This is a kit from B.T.S. Structures. According to their instruction sheet, that stands for “better than scratch”. Historically many Chinese men, and families, were brought to this country to work on the transcontinental railroad. From the outset they faced prejudice and discrimination, even on the railroad that brought them here. Eventually their superior work habits, skills, and clean living gained them widespread acceptance on the railroad, but they still faced an uphill struggle when they left the railroad to pursue other occupations. One of the few businesses they were allowed to own and run was the local laundry.

This kit consists of an elongated main structure and a small attached side room of some sort, as seen in this rear view.

Since I’m trying to save space in Durango, I decided to leave the small addition off, and shorten the depth of the main building. I can use the little addition to make a small shed somewhere. You can always use a lot of small sheds!

I don’t intend to have the back of the laundry show, so I just used a piece of card stock, and painted it a rust color. Now I can add the windows and doors shown in the second photo above to my stock of spare parts.

I decided to use a different chimney so it wouldn’t dominate the structure so much.

I like to use photographic interiors, and you can almost always find something useful on Google Images. I used this on the back wall of the laundry.

I split this photo in two and used half of it on each side wall. The canopy glue I use on the window glass, and the addition of a window shade makes these photos very hard to see, but that’s OK; I know they are there.

I put two lights on the structure: one over the door, and one on the inside near the back.

From this angle, you can see both lights. Now my little Railroad Avenue people can have clean shirts.


The Kokomo House

Another kit I recently completed was the Kokomo House by Wild West Scale Model Builders. With a footprint of roughly 6.5 x 4.0 inches, this structure is a little bigger than the houses I have been building lately. Maybe it can be the home of a rich person, or some business office. A bit of history by Joe Crea on the Wild West web site says, “Kokomo, a small Colorado mining town, once existed just below the east crest of Fremont Pass. The townsite is presently buried under extensive tailing ponds of the Climax Molybdenum operation. An early photograph of the town revealed this small house. Like many log structures of the period, this building has its facade sheathed with siding to provide a more finished appearance. The house appears not to have been painted, but it was common practice to paint only the finished facade and allow the log portions to weather naturally.”

This is the front view of my finished house. Nothing new in terms of techniques here. The mortar lines between the logs took a while to paint with a very fine brush. Fortunately, rough is OK here.

The front from another angle.

The back has an interesting little walk-out addition, and cut-away roof line.

The other rear view angle. I put two lights in the structure because of the size of it, and the many windows.

Viking Ship

Here is a little model of a viking ship that I have spent over three months working on. It is from a kit from Artisania Latina. The ship is approximately 11″ long from prow to stern and 11″ tall from keel to top of mast. I wanted to build this ship for display in my library, and because I have ancestors who were actual Vikings.

This picture shows the model in one of my lighted display cases.

There were a number of challenges to the construction, which explains the lengthy assembly process. Almost every piece of this kit had to be cut and/or shaped from the raw wood supplied. There were some exceptions like the stand beneath the ship, which was part of a laser-cut sheet.

The most time consuming process was shaping and installing the strakes (boards) along the sides of the ship. Each one of these has between seven and nine points of attachment to the underlying hull formers. The brass nails are only for visual accent; the strakes had to be glued at each of the 7-9 aforementioned points, and I could only do two to three of these points per day. The work had to be clamped and set aside for the glue to harden over night. I usually work on several models at a time, so I can move on to other projects when I have to wait for steps like this. This photo also shows the side tiller at the rear of the ship. This was one of the few steering mechanisms these ships had.

I modified some elements of the kit to create a more realistic model. The most visible modification is the sail. The stripes were my addition. I don’t know of any Viking sails that were not colored or decorated, and a stripe design was the most common. The colors identified the ship’s owner. I also wanted the sail to look like it was billowed out with a nice following wind, so here is what I did. First, I carefully stretched the sail on a flat surface, and drew in the red stripes. I used a permanent marker because the technique for filling the sail with wind would be using water based products. Then I sewed the top of the sail to the yard arm, and blew up a balloon. The sail and yard arm were carefully stretched across and secured to the surface of the inflated balloon. The next step involved using a diluted mixture of white glue and water. I used construction glue so that it would give the “white” surfaces a bit of an eggshell color. In the theatre, this kind of a mixture is called “dutchman glue”. I think this term came from the trade war that was waged between the English and the Dutch in the mid-1600s. At that time the island of Manhattan was a Dutch colony. When the English won the war and took over Manhattan, they either obliterated anything connected with the Dutch, or created derogatory terms for it. We still have sayings like “Dutch-treat” which implies something cheap. I think watered down glue acquired the same kind of demeaning appellation. If you are interested in learning many other fascinating facts that emerged from this period (including how the New York Mets got their colors), I highly recommend reading “The Island at the Center of the World” by Russell Shorto. Back to the sail: I gave it several coats of this glue over many days, and when the glue had thoroughly dried, voila! I popped the balloon and the sail retained its shape! The next picture shows minor modifications I also made to the ship’s rigging to keep the sail positioned properly. I guess you’d have to know a lot about Viking ship rigging to know what’s correct and what isn’t.

The other major modification was to the shields along the sides of the ship. The shields in the kit had no decoration on them. For the Vikings, their decorated shields were part of their pride and their identity, so I found pictures of Viking shields on Google, sized them, and printed them on glossy photo paper. It’s a technique I’ve used before to make signs for structures for my model railroad.

I glued the photo paper to the plain shields. Then I found some small stick-on jewels at Michael’s to create the shield boss on each shield. The shield boss was a cup-like steel projection at the center of the shield that protected the warrior’s hand as he (or she) gripped the back of the shield. The Roman Legionnaire’s shield had the same feature. This boss was also used as a “butting” weapon. The edge of this otherwise wooden shield was then clad in a steel “tire”. I have some little Viking figures on order to complete the scene.



As you know if you have been following my postings, I am currently engaged in creating some housing for all of those little people who will populate my railroad.

Since these structures take up very little space, and are of a simple generic nature, I have been using ready-made kits instead of designing and scratch-building everything. I also have some houses and other buildings that are in S scale and HO scale so I can create some false perspective on the layout. I posted an article on May 20, 2012 (in the “structures” category) that shows how convincing false perspective can be. The photos in that article were shot on a set up that was less than four feet deep.

This kit is called “Tommy Knocker’s Cabin”, and is from Wild West Scale Model Builders. They produce some very fine laser-cut wood structure kits in a number of scales. I won’t cover all the techniques I use on these kits because the information can be found in earlier posts.

This kit contains number of options like this addition, and the small front porch roof. I like kits that give you options, because you can individualize your structure.

There are two windows on the back side of the cabin, but no back door. A door could very easily be added.

The other side of the cabin has room for an optional storage room. I built the kit with all the options, and the footprint is still only 5.5 x 5 inches.

The kit just comes with a small tubular styrene piece for the chimney, but I like to add more detail, so I scrounged in my spare parts storage for this chimney cap, some guy wires, and flashing. If you look closely at the full photo of this angle, you will wonder why I put the chimney in this location which sort of suggests that the stove would be located right inside the front door. I wondered about that, too, but the deed was already done! I guess the cabin’s owner will have to route some stove piping to the rear of the room….a more logical location for the stove. I hope he can still get good draft.

I wanted to try doing window curtains here, so I used some of the tissue paper from the kit. This paper is supplied for the builder to paint black to simulate tar paper roofing. The shingles shown are also provided in the kit. I drew the curtain details in pencil on the tissue paper, and then cut out the shape, allowing excess width and height to make it easy to glue the curtains on to the inside walls. I cut away the shape of the opening between the curtains. I think the effect worked well. I also added interior lighting so that the curtain modeling would show up better at night.

Here are the results of my work with two Banta Modelworks kits. This company makes some very fine laser-cut wood kits in many scales, and I have assembled a number of them in the past.

This is the photo that comes with the kit for the house. There are not two houses in the kit; this photo just shows two variations of the same house.

The kit includes an interior layer of walls that are just plain laser-cut plywood, and an exterior layer with inscribed siding. You are supposed to sandwich these walls for strength, but I started to think that I could actually build two houses with this kit if I reinforced each set of walls with some basswood strips. Make sure your reinforcement is at a 90˚ angle to the grain of the laser-cut wood. You can see the wiring for the interior lighting. I won’t do a separate photo of the lights “on” since I have done that in so many recent posts.

To build two houses required a little scratch-building, but that didn’t deter me. The hardest part, cutting all the window and door openings, was already done for me. For variety I decided to make my second house resemble board and batten construction.

To further differentiate these houses from each other, I used separate roofing techniques. As I was developing these two structures, I decided that one would look “cheaper” than the other, and that decision colored all my choices. Here you can see that one house has a nice shingled roof, and the other has a simple tar paper job. Wooden battens were often used on tar paper roofs to resist the paper lifting in high winds. On both roofs I used Clever Models “Creeky Brand” printed paper products.

Here you can see two techniques I have become quite fond of; the use of canopy glue to resemble the cheap glass often found in early western structures, and the employment of simple straight pin heads for O-scale doorknobs. This photo also shows the wooden beams I use as a foundation on many of my structures. This adds detail, and helps to resist warping. I used AIM weathering powders on all of these structures.

On the more expensive home, I included a porch light. This is from Miniatronics, item #72-512-03.

Here is the photo that Banta provides for the outhouse kit. There are actually 6 outhouses in this one kit, as you can see from their statement.

I tried to create as much variety in the outhouses as well. I made one to match the coloring of each house, and one to look like it was newly built. Since a lot of my structure work so far has been commercial buildings, I think it’s time I create some places for all those people to live.

Icing Dock

I’ve been working on the O scale kit shown here for the last few weeks. It comes from Rusty Stumps Scale Models.

The original store still exists in Silver Plume, Colorado.

I won’t go into all the staining/painting methods I use because they are in previous posts about other models. Suffice it to say that I did not follow the coloring on either the original store, or the kit box cover. The figures are from Railroad Avenue. I don’t know if they have many left, but you can check at their web site.

I detailed the front scene with some parts I had, and some I scratch-built. The produce display rack was scratch-built. The little green and red vegetables are bird shot pellets that I painted. The chimney is one I had from Grandt Line.

The signs on the side of the building can be found on Google Images, and sized accordingly. More on them later.

Here is the other side. The old man leans on his cane as he inspects the produce.

I don’t expend a lot of energy detailing any side of a structure that is not going to be seen, as you can tell from this backside view of the store.

I really enjoy putting lighting into my structures. It brings them to life just as much as the figure groupings. The storekeeper is keeping a close eye on the old guy leaning over the produce! There are two lights inside, and the light with the shade over the storekeeper is from Miniatronics.

Here is the same scene with no added light from the display box I am now using in my library to photograph these models.

I make the roofs removable if I’m going to detail the interiors, especially if I plan on lighting. That always needs repairs, and gravity holds the roof on fine. Here you see two shelf units that are also detailed, but not visible from this angle. Each shelf has a little HO street lamp behind it. There’s just enough of this light sticking up to resemble a table lamp. The wire powering the light over the front entrance is visible on the right, under the yellow tape.

In this view of the interior you can see the photo backdrop I used. If you put enough “clutter” in front of it, you can get away with some elements that are out of scale. It just looks like “something” is in the store. You also get a better view of the little HO scale street light that I made to look like an O scale table lamp.

Sorry for the odd angle; that was all that would work. Here is a view from inside the store looking to the window displays. Some are two-dimensional, others are three-dimensional.

Returning to those signs as promised. I wanted to try the sanding-thin technique that resembles signs painted on the side of a building. It took considerable time, and then I carefully cut slits between the boards along the side of the store. Other signs, like the “Trundles” sign here, I copied on to glossy photo paper to look like enameled signs.

This is the other side of the structure.

I’m really liking the use of canopy glue to simulate old fashioned western glass, and it hides a multitude of sins behind the window panes.