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Archive for the ‘Modeling in Other Scales’ Category

This is a project I’ve been working on all summer. Since my layout is On30 scale, and this is an HO scale kit, my intent is that it will be a background model if I can find a place where I can fit it in. I do this to create forced perspective, but this technique works best at eye level, and you need a little distance from foreground to background to make it work best. See “More HO Half Houses” in my category “Modeling In Other Scales”.

I originally felt that I could just assemble the water tower on a couple of layers of one inch styrofoam insulation material, but then the project started growing on me!

If I was going to have a water tower, I needed to have a locomotive and tender to put water in, so I needed track to “run” the locomotive on. The model will be static (thank goodness). I added more styrofoam underneath and on both sides of the original piece, and contoured it all with Amaco Sculptamold.

I wound up making my static locomotive and tender from a number of sources. Most of the pieces came from Shapeways compliments of Railway Recollections, but the running gear was from an old N-Scale Minitrix loco. Since my layout is narrow gauge, I opted for an HOn30 locomotive, “running” on some old N-Scale track that I already had.

I enjoy modeling, but working in HO scale is tiny stuff. The whole diorama is only about 10 inches square. You can double click on any of the photos to get an enlarged view.

One reason the project took so long was that I had to source the various components from so many different places, mostly by internet purchases and waiting for delivery. HOn30 is not a very common scale, so for instance, the tender wheels came from a different place than the tender truck side frames. The Shapeways parts were supposed to fit on a specific N-Scale 2-6-0 locomotive which was going to be quite expensive to purchase, so I used a Minitrix 2-6-0 (which I bought on eBay, non running), but the switch meant that the Shapeways locomotive pilot wouldn’t fit correctly, so back to Shapeways for a different pilot…..and so on.

Once the locomotive and tender were assembled, I turned to Google Images for some research into painting details.

The research photos also helped with ideas for further details.

The headlight and tail light were little stick-on jewels from Michael’s. The figures were from an HO Preisser engine crew set. There were six of them, and I managed to find work for them all. I made the builder’s plate from the kind of thin clear plastic that comes with a lot of packaging. I punched it out with a paper punch, and painted it gold. It’s about 2mm in diameter.

The water in the tank is Woodland Scenics Realistic Water. I like this product because you can color the water by mixing in acrylic (water based) paints before making the pours. I say “pours” because this product works best if you build up the water with thin layers, no more than 1/8 inch each. The tank looks almost full, but of course, there’s a wooden disk just a little way under the water.

The locomotive hand rail in this picture was made from an HO scale brass etched ladder. I cut it in half lengthwise, drilled small holes along both sides of the boiler, and glued the two halves in. The pilot support rods are small bits of wire.

The deciduous tree on the left was made with a Scenic Express Super Trees stem. For thickening the trunk, I used the technique of applying hot glue, and shaping it with the tip of the hot glue gun. This gives the trunk a more realistic thickness, and strengthens it. The yellowish leaves are Scenic Express Super Leaves, Moss Green, and the underlying dark green leaves are also Scenic Express.

I believe the coniferous trees were from Affordable Forests; I purchased them at a train show. The rail was weathered with Floquil Rail Weathering pens, and acrylic paints.

Weathering on the tender and locomotive was done with acrylic paints and weathering powders. The track ballast is some old N-Scale ballast I’ve had for decades. The open cover on the tender water hatch was made in the same way as the builder’s plate.

The decals for the number “5” on the locomotive and tender were another special order item. The grass tufts were from Bachmann Scene Scapes, 10mm tufts (Tan). I like the way this picture makes the water tower look like it is high up in the mountains.

I also like this running gear level view. The workman on the right is oiling in the piston rod area. He does have an oil can in his hand, but he wound up facing away from the camera in all my shots.

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Lest you think I've totally abandoned my model railroading efforts, here are some other things I've been working on this spring. In the late summer of 2013, I attended the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City. This was my first national convention experience, and I had a wonderful time. As you know, these conventions always feature a huge room for vendors, and I came home with a number of kits.

Lest you think I’ve totally abandoned my model railroading efforts, here are some other things I’ve been working on this spring. In the late summer of 2013, I attended the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City. This was my first national convention experience, and I had a wonderful time. As you know, these conventions always feature a huge room for vendors, and I came home with a number of kits. Among the items I purchased were kits in S-scale and HO-scale to use as background buildings on my layout.

This structure (front view above) is the Wild West Scale Model Builders S-scale Assay Office. The kit is lazer cut plywood and basswood, and the footprint is 6.5" by 3.5".

This structure is the Wild West Scale Model Builders S-scale Assay Office. The kit is lazer cut plywood and basswood, and the footprint is 6.5″ by 3.5″. I stained the wooden parts with a mix of Fiebing’s Leather Dye and isopropyl alcohol, and weathered the finished structure with AIM Weathering Powders and Testor’s Dullcote.

The windows with this kit can be built open or closed. I didn't try to avoid hitting the window glass with the weathering powder or the dullcote, since I am not going to add interior details.

The windows with this kit can be built open or closed. I didn’t try to avoid hitting the window glass with the weathering powder or the dullcote, since I am not going to add interior details.

A larger S-scale kit is this Miner's Supply and Exchange complex, also by Wild West Scale Model Builders.

A larger S-scale kit (5″ x 8″ footprint) is this Miner’s Supply and Exchange complex, also by Wild West Scale Model Builders. With all of these kits, I added a wooden foundation to reinforce the lazer-cut flooring sheet that accompanies the kit. Without this bracing, that thin piece of floor would certainly warp.

I used a thin-tipped permanent marker to add some detail to the tar-paper roofing material. I can also see that I need to add some chimney flashing.

I used a thin-tipped permanent marker to add some detail to the tar-paper roofing material. I can also see that I need to add some chimney flashing. There’s nothing like the camera to show you what you overlooked.

The rear of this two-store complex is almost as interesting as the front.

The rear of this two-store complex is almost as interesting as the front.

In HO-scale this kit from RSlaser is for the Deadwood Gazette. I purchased the facade-only version because I knew I wanted to keep the depth of the building to a minimum.

In HO-scale this kit from RSlaser is for the Deadwood Gazette. I purchased the facade-only version because I knew I wanted to keep the depth of the building to a minimum.

I added short side walls with some Grandt Line windows I had in my supplies left over from another project.

I added short side walls with some Grandt Line windows I had in my supplies left over from another project.

The footprint of this structure is 2.5" x 2.0" which will make it easy to fit into the background.

The footprint of this structure is 2.5″ x 2.0″ which will make it easy to fit into the background.

The telegraph office from B.E.S.T also makes a nice tiny, HO-scale background building.

The telegraph office from B.E.S.T also makes a nice tiny, HO-scale background building.

The footprint of this building is 2.0" x 1.75".

The footprint of this building is 2.0″ x 1.75″.

Grandt Line makes a nifty model of the Gomez store that exists in Pagosa Jct., Colorado.

Grandt Line makes a nifty model of the Gomez store that exists in Pagosa Jct., Colorado. If I were replicating this structure as a foreground model, I would certainly build the whole thing, but as a background HO-scale structure on my On30 layout, I wanted to keep it small.

I'll use the remaining parts of the kit for some other small

I’ll use the remaining parts of the kit for some other small building. Here you can see some photos I reduced to fit as displays in the windows. There is also a photo across the rear of the interior that will show when I put lighting into the store.

This building occupies a space of 3.5" x 1.75".

This building occupies a space of 3.5″ x 1.75″.

Here is a representative street scene with the S-scale projects.

Here is a representative street scene with the S-scale projects.

And here are the HO-scale structures.

And here are the HO-scale structures.

Somewhat unrelated, but picked up at the same convention is this Grizzly Mtn. Engineering farmer's wagon in O-scale.

Somewhat unrelated, but picked up at the same convention is this Grizzly Mtn. Engineering farmer’s wagon in O-scale.

As much as I love building these things, I have to be conservative until I see how much room I'm actually going to have on the layout.

As much as I love building these things, I have to be conservative until I see how much room I’m actually going to have on the layout.

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Just when I thought I'd seen the last of my old N-scale equipment, another couple of boxes of it turned up in my storage.  There are structures, some scratch-built, rolling stock

Just when I thought I’d seen the last of my old N-scale equipment, another couple of boxes of it turned up in my storage. There are mainly structures, some scratch-built, rolling stock and a few locomotives.  I’ll be putting them on eBay over the next few days.  You can access these auctions under my username: mapsattic.  This is a six stall roundhouse that I built from the Heljan plastic kit.

These are two Shinohara #6 curved turnouts with Code 70 rail.  The radii are 31.5 cm and 28.5 cm, which is 11+ and 12+ inches.

These are two Shinohara #6 curved turnouts with Code 70 rail. The radii are 31.5 cm and 28.5 cm, which is 11+ and 12+ inches.

This is a wooden coaling tower, made I think, from the Campbell kit.  If it looks familiar to readers of this blog, that is because I built another one last year just like this on commission from a client.  I had forgotten all about building this one so many years ago.

This is a wooden coaling tower, made I think, from the Campbell kit. If it looks familiar to readers of this blog, that is because I built another one last year just like this on commission from a client. I had forgotten all about building this one so many years ago.

As long as I was getting back on eBay, I decided to try selling this book again.  I've had it from the Minnesota Transportation Museum for over a year now.  I tried selling it for them twice before, but had no takers.

As long as I was getting back on eBay, I decided to try selling this book again. I’ve had it from the Minnesota Transportation Museum for over a year now.  I tried selling it for them twice before, but had no takers.  It is really a rare and very valuable book.  Please read the description and see the photos on eBay at auction #291005105813.  I have sometimes seen these at train shows, and they go for about $300.

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On a recent trip to Seattle that my wife and I took, I had the great good fortune to meet Paul Scoles, creator of the Pelican Bay Railway and Navigation Company.

On a recent trip to Seattle that my wife and I took, I had the great good fortune to meet Paul Scoles, creator of the Pelican Bay Railway and Navigation Company.

I spent the afternoon with Paul and his beautiful Sn3 layout.  To quote from his web site: The Pelican Bay Railway & Navigation Co. is a period free-lance Sn3 layout, set in coastal Northern California in 1895.  Inspiration largely comes from the North Pacific Coast Railroad, and the South Pacific Coast Railroad.

I spent the afternoon with Paul and his beautiful Sn3 layout. To quote from his web site:
The Pelican Bay Railway & Navigation Co. is a period free-lance Sn3 layout, set in coastal Northern California in 1895. Inspiration largely comes from the North Pacific Coast Railroad, and the South Pacific Coast Railroad.

Over the years, Paul has published dozens of articles about his layout in the model railroading press. He also has some highly instructional DVDs on scenery and operations which feature his layout.  See http://paulscoles.com

Over the years, Paul has published dozens of articles about his layout in the model railroading press. He also has some highly instructional DVDs on scenery and operations which feature his layout. See http://paulscoles.com

Since Paul's layout is in a western setting, and models narrow gauge railroading in a time period close to mine, his work has been a tremendous inspiration to me for quite some time.

Since Paul’s layout is in a western setting, and models narrow gauge railroading in a time period close to mine, his work has been a tremendous inspiration to me for quite some time.

I intend to follow Paul's pioneering technique of using decomposed granite for mountain scenery.

I intend to follow Paul’s pioneering technique of using decomposed granite for mountain scenery.

Paul has scratch-built or kit-bashed almost all of his structures, as I intend to do on my layout.

Paul has scratch-built or kit-bashed almost all of his structures, as I intend to do on my layout.

Paul's tree building technique is the most realistic I have ever seen, and the forested parts of his layout have a dark density that is truly rare in model railroading.

Paul’s tree building technique is the most realistic I have ever seen, and the forested parts of his layout have a dark density that is truly rare in model railroading.

I am sincerely grateful to Paul for sharing his time, talents and stunning layout with me.

I am sincerely grateful to Paul for sharing his time, talents and stunning layout with me.

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Here’s another commission that is calling on me to explore three modeling fields that are new to me. A client in Arizona wants me to build some playground equipment for his outdoor G scale railroad that is set in the very early years of the 20th Century. He wants to place it along side a one-room schoolhouse that he already has on the layout. Although I’m not old enough to remember the turn of the century, I do recall typical playground equipment from my childhood, and a little research justified the two pieces I designed for him. This is my merry-go-round.

This is a teeter-totter. After I showed him the drawings, he reminded me that his layout has a concrete base, so putting anything into the ground for support won’t work. Everything has to be free-standing.

The three new modeling experiences for me are:   1. Building in G scale.  Half-inch to the foot is twice as large as my On30 scale work.   2. Making something that has to stand up to outdoor weather.  3. Working in brass.  In order to make the merry-go-round free-standing, I soldered small sections of brass tubing, that were slightly different diameters, to two brass plates.+

When the smaller diameter tube is inserted into the larger diameter tube, the merry-go-round is very stable….and it goes around!

I was also able to solder the inner ends of the handrails to the first brass plate below the merry-go-round, which makes them very secure.

I used a similar arrangement for the base of the teeter-totter. My client is going to sprinkle sand or small rock over these bases to make it look like they go into the ground.

Here are the seat boards for the teeter-totter.

And, here they are stained, with two of the brass hand holds in place.

The hand rails and the stain work done on the merry-go-round. I’m going to paint the brass bases with Rustoleum high heat black, but I’m not sure I want to paint the hand rails; they look really good against the stained wood. After the stain has dried overnight, I have a spray can of Thompson’s Water Seal to treat everything with.

Here are the two competed pieces. The white background causes the camera to underexpose a little. The wood is actually a shade or so lighter.

If you zoom in closer, the camera’s automatic exposure system reads the wood more and the white background less.

And finally, the teeter-totter. I was especially pleased with the little brass handlebars on these. I had to create a wooden jig to hold the two half-inch long brass pieces in perpendicular to each other while I soldered them.

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This is another one of those commissions in a different scale other than On30. A client wanted me to put together this brass model of a small movie theatre. The kit came with a lighted chasing marquee that used fiber optic technology.

After I completed it, I told him it was one of the hardest projects I had ever worked on. I had never worked in brass, and although the photo etched wall details in the kit were incredible, the instructions to use CAA cement to hold the brass together were hardly practical. I continually had to re-glue brass parts that separated. The fiber optics were positively microscopic to work with, and I wasn’t very pleased with the results.

The overall instructions for the kit consisted of a series of drawings (nothing written). If you made a mistake, and bent a piece the wrong way, chances are that the piece would break along the fold line when you tried to correct your error. This would necessitate another difficult glueing job. Painting was another nightmare. It literally took weeks to mask and paint everything, because each step in the process had to dry for 24 hours. There were days I could only work 10 or 15 minutes on this project, and then I had to wait a full day to continue.

As you can see from these last two photos, building this in wood or plastic would have resulted in a lot cleaner joint lines.

Although you can’t see the chasing effect on the marquee in this simulated night time photo, it was kind of neat.

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Here is an N scale coaling tower I made for a client from a Chooch kit. It roughly resembles the famous Chama Coaling Tower. I plan on making a similar one for my layout, but when I scaled up the dimensions of this one to O scale, I found out that it would result in a model that was over 22 inches tall. Since narrow gauge locomotives were roughly 75% the size of similar standard gauge locomotives, I’m going to build my coaling tower in S scale (roughly 75% of O scale), and then it will be about 16 inches tall. I think that will look fine.

This kit took 22 hours over 4 days to build. All these little balconies and railings were a real challenge in N scale.

The kit called for using some black construction paper to simulate tar paper roofing, but I had some left over N scale corrugated roofing material made by Campbell Scale Models, so I substituted that.

I also connected all of the loose leg bottoms with strip wood, and added a styrene base to make the model more durable.

The kit only provided four wheels to operate the raising and lowering mechanisms for the coal delivery chutes, so I added four O scale brake wheels to the mix. I’m not sure if this is prototypical, but it was easier to secure everything with a more balanced arrangement, and I think it looks better. The kit also provided nothing to connect the wheels, so I used some fine stiff wire that I had.

Here’s a close view of the corrugated roofing, after weathering.

One reason this kit took so long to assemble was all of the tiny bits and pieces that had to be cut. If I never have to glue on another N scale railing in my life, I’ll be happy!

Close-up of framing and styrene base that I added. I used styrene so it wouldn’t warp like card-stock sometimes does.

Close-up of chute mechanism. I suppose I could have added wires to the back side of the wheels, but it’s done for now.  The top set of four wheels are the O scale brake wheels; the bottom set are the four wheels that came with the kit.

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This is another one of the Hallmark, HO scale houses from the series, “Sarah Plain and Tall”. I picked this one up on eBay for not too much more than I paid for the store at the train show.

This is the back of the house.  My plan is to cut this building in half diagonally, and there are two choices.  I’ll place the cut line so that one porch is preserved on each half.

Cutting this house in half diagonally was considerably more complicated, and time-consuming, than the straight cut through the store that I made before.

Here are the sides of the house, now two houses, that will be visible in the upper reaches of my town of Durango

This house also has some Christmas decorations, which I removed with an Exacto chisel blade. Gone are the wreath on the porch wall, the garland around the door and porch posts, and small paintings of candles in some of the windows.

Cutting the house in half left a few scars which I filled with Squadron Green Putty. This material can be sanded, cut or filed to shape once it is dry.

After a little painting and weathering, and repositioning the chimney, you can see the difference between the finished piece, and the other half of the house, which is left to do.

The final test is to position the house, next to the store, on my photo layout. The models in the foreground are 1/4 inch to the foot (O scale). The two in the background are roughly 1/8 inch to the foot (HO scale), and there is only about 18 inches separating the two sets of buildings. The concept of forced perspective makes the structures behind look a lot further away.

Raising the camera about an inch doesn’t destroy the illusion.

This last shot is with the camera raised about two inches above the first elevation, and everything still looks fine.

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I recently completed a kit for a client in Washington State. He actually sent me three N scale kits to build for him. I’ll be posting the results of the other two when I complete them. This is the N scale kit by Gloor Craft Models for a Hardware Store. The kit as it comes, builds into a nice little store that could look like it was built anywhere from the 1870s to the 1890s. My client’s layout is set in 1950, so he wanted me to see what I could do to update the store.

It’s quite possible that buildings this old were still around in the 1950’s, but they most probably had undergone some remodeling over time. My first idea for the updating was that the owners would have modernized the lower front wall, so I glued a piece of flat card stock over the wood siding to look like a new stucco front. I also added a piece of cornice work that I had in my N scale scrap box to divide the stucco from the upper floor which retained the original ship lap siding.

This photo shows the stucco base and the cornice over the siding. As you look at this post, keep in mind that you are looking at a building that is only about 2 inches tall.

This photo shows the walls laid out on the kit’s drawing. The lower left rendering is the way the original front was supposed to be built. Just cutting the window and door openings, and getting good, clean, snug fits can take the better part of an evening.

The other large change I made was to reverse the color scheme of the original model. I figured the store owner would have given a nice new coat of white paint to his store to make it look more modern. I used the original suggested wall color, dark brown, for the new trim color.  The original trim was to have been white.  One small change, but important to the client, was to name the store after his grandfather’s store, so I created a sign reading, “Earl’s Nursery & Landscaping Supply”.

As I was constructing the walls, I started to build in the weathering. I first sprayed the walls lightly with Krylon gray auto primer, and then dry brushed the white coat so that some of the primer showed through, suggesting peeling paint.

I wanted to put the completed store on a scenery-base that could be dropped right into a spot on his layout. I found a plastic piece from an old N scale kit base that would work to suggest a curb and brick sidewalk. Because this would raise the front of the store about 1/8 of an inch, I needed to cut some 1/8 inch high brick strips to make a foundation around the remaining three walls. I’m so glad I never threw any left-overs away when I built all those kits in N scale during the 1980’s.  After painting the brick work, I used some light colored weathering powder to simulate mortar.  This can be sealed down with Testor’s Dullcote, and repeated applications made until the desired affect is achieved.

The store is beginning to take shape after two evening’s work.

Another change from the original kit was to add more roof detail. Most of our model railroad buildings are viewed from above, so lots of roof detail is essential. I braced the false front extension of the front wall because I found with my old N scale kits, this part often warped. I think the prototype did this, too, to prevent wind damage.  For the roof itself, I added a piece of very fine grit wet-dry sandpaper to the card=stock provided by the kit.  This gives just a little more texture to the roof.  The paint color is “Grimy Black” acrylic from Scale Coat.

I wanted to have some interior window displays, like I did with Krushke’s Dry Goods on my own layout, so I found this photo on Google Images, and reduced it until I could cut out pieces to place behind the two front windows.

These kinds of stores often made extra money by selling their large side walls for advertising space. I had a few old N scale signs that were suitable. The three on the left in this photo were from my box of left-overs. They were thin enough that I could emboss them with the tip of my bamboo stick while the glue was fresh, and suggest that they were actually painted on the siding.

For other signs, I Googled “1950’s advertising signs”, pulled the signs I wanted to my desktop, and used Mac’s “Preview” photo editing program to reduce them to N scale size. Since I was going to print them on a sheet of glossy photo paper, a collected a couple dozen of them to fill up the sheet. I’ll send the extras to the client, and he can use them elsewhere on his layout. I used Word’s Insert>Picture>From File sequence to arrange them on a Word document for printing, set my printer for best quality, glossy photo paper, and printed them out. When signs are made on glossy photo paper, they have a little thickness, and the gloss makes them look like those old enameled metal signs they used to have.  The bread sign, and the green beer sign here are that type.

With the rear of the building elevated 1/8 inch, I thought a low, ground-level wooden loading dock might look good by the back doors.

The original kit plans called for the chimney to be placed on the rear of the building, but I moved it around to one side.  The final weathering on the store was done with Bragdon Weathering powders.  These have a special glue-like ingredient built into the powder that is activated by the pressure of the brush you use to apply them.  No other sealing is necessary.

I cut the base for the store from a piece of 1/8 inch card stock, but left an opening inside the store to add interior lighting.

I used acrylic paint colors, fine ground foam (grass mixture), and sifted paver base for the ground cover.  I sealed it all in with a mix of Woodland Scenic’s Scenery Cement and isopropyl alcohol.  The paver base is just decomposed granite that you can buy “dirt cheap” in bags at Home Depot and other places. It is made for laying under patio stones. By using various sizes of kitchen strainers (not your wife’s!) you can come up with grades that are useful for dirt, ballast and small rock on your layout.

The final step was to add the two little outdoor lights over the back doors.

I had some structure lights left over from old kits. These have a nice base, and run on 9v to 12v. I put one inside, attached to a nine volt battery, just to see how it would look. It gives a kind of twilight effect in this photo.  I also added the benches and figures from my old left over N scale bits.

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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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Another commission, this time for a client on the East coast, was to make a San Francisco style cable car in N-scale.
Since Bachmann makes an N-scale trolley that has a lot of features similar to cable cars, I decided to start with one of these, and work through modification.   A trolley is operated by drawing electricity through overhead poles.  A cable car has no motor, but is propelled by gripping a cable which runs below the street.
Most of the interior of the Bachmann model is taken up by the motor, which is enclosed in two large weights. Since I wanted to detail the interior, and the client was satisfied with a static model, the entire interior of the Bachmann trolley was set aside.
Then I removed the trolley poles from the roof, opened up three of the side panels on each end, and cut away the trolley doorways. Eventually I wound up opening four side panels, and shortening the overall length of the car by eliminating the space for the doorways entirely. This works fine with a cable car, because most riders hop on directly from the sides, anyway.

I built a new floor out of styrene to hold the trucks (wheels), and support the interior details.

The doorway sections on each end will be removed, making the car almost a half an inch shorter.
You’ll notice that the side of the car now features four open panels on each end, and a three-window section in the middle. I made small wooden benches for the interior out of scribed basswood.
Since this center section would be enclosed, I had to add interior walls at each end of it. On a cable car, the interior benches face inward toward each other, and the exterior benches face out toward the sides of the street. You can also see how eliminating the original doorways allowed me to bring the ends inward and shorten the car.
It isn’t easy to see on the finished car, but I made control levers at each end of the car from the trolley poles I cut away from the original roof. There is even a little driver figure inside pulling the levers. My client was a photographer, so one of the riders I found for the car is taking a photograph.
There are about seven or eight people on the car, including one lady hanging on to the hand rails on the side, and another fellow sitting in the central enclosed area. Getting him in there felt like building a ship in a bottle!
The little sign on the front of the car was made by reducing a decal that came with an O-scale cable car model I bought until it fit the N-scale area.  I suggested white paint on the trim around the windows by lightly sanding the raised areas with an emery board.  I would never have been able to paint such a thin line.  The O-scale model I am making will be the subject of another post.

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Well, here I am again, scratch-building something in a different scale than my own layout uses. Back in the 1980s, at another house we owned, I had built a huge (15′ x 25′) N-scale layout. I had to dismantle all of it when we moved in 1992, and it had remained in storage ever since. Last summer (2011), I decided to sell everything on eBay. The response I got to my modeling was truly overwhelming, and several people around the country asked me to do special commissions for them. This station now resides on a layout in Sacramento, California, and is named “Pleasant Valley” because that’s the name my client wanted.
This photo shows the beginnings of the walls, and the under-side of the station platform.  The squares on my cutting mat are one inch each.
Here the walls have been stained, and more doors and windows put in place. It’s always a good idea to do as much work as possible on the walls before connecting them.
The finished model included window glazing and shades, and people and other platform detail.
Station back side.
Detail around chimney.
N-scale people are about half an inch tall.

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Why am I doing things in scales other than my On30? Well, this was an error on my part. I wanted to buy Bachmann’s new Donkey Engine on eBay one night….in O scale, and after I bought it, I found out that I had bid on an HO scale item. I toyed with the idea of using it in the background to create some forced perspective (an idea I may yet pursue), but the Cascade Lumber Camp is going to be on a particularly narrow section of the layout, and I thought maybe I could do something more creative with these (there were two in the package). So I painted and weathered them, and scratch-built a wooden water tank on the back, complete with feed pipe, and sold them back on eBay. The result was a profit of twice what I paid for them in the first place, and easily enough to purchase the O scale donkey engine.
A steam donkey, or donkey engine is the common nickname for a steam-powered winch, or logging engine widely used in past logging operations, though not limited to logging. They were also found in the mining, maritime, and nearly any other industry that needed a powered winch. A logging engine comprised at least one powered winch around which was wound hemp rope or (later) steel cable. They were usually fitted with a boiler, and usually equipped with skids, or sleds made from logs, to aid them during transit from one location to the next. A donkey engine could actually pull itself over the ground if the cables were attached to a nice solid tree. Usually a water tank, and sometimes a fuel oil tank was mounted on the back of the sled.  John Dolbeer, a founding partner of the Dolbeer and Carson Lumber Company in Eureka, California, invented the logging engine in that city in August 1881, but not all Donkey Engines were Dolbeer Donkey Engines; there were other manufacturers.
The recently released Donkey Engine from Bachmann has remarkable detail. This little HO scale model is only 2.0 inches tall by 2.25 inches long. I was going to try to replace the plastic sled with a wooden one, but I was afraid of damaging the minute details, so I just weathered the sled to look like old wood. The platform under the water tank is actually a mixture of plastic and real wood, and I think it blends nicely with the plastic sled.
The barrel hoops of the water tank are made from flat dental floss, painted black. I used weathering powders as well as dry-brushing techniques to achieve the look I wanted.

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Another commission I had was to build a Conestoga wagon in N-scale for a client. This little model is about an inch and a half long.
The driver and the horses are commercial pieces.
The wagon body is built from basswood, and the canopy is one ply of Kleenex tissue, stiffened with paint.  I used the ends of paper clips to support the canopy.
The reins are dental floss. It’s a little over-size. I think I’d use black thread if I did this again. The wagon wheels are some old N-scale brake wheels I had on hand.

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In July of 2011, I went down to Illinois to work for Yard Goat Images to do video of the 2011 Railfest in Rock Island. One of my assignments was to cover railfan day-trips out to the wye at Bureau Junction.  The three-video set that we made is called “Steamin’ Summer” and is available at <yardgoatimages.com>
When I first got there, I discovered this beautiful little boarded-up station. It had so many features that were typical of wood-frame stations of the late 1800’s, that I decided I would make a model of it in HO scale to sell on eBay.
My finished model was somewhat compressed from the original, but retained all of its charming features.
The station at Bureau Junction may date as far back as the 1870s. The town does. The little depot sits in the center of the wye. Here is my model showing the side parallel to the East-West track of the wye.
I used a brick textured plastic sheet for the base, and scribed styrene for the walls.  I picked up an HO scale baggage wagon kit to go at the freight loading end of the station.  The crate construction can be seen in my post on making crates.
The wainscot at the bottom of the exterior walls, and the design on the freight door were scratch-built in styrene, based on this photo of the original.
This side of the depot in Bureau faces North. Since all of the original doors and windows were boarded over, I selected plastic castings from the Grandt Line catalogue that I thought would be typical for the time period.
North side and West end.
East end.  Signs on the walls were created by finding pictures on Google Images, reducing them on my copier, and printing them on glossy photo paper.  This gives them a surface that looks metallic.
I didn’t want to detail the interior, but I did want a couple of the doors to be open, so I simulated the interior floor for a short ways inside the doors.
I also left the center of the base open so that whoever bought the model could rig it with interior lighting.  As it turned out, my little Bureau Junction model went all the way to someone’s layout in Australia.

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