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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Layouts | Layout #8
Structures

The first completed structure was the "O'Brien Steel Construction Co.". It was built using the Showcase Miniatures "Sunkist Packing Shed" kit. I built it on a base and it has built-in SMD LED lighting, both in the interior and the exterior. The building only has the reformed scenery base holding it in place, so the whole thing is recoverable when the layout is demolished.

I wanted to put a chain-link fence around this structure, so I removed a section of the scenery base on the other side of the track from the building. I cut a one-inch-wide strip of 36" MDF and cut and installed "poles" into the "ground". The poles are made out of 0.032" brass wire. I would have liked something a bit thicker, but that is the thickest I had on hand at the time. I bought some wedding veil material at Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft. For a few dollars I have enough material to put chain link fences up around all my properties! The size of the openings varies depending on which veil material you get, so find something that fits your scale. After cutting the material a scale 6 feet wide, and a strip long enough for the entire fence I was building, I superglued several lengths of 0.032" brass wire along the top of the fence. After that dried, I glued the whole thing to the poles I had already planted. I made a small part of the veil stick out above the top brass wire, because that is what seems to be done in the real world. After attaching the veil, I took the board to the garage and used a cheap spray paint of flat aluminum color and sprayed the entire fence. I then permanently installed the fence (glued to the side of the roadbed).

I wanted to experiment with animation, so I built a gate that could be opened and closed remotely. The gate took a bit of experimenting to get the correct translation of motion from the Tortoise switch machine that drives the gate to the gate moving in the right direction and swing open far enough to avoid blocking a train. I had to break away more of the scenery to be able to place the Tortoise, and to route the wires to the Digitrax DS44 stationary decoder that controls the Tortoise. Since the structure is against the backdrop of the layout, it was a bit of a tight squeeze to get the Tortoise to fit and still provide the lateral motion needed to control the gate. I actually had to break off a piece of the Tortoise's mounting to get it to fit next to the roadbed. Part of the plywood base upon which the structure is installed had to be carved out to allow the Tortoise to fully swing to the right. When I finally found the best position for the Tortoise, I marked its outline with a pencil, and glued it down with Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue. The Tortoise is directly glued to the benchwork base. Five-minute epoxy glue could have been used as well, but there is very little pressure exerted on the Tortoise, so Aleene's might allow easier removal of the Tortoise in the future.

This is what the scene looks like with the scenery base rebuilt.

My first-ever S-scale scratch-building effort was this PRR section house, built according to the PRR structure standard. I decided to actually place it on the layout, but use it as a one-man iron works machine shop.

Rather than digging up a bunch of scenery base, I decided to just plant it on the layout. I made up some more ground goop and embedded the structure's base into the scenery, and then added some grass, weeds, and a gravel driveway. Oh, and I added some detailing parts to the exterior of the building.

This is the same view, but the entire scene is now complete. I added many details to the exterior of the building. The shop owner is outside talking with a potential customer who just drove up in his yellow pick-up truck (notice the open truck door). The shop owner's truck is parked on the grass on the left (a wooden board protects his car from going off into the creek should he forget to set the handbrake one day. An external air-compressor tank can be seen near the back of the building. A collection of crates and barrels are found near the front corner of the building. A pile of junk is next to the door. Not quite visible in this photo is a collection of barrels around the other corner of the building near the track (probably not OSHA-approved, but this is 1950!). A box car parked on the spur to deliver some materials. The green shop sign above the door still needs the name, but that will come later. The structure itself and most of the exterior details, including the driveway, received one or more coats of weathering powders to age it all. The cars still need to be aged, too.

I scratch-built a team-track platform, placed next to a spur on the right-hand side of the layout. I wanted to make a smooth surface for both the platform and the parking area, so I decided to try out DAP's "Liquid Cement Crack Filler" (left over from last year's garage remodel). It is supposed to be self-leveling, which would be perfect for this project. Since the area to be covered is at the front edge of my layout, I applied several pieces of masking tape to keep the cement from flowing off the layout. I then poured the material. While the cement was still wet, I lightly pressed the platform into it. The next day I had to apply another layer, because the previous day's pouring did not leave a level surface. The second pouring came out better, but it was still not level. I'm not sure this approach was any better than to just use Sculptamold and "trowel" it by hand.

After a bit of scenery work in the surrounding area, this is what the scene looks like. I painted the MTH figure you see on the platform (after doing some surgery to his left arm). I also painted a "block" of boxes and barrels from Model Tech Studios. Neither of these are glued down to the platform, so that I can play around with the scene a bit more. I like to do that, so that, over time, when you see my layout's photos, there is always something changed around on it, so that it looks more lived-in.

For the 2013 NASG Convention in Scranton, PA, there was a first-time special contest called the "Greeley Place". The idea was that those of us who wanted to participate, would buy the relatively affordable Greeley's Place kit from B.T.S., build it into something unique, and put it in that contest. All entrants would receive $5 just for entering, and there would be one winner based on attendees' popular vote. So, I built mine into a small tackle-n-bait shack called "Smitty's Rod-n-Reel".

Because I put an interior in mine, I needed interior SMD LEDs to light the building. But, how does one power those LEDs on a model contest table? I decided to put a set of AA batteries in a holder, and then built a scenic base around that holder. You can see the stone steps leading up to the building in the foreground. The battery holder that I bought from All Electronics has a built-in slide switch to turn the power on, so I could turn it on at the start of the show and turn it off at the end of the day. The LEDs used such little electricity that they stayed on throughout the show. This photo shows the model before any of the exterior details were added, but it does show the interior lit up. I added burglar bars to the windows and two figures and a chair. In the previous photo you can see the simple sign I made, and added two doves.

Much to my shock and surprise was the fact that I won that popular vote!

I wanted to integrate that model into my layout after the Convention, so I carefully removed the base (that was my intent from the beginning, so I constructed it in such a manner that that would be doable), cleared out a section of scenery base where the model was to go, built a nice flat surface for the building to sit on, added a street and a driveway, and some bushes and a scratchbuilt fence. The interior LEDs are powered by the 12-volt accessories bus that runs under the scenery. Also shown in this photo is a scratch-built wood storage building that I mimicked after the one I saw on famous HO-scale modeler, Gil Freitag's layout here in Houston. I added SMD LEDs so that the interior was visible. It is amazing how much strip wood is consumed by building those lumber supplies!

I finished the scratch-built Canonsburg Milling factory, which sits in the right-hand back corner. I removed a bunch of scenery base, made up a flat foundation from 1/4" foam board (well supported), and placed the building on top of that. Of course, the building was made to fit this odd spot, and restricted to the size of the layout base module.

When I was happy with the fit, I removed the foamboard foundation and painted it. I also hooked up the SMD LEDs I built into the building, and then connected their wires to the 12-volt accessories bus under the scenery. I made a concrete foundation under the staircase as well.

Ballast and gravel completed the scene.

This part of my layout used to have the Canonsburg passenger station shallow-relief building, but I abandoned that project as it seemed like a very time-consuming effort, and I just wasn't happy with it. So, I removed it, and instead I found a prototype photo of the back of a set of buildings in or near Canonsburg. I scratch-built one of them. I mixed up several batches of "ground goop" and buried the building's foundation into the ground. To the left of the building is a portion of a small parking lot for the Canonsburg Milling factory employees. After applying the Sculptamold, I put a sheet of styrene on it. The vehicles serve as weight while the material sets.

While doing some repair work to the nearby turnout, I realized that this might be a good spot for the barber shop I had been building and intended to use in the closet module. I built a styrene base for it, including a sidewalk. The building is not attached to the base, as I want to detail and light the interior.

This was the final scene.