine by placing the two towers on my platform and laying a strip of plastic across. When it looked correct, I made a mark and cut the plastic. The side walls were cut in a similar way to a height of six feet or 2.5 cm.

Please be aware that the lift doors are slightly set back from the main causeway and are not flush with the bridge path itself. See the photo below.

Across the tracks
Across the tracks

Putting the Pieces Together

Without any glue, now is the time to assemble your model. I had already joined my two steps together and reapplied the handrails to each side as seen in the original Hornby model.

Important : The steps have a section of plastic at the top that can rest on the platform in front of the lift doors. These can rest on the towers underneath the bridge section for a flush look.

Once you are happy with the look (and appearances are everything in modelling) start to glue in place. Even at this stage the bridge is starting to look attractive.

The modern steps
The modern steps

Elevator Doors

Here I have included a photo of some elevator (lift) doors for convenience. You will need four copies at a size that matches OO gauge (around 3 cm). I used my local library colour photocopier in black and white mode until I had the right size and then printed in colour.

It is amazing how the copier retains the detail as you shrink the image!

Elevator template
Elevator template

Elevator (Lift) Modelling and Recessing

The elevator doors need to go at the top of the steps and at the bottom at the back of the towers. I attached the paper prints to the towers and then added plastic over the top to give a sense of depth or indentation.

Elevator ground floor
Elevator ground floor

Completing the Model

The last task is to cover the white plastic with brickwork or concrete. Again, I find there is little available in the commercial market that reflects the materials used in the real bridges. Fortunately, my example at Alvechurch is made out of standard red brick but if anything ever comes to market of a more modern design, I may be tempted to recover! Either that or go to Milton Keynes again and photograph the concrete and print it out at the library!

Almost complete
Almost complete

Ready to Run the Trains

Anyone who has stood on a modern platform will be familiar with electric multiple units whining in and out of the station. It may not compete with steam but has a magic of its own, especially when two arrive at the same time. It is particularly effective when they arrive under the dominating skyline of a modern footbridge. I have managed to recreate this scene on my railway, and I am very pleased.

I hope this article gives you inspiration if you are interested in modern railways and helps you decide on what you would like to create. In my case, even if my models are not 100% accurate, I was able to create the overall atmosphere, and that is all I can ask.

In place on the layout
In place on the layout

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Christine and Peter Broster

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