Section House underway

Port Rowan section house photo SectionHouse-01_zps046d46c0.jpg

I felt like sitting on the deck and working on a model yesterday – and as a result, I’ve made a good start on the section house for Port Rowan. As the above photo shows, the four walls and two roof panels have been assembled and painted/stained, the chimney has been installed, and windows have been cut and framed.

I have very little information about this structure – it appears in a couple of prototype photos, but often in the background. There is one decent photo of the track side face – a black and white picture taken from the elevated coal track, looking towards the yard throat and a CNR 10-wheeler on the turntable lead. Most of the track side face of the section house appears in the left foreground of that picture:
Another roofline? photo PtR-SectionHouse-Proto.jpg
(Click on the image to find out more about the question of rooflines)

This photo was invaluable – showing that the section house had board and batten siding, plus the general arrangement of doors and other details – including the use of what appear to be planks instead of rails for the hand cars. Naturally, this is the side that nobody will see, since it faces towards the backdrop, but I’ve decorated the face appropriately – even including the horseshoe over the doors, which I created by curling a piece of wire then flattening the wire by squeezing it with pliers:
That's better (Port Rowan section house) photo SectionHouse-Rebuild-03_zps3f74fc57.jpg

I used a similar technique to create the door handle.

Another prototype photo – of a crew turning a locomotive on the turntable – shows the west side of the structure, including the window. The good news is that photo is in colour, so I’m confident of the red siding and black roof.

The colour photo shows tarpaper on the roof, although the black and white photo shows shingles. I decided to go with the tarpaper because I like the look. The colour photo also shows details like the brick chimney (on the model, a resin casting from Model Tech Studios that I piked up at a train show). And it shows that the wall everybody will see – the end wall facing the fascia – is blank:
Port Rowan section house photo SectionHouse-02_zpsd9112346.jpg

I stained my boards with Barn Red weathering mix from Hunterline, and brush-painted the tarpaper roof with Black Grey from Acrylicos Vallejo.

Working from the measurements determined through the building of many, many mockups, I cut four wall sections out of .010″ thick black styrene sheet. I then laminated individually-stained boards onto these pieces, topped by individual battens. The black styrene prevents white from showing through any gaps between boards. Since .010″ sheet is too thin to be structural, the finished walls were then edged with .060″ x .060″ styrene strip, and laminated to sections of .060″ standard (white) styrene sheet cut to fit inside this frame.

With four walls completed, I assembled the structure, adding two roof panels cut from .060″ thick styrene sheet. I drilled and squared a hole for the chimney, added tarpaper roofing material cut from masking tape, and painted the roof. I then fit the chimney – which I had previously painted – and added more masking tape as flashing.

While I made good progress, there’s still much to do – from adding glass to the windows, to building the set offs (two of them) for hand cars, to adding the clutter and building the hand cars. I have S scale white metal kits from Wiseman Model Services for hand car and a trailer (like the one seen in the prototype photo). And, of course, I’ll have to build the adjacent oil shed. I’ll mount both structures on a small base and work it into the scene with ground cover, etc.

The scene is coming together nicely and it’s great to have a section of the layout – even a small section like this – that’s so close to looking finished. While there are always details to add, it’s satisfying to get rid of most of the mockups in the Port Rowan yard – just the oil shed to do:
In the yard (Port Rowan section house) photo SectionHouse-03_zps12b88b69.jpg

I’m also pleased by how this spot of colour draws the eye, even when looking across the big red mockup of the Port Rowan station:
 photo SectionHouse-04_zpsc1435a68.jpg

The lesson of modelling what you see – not what you think you see

This is a trap into which I sometimes fall – particularly when I’m enjoying working on a project and I’m keen to finish. In the interests of describing this project – warts and all – I must confess that I goofed royally when starting this structure.

I started with the track side wall for the section house. As I was beavering away on this, I worked from my prototype photo but at some point I simply assumed the paired doors were centred under the peak. Obviously, they aren’t – the prototype photo clearly shows that. But that’s how I built them – as this (unfortunately fuzzy) image illustrates:
Oops (Port Rowan section house) photo SectionHouse-Rebuild-01_zpsae090d31.jpg


What to do? My first thought was to scrap the side and start over, but I’d put a lot of work into the doors and I was pleased with how they turned out. Fortunately, this side faces away from the viewer, so it’ll only ever be seen at a shallow angle – for example, if I take a photo looking along the yard tracks. So, I decided I might be able to salvage the wall – and if not, I could rebuild.

I cut back the wall on the left side, then added material to the right side wall and roof to, in effect, slide all the details a couple of feet to the left:
 photo SectionHouse-Rebuild-02_zps978a4213.jpg

As the photo shows, I also had to square the ends of my boards and battens. In the end, I even sliced off a number of battens completely. I then cut more boards and battens to fit:
That's better (Port Rowan section house) photo SectionHouse-Rebuild-03_zps3f74fc57.jpg

It’s not a perfect fix – the butt joints in the boards are visible – but it saved me having to start from scratch and given that this side won’t be easily seen on the layout, I can live with it. If this wall was to face the aisle, I would’ve started over.

Lesson learned? Probably not. But maybe someone else will learn from my mistake…

16 thoughts on “Section House underway

  1. Love how thew scene is coming together. Can’t recall the number of similar goofs I’ve made over the years.

    • Thank you, Mike – I’m pleased with the scene as well! I’ll write more about this in a future posting – stay tuned!

  2. The building next to the toolhouse is likely a shimshack or oil storage building. Hardwood shims for levelling track were kept in the shimshack. Oils for lubing switch points and rail joints were kept in a separate building at most toolhouses.. One other possibility is a privy, though the building roof in the photo looks too large for that.

  3. The window on the toolhouse needs a heavy steel screen on it like the one in the photo, or some vandal will break it. CN used a stamped metal “screen” that was expanded metal, or alternatively, punched steel sheet.

    • Great information Steve – thank you! Any suggestions on how to model this? Was it screwed to the outside of the window frame?

  4. For “window screen”, I’ve scratched clear styrene sheet using 150- or so grit sandpaper. On a hard surface so that the sheet doesn’t flex, do one hard pass one way, then another pass at a 90-degree angle to the first. Dust off the sheet, and paint a matte black acrylic on it. Quickly wipe the sheet off with a tissue, leaving black paint in the grooves cut by the sandpaper. Carefully touch up the edges with paint after cutting the “screen” to size.

    • Interesting technique. Thanks Steve. I wonder if, while scale, that’s too fine for most people to recognize what they’re looking at? Any feedback from people who have seen examples?

      • Further to this thought, I’ve found some etched brass sheet from KS Metals in my collection. It’s a mesh – square pattern. I’ve chemically blackened some of it, cut it to size and installed it over the two windows. (Photos later this week – it’s late now.)
        What I like about it is its coarseness. Nobody can look at it and mistake it for a window screen to keep flies out. It screams “security measure”.
        In that sense, it’s a success because it tells a story to the viewer – which is my goal with my modelling.
        Thanks again for the info Steve!

  5. Very nice building Trevor. The two buildings do make an interesting scene and catches your eye like you said. It know it does feel real good to have an area “almost complete” on a new layout. That is what I tried to do as soon as I could once I had started mine.
    My last modeling mistake was on a building that did not have equal roof angles. Of course I put the siding on the wrong side of one of them. Oh well!

    Mike S

  6. This is a very cool building, and the scene is shaping up nicely.

    Thanks for sharing the ‘mistake’ on this project and your solution for it. I learned more from that than a photo of the finished building.


    • Hi Hunter:
      My pleasure. I decided pretty early on that this blog would be a faithful document of my layout – warts and all. I learn a lot from my mistakes – often, more than I do from my successes. I’ve had other comments in the past, similar to yours, which confirm this was the right approach to take.

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