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.


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.

A Display for Relatives

For three weeks in late August and early September, we had four separate groups of relatives here for a visit.

So that they could see some of my modeling, I set up a fictitious town with a number of my structures.

I say fictitious because this is not the exact location where these buildings will go. Many will actually be in Silverton, but I currently have no benchwork up there.

Even this area where Durango will eventually go has no track laid.

The homesite here just has a coat of Kilz-2 primer to seal the material, so please ignore the ground color. I am not trying to depict winter! Here in Minnesota, we cherish our springs, summers and autumns.

It looks a little bit like there is a lake in the background here, but that is just the gap between the homesite and the photo background. This will be filled in when I get around to finishing this area.

Durango’s mayor is still waiting for his city to be completed, too.

Maybe that horse and wagon coming around the corner will pick up some of these crates.

Somebody is inside the bank making a deposit…..or a surreptitious withdrawal?

Here comes the Main Street trolley. Durango’s first trolleys were horse drawn like this.

The Rochester Hotel on my layout is a selective compression of the old hotel that still exists in Durango.

The laundry and the general store are still doing good business.

The local freight house is still the only place in town to buy fuel for the “newfangled horseless carriages”.

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.

I often work on two or more projects at once. By doing that, I can shift gears when I need to let something dry overnight. I only wish I had a larger workbench surface, but I can get by. While pushing bravely ahead on an HO scale backwoods water tank that will become a background scene on my layout, I decided to tackle one of the two On30 Leadville Shops cars I had purchased some time ago.

This is the photo that Leadville Shops uses on their web site for the Denver, South Park & Pacific Tiffany refrigerator car. These are sold as “craftsman kits” which means you not only have to have a fairly high degree of modeling skills, and a good stock of modeling tools, but also the patience of Job.

This is my finished car. One thing I have found with many of these craftsman rolling stock kits is that the modeler really needs to have a comprehensive knowledge of how the prototype was constructed. I think the companies that make these kits assume that you will know what every part of the car was called, and how it connected to the other parts. The instructions could sometimes be a bit more helpful.

Having said that, you could easily build a contest quality model with this kit, but since I was only interested in a car that would run reliably, and be detailed enough to pass momentary inspection, I took a few shortcuts.

Underbody detail…..You have to furnish your own trucks and couplers, and that requires some fiddling around with the car’s frame to get everything to fit. I left off the brake detail on the trucks for the sake of being able to operate the car. It also looked like the brake gear would not easily fit on the trucks I used. Some of the brass wire piping, air lines, etc. interfered with the ability of the trucks to pivot cleanly. Since it doesn’t show very much unless you pick the car up and turn it upside down, I left some of that detail off. 

Instruction sequencing….I like to stain, paint, weather and decal the sides and roof of the car before assembly, not after. I also paint all the detail parts first. I always start by staining the wood with my alcohol and leather dye mix. The next thing I did on this reefer was to dry brush the sides with some acrylic Depot Buff. My research said that some of these cars were painted a pale yellow, and the Depot Buff turned out to look like a weathered pale yellow. As the car nears completion there are more and more fragile detail parts hanging off all sides of it. The less you have to handle it the better, so I saved some of the detail like the brake staff and brake wheel for last.

After the initial staining on the roof, I used a rusty brown dry brushing as well as some light brown weathering powders. Research said that some of these cars had dark brown roofs. There is a nice brass etching set, and I weathered this right away with Micro Engineering’s rail weathering solution. The door hinges and the corner braces show this effect.

There wasn’t enough wire in the kit for all the grab irons, so I substituted some white metal grab irons that I already had. These came with the NBW detail already cast into them. There is an ample supply of small detail parts, like the tiny NBWs. Leadville shops correctly assumes a fair percentage of these will go flying off into never-never land as you try to handle them with your tiny tweezers. There were no stirrup steps with the kit, but I used some from my detail supply. The holes on the ends of the car are for ventilation to help keep the ice from melting too fast, and to keep the vegetables and meats from spoiling. You will notice that there are no rooftop ice hatches. The ice compartments at the ends of the car were filled by carrying ice through the large side doors. When the ice had been loaded, then the contents to be kept cold were put in the center of the car. I am making progress on the water tank scene, and should be able to post something about it in the not too distant future.

Some weeks ago I purchased one of Bachmann’s newest offerings. It is the On30 Derrick Car in MOW Grey, Item #26901.

Almost all railroads needed a piece of maintenance of way equipment like this. Derailments were a fact of life, and other large things needed to be picked up along the right of way, or loaded on and off flat cars.

All D&RGW MOW cars were originally painted in Tuscan or Boxcar Red after rebuilds in the 1920’s etc. However, just about all of them were painted MOW Grey in the mid 1940’s. My railroad is set in 1915, so technically I should have purchased the version of this car that Bachmann does make in what they call “Oxide Red”, but all of the rest of my MOW equipment is grey, so that’s what I went with.

I did some light weathering with acrylic paints, chalks and Testor’s Dullcote. I wanted to take the shiny plastic newness out of the model, but leave it looking like it was in good working order.

This close-up shows some of the nice mechanical detail that Bachmann has included inside the enclosed portion of the car. Now my maintenance of way trains will really be well-equipped to deal with problems out along the line. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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