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Archive for March, 2012

I can’t believe I’m still finding this stuff, after the two sales I’ve had, but it just keeps turning up. The other day as I was moving some things around to give the electricians room to work, I came across four small boxes of my old N-scale structures. There were twenty-one in all, and I’m going to put them on eBay in a few days. They are all from the N-scale layout I built between 1981 and 1992.  Although there is no sign to say it, this is a fire hall.
This was another one of those non-descript factories I made. There is a drive-through, but it’s not tall enough for trains to run through. A low gondola or flatcar would fit in one end.
Plastic kit for a small house with painting, weathering and some details added.
Plastic kit for a water tower with painting and weathering.
San Francisco style row-house, plastic kit with painting and weathering.
Scratch-built in wood with white-metal commercial window and door castings. Small town depot. I have fixed the platform in front where it got tilted in storage.
Scratch-built in wood. Small house.
Scratch-built in wood with commercial castings for the doors, windows, store front and chimney.
Scratch-built in wood. Small water tower and pump house.
Plastic freight house kit with American style tar paper roof replacing original European style tile roof.
Scratch-built in wood. Inspired by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s boyhood home in Abilene, Kansas.
The prototype.
Scratch-built in wood. Branch line water tank and pump house.
Junction tower, plastic kit with painting, weathering and details including greenery.
Bank building. Kit-bashed on a plastic Brownstone style house. Note rear roof is barn style, double sloped. Roof, front canopy and wooden base and walk are added.
Plastic kit, painted and weathered. Window glazing, shades, signs, front window treatments and tarred roof added.
This little set of three western buildings, joined and side-walked together, is probably the nicest scratch-built piece in the sale.
You can see that all three are railroad related businesses.  Left to right are the Pacific Express Co., Western Union Telegraph Co., and the Adams Express Freight Co.
The alley side of the buildings is interesting, too.
Another plastic house.
The plastic front of this building and the windows and doors are the only commercial parts. The rest is kit-bashed in wood, and there is a tar paper roof.
Scratch-built in wood. General Store.
Another plastic house.
Scratch-built in wood. Passenger and freight depot. I had fourteen towns on my N-scale layout, and I took most of the names from a Colorado map, but I also named some of my towns after well-known western movie actors. This station is called “Eastwood”.
Back of the depot, showing the freight door.

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From 1981 to 1992 we lived in a house with an unfinished basement, and I was fortunate enough to be able to create a large N-scale layout. It occupied a room 15 feet wide by 25 feet long. The walk-in layout was shaped like a large letter “G”.  There was over 400 actual feet of main line which circled the room four times before repeating itself.  When we moved I packed everything away in boxes, and was never able to re-assemble my layout because the house we now occupy has (or had until I built the loft) no unfinished space for a train.  Last summer I got out all the old structures and sold them on eBay.
They were a broad mix of scratch-built, kitbashed and kit-built. They were about half styrene and half wood. All were painted and weathered, and most had added details.
There were even a few sections of the layout on which I had progressed to doing scenery. I was able to cut some of these out and save them.
A small false front shop, with chimney and signs added. I created signs in sizes from about 3/16 to 1/4 inch from pictures of period posters I found in books. I used a copier to reduce them to N-scale size.
A cast metal kit for a caboose converted into a wayside building.
Branch line water tank. I can’t remember if this was a kit or I scratch-built this.
Small shed covered with posters. Scratch-built.
Junction tower. Plastic kit, painted, weathered and detailed with greenery.
Tool shed. Metal kit.
Scratch built in wood. Factory of some sort. Back then I was building things because I liked their design or architecture, without too much regard to what area of the country they might fit into. My layout was western, but I always thought this building had a north-eastern look.
Plastic station kit, painted, weathered and detailed.
Locksmith shop. Scratch-built in wood. My earliest buildings, like this one, used plastic screening for window panes, and I hand cut the shingles in strips from 3 x 5 cards. To rough them up a little, I teased them with the tip of my #11 Exacto blade while they were still wet from the paint.
The Doctor’s house.
Apothecary Shop. Scratch-built in wood.  It looks like a box fell off the corner.
Plastic station kit, painted, weathered and detailed.
Straight wooden trestle.
General Store. Scratch-built in wood with commercial window and door castings.
Sanding facility.
Plastic kit, painted, weathered and detailed.
Plastic kit, painted, weathered and detailed.
Same kit, side view.
Detailed metal kit for a gas station. I also wasn’t too particular about period. If I liked it, I built it.
Another view of the gas station.
Another view of the gas station.  The kit came with all the detail parts.
I bought a plastic kit for the “Robert E. Lee” paddle-wheel steamer because it was N-scale size, but when I started to look at building it, I saw that it was going to be 22 inches long, which was way more boat than I wanted. These beautiful riverboats were built in a wedding cake fashion, with the upper decks often repeating features found on the lower decks. I found that by selecting certain smaller kit parts, and scratch-building my own hull, I could create a river packet that was half the size of the original kit. This is what is called “kit-bashing” in the hobby.
The original kit had two stern paddle wheels; I used one of them, so my boat was half as wide as the original.
A view head on to the bow.
Overhead at the stern.  OK, I know, there is no way to steer this thing with only one paddle wheel; I should have cut the paddle wheel into two parts.
A factory of some sort, which I designed and scratch-built in wood with commercial door and window castings.
Same factory, other side.
Plastic kit, painted, weathered and detailed. I should have used a word processor on that sign, but this was built in the days before desk top computers.
I’m not sure how they got locomotives in and out of this building either…..:-)
Plastic station kit, painted, weathered and detailed.
European prototype….note the roof.
I think this was a wooden craftsman type kit. The prototype is probably more New Englandish, with the covered boarding area for passengers, but I think I have seen one like this in some western picture.
A better view of the run-through nature of this depot.
General Merchandise Store with small attached shop on the first floor. Perhaps a rooming house on the second.
I think this kit was called the “Union Hotel”.
Union Hotel from the side.  The posters are my addition.  Most of my tar paper rooves were simply painted masking tape.
Plastic kit…..factory.  I worked on this layout for ten years, but still didn’t get around to deciding what a lot of these structures were going to be, or where they would be located.  I had 14 towns along the main line, and a branch line that went up to a mining area.
Plastic kit…..European prototype.
Small sawmill from a craftsman kit.
It had some interior detail, too.
Icing dock. I don’t remember if this was a kit or I scratch-built it.
Icing dock, track side.
Two stall engine house.  Plastic kit. European prototype, but also fairly common style in this country.
Main street type building. Cast rosin kit.
Front side of the building above. I used tan mailing tape for shades; the color worked great, and it was self-adhering….still on tight after 20-30 years.
Plastic kit with stairs, signs and sidewalk added.
Same idea. Until streets were paved, they could become pretty muddy when it rained, so most small towns had wooden sidewalks, so you could walk from store to store without getting your shoes, skirts and pants muddy.
I built this freight and passenger depot from scratch, but it was based on a photo of a craftsman style kit I saw in a magazine.
I used to take place names from a Colorado map, and I carved the individual bricks into the chimneys.
Freight came from various bits and pieces in my junk box.
This is a European style station, but I liked it, so I built the kit. Back in the 1980s a lot of what was available in N-scale structures came from European companies, because they had been modeling in N-scale longer over there.  The “N” in N-scale stands for nine millimeters between the rails, a metric measurement.  Who knows what we would have called it, if we had invented it here!
I built this ore tipple and mine entrance from scratch, but it, too, was modeled after a commercial kit. Back then, I couldn’t afford many of these kind of craftsman kits, so I just put the structures together on my own.
I used clay from a nearby baseball diamond for my earth and other natural materials like the ore left on the tipple. The color was perfect for the area I was modeling. In the spring, they would deliver a large pile of it to be spread around for the summer baseball season, and I figured they wouldn’t miss a coffee can full.
The little ore cart with the drop end panel was built on an N-scale freight car truck.
Another scratch-building project was this mining head house with a sheltered area for loading ore gondolas.
I always had fond memories of building this stable from scratch. I was working on it the night before my youngest daughter was born in 1983.
It had a completely detailed interior with stables below and a hay loft above.  Before I sold it last summer, I reconstructed the missing piece of trim on the upper left corner of the false front.
This was a well-mannered horse who was just going out for a little grazing on his own.
A view straight through from the back.
This was one of those wood craftsman kits I did shell out for. I believe it was called “Mel’s Produce”.
It was interesting because it had track side loading areas on two levels.
This was a simple plastic kit, but I decided to dress it up with a wooden sidewalk resting on a stone foundation.
The stone foundation was plaster, and I carved out square openings in it for the beams that supported the sidewalk.
This was another kit-bash, adding wood parts to plastic kit parts. I used to take a plastic kit, and see if I could get four different buildings out of it, just by starting with one of the four walls, and imagining the rest of the structure.
The other side of the above building.
A plastic rooming house with added wooden sidewalk and foundation.
I am not sure why I put that heavy riveted metal door on one side. Must have been someone in that rooming house that they didn’t want to get out….:-)
A rosin kit factory with added foundation/dock, awning and rooftop water tank.
Front entrance of same factory.
Another detail I liked to add were downspouts to drain sunken rooves like this one. This spout is simply a small square of styrene and a straight piece of wire, bent slightly at the end.
Here’s an idea to create a little extra interest with a standard plastic building.  I cut a hole in the back wall, inserted a loading door, and built a loading dock, which I then populated with boxes and barrels.  You may have noticed that all my brick buildings have mortar lines.  Those are molded into the plastic, but not colored.  For the mortar, I used Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty, available at most hardware stores.  I painted the base coat on my buildings with Testor’s enamels, and then I would thin the putty with water to the consistency of a soupy paint.  Putting a water based or acrylic product over enamels will not cause the enamels to dissolve or run if they are dry.  Immediately after brushing the soupy putty on the wall, I would wipe the tops of the bricks with a dry cloth.  The putty that dried in the cracks became the mortar.
This was pretty much a stock factory kit of some sort or another, but I think I added the roof-top water tower, and some extra chimneys. I used to take empty plastic ink re-fills out of ball-point pens and cut them to size to resemble metal chimneys.
I used to wrap scribed wood siding around quarter inch dowel for my rood top water tanks.
European style lumber company without much added.
European style freight house with a deck mounted swiveling winch.
Curved wooden trestle.  Water barrels were positioned along wooden trestles like this in order to put out fires that could start from a spark or coals from a steam engine.
This was another one of those projects where I couldn’t afford the craftsman kit, so I just made one on my own, based on a picture in an ad in a magazine. This was called the Cimarron Mine.
I laid out the levels for the structures on pieces of blue styrofoam, and blended the land around the mine from Sculpt-a-Mold.
You’ll recognize the mine cart design from the tipple I wrote about earlier in this article.
The hand rails on the ramp are etched brass HO scale ladders laid on their sides.
The corrugated roofing was from Campbell Scale Models, and the pine trees were metal commercial castings that could be shaped before greenery was added.
Before rails were laid to mining areas, the ore had to be shipped out by wagon. I scratch-built these little wagons with N-scale brake wheels for wheels.  They are about an inch long, horses included.
I didn’t come up with it, but a good technique for simulating wear and tear on steel sided ore gondolas is to take a hot soldering iron and “go to town” on them.
Here is the same technique on a longer gondola that hauls scrap metal.
I didn’t realize it until I looked at these pictures again, but I had built a donkey engine flat car load in N-scale, many years ago. So, now I’ve done it in three different scales!
This little trick I will take credit for. I took small square pieces of red glitter, and glued them to the marker lights on my cabooses. As the cars went around the layout, they would often catch and reflect the layout lighting, making them look like they had working marker lights.
A water powered mill with a flume.
The base never got finished.
Two stall stone engine house, European prototype, but passable for American.
This was one of the earliest structures that I scratch-built. I found an N-scale drawing in a book. It was an ore processing/loading facility of some sort with chutes for two tracks.
It was basically a symmetrical building.
Some sections of my layout were finished, and had to be cut out when the layout was dismantled.
This was a small mine with a tailings dump.
Repairing a brace.
Closer view of the tailings dump.  The end of this track had gotten bumped in storage.
I developed a way to make pine trees from furnace filter material threaded and twisted on to toothpicks. I sprayed them black, then green, and dusted them with finely ground green foam.  I later learned that this method had already been discovered, which didn’t really make me feel that bad…I was in good company.
This was another mining scene that was partially completed. The scenery had only been base coated. Note the water flowing out of the discharge pipe.  I think I used a piece of clear fishing leader, and coated it with Envirotex.  The bags of ore were made by rolling a spaghetti-like piece of modeling clay, and then cutting it into section with a dull knife.
I took these photos outdoors before I sold these pieces. I like the way real sunlight produces hard edged shadows. You can get the same effect in the winter (which we have a lot of here in Minnesota) by setting up your photography in a sunny window.
This was a small factory spur track. The factory was a rosin kit by Magnuson Models called “Tickner’s Watchworks”.  I can’t remember if the awning over the loading dock came with the kit, or I added it.
This was another section of the layout that had to be cut away. I had turn-back curves at each end of the layout, but disguised them in tunnels. Although I did not use two shelves, this really was a two level layout, with helixes at each end leading to hidden staging yards below the layout. The two levels were accomplished without significant grades because the main line had about a 60 foot run to reach the next level.
The upper bridge over this deep canyon was a deck truss supported on box girders with steel cables.
The lower bridge was a curved wood trestle, built to fit the location.
I made a latex mold for a bridge pier by carving one out of plaster. I think I still have this mold. I know I still have a few of the bridge piers.
Another finished section was the Magnuson Models’ “Mercury Shoe Factory”.
It was also located at the end of a spur track.
I always felt this building had kind of a Civil War era look to it.
European factory building, Americanized by substituting a corrugated metal roof for the tile roof that came with the kit.
This was a two stall engine house that I scratch-built. I can tell it was from the early 1980s, because it was built with my first window treatment technique….plastic screen door screening.
Kit-bashed freight depot with water tank.
Masking tape for tar paper roofing. Durham’s Water Putty for mortar.
This large structure was a rock crusher made from a kit. See how big it was by comparing it to the height of the figure on the upper walk.
I never decided where I was going to put this, but I built it because I thought it was neat looking!
A mining head house usually has some sort of tall structure to it that contains a sheave (large wheel with groove for rope or cable) at the top that can raise and lower a bucket, or even a whole elevator car, down into the mine.
Years of working in the theatre has given me lots of experience dry brushing, and texturizing sets, and these skills transferred, albeit in a smaller scale, to my modeling work.
As a painter, I’ve always felt that nothing in nature is only one color. Usually I like to work with at least three colors that will blend from a distance into the desired result. This brings me to the end of my article on some of the modeling I did from 1981 to 1992. All of the pieces seen in this post have been sold, and now reside on layouts all over the country and the world. That’s a much better place for them than being locked away in boxes in my storage as they were for 20 years.

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