February - April, 2002
We finished the basic layout during the Christmas break, so Josh now had a fully functional N-scale layout he could run while I worked on adding buildings and some other structures to the layout.  We decided I would build the buildings and other structures at my house during my spare time because this is pretty tedious work and not really suited for the attention span of an 8 year old.

Josh and I talked a little about what kind of buildings he wanted for the layout but the only thing he insisted on was a train station.  This made sense because his rolling stock included a set of 5 passenger cars and according to Josh, "how are the people ever going to get on and off the train if there's no train station". 

Other than the train station, he wasn't sure what kind of buildings he wanted.  We spent a little time on the internet looking at buildings, but he soon got bored with that activity, so I decided to just order the Town and Factory Building Set from Woodland Scenics.  The set contains 13 buildings and over 70 accessories and was designed especially for the Scenic Ridge layout.  And the cost of the kit is less than one-third of the cost of buying the buildings separately.

In addition to the Town and Factory Building Set, we also purchased a train station and a water tank (got to have water to make steam) .  We found both of these items by searching the internet.  The train station Josh liked the best was the Atlas Railroad Company's Passenger Station Kit (#2841).  The station kit came with a luggage cart with baggage and freight, a hand truck ,and a freight scale.  For the water tank, Josh picked the one made by Demi Train (#236-2000).

While I was waiting for the building kits to arrive, I decided it might be a good idea to learn a little about the techniques used to build model structures.  The only models I had ever built were model cars way back in junior high school and I didn't think that experience would be very useful in this endeavor.  So, I began searching around on the internet to see what information I could find.  Turns out, there was a lot.  I found Basics of Building Plastic Structures and Structures to be particularly useful.

After obtaining enough information to be dangerous, I gathered or purchased the tools and supplies I would need to begin building the struct- ures.  The tools and supplies I had on hand were:
  wneedle nose pliers
  wExacto knife
  wlighted magnifying

Tools and supplies I had to purchase were:
  wsprue cutter
  wsmall flat file
  wassortment of small paintbrushes
  wTenax 7R Plastic Welder Cement
  wBadger model 250 airbrush
  wMODELflex paints in the following railroad colors
    sEngine Black
    sReefer White
    sDark Tuscan Oxide Red
    sLight Tuscan Oxide Red
    sGrimy Black
    sConcrete Gray

Within a week or so I had all of the building kits, tools, and supplies.  Time to start building.  I decided to start with the water tank because it appeared to have the simplest color scheme.  It took two evenings, working about 3 hours each evening to complete the water tank.  This turned out to be about the average time to complete each structure.  Working at this pace, it took me about 6 weeks to complete all 15 structures. 

I didn't have any major problems with the water tank, but I discovered right away that the lighted magnifying glass was going to be an essential tool.  Fifty- year-old+ eyesight is no match for n-scale!  

Learning to use the airbrush was a snap.  The Badger model 250 does not have a lot of bells and whistles and so it is very simple to use.  To contain the over spray I made a simple backdrop of newspaper.  There is really not much over spray, at least not compared to rattle-cans, so this set up worked well.

To simulate weathering I purchased one of the Weather Systemtm kits fromFF-70 Hobbytools.  The weathering kit I bought contained four small boxes (1/2 ounce each) of weathering powders - light rust, medium rust, dark rust, and soot.  Several other powder colors are available.  The powders are made from real rust and other weathering agents that have been  milled to a particle size over 100 times finer than chalk.  Unless you have several hundred buildings to weather, don't buy anything but the small boxes.  This stuff goes a long, long way.  I simply applied the powders with a small, stiff paint brush until I got the effect I was looking for.  If you mess up, it can be washed off.

After I completed the water tank I felt confident to tackle a building.   I choose the train station as my first building.   The train station was the only building out of the 15 I was building that didn't have to be painted.  The out-of-the box color scheme (as shown in the above photo) wasn't bad, but it had a "plastic" look that I didn't find very attractive, so I decided to paint it.  

The station was a good choice for my first building.  Although it wasn't hard to build, there were lots of parts which gave me a chance to practice using the airbrush, applying plastic cement, and hand painting.  All in all, I think it came out pretty well for my first attempt.  The station came with the scale, baggage, and baggage cart shown above, but I added all the people, which were purchased separately. 

While building the train station, I discovered that the type of sprue cutters I bought did not work very well.  The one I bought operates kind of like a short-bladed pair of scissors and tends to slip on the plastic rather than cut it clean.  If you buy a sprue cutter make sure you get the "nipper" type, like those made by PBL (see photo).  I didn't want to buy another pair of cutters, so for the remainder of the buildings I used a pair of toenail clippers (big nail clippers) I had laying around the house and they work great.

The remaining 13 buildings were all made by Design Preservation Models, so the assembly process was essentially the same for all of them.  The general procedure I followed was:

 3With airbrush, paint roof grimy black (both sides) 
  3Assemble building using Tenax 7R plastic welder cement
  3With airbrush, paint building desired color
  3Cement roof in place (strengthens building for handling)
  3Apply brick mortar detail (thinned paint, usually white)
  3Hand paint windows, doors, columns, and other details
  3Cement window acetate in place
  3Apply sign boards and other decals
  3Apply weathering
  3Insert black card stock diagonally inside building

I didn't take photos of each completed building, but here are a couple of examples:







After completing the buildings, I began work on the 70 or so accessories (barrels, skids, benches, street lights, etc.) that were included in the Town and Factory Building SetAll of these accessories were cast in "white metal".  I'm not sure what "white metal" is but it's similar to the metal used for tire weights.  The extraneous metal left from the casting process had to be removed from each individual piece.  The best tool I found to remove the metal casting material was a Dremmel cut-off wheel, but I also used a file and an Exacto knife on several occasions.  All-in-all it took several hours to prepare the parts for painting -- very tedious work!

In order to paint these tiny pieces, I glued them to a 2' long piece of metal bar using gap-filling super glue.  This worked great and allowed me to paint an entire piece (except the bottom) at one time.  

The pieces that were all one color were quick and easy to paint. The pieces that were more than one color, like the street lights were more tedious and I had to use the lighted magnifying glass and a very small paint brush to paint the details.

To simulate weathering, I applied rust powder from the Weather Systemtm to several of the pieces, especially the propane tanks, scrap metal piles, and barrels.

After all the building were complete, all that remained was to arrange them in the layout.  The Town and Factory Building Set comes with a template showing the locations for the buildings in the Scenic Ridge layout.  However, I didn't think the placement of the building fit our layout very well, so I made a couple of templates of the two building sites in the layout and used these to play with the building placement until it "looked right".

Some of the things I considered in placing the buildings were decal placement and type of business.  If a building had a nifty billboard on the side, I didn't want it hidden by an adjacent building.  I also tried to group the building by type of business - the theater, hotel, and pharmacy were placed together in the "better" part of town, while the auto store, bar, and pawn shop where located down towards the "seedier" part of town.  You wouldn't want your hotel guests getting hassled by the local drunks and other riffraff!

Once we had the placement sorted out, we used a two-part epoxy to glue the buildings in place.  This photo shows the building placement in the layout site for the town.






The placement of the factory and the train station was an easy decision.  The station had to be located  adjacent to the tracks and the factory was placed in the remaining space.

After the buildings were glued in place, we added ground cover (grass, dirt, gravel, etc.) and landscaping (trees, shrubs) to the remainder of the building layout sites.  To complete the layout we added people, vehicles, street lights, and other detail items.

For that "finishing touch", Josh's mother made a skirt to go around the bottom of the layout bench from material she bought, as shown in the photo at the top of this page.  She sewed pleats in the material and hemmed it to length, then attached it to layout bench with strips of Velcro.  This not only dressed up the table, it made a convenient place to store train supplies and other stuff out of site.

Josh now had a fully detailed n-scale layout that he (and occasionally me) could enjoy for years to come.  We may add a few bells and whistles from time to time and if we do, I'll chronicle those activities in future episodes. 

<Scenic Ridge Progress

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