Construction Tiled Roof

Fired from clay or loam

It’s almost impossible to imagine housing estates with detached houses or apartment buildings without tiled roofs. Nowadays you can have roof tiles in almost all colours. However, a roof with red tiles is still the favourite. Time to have one in the Märklin scale 1:87

Well-maintained tiled roofs are not only pleasant to look at. They’re also very good for making most of the space available in the building. The ground and first floors provide living space, and above the first floor you have the attic. This can be used simply for storage for anything you can think of which you don’t need most of the time. Suitcases for example. Some people keep items there they only need occasionally, for example spare parts for their bicycles. If the attic has not been converted into living space you must remember that it can be extremely warm there in summer and very cold in winter. If that’s the case you should certainly not keep potatoes and photocopy paper in the attic.

But many people convert their attics. It's relatively easy to insulate an attic. In almost all houses and apartment buildings the available central heating system can be used also for the attic. Installing radiators and pipes for the attic is no problem for a heating technician. Certainly you wouldn’t find any other room in your home for setting up an extensive Märklin model railway. Of course an extra room can also be installed in the attic. This increases overall living space without having to build an annexe to the building.

Basically roof tiles are made from natural raw materials. Normally they are fired from clay, less often from loam. Roof tiles are also made from a mixture of clay and loam. Wood and slate roof tiles of the same size as roof tiles made from clay or loam are considered to be a different type of product. Material produced from cement is also considered to be different. As roof tiles are natural products, the colour is never completely uniform. Of course the manufacturers do the best they can. That’s why roof tiles installed for a newly built house or apartment building almost always look the same but in the course of time reveal differences in colour. This is the result of rain, sunlight and other natural phenomena. In the course of time a roof of this type almost always shows a large range of shades.


Nowadays clients for new houses and apartment buildings prefer large roof tiles. The reason for this is simply that the tilers have to work with their hands. Machines for this type of work don’t exist. Manual work, however, is extremely expensive. Consequently the clients – who after all have to pay for the houses – are interested in having their roofs tiled as quickly as possible. That’s the reason why older houses often have smaller roof tiles than newer ones. In the course of the centuries various shades of roof tiles have emerged: they have imaginative names like “Hohlpfanne [hollow pan]” and “Biberschwanz [beaver tail]”. Just as you could do for types of locomotive you could write complete books on roof tile shapes. But of course we don’t have room for that. Instead let’s look at the construction of roof tiles for the Märklin model railway.

Tiles made in strips

The houses and apartment buildings for the model railway have an important advantage: it never rains. So there is no need for clay and loam. Roof tiles for model railways are made from thin cardboard. Yes you could even say, made from offcuts. you can make them just as well from used index cards as you can from packaging materials: the material used only has to be thin.

Real-life roof tiles are supported by wooden structures. This isn’t necessary when modelling: a simple roof made from cardboard is enough. The tiles are affixed to this roof. Of course you don’t have to do this for every single tile, otherwise you would be busy for days on end. You cut individual strips from cardboard for each row of tiles. Each tile in a strip is curved (rounded off) at the bottom. The best thing is to use curved scissors for the tiles but with practice you can also use normal scissors. Try to cut the curves as evenly as possible. Best of all draw a template with which you can then prepare the individual rows of tiles.

When affixing the tile rows start at the bottom – a roof has to be covered from the bottom upwards. The lower row protrudes somewhat over the top of the wall bearing the roof. That way you see on the finished bulding only the tiles and not the cardboard underneath. You then affix the next row so that its curves rest on the lower row. A tiled roof consists of overlapping tiles enabling rainwater to run down from the top to the bottom, i.e. from tile to tile and not into the house. Finally the rain reaches the gutter and then flows into the water butt or the drains. Anyone who has a garden likes to use rainwater. There’s no more economical way to water flowers and bushes.


Tiled roofs almost everywhere

Special tiles are used for the ridge of the roof. On both sides of the ridge they protrude over the normal tiles. The best thing to do is to cut them out of cardboard with curves on both sides. Once the roof is completely tiled the tiles need to be painted. It’s for you to decide whether they should be red, brown, black or any other colour. Nowadays you can see roof tiles in almost all colours. A house in Bovenden – north of Göttingen – even has bright blue roof tiles.

If you are building a residential building it needs a gutter. This isn’t necessary for a shed or any kind of shelter. You can put houses, sheds or other buildings with tile roofs anywhere you like on your Märklin model railway. Even new supermarkets or office blocks sometimes have tiled roofs, for example, Aldi branches. Tiled roofs are simply indestructible. This is something they have in common with a Märklin model railway.

Torsten Berndt

You need . . .

. . . almost nothing you don’t have anyway in the box in which you keep your odds and ends and offcuts. for most work you will need scissors and adhesives. for painting use tinting paint or poster paint. And if you don’t have curved scissors you can always buy them at a stationers or a handicraft shop.


Setting up the model railway: Modellbahn [model railway] Team Blaufelden supervised by Marliese and Siegfried Gehringer
Photos: Marliese and Siegfried Gehringer