Model Building · Structures

The Freight House at St. George (part 2)

St. George Freight House

See The Freight House at St. George (part 1)

Before painting the freight house it got a bath in Dawn dish detergent and warm water. After it dried overnight I sprayed a coat of Tamiya Surface Primer (beautiful stuff) thinned 1:1 with lacquer thinner. I let this dry a few days until the smell was gone.

Next, a variegated undercoat of Vallejo Basalt Gray and Medium Sea Gray was applied to everything. These being the Vallejo Model Color paints meant for brushing, I thinned them 2 parts paint to 1 part Vallejo Airbrush Thinner with a drop or two of Windex as a flow agent and sprayed at about 35# pressure.

The doors, railings and weather boards got a coat of Vallejo Military Green taken down a bit with gray. The walls were painted D&NE mustard, a mix of 10 parts Vallejo Golden Yellow and 1 part Flat Earth with a touch of gray. Windows, roof trim and soffits are Vallejo Off White.

Afterward, I came back lightly with a fiberglass brush to reveal just a little of the undercoat. I followed that with dry brushing Basalt Gray to show some weathered wood, then a dry brushing of Golden Yellow on the battens for highlights. Now was a good time to install the windows and doors. But no glass yet. A light dusting of Pan Pastels helped tie everything together. I used grays and earthy shades to take the brightness down a bit.

St. George Freight House trackside
The slate roof with “snowbirds” and copper flashing

The slate roof is intended to be the original roof with some repairs through the years so the slates don’t all match in color. Luckily, there are a lot of old slate roofs around Manchester to go by. But you must be careful not to over do this on a model. I brush painted Vallejo Basalt Gray with touches of Medium Sea Gray and Burnt Umber blended in at random. The copper flashing was painted Game Color Verdigris, the color of oxidized copper, knocked down with some gray. I touched the snow birds with Vallejo Black Gray and Burnt Umber. The chimney was brush painted with Vallejo Burnt Red and Leather Brown. Testors Model Master Old Concrete was used for the chimney top. The mortar is a soupy mix of Durham’s Water Putty brushed on and then wiped off the brick faces. A final dry brushing of light gray from the bottom of the roof highlighted the tips of the slates. Various gray Pan Pastels were used to knock a little shine off of the roof and black to soot up the chimney area.

Office entrance
Busy platform area. Much detail to come after it’s embedded in the scenery.

The decks were sprayed with Tamiya Surface Primer and then Vallejo Basalt Gray. After giving that a few days to dry. Testors CreateFX weathering colors were applied board by board to highlight the grain I had worked into the styrene surface. Again, a dusting of Pan Pastels gave the decks a worn, weathered look.

Signage for the ends was setup in Word, laser printed and sealed front and back with Dullcote. The paper was glued with spray adhesive to a cardstock base and then glued to a #40 styrene back trimmed with black.

Finally, the entire model was then sealed with Testors Dullcote and the window glass finally installed.

In the end, I mounted the structure on a 1/8″ hardboard base thinking I’m likely to remove it from the layout from time to time.

I think this is the largest structure project I’ve ever taken on. Styrene is a joy to work with and can be brought to whatever finish you’d like. Assembly is fast, relatively speaking. Scratch building siding and roofing (doors and windows too for that matter) is time-consuming but, after all, this is a hobby.

Cleanliness is next to, well, certainly not railroadiness. So, the freight house will be surrounded by dunnage and other junk scattered among the weeds and puddles. There’s almost always a boxcar or two spotted trackside at the freight doors. Trucks come and go throughout the day. Sometimes the lights are still burning late into the autumn evening. A busy place indeed.

My next structure project for St. George is the passenger station inspired by the long gone B&M station at Peterborough, NH. (The Toadstool bookstore now occupies that site.) It has clapboard siding. I’m carefully laying up my own to get that subtle effect of not quite absolutely perfect. The doors and windows are scratch built or bashed using Tichys as a starting point. A few are pretty elegant. It’s going to take a while…

Model Building · Structures

The Freight House at St. George (part 1)


In 1953, much railroad freight is LCL (Less-than-Carload-Lot) and most towns had provision for handling these smaller shipments. In the case of a large market town like St. George a free-standing freight house was often the answer. There are a number of freight customers in town that ship smaller consignments such as the busy Green Mountain Basket Co. Piano stools, crutches and furniture made locally often go out as LCL. The lumber and feed store receives bagged feed and lumber by the car load but products such as paint, fencing and appliances might come to the freight house as LCL. Railway express shipments, on the other hand, are handled at the express annex in the passenger station.

The St. George freight house is based on one described in an article in Dec71 RMC by former MR editor Paul Larson for his O scale CMR&P. Modeled after a freight house built in the late 1890s on the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern (CB&Q) at Louisiana, MO, it’s the perfect size for St. George. The design is archetypal railroady. I built the model pretty much as drawn.

Thinking it would be more common for New England, I thought of substituting clapboards for the board and batten siding in the plan. But the other day, while over in B&M Mogul country in Goffstown, NH, what did I see but the old freight house sheathed in board and batten!

A board and batten vignette courtesy of the ex-B&M Freight House in Goffstown, NH.

Paul built his O scale model from Northeastern basswood and Grandt Line windows. But Northeastern doesn’t carry the board and batten siding in a suitable spacing anymore. I’m favoring styrene these days anyway but as it ends up Evergreen doesn’t carry appropriate sized board and batten siding either (they used to — my Monson Jct. freight house is built from it). One night, at the stroke of midnight, the ghost of Al Armitage appeared and encouraged me to suck it up and build my own board and batten siding. The next day, I was at the workbench laying down the battens by hand.

Al Armitage’s booklet on styrene fabrication has been the bible for decades. It focuses on extreme scratchbuilding before styrene strips and shapes were available.

Evergreen’s Styrene Modeling, edited by Bob Hayden, has more up to date tips and techniques.

Adding battens to the trackside wall. With the spacer strip and square this goes pretty quickly. I use Testors Liquid Cement for Plastic and an 000 brush for styrene construction.

IMG_20181021_162025384 (2)
Work in progress. One end has had battens applied. Tichy windows and doors are modified for a New England look. Freight doors are scratchbuilt as a drop in unit.

It’s a large building about 28″ in length including the loading dock. The 4′ foundation raises the structure to an imposing height. Along with the passenger station it’s going to dominate the scene.

The base material for the structure is #40 styrene sheet. You can get it in large sheets if you ask around which alleviates the need to splice up the long sides. I cut out all of the openings for doors and windows first and then laid up the battens cut from #20 by #40 styrene strips. The 1″ by 12″ weather boards around the foundation are represented by #20 by #250 styrene strips cemented directly to the base layer. They enclose what would be an open foundation of brick pillars. The chimney comes from Bar Mills. I also used part of one as a foundation pillar where the weather boards have gone missing.

To speed things up, Tichy doors and windows were used but modified to look more like those we see here in New England. The freight doors, stairways and the loading dock are all scratchbuilt in styrene.

The structure is braced with #125 by #125 styrene strips. The walls are raised around a solid floor of #40 styrene that, with the help of a couple of internal partitions, squares everything up nicely.

I added a couple of #40 styrene pads under each end of the building to keep the weather boards from picking at the scenery and to support the stairways and loading dock. They’ll be hidden by ground cover when the building is in place.

Shingling the roof took forever.

The roof is a story in itself. Built on a base of #40 styrene, it’s heavily braced and removable. In northern New England, buildings of this type might have a shingle roof of Vermont slates. The cost of enough commercial hobby slate roof material to do this structure would be more than everything else combined. While I laid awake one night fretting over this, around the stroke of midnight the ghost of Al Armitage reappeared. He admonished me to not be such a snowflake and just scratchbuild the slate shingle roof. Next day, I’m slicing off 8-14″ wide strips of #10 styrene at 24″ lengths. The work actually goes pretty fast, I guess. Boy, that’s a lot of roof. Actually, it took a long time. I topped the roof with #5 styrene copper cap. As a final touch, 162 Tichy “snowbirds” were added for protection from falling snow and ice.

Styrene representing wood was roughed up in the traditional way with a file card, wire brush, Zona saw and sandpaper to knock down the plastic sheen and to give the weathering something to hang on to. The wood grain effect is not overdone. I’m not a big fan of nail heads. They just aren’t visible at normal viewing distance even in O scale.

D&NE structures are painted an amber color with medium green wainscoting and doors. Windows and trim are white. The scheme is reminiscent of Vienna station as I remember it on my hometown Washington & Old Dominion Railroad.

And this is where I leave off for now. The structure is complete and being prepped for painting. I’ve already primed the roof.

See The Freight House at St. George (part 2)

I popped in some windows and doors for this photo. Getting ready to paint.

It’s a beast! The roof, platforms, doors and windows will all be painted separately. The styrene pads under the platforms will protect them, I hope. They’ll be hidden by ground cover once it’s all in place. The roof is already primed.

Research · Structures

Oh, Well…

My visit to the Peterborough Train Show today yielded a treasure trove of information on the B&M Peterborough branch at Larry Kemp’s extensive display. If you’ve been following the blog, I just finished my rendition of  That Corrugated Shed seen in many photos of Peterborough.

Luckily I had placed it at the back of the scene with its rear facing the aisle because the front of the building was nothing like I had assumed. See the full sized shed in Larry’s HO display below. The prototype looks a little like the Atlas lumber yard kit but with corrugated siding. The front is actually a series of sliding doors for lumber storage bays. The angled loft encloses a veranda to the second story bays. Mine has just a single freight door. Oh well… We all know the real meaning of ASSUME, don’t we?

Larry Kemp’s Peterborough Depot Square circa 1950

Larry Kemp’s Peterborough Depot Square circa 1950. Front side of that corrugated shed.

I have no intention of changing my model. It is what it is. And you can’t see the front from where it is set in the scene. But isn’t that just how it goes!


Model Building · Structures

That Corrugated Shed

That corrugated shed next to the public delivery track in St. George.

Photos of Peterborough, NH, in the 1950s show a crude looking corrugated shed next to the station. In the book, The Boston & Maine, a Photographic Essay by Philip R. Hastings, the shed shows quite clearly on page 140-141. The same photo can be seen on page 59 of Model Railroad Planning 2000. Since little is known about it, it’s generally referred to as that corrugated shed. I’m guessing the shed belonged to the nearby building supply business. There could have been roofing, bricks, fencing, maybe bags of cement or bales of hay in there. Who knows?

Peterborough 1950. Phillip R. Hastings photo.

Well, I just had to have an ugly shed like that in St. George. I love the angled loft.

With a couple of photos and an overhead shot of Peterborough, I sized the shed to be about 70′ long and 25′ wide. I thought a structure 40′ by 25′ would fit nicely in St. George.

I happened to have a passel of O scale corrugated strips from Builders in Scale. They must date back to the 1980s gotten in for some project long, long forgotten. They’re perfect for sheathing this building.

I started construction by making a mock-up in foam board. I don’t have a photo showing the front side of the shed. I’m assuming there was just a large sliding freight door on that side. From what I can tell, the other three sides of the shed are blank.

For this model, I used the mock-up as the actual guts of the structure so I took care to build it foursquare. An opening for the door was cut in the front wall section and the walls were assembled to basswood bracing with contact cement. The sliding freight door was scratch built from basswood. Trim boards are all basswood strips. This was a good point to paint the door and trim. I choose a dark green color.

Now for the corrugated siding. After a wash in 91% alcohol they were given a spotty coat of Model Masters gray primer from a rattle can to knock down most of the shiny galvanized finish. The sheets were cut into 4′ by 8′ panels and weathered individually with artists oil washes. I was going for some subtle variation in the base color of the panels along with a little rust and grime. The photos show a distinct difference between panels and I wanted to capture that effect. The panels were attached to the walls and roof with medium cyanoacrylate. Care was taken to overlap the panels properly. After a spray of Testors DullCoat, final weathering was done with artist’s oil washes and Pan Pastels.

I located the shed off of the public delivery track near the station with its back to the viewer. As work in the area goes on, I’ll surround the shed with lots of clutter like sewer pipes, pallets of bricks, scraps of lumber and whatever other junk I can come up with. There’ll be stacks of sawn lumber and spills of bagged material. An occasional box car or flat will be spotted nearby for unloading.


Layout Construction · Scenery · Structures · Track Plan · Trackwork

The Vision Thing


Looking south from the tail tracks at St. George. Track is abandoned after the road crossing.

I’ve spent the afternoon spiking in the tail tracks at St. George (4 spikes per tie), adding joint bars and detailing the turnouts. Still have quite a ways to go but it felt like time to take a look at the scene and try to visualize the end product.

The top photo looks straight down St. George as you would see it entering the layout room. The road (maybe “Railroad Ave.” rather than Main St.) is marked out with art board but will be constructed with light weight spackle as Mike Confalone demonstates in his videos. Track is abandoned at the crossing so the few inches on the near side will be quite decrepit and weed grown.

The caboose is spotted in front of the station as it would be after the local arrives and the locomotive runs around the train. The inbounds are parked on track 2 and the outbound train will be assembled on track 1 as switching progresses. If this was a mixed, the combine would be spotted there.

A box car is spotted at the freight house and in the distance a milk car is at the creamery (you have to use your imagination). Construction of that front siding will begin after tracks 1 and 2 are completely detailed all the way to the French River bridges. I’ve decided to replace the feed mill in the plan with a creamery as it generates traffic every day. Midway will be a simple feed storage shed and then the coal trestle.

Looking north.

The northward view shows the public delivery track to the left (west) of the station and you can barely see a black hopper to the right of the freight house at the location of the future coal trestle .

The blank wall to the left will have a series of building flats mostly up to eye level. There was a five story basket factory right behind the station in Peterborough at one time and I may do the same — well,  maybe only three stories.

I composed this scene with specific things in mind. I wanted a classic shortline terminal look, a slightly curvy track plan, no lines parallel to the walls or layout edge, and a somewhat busy center funneling to the river crossing. I’ve mentioned Paul Larson’s Mineral Point (MR Dec’59) as an inspiration. The 3 parallel tracks crowded between buildings come from Morrisville, Vt on the St.J&LC. And, of course, the overall look is based largely on Peterborough, NH, the end of one of the B&M mogul branches.

I know these grab shots look pretty ratty. I did at least move most of the tools and junk off the layout. Sometimes I need to stand around and do the vision thing to see in my mind’s eye just how it will all come out.