Category Archives: Model Railroad

Building Wheelerville Depot

Spent the last week or so attempting to scratchbuild the Wheelerville station. I do have a couple of views that show the south and east walls, but the configuration of the other sides of the building are a complete mystery, and are educated guesses on the model.

I made the assumption that one batten and one board on the real station probably measure close to one foot. I used that guestimate to count boards and battens to arrive at a rough approximation of the overall dimensions, which worked out to 43′ x  16′. I used a wall height of 13′, arrived at by comparing plans of similar stations in the Model Railroader digital archive. I did fudge the long dimension  a foot or two so that the operator’s bay would fit between the battens evenly, and to accommodate the dimensions of the Tichy windows I planned to use. The bay dimensions and the angles of the bay walls were also guestimated by what looked right, the Tichy window dimensions, and measurements of similar depots in the MR archive.

Front view:


Rear view:


Side view:


The hip roof is the trickiest part. I referred to a John Nerich article on building hip roofs in the May 2014 RMC, and I also corresponded with John via Facebook on some of the nuances of construction, particularly regarding the appropriate amount of overhang, which could vary from about 5′ up to 7′ on some stations. The overhang I will end up with will be around 5-6′. The next tricky part will be trimming the bay walls to fit the slope of the overhanging roof. I had to brush up on my high school trigonometry to work out some of the dimensions, and in the end I did simply resort to a little trial-and-error cutting and fitting of the cardboard roof mock-up.

Here is the mocked-up roof compared with the real station:

wheelerville-cropped-1 wheelerville-roof-mock-up-1

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection

At first I thought the real station had a more squat appearance than the model, but the more I look at it, I think it will be “close enough” once the roof supports, foundation, and a few other details are added.

To be continued…


Op Session #12

Op Session #12 was held on Friday afternoon, 29 July 2016. The session went very well, and the railroad mostly behaved itself after 5 months of inactivity and a major scenery project. Only one or two derailments over the 4 hour session might possibly be due to track or individual pieces rolling stock and these will be investigated prior to the next session. I hope to have more of these weekday sessions in the future in order to accommodate the increasing number of fellows interested in participating in operations on the model S&NY.


Fred L. and Michael C. organize Marsh Hill yard prior to getting the eastbound coal extra on the road.

Fred L. and Michael C. organize Marsh Hill yard prior to getting the eastbound coal extra on the road.


Dave B. waits for clearance to enter Newberry yard, while Tom S. and Bill S. sort thing out.

Dave B. waits for clearance to enter Newberry yard, while Tom S. and Bill S. sort things out.


John W. weighs in on the Newberry yard situation...

John W. weighs in on the Newberry yard situation…


The meeting of the minds continues...

The meeting of the minds continues…


Bill S. says, "Never fear, all is well..."

Bill S. says, “Never fear, everything is under control…”


"Extra 105 West at Wheelerville." A little Photoshop fun.

“Extra 105 West at Wheelerville.” A little Photoshop fun.


Wheelerville Creamery Pt. 2

Here are a couple of updated photos of the current progress on the Wheelerville creamery, here shown temporarily in place on the layout.

I mounted it on a 1/8″ Masonite base after putting on a little groundcover. The Masonite is a little “warpy” and I may use styrene or gatorboard for structure bases in the future.

Still have to add a few details, like milk cans on the loading dock, then permanently place on the layout. Also will have to make a small dirt ramp or something similar up to the boilerhouse door.


Creamery-1 Creamery-2

Wheelerville Creamery

In between working on the scenery around the Masten Loop bridge, I have also been working on the first model structure for the Wheelerville scene.

Some of my sources mentioned a creamery of some type at Wheelerville, but I have never seen photos of this structure. Accordingly, I decided to build the Laser-Art creamery kit #680.

The size of the creamery in the kit is just right to fit the space I had in mind, but I intend to scratchbuild a small boiler-house that will attached to the wall where a separate ice-house kit would go. My thinking is that this will provide an extra car-spot for coal while partially disguising the structure as “that Branchline Trains creamery”

I had never attempted a laser-cut kit before, and assembly was a pleasant surprise. The kit goes together quite well with only a couple of minor caveats.

The first is that the kit, being wood, needs to be braced on the inside like crazy. I used some 1/4″ poplar strips from Lowes.

The second is that the window glazing is actually in 2 different sizes, one for the upper windows, one for the lower. The instructions do not mention this.

Last, I don’t trust the adhesive backing on some of the parts to hold forever, so I reinforced some joints, especially the tiny joins in the loading dock supports, with super glue.

Progress thus far:

Creamery In-progress-1

The walls, windows, frames, and doors were stained with a random mix of oil-based ivory black and burnt umber thinned with turpenoid. This was then sealed with rattle-can Dullcoat. The Dullcoat also quickly dries the turpenoid and oil paint, preventing any later bleed-through. I then heavily dry-brushed warm-white Americana brand acrylic craft paint on the walls and other exterior parts prior to assembly. I made sure to dry-brush horizontally in the direction of the boards on the main walls.

The loading docks were stained with the same turpenoid mix. I’ll eventually lightly dry-brush these parts with some greys and browns to simulate weathered untreated wood.

To be continued…

Scenery progress

Slow progress is being made at extending the small scenicked portion of the railroad. The most recent project is at the model version of the “Masten Loop”. This is a signature scene on the railroad, and is essentially a “layout design element” in itself.

The background mountainside was formed of rough scrap foam supports covered by nylon screen left over from one of the kid’s old school projects.  The other basic landforms were roughed in using the usual cardboard lattice technique. I had a bag full of expired plaster bandages I got for free from a hospital were I had worked some years prior, and since the first scenery section was done with rosin paper and white glue, I wanted to try using the plaster gauze both to use up what I had on hand, and to see how this technique compared with the rosin paper.



Masten Loop Scenery-1

Overall, I thought the plaster gauze technique went quite a bit faster and was actually easier to use than the rosin paper technique, although potentially messier. The rosin paper method has the significant advantage of being significantly cheaper on the other hand. I did run into a slight unforeseen problem with the gauze. Some of the paper wrappers had degraded and torn over the past 10 years, and the rolls were exposed to the air. As a consequence, the plaster in these rolls was “punky”, and instead of setting up hard turned dry and crumbly. This was not a show-stopper though, and the punky plaster was easily covered and fixed in place later by a layer of paint and/or ground goop.

Masten Loop Scenery-3

The stream banks were carved out of scrap construction foam and glued in place with Liquid Nails. This actually was one of the more tedious parts of the project. The background mountainside was painted flat black, since it will be entirely covered by puffball trees and no ground detail would be visible.

Masten Loop Scenery-4

For the rock cuts I decided to experiment with “rubber rocks” from Cripplebush Valley Models for several reasons.

First, there was only about 3 inches of clearance from the track to the fascia board. The Woodland Scenics rock molds I have on hand are easy to use, but I worried that the thickness of the castings could cause problems.

Second, the track curves through the cuts, and it would be difficult to get rock castings in a curved shape of the proper radius.

Third, given the height and length of the biggest cut, I would have to use multiple rock castings and blend them together.

Last, none of the Woodland Scenics molds look quite like a large shale cut typical of the Eastern U.S., in my opinion.

The CVM products seemed to solve all these problems. I chose “Shale 18” both for the look and the overall size. While a bit on the expensive side (Shale 18 is $50, plus $15 shipping), for this specific application I believe it was worth the expense. I actually was able to cut out 4 large one-piece walls from the single piece seen above, plus I was able to use some of the rest to form the stream bank under the bridge.

I used Liquid Nails to glue the pieces to the plaster. The product comes from CVM with a nice two-tone brownish coloration, but as the project progresses I will use some heavy dry-brushing to add more depth and color variety.

I was a little reluctant to just start cutting up the large piece, given the cost, so I made a couple of rough templates out of paper as a guide.

Masten Loop Scenery-5

I then glued them in place, using some pins to help hold them while the Liquid Nails set.

Masten Loop Scenery-7

Masten Loop Scenery-6

I filled in around the edges with ground goop and Sculptamold, which was then painted my “dirt” color.

To be continued….

Op Session #11

Op session #11 was held on Saturday 27 February 2016. Hard to believe the railroad has been in operation for 2 years now. Scenery progress had been on hiatus for many months due to family matters and other projects, but has recently resumed.

The other projects include re-motoring, tweaking and painting weathering another PFM engine; installing a new decoder, painting and weathering a Bachmann 4-4-0; and re-motoring, painting, weathering, and decoder-ing an EMC motorcar. Several fluorescent fixtures in one layout room were also replaced.

The timetable continues to be tweaked between sessions with some success. During the latest session, the dispatcher only had to write a couple of orders, and 2 of those were to give running authority to the coal extra.

Hopefully I’ll upload a few in-progress photos of some of these projects soon.

Here westbound #5 meets #22 working the station at Wheelerville:

Photo by John Webster

Photo by John Webster


In this photo, #23’s caboose waits in the weeds at Wheelerville for #6 to double the hill eastbound out of Marsh Hill:

Photo by Brad White

Photo by Brad White

Op Session #7

The model S&NY hosted its 7th op session on May 8th, 2015. A good time was had by all, and the railroad behaved very well. Only one slightly sticky set of turnout points, and slight episodic hesitation of one locomotive late in the session.  I believe this proves the old adage that the way to have a smooth-running model railroad is to run it. Running the railroad, especially with visitors present, is a sure way to flush out any gremlins. Glitch by glitch, the numerous little hiccups inherent to any newly constructed layout will make themselves apparent and can be fixed between sessions.

That, and have clean track. I did spend a bit of effort prior to the previous session cleaning every inch of track with a scrap block of homasote soaked with laquer thinner, and the previous issues with electrical continuity have significantly improved.

Sorting out moves at Bradford Storage.

Sorting out moves at Bradford Storage.

Extra #1908 East heads around Masten Loop curve en route to Towanda.

Extra #1908 East heads around Masten Loop curve en route to Towanda.

I also tried to adhere a little closer to the timetable and issue written orders as necessary to both get the trains over the road, and add some authenticity. I have some continuing concerns that the loaded and empty extra coal train ping-ponging back and forth during the session might not be the most desirable train to run, and it is usually not the first job the crews bid on for a session. However, one crew member expressed the opinion that running the extra, with a helper on the rear, against the other scheduled timetable trains was actually an interesting challenge. It was gratifying to hear this, as a design goal was to provide a variety of trains that would each be engaging to run in their own way. I think it it telling though, that this individual is probably the most “into” timetable and train order ops.

Lastly, I doctored up a little cell phone video made by one of the fellows to provide a little “historical” footnote to the session:


Op Session #5 3/21/15

Op session # 5 was held Saturday evening 3/21/15. We had 4 crew members attend, which was enough to give everyone a throttle, with your truly as informal dispatcher. (And question answerer / trouble-shooter)

The railroad ran better than I had hoped given that the last session was last November. The extremely cold winter and corresponding dry conditions caused the track to buckle in several spots that had never been an issue before, but I was able to cut new gaps and drop new feeders in the week prior to the session. The only major problems were a switch where I had completely forgotten to attach the feeders from the points to the main track bus, and a Tortoise with a suspected internal malfunction that caused a non-repairable short circuit at an important crossover in Newberry yard. Luckily, this problem occurred very late in the session and did not have a major impact aside from a 10-15 minute halt to operations while we tried to fix it.

While I did have paperwork ready to support formal TT&TO ops, the small number of operators resulted in a fairly relaxed session, so we ran under “verbal train orders” for lack of a better term.




Another small issue was that there were only 4 locomotives available as “home road” power. One engine, a re-motored PFM Ma&Pa 2-8-0 with a WOW steam decoder, developed a bind that I could not solve prior to the session. Don M. was able to bring several smaller steam engines to serve as temporary “leased power”, so all was well. It was neat to see a little 4-4-0 with a 2-6-0 pusher (both sound-equipped) working hard to get a 12 car train of loaded coal hoppers over the mountain.

Don M. works Newberry yard

Don M. works Newberry yard

No. 4 and No. 21 meet at Wheelerville.

No. 4 and No. 21 meet at Wheelerville.

No. 4 at Wheelerville

No. 4 at Wheelerville

Leased Bessemer 4-4-0 leads westbound empties at Wheelerville.

Leased Bessemer 4-4-0 leads westbound empties at Wheelerville.

All-in-all, a very satisfying evening, hopefully to be repeated in the near future.

Some Scenery for the S&NY Pt. 4

Scenery progress continues a slow but steady pace. Spent an evening making puffball trees, a fairly tedious process. However, tearing off golf-ball sized chunks of polyfiber goes quickly while watching TV, and I was able to make about 100 trees in a little over an hour. I put a single layer of about 50 or so puffballs in the bottom of a large cardboard box after lining the bottom with newspaper. Then I misted them with dilute white glue, and sprinkled fine ground foam over them. Next, I tossed them around in the box until the non-coated sides were up, and repeated the mist-sprinkle-toss process several times until they had an even, but not caked, coating of foam. Last, I spread them out on newspaper to dry. The mist-and-sprinkle part goes really fast if you have everything laid out ahead of time.

Tree factory:


This afternoon and evening I started planting them on a couple of hillsides around some rock outcroppings I had finished painting and dry-brushing earlier in the week:

PuffballTrees-1 PuffballTrees-3 PuffballTrees-4

Finally the layout is starting to look like something!

To be continued…

Some Scenery for the S&NY Pt.3

Spent a goodly chunk of last week plugging away at the current scenery project. I wanted to put the supply of SuperTrees I had built up to good use, since due to their fragility I have no good way to store them yet.

I added most of them to the small hillside behind the site of the future Wheelerville creamery:



Mixed in is Woodland Scenics green polyfiber lightly coated with green fine ground foam for generic low shrubs, briars, etc. in the understory. I am really very pleased with the effect, even though it is pretty tedious planting the all those SuperTrees in place. I’ll add more detail to the forest edge once the creamery is built and I have the road and adjacent ground cover in place.

I also had to break out the GrassMaster and plant a little static grass, just to try it:


That stuff is like magic! I can’t wait to plant more. Maybe this coming weekend…