model shipping container header

40 Easy-To-Make, Photo-Realistic,
Model Shipping Containers to
Add Realness to Your Model Railroad

scale shipping container models 

These 41 scale model shipping containers are fun and easy to build whether you are a serious model railroader, a war gamer, model maker, student, or home hobbyist. You just download the plans which come to your computer in PDF format, print them out, glue them to card (like a discarded muesli pack), and assemble them. EASY!



What makes these sea containers so good is they don’t look fake. They are based on true real life photos of real intermodal shipping containers. Most show genuine signs of rust, some have dents, and some even are covered in graffiti on one side. If you don’t like the graffiti, you just turn them around the other way, or print out another side section. EASY!


Even better; after downloading the containers, you can print out as many copies of each container as you want to, without buying an extra download. The designs are copyrighted, so it is illegal to sell, trade, or give them away. As long as the designs are for your own personal/private use, there’s no problem.


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All these scale model PDF files come with our 60 day money back guarantee.


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In most countries they are called ‘shipping containers’, but the term ‘intermodal containers’ is also used when two or more transport methods are involved with transporting the freight e.g. sea, rail, or road.


Intermodal freight is not usually unpacked (unless maybe for a Customs inspection), and remains locked inside the big sealed steel box. This speeds up freight transportation as the complete shipping container is off-loaded directly from the cargo ship at a container terminal (or port) to a rail wagon or truck. This system is not only faster and more efficient than earlier cargo handling methods, but it also improves security and potential damage to the consignment.


Shipping containers come in various sizes with 20 foot and 40 foot containers being the most common. In real life they are manufactured from steel to standard ISO specifications for consistency and easy stacking on top of each other. A ‘double stack’ is when they are stacked two-high.


Shipping containers are classified into different types depending on their intended purpose. The two main classifications would be for ‘general cargo’ or for a ‘specific purpose.’


General Cargo Containers


The most common seen on trains, trucks, on ships, or at seaports would be 20ft and 40ft ‘dry cargo shipping containers.’ These typically comprise of strong steel walls, a floor and a roof. The standard width is 8 foot. They are generally watertight and well sealed to prevent unwanted animals, vermin, birds, or insects hitching a free ride. They usually have lockable double doors at one end for easy access by forklift. Some cargo containers have side access, but this is not generally the norm.


Specific Purpose Containers


For some special loads the loading (packing) and unloading (unpacking) needs access from the top, so instead of a steel roof, some containers have a reinforced or canvas removable cover supported with special roof bows. These ‘open top shipping containers’ are used for bulky or fragile cargoes such as glass sheets and heavy machinery. Some really difficult loads might require ‘flat rack containers’ which just consist of a floor and strong steel ends to enable safe stacking at container terminals. They have special top and bottom corner fittings to compensate for the open-sided lack of structure.


Perishable Cargoes


Shipping containers are commonly used for freighting frozen goods and other perishable products. For this purpose additional insulation features are necessary to maintain the correct temperature control or humidity. Closed ventilated containers use special ventilators to control moisture and humidity.


Insulated containers (also called reefers or thermal containers) are not generally fitted with temperature control devices, but are well insulated internally to provide a constant temperature and some protection from climatic extremes. They are common in 20’ and 40’ lengths.


There are also mechanically refrigerated and non-mechanically refrigerated shipping containers. Those without a motor are well insulated internally and have liquefied gas or dry ice added to cool the goods down during transit. Mechanically refrigerated containers are equipped with a refrigeration unit to keep the cargo cold or frozen. Heated containers are also used for some shipments.


Standard Sizes


Efficient freight transport is essential to speed up delivery and reduce shipping costs. That’s why, almost without exception, the size dimensions, capacity, and specifications of shipping containers are made to ISO governing standards:


  • 20ft shipping containers (very common)
  • 40ft shipping containers (very common)
  • 45ft shipping containers (less common)
  • 48ft shipping containers (mainly in USA)
  • 53ft shipping containers (mainly in USA)

Smaller 10ft containers are available in some areas, as are 30ft containers.


In recent years dry cargo containers have become more popular for use in home construction and for other commercial purposes. It is possible to purchase new or used (second-hand) shipping containers from shipping companies and wholesalers.


Used containers are often used as offices on construction sites because they are strong, secure, and easily transported onsite (and easily removed when no longer required). In some countries they are used in public self-storage complexes. A concrete pad is usually poured to level the surface before rows of 20ft storage containers are lifted into place to sit side by side. The land is usually sealed with tar seal (asphalt), concrete, or bitchumen gravel seal so vehicles can drive in to load and unload. The self-storage facility will usually be finished off with a high security fence, security cameras, and sometimes a 20’ container is fitted out as a sales office.


Shipping container house plans are available for those who want to convert used intermodal containers into homes. These houses can look very stylish and cost much less than other construction methods. The structures can be in place very quickly and the plans come with the necessary electrical information.


Plans to make scale models can also be purchased where cargo boxes are required for transporting on model trains, or as realistic props strategically positioned on scale model railroads and dioramas. They look particularly convincing when they appear old and rusty, or are faded, or covered by graffiti like the range of downloadable 3D scale model paper kits for sale from this website.