Archive for the ‘Structures’ Category

Another cabin in HO scale

I also had a kit for the HO scale version of the Tie Hacker’s
Cabin. I decided to just build the cabin portion of the kit, and use it as a background building. As opposed to the O scale version, the HO version of this kit has the strip wood needed to construct the cabin. It seems to be a question of what will fit in the kit box.

At just 3.0 x 4.5 inches, this is a very small structure, but it will look good in the distance as some kind of mountain cabin.

The foundation casting for this one was the right size. The extended room (which I left off my larger version) is just designed to fit on wooden posts.

A few open windows make the place look inhabited.


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The Tie Hacker’s Cabin

This is the O Scale Tie Hacker’s cabin/complex from Rusty Stumps Scale Models. I put this together back in November of 2018. Yes, I’m a little behind in my postings. The kit includes plans, but not the wood, for the cabin and an open tool shed. Instructions are provided for securing the necessary strip wood to build the kit. I really like the look of the cabin, but for space saving reasons, I decided to use the rest of the complex in my lumber camp.

The figures are from Railroad Avenue, and I scratch built the little chimney lamp. For the lamp, I used the tip from a plastic eye dropper. The bulb is inside the eye dropper. I placed the lamp on a thin styrene piece that I painted black, and inserted along with the wires through the cabin wall.

The plaster casting for the foundation wasn’t large enough (I think I got the one from the HO scale kit) so I took a piece of pink foam insulation, and surrounded it with Chooch flexible stone wall material. I used acrylic paints on both the chimney casting and the new foundation. I always stain my wood before assembly, and weather it with powders afterwards. Plans for an extension for another room on the back side of the cabin are included, but I decided to leave it off.

This cellar hatch was a fortuitous mistake. I only had enough Chooch flexible stone material to go to the center of the front of the foundation. I though maybe if I painted the gap black it would be OK, but it showed more than I thought it would, and didn’t look right, so I added a few scraps of wood, and created a cellar hatch.

The kit is designed for board by board construction. It takes a little more time than some other methods, but it produces really nice looking walls and floors. I ran the wires for the lighting up through the foam foundation. If I want my bulbs to look like oil lamps, I dip them in Tamiya Clear amber acrylic paint. A bit of the porch roof shows here, and that was just done with strips of blue painters tape, painted black and weathered. This makes a pretty good representation of tar paper roofing, and you don’t need any additional glue.

I used strips of off-white paper for curtains on the two windows.

Here’s a shot of my two Railroad Avenue guys “plucking and strumming” at sunset.

This is the large open tool/work shed I built with plans from the kit. The details are cast into the tables, so the most time consuming part is painting all of them. I put two overhead lights in for night time scenes.

With a rusty corrugated tin roof, my little Railroad Avenue workers will stay dry when it rains. To achieve a rusted look, I paint the roof gray first and then dry brush with a rusty color.

I put the shed on a thin styrene base which was coated with various colors of grass. There are lots of castings with the kit, so I put some outside the shed. The weeds are Silflor Autumn Prairie Tufts from Scenic Express.

The little guys are “burning the midnight oil”. Or maybe they’re just very slow….they haven’t moved since the photos were taken earlier in the day!

There was an abundance of castings with this kit; too many to fit in the one open shed, so I designed and scratch built another small shed for some of the others. I used the same idea with the styrene base.

I used the windows from the cabin extension on this shed.

This is the other side.

There is a nice casting for an oil tank, and plans to build the base. The hose didn’t have an on-off mechanism so I took a Grandt Line water tank band tightener to represent this.

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The Durango Fire Hall

What follows are three views of the Mt. Albert Fire House kit. This is a very elaborate, well detailed kit. It comes with a DVD that shows over 80 color pictures which correspond to the steps in the written instructions.

You’ll notice that there is no bell showing in the cupola on these three shots, but the kit does have a very nice heavy brass bell.

This will be my fire hall in Durango, so I wanted to change the sign to reflect that.

I did a little work on my computer to change the sign, and then gave it a light spray with flat beige paint to take the reds down some, and give it a dusty look. I used my standard techniques for painting and weathering the rest of the model. I start with a gray stain made with 91% isopropyl alcohol and a little black leather dye. Then I dry brush with a little light gray acrylic paint. I always stain the wood before I do any gluing. No matter how hard you try, you will get glue showing, and it does not like to take stain the same way the rest of the model does.

In order to save layout space, I shortened this structure front to back as I have done with other kits. This will be the tallest building on my layout, but it should be. The cupola has a windowed lookout area, and you want the little O scale firemen to be able to see all over town from here.

I installed five lights in the fire hall, three outside like the ones shown on the original model, and two inside so that I could see my fire engine at night. I used a system I had employed some time ago that carries the power for the lights on two brass rods running out of sight through the rafters. It is fairly easy to solder the leads from the lights to these brass rods.

This photo shows the two parts of the roof assembly that I will leave unsecured in order to have access to the wiring for the lights.

Here you can see the brass bell. I had to add the clapper. I also added a lightning rod to the roof of the cupola. I thought it looked a little unfinished without it. On the back of the hall I soldered wires to the tips of the two brass rods where they protruded through the wall, and enclosed those wires in small styrene tubes to take the electrical service down through the roof of the add-on structure.

When I shortened the building I made an error in cutting the sub-wall and the outer wall on the second story of this side, so I just created two boarded over windows. It was easier (and more interesting) than cutting the window openings in the sub-wall plywood. My window shade technique has been described elsewhere on this site.

The figure of the man holding open the door is from Scenic Express, and I assembled the fire engine a long time ago from a white metal kit. I always intended that this fire engine would be used in Durango.

Here is a close-up of the styrene conduit that carries the power from beneath the layout up to the brass rod lighting system.

The kit comes with shades for the three outside lights, but they are just decorative. I substituted the Old Fashioned Green and White Lamp Shade & Bulb from Miniatronics.

I painted the interior of the fire hall black, and used black wiring to carry the current down from the brass rods to the lower lights. Maybe I’ll come back with some black Gorilla tape to secure the wires to the wall a little better.

All five lights that I installed can be seen in this view. The interior floor is made from coffee stir sticks.

This is the scene I had in mind when I envisioned the use of the two interior lights.

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Rusty Stumps Bakery

The latest kit I’ve tackled is the Rusty Stumps Bakery. This is the photo from the front of the instruction manual. This building is quite long and narrow, so as you’ll see in the next picture, I shortened it to save room on my layout. Maybe I’ll use the left over pieces to make another smaller building. I’ve done that kind of thing before.

I cut the two side walls just in front of the side window, and stained the kit more to my liking.

A large blank side wall in this era would have been used for several advertisements. I had some signs left over from other projects.

The kit has heavy card stock floors for the first and second stories, but nothing for a foundation. I also wanted to add a small rear porch, and a wooden walk in front. I built the foundation with 1/8″ square strip wood, and extended it under the thin planking of the front walk and the back porch.

Because of the shortening of the structure, and the sloping side walls, I needed to add to the top of the kit’s rear wall. I found some suitable materials in my spare basswood supplies. Using the same stain for these added materials blended them in nicely.

Refer back to the first picture, and you’ll see a large square roof vent. That didn’t seem appropriate for my period, so I scratch-built a roof hatch to cover the hole left in the roof from the omission of the other vent. Then I added some Grandt Line hinges and a scratch-built handle.

The left side of the bakery has two more wall signs.

I used postal tape again for window shades.

I had some shake shingles left over from another project, and I like the look of these better than the roofing included with the kit. The people are from Railroad Avenue.

If you were looking closely you may have noticed that I reversed the arrangement of the details on the roof. The sub-roofing card stock was pre-cut for the location of the roof details. After cutting the shorter piece that I needed, it just made more sense to turn it 180 degrees. With this kind of roof, some means of draining rain water would be needed. I’ll come back and add that, along with a downspout and rain barrel.

All my interior lighting for the bakery is on the first floor, so I made the roof and the second floor so that they could be removed. It’s better to assume that you will some day need access to that light on the first floor. The tarpaper roofing material here is blue painter’s tape, overlapped and painted black. Then a little weathering powder creates that dusty look.

This view straight down into the store shows the placement of the shelf unit that has the bakery goods on display, and also the positioning of the bulb that will illuminate the shelf at night…..or during the day. It was a lot of work to decorate all those cakes. Large kit walls like these always seem to warp a little, so the two 1/4 inch square posts on both sides help keep the walls straight.

Here you can see the way the light plays on the bakery shelves. I noticed that I’ll also need to do a little masking of the light leak along the edge of the window.

There’s a slot in the front wall behind the bakery sign. The second floor was meant to insert here, but I cut the tabs off the second floor so that I could remove it. The little light bulb just happened to fall right behind that slot. I’ll slip a little piece of tinfoil in between the bulb and the slot, and that will fix the unintended rosy glow.

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Some time ago I bought this Rusty Stumps kit because I liked the look and the size of it. I had already built a passenger/freight depot for Silverton that was of my own design. It more closely followed the D&RGW style for depots. When I finally got around to building this kit, I still wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with it, but I had a space on my track plan for Silverton that was simply marked for a generic “industry”. I assumed that inspiration would follow as I built the kit.


The rectangle on the plan shows the location for the “industry”. The light green block is where the passenger/freight depot will go. I have three earlier posts on the construction of the Silverton Depot.


As I was assembling the kit, I decided that this model could be an earlier Silverton depot and freight house that was left standing when the new one was built. This building could then be used for overflow freight, long term storage, etc.


I followed my usual methods for staining the wood parts of the kit, then lightly dry brushing them with acrylics. I find that this is the quickest way for me to get the look of worn and peeling paint. Weathering powders complete the effect.


Simultaneously I was completing the last of my Leadville Shops reefers. I decided to use one of the Bachmann under frames for On30 cars for several reasons. The plastic under frame fit the car, and came with couplers already installed that matched the rest of my rolling stock. This would save me the time and frustration of trying to assemble all of the tiny (but accurate) details that come with the kit. I am not building models for a contest; I just want reliable running, and the underbody details don’t really show that much. The biggest difference in doing things this way is the look of the trucks, but I figured my railroad could have replaced the earlier trucks.


This end view shows the unusual venting technique for keeping the shipment cold. The grill just above the end bolster would let in cool air as the car moved, and the vent pipe at the top of the car would exhaust the warmer air. Ice was loaded through the side doors, and placed near this passive re-circulating system.


In order to get the car floor to come close to the loading dock height, I put a strip of California Roadbed under the track. This brand of homasote roadbed is no longer being sold, but Steve Cox at Cascade Rail Supply promises to stock a matching product.


This is the view of the backside of the building. It will hardly show in the position in which I plan to use it, but at some point in the future I’ll probably add a loading dock here.


There are two choices of shingles with this kit: shakes and the more conventional style. I chose to use the more regular type. The On30 track shown here is Micro Engineering Code 83, which I plan to use throughout the layout. The figures are from Railroad Avenue, and I’ve placed them so that the two fellows on the dock look like they’re talking to each other, and the third guy in the doorway is listening and waiting on whatever decision they come to.


An outhouse is also included with the kit, as well as seven castings for a variety of freight. I decided that just using the included castings would be sufficient.


I put two lights in the model. One was placed over the office doorway, and the other inside the freight room.


I located the inside light out of sight so that all that can be seen is a soft glow.

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A Small Scratch Built Shop

This is one of a series of very nice booklets of drawings for scratch-building small period wood structures. It is spiral bound so that you can lay it out flat as you are working, but I copied the pages for my project, so I wouldn’t spill anything on the original book.

There are 45 projects in this volume. Each features detailed construction drawings from all four sides. The drawings are in HO scale, so you need to use your copier’s sizing function to render them in other scales. I decided to make my building in S scale with O scale windows and doors. I did this to conserve space on my layout.

Each project has an introductory page with a written description of the structure, and an isometric sketch that has no scale. The author calls this a blacksmith’s shop, but it could be any number of small structures like a stable or an auto repair shop. By the way, if you are building anything with a horse shoe mounted on it, have the open end of the shoe facing upwards, not downwards as shown here. Good luck falls from above, and the open end of the horse show is supposed to collect it. Horse shoes mounted like this one would produce bad luck.

Most kits are easy to build, but often pricey. They usually yield nice looking models, but without the creative satisfaction of something you scratch build. I used left over shingles from my hardware store project on the small extension that gives this building much of its character. The exterior walls here are just a few scraps of ship-lap siding I had on hand. The windows are from Grandt Line Products.

I’ve always wanted to try the coffee stir stick method for wood siding. I got a lifetime supply on Amazon for just a couple of dollars. About 35% of them are too warped to use, but that still leaves hundreds that are fairly straight. I stained them in my customary manner and used them for the vertical boards. In O scale they are about 12 inches wide. They are harder than basswood, so a little more difficult to cut. I found a saw works better than a knife. The handles on the big double doors are bent from a couple of pieces of a paperclip, inserted through small drilled holes and secured with CA on the back side.

For the chimney, I used another technique I had wanted to try for a long time. I first made a rectangular styrene mold and filled it with plaster of Paris. I let the mold sit for several days until the plaster was no longer cool to the touch. That means it has completely cured and hardened. I had to break the mold away from the plaster, but I wasn’t planning to use it again, so no problem. Once I had the basic chimney block free, just a little sanding gave it a nice round-cornered shape. I drew the stones in pencil, took a needle file with a small tip and carved in the joint lines between the stones. I gave the whole chimney a wash of acrylic Depot Buff to seal the plaster, and then painted the individual stones with three additional colors. I left about 25% of them with the Depot Buff base coat. After that, I used very thin washes of acrylic raw umber to tone everything down, and blend the stones together. Finally I brushed the chimney with a dusting of near-white weathering powder. This takes the shine off of it, and gives it a weathered rock look. The stack on top of the chimney is a bit of plastic drinking straw recessed into a 1/4 inch hole I made by hand-turning a drill bit down from the top. Plaster of Paris carves very easily.

For the roof I simulated tar paper with blue painter’s tape over card stock. It helps the roof to hold its shape by making a couple of interior supports to match the peaked end wall. Then I painted and dry brushed it, and used some light dirt colored weathering powder on it. This is a quick and simple way to make roofing. I just used a thin line of black paint where the chimney meets the roof to simulate flashing.

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At this year’s National Narrow Gauge Convention in Minneapolis, which is close to where I live, I had a nice conversation with Mike and Korie Pyne of Wild West Scale Model Builders. I have built many of their kits, and I told Korie that I really appreciated the isometric instruction drawings because they reminded me of the drawings that you get with Legos. She said that that was exactly what they had in mind when they created them.

Their kits always include beautiful photos of the finished model from all angles. There was an option to leave the roof and second floor removable, so I did that with my kit in order to have greater access to the lighting I intended to install.

I added three figures from Railroad Avenue, and one from Arttista. I like to compose small scenes with my little people so I made two conversational groupings, one on the stairs, and one in front of the store.

The barrels and the crate were included with the kit. I’ll be able to take the warp out of the board walk later.

I always reinforce the flooring and give it a little elevation so that when I finally put the model on the layout, I can bring the surrounding soil in without sinking the building too far into the ground.

Mother Nature rarely makes anything just one color, so I always use three colors to dry brush my shingles.

A technique that I’ve been using since the 1980’s for simulating window shades is beige postal tape. It sticks right on the windows, and as you can see from the night time photos below, it lets a little light through.

The lighting is similar to that which I’ve used on other models.

Having finished the model, I realized that it had no chimneys. There were none provided with the kit, but I can easily whip a couple up.


The second kit that I purchased that night at the convention was for a small fire house.

This kit also has nice color photos of the model from all sides.

With the addition of this kit, I now own 3 fire houses, so with only two towns, something is going to have to go. My original drawings for a fire hall in Durango can be seen in an earlier post called “Plans for the Durango Fire Hall” (11/22/13). I have partially constructed this building, but it can easily be repurposed. I have a kit for the Mt. St. Albert Fire Hall, so I think I’ll build that one for Durango, and this much smaller fire house can go in Silverton.

The little horse with one front leg lifted is from The Aspen Modeling Company.

I decided to use a tin roof instead of a shingled one. Less of a fire hazard! This corrugated roofing is from Dr. Ben’s Scale Building Materials. Since I wanted to play around with a stone foundation on this model, I dropped the angle of the flooring in front of the doors.

One fire ladder is included with the kit. I’m not sure which side of my fire house is going to be visible on the layout, so I created little pegs on each side of the building. I’ll hang the ladder where it can be seen. The pegs were created using straight pins, exactly like the method I use for door handles.

This is a good picture of the foundation I created. The material is two courses of Chooch Enterprises flexible cut stone wall. I cut a piece of 1/4 inch plywood the same size as the kit flooring, and applied the Chooch wall material around it. I felt the stone foundation would go along with the theme of “fire retardant”.

There is no bell provided with the kit, but I had a whole bag of silver bells from Michael’s. They were a perfect size, and a simple paint job made it look like a bronze bell.

The seated figure is from Railroad Avenue. I don’t remember where I got the horse-drawn fire wagon, but it’s a perfect size for this small fire house.

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