O'Brien Steel Construction Co. - Construction
03/28/2011
My first official structure on my Pennsy Branch layout is "O'Brien Steel Construction Company". The kit is the Showcase Miniatures "Sunkist Packing Shed" one. The history behind this kit is that it was requested by a fellow S-scale model railroader who wanted this structure, which the owner of Showcase Miniatures (web site is gone as of August 2015), Joe Warren, had previously done in HO-scale. The project was eventually co-sponsored by the N.A.S.G. to be able to obtain the requested minimum number of reservations to make the project a "go". Joe produced the kit and fulfilled the initial orders. Subsequent orders were then sold through his company's web site, which is where I purchased mine. Presumably now that this second run has sold out, Showcase Miniatures are no longer making S-scale structures, and they appear to have taken any S-scale items off of their site. Too bad, because this was a nice, affordable kit.

On my layout I only have about two and a half feet by 3.5 inches of space for the structure. My layout is an 18-inch deep shelf layout, so all structures will have either their fronts or their backs cut off to be able to fit on the layout. The Showcase Miniatures' "Sunkist Packing Shed" is 21 inches wide and only 3 inches deep. Rather than buying a full-sized structure kit that then needs to be chopped in half, this kit was designed to be a thin background structure. I found the various roof lines interesting, and the price was very attractive. It took about three weeks from the moment I ordered the kit from their web site for it to arrive at my front door. Joe Warren has sent me some additional PDF files that were not in my kit that include assembly tips, painting instructions, and which glues to use.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
External Reference:
Inside the large box is a sealed plastic bag with all the laser-cut wood parts, the pre-cut simulated tar paper roofing, and a set of instruction pages. A separate smaller bag holds the smaller parts and the peel-n-stick labels (which I won't be using, of course, since I am building a small eastern steel manufacturing company rather than a western fruit packing facility).
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The original printed instructions are four pages of exploded diagrams indicating how various parts go together, but there are no written instructions for a step-by-step process. You are kind of left on your own there. There is one page that identifies most of the parts in the "sprues", although due to shipping, a lot of the parts had gotten lose from their sprue, and required a bit of deducing to determine which were which. Not all parts were identified on the one page, which makes finding a part a bit of a challenge sometimes. The first set of parts needed are used to make up the front wall. That is the largest part in the kit. The left and right side walls clearly show you how deep the structure is going to be. The triangular pieces are interior braces. Construction is the standard laser-cut tongue-and-groove and slot method. I found the parts to be cleanly cut and easy to interconnect. I used Elmers white glue to assemble the kit. Due to the large size, the parts need to be held straight while the glue sets.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The next photo shows the lose parts from the photo above, assembled.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Two smaller upper walls need to be prepared and installed. I found that only some minor filing here and there was necessary to clean up some of the tabs. This was mostly due to the cutting process to free the part from the sprue. Everything fit very well.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Trying to install and hold those two wall pieces up while the glue set required some creative use of weights and tools to get them to stay up straight.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Once these were installed, two small roof support pieces need to be glued into the slots on those two smaller walls. The wider one goes on the left and the skinnier one on the right. With those in place, the construction of the main building's walls are done.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Now the focus goes to the delivery platform. This photo shows the subfloor of the platform and the front fascia board of the platform already removed from the sprue. The short side of the L-shape platform also receives a front fascia board, but it is not identified in the parts diagrams. I eventually found it. It is pointed to by the pencil in the photo below.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
There are 13 poles (you get one extra, and they break easily, so handle them with care) and 12 braces to cut lose from the sprues and to install in the platform's subfloor. I did the assembly on a piece of glass to make sure the parts remained level and flush, and to be able to break the whole thing lose from the glass (glue oozes out a bit). This is not a difficult process, but it is a bit tedious to install all those poles and to make sure they stay straight. The next photo shows the poles installed and the front fascia board having been glued to the short side of the L-shaped subfloor. Again, the metal weights are used to make sure the subfloor stays flat while the glue dries.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
This was my set-up for gluing the front fascia board to the long edge of the platform. The way I installed the fascia boards is I made their tops flush with the top of the subfloor piece. I don't know if that is correct; the instructions provide no clue.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The next photo shows the completed subfloor assembly.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Next is the installation of the scribed floor board panel. I did the short side first.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The long section of scribed floor boards is next. The only mistake I made was that I believe the floor boards should have been made flush with the back of the subfloor and the not the front like I did. What that means is that the floor boards should extend a bit out on the front side of the platform. There are several tabs to which the platform needs to be attached to the main building which are not accessible with the way I did it. I will have to file away a bit of the back side of the floorboards for the tab of the subfloor to protrude out so that they can slide into the slots of the main building. Not a big deal, but it is a good note for anyone reading this and still intending to build this structure. This is not communicated in the instruction sheets. The next photo shows the two main assemblies in the approximate location on the layout. They have not yet been glued together.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The next step is the construction of the two staircases. The next photo shows the parts needed to build them. The bottom piece is the assembly jig that comes with the kit.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
I tried the assembly jig, but it or the staircase parts weren't correct. When I put the three parts in the jig, the vertical part didn't line up correctly with the staircase rails. I wound up using the jig as shown in the next photo, i.e. the vertical part had to be placed outside of the jig for it to be perpendicular to the staircase rails. The photo also shows the first tread glued in place.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
For the other staircase I started using the method shown in this photo.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The next photo shows the staircases finished, and in their approximate position in relation to the building.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
I started working on the roofs next. I installed the support boards under the 'A' and 'B' roof subpanels first.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The small rafters are next. They are easy to install; there's just a lot of them. I also glued the end panels to the rafters.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The next photo shows the parts that make up the underside of the large roof surface. They are laid out to match their approximate location on the main roof. Near the bottom of the photo you can see the sprue that holds the large number of small rafters that need to be installed.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Here are all the parts installed. The long skinny front fascia panel is a bit of a challenge to install. I used some weights to hold it in place while the glue set. Make sure to push the small rafters all the way into the roof panel. They stick out a bit and so you may need to have some open space under the slot to allow the part to get fully seated. I used the edge of my work bench for that.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The parts that make up the long roof-top window section are shown below, in their approximate positions.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
This section is a bit of challenge to hold together while the glue set, so, as you can see in the photo below, I used some metal weights. The front fascia board is kind of tricky to install. There are only four glue points. Patience is required here.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
I just roughly placed the various components together to get a glimpse of what the final structure will look like. I have decided to just build mine following the kit's design. None of the sections are glued to each other, because I want to prime and paint them separately.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Before the painting sessions, I decided to build the freight doors, so that they could be painted as well. There are two freight doors. Shown here are the parts that make up each of the freight doors. The one on the right shows what it will look like when assembled (this was just a dry-run). The door framing has removable paper to allow for gluing the frame to the door front. The remaining paper is shown above the door. The frame needs to be aligned with the bottom of the door. The left, right, and top edges that are left open are for the glue surfaces needed to attach the door's offsets. These offsets stick out below the door, but that is correct. They slip around the deck's surface that slides under the doors when the deck is attached to the main building.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
These are the two sprues that hold the windows' and side door's framing parts. I wanted to prime and paint these while they are still on their sprue. This photo was taken before I carefully removed all the filler pieces in the frames.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
I decided to prime the various assemblies using Floquil's "Primer". I got the main building done and a couple of parts before I ran out of paint. This wooden kit takes a lot of paint. A full bottle is probably needed. I'd buy two bottles if you go this route.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
It took me a while to finally get the structure's components painted. I had problems using my airbrush with the Polly Scale paint I wanted to use. Then I hand-painted the color on and realized I didn't like it. I still wanted to have a light brown/yellow color. I finally settled on using Polly Scale's "Earth". It took three coats to cover the previous color and to get rid of the grain of the wood (which didn't look realistic, in my opinion).
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Using a steel brush I added some more scratch marks to the surface of the deck. I then used 50/50 black dye and water to make the wood of the deck appear aged. Next, I added a few dabs here and there for some extra weathering of the deck. This is not entirely visible in the photo below. I also painted all the windows, doors, and their frames with Polly Scale "Coach Green". I thought the light brown and green make for a nice contrasting color, while still looking "industrial". In the photo below you can see the freight doors painted.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
My next step was to install the various windows. I couldn't figure out from the kit's instructions how these go on. The frames are probably meant to go on the front of the walls, since there is sticky tape on their backs. The next photo shows the frames being installed on the roof canopy section. There is one single frame, and then there are four dual-frame pieces that are stuck over two side-by-side windows.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The frames are installed.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The window panes were more difficult to figure out. I think they are to be glued to the back of the window opening. The sticky tape on the back of the window panes is probably for attaching the "glass". However, when I did a dry-run for one window that way, I thought the window frame and the panes were too far away from each other. It looked odd to me. So, I decided to trim the panes part down to just the inner laser-cut line, and then insert the panes in the window opening, glued with white glue. The back of the pane is about flush with the back of the wall. That way the pane is set back a bit from the frame, but not too much. The inside area still needs to be painted green in the close-up photo below.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The five window frames have been installed on the main building.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Next up are the roofs. I started with the one for the top, canopy part.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The two smaller roofs are pretty straightforward to install. Just keep an eye on how the tabs and rafters slide into their positions. The big roof was a bit more challenging. Both the roof and the building were bowing out a bit, so I couldn't get all the tabs to go in and stay in at once. I got the first tab on the left side to go in first and then used superglue to hold it in place. Once set, I proceeded down the line with the other tabs, also supergluing them. Once I was happy with it, I re-enforced the joints with white glue. The outside wall (right hand side) was bending out quite a ways. I used an elaborate set-up to get the wall to stay in place while the glue set. I used weights to put counter-force against it. I used a small clothespin to hold the wall away from the roof's edge. Weights and a glue bottle were used as the opposing force to press against the structure. It worked, though.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
When the larger roof's glue was dry, I glued the top, canopy part to it.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
Here's a photo of the backside of the structure as it stands now.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The simulated tarpaper was relatively easy to install. Just remember that you have to get the pieces in the right spot on your first try, because once it sticks, it won't budge. They all fit perfectly. I started with the one for the canopy. I then did the two smaller pieces. I left the large, U-shaped one for last so that I had some experience under my belt. I did a dry-fit (i.e. not removing the adhesive backing yet). I found that it was too wide on the left side, where it goes in between the two walls. A simple trimming with the knife solved that one. I then very carefully install it. This work requires absolute concentration to get it right. Probably the most stressful part of the project. The building is starting to look quite nice now.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
The trim for the corners of the building consists of two parts. The skinnier part goes against the side-facing walls, and the wider part goes against the front-facing walls, overlapping the edge of the skinnier part that's installed first. Even though the trim parts use adhesive backing, I found that they could easily be moved even after they were pressed into place. I re-enforced them with several drops of superglue. Some of the trim parts needed to be trimmed to fit the roof line or cut to shorten them up a bit. After the trim was installed, I painted their edges with the building color.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
It is now time to attach the decking to the main building. I wound up having a hard time getting all the tabs to line up. I filed each of them off, except the left-most one, and, of course, the ones that go into the freight door openings. I set the building upright on a flat surface and put some superglue in a couple of spots from above. After that set, I flipped the building on its back and filled the seam with white glue all the way around, which is shown in the photo below (you might be able to make out the white glue).
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
I added the extra trim pieces on the left side to hide the mounting tabs. I painted my trim the same color as the building walls.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
With the deck in place, I could finalize the trim around the two freight doors on the front and the office door on the side. That way they matched up with the top of the deck. I first painted that trim the same green as I painted the doors and windows (now that the wall trim pieces were off of the sprue, I could paint the door trim pieces green while they were still attached to the sprue). The door trim is trivial to install. I later on did some touch up to paint the inner edges of the trim the same green. The outer edges of the trim could be painted before you install it; I didn't bother with that - they are dark brown (from the laser burn) and they are usually in the dark shadow anyway.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
I glued the two freight doors in place next. The one on the left was installed as per the kit's instructions. The one on the right was glued mostly open. This adds a bit more interest to the building, and affords me the opportunity to do some interior modeling. That door was just glued to the back of the interior framing that was glued to the structure first. You can see the upper right corner of the door through the window (I still need to touch-up the corner so that it is green too). This completes the basic structure. I am now going to focus on finalizing the exterior and building the interior. I intend to build a complete diorama, with surround scenery, which I consider part of this project.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.
I had built the two stairs as per the instructions, but when I placed them next to the decking, I just didn't like the handrails. I cut them off, sanded them down, and applied black dye to them to age the wood.
O'Brien Steel Construction Co.