Repainting Some Walls and Banging My Head Against Others

I’ve been away from my spraycans for the past couple of weeks, mostly because the final building of the three that needed repainting was daunting, to say the least.

It took me a solid week to build up the courage to remove all windows, doors, stripping, and ‘stonework.’ The project itself only took an hour or so, but it was delicate work and I am still rather surprised that I didn’t snap anything.

Spray-painting the pieces was easy. After gluing the walls back together, I began reattaching the strips of stonework. By some baffling turn of events, though, I couldn’t find one of the strips for the front of the building. I looked high and low, to no avail. Eventually, I gave up. It is likely that the adhesive became stuck on some piece of paper or something and would up in the garbage.

Anyhow, I contacted Branchline and inquired about their source for the styrene stonework. I got an email back almost immediately:

“The n scale stonework that we use is made by Plastruct. It comes 7 x12 sheets. How much are you in need of. I look forward to hear from you.”

Wow, I thought, I can just order through Branchline. That’s convenient! So I replied:

“I am only in need of about 6″ x 1/2″ but would be happy to purchase whatever you can spare.”

I heard absolutely nothing back for three days, so I followed up to ask if my email was received. Still no answer. A week later I tried again for good measure, but was met with silence.

Well, go suck an egg, Branchline. I ordered some styrene “Random Coursed Stone” sheets directly from Plastruct, and they arrived several days later. In the interim, I rethought the dock, and finally decided to reopen the holes just under the loading doors, which will allow me to attach the dock that came with the kit. I’ve been futzing around long enough. Really, I just want to get these models finished so I can start on the actual brewery.

I cut a length of Plastruct ‘masonry’ to fit the whole length of the cooperage, and added crenels for the dock-holes. I also cut a strip to run beneath the loading doors of the hoist house.

I reattached all doors, stripping, and windows (and took the opportunity to straighten the crooked window that has been gnawing at me for a couple of months).

To simulate mortar, I painted the Plastruct stone with Testors white paint then gently wiped it off the face of the stones so it only remained in the spaces between them. For variation, I scribbled on the stones with colored pencils in several shades of brown. Then I went over all with a No. 2 pencil and finally a white colored pencil, to blend it all in a bit.

The last major steps for these buildings will be as follows: place the scratch-built ‘wall’ in the cooperage again, add shingles or corrugated metal roofing, spray all with Dullcote, insert window ‘glass,’ and paint and add the docks.

Still plenty to do before they are done, but with any luck I’ll be finished before the end of March, at which time I will begin preparing to build the brewery proper. I’m nervous just thinking about it.

Veni, Vidi, Non Vici

I went with my twelve-year-old son to the Vermont Rails Model Railway Show yesterday. The half-hour drive was worth it, if only to spend some time watching trains run around the modular club tracks.

Disappointingly, there was only one small table of N-scale wares, and they were very outdated, worn-out bits of rolling stock. Most vendors were offering Lionel and HO-scale engines and stock, and the only scenic vendors were offering pre-fab HO structures and custom rock molds.

Last time I went to the Vermont Rails show was five or six years ago, and there was a significant amount of N-scale stock and scenic vendors. There was a local laser-cut model company, Creative Laser Design, a whole bunch of Kato track and components, and bounteous tables of N-scale engines and rolling stock in various liveries. This time around, there was none of that.

Also, there was only one non-club modeler representing his project “just for fun.” At the last show I attended, there were at least four or five non-club, non-vendors who had lugged their small layouts to the show just to operate them for the enjoyment of the crowd, including at least one shelf-sized switching layout. To help offset this “club- and vendors-only” trend, I plan on bringing my humble layout to the show next year.

I didn’t take many photos, mostly because I’m not sure how modellers feel about having their layouts photographed and posted online without giving them credit (and it was almost impossible to find the owners of each section of twenty- and thirty-piece modular layouts). Here’s one photo, just to prove we were there (my son is in the foreground):

Despite the lack of high-quality N-scale-specific vendors, we still had a good time admiring the work of other modellers, and we spent a full two hours strolling around, pointing out details, and talking about the operations.

Second Coat of Paint

I loved the color of the hoist house so much that I am now in the midst of an insane project: to repaint the first two kits I built. I’ve already finished repainting the ice house and haven’t quite started on the creamery. I hope to finish that this weekend.

I didn’t take any pictures of the repainting process, because it was such a mess that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was able to simply mask off some portions of the structure, but I also had to remove all the details (the doors, dock, flashing, and cupola), then repair and re-glue each one. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t exactly fun, but I am happy with the result:

As you can see, I removed the tarpaper from the roof. Surprisingly, it came right off without a struggle. I plan on roofing most of the brewery with slate shingles or corrugated metal sheets, but will wait until all structures are built before starting that. 

You can’t quite see it in the picture, but I also repainted the underside of the eaves white (which was the catalyst of the entire repainting project). The doors are also a darker green. 

I am primarily painting with rattle-cans now, except for some touch-up spots. I have been hesitant to use rattle-cans because I was afraid that they would either obscure details or ‘look like’ spray paint (or turn into little flame-throwers, or pocket-dial my mother-in-law, or a whole host of other irrational things).

Instead rattle cans are far easier and faster, and cause less warping than Testors paints. They look nice too. (Don’t worry, the brewery won’t look that nice after I throw some weathering powders at it.) 

What talked me into using rattle-cans? I credit Lance Mindheim, whose article in issue 999 of Model Railroader magazine heavily advocates the use of rattle-cans. While Lance’s aesthetic is far different than my own (he wouldn’t be caught dead with a brewery on his layout, not to mention a switching puzzle) I’ve always admired his brand of hyper-realism, and the fact that he relies heavily on rattle-cans to achieve those results is pretty astonishing.

Anyhow, I will post again after I finish repainting the creamery. Also, the Northwestern Vermont Model Railroad Association is hosting a model train show this coming weekend, which my son and I will be attending. I may post some photos from that here, too.

Hoist House

I have been trying to discipline myself to slow down and take breaks while modeling. By default, when I get into a project I become consumed by it, and want to follow through to completion as soon as I can. I often burn he midnight oil when I start building, and my impatience causes mistakes or problems that I don’t find until later, or else I do something that I later regret.

Example: when building the ice house and creamery kits, I painted the underside of the eaves dark gray instead of white. I wasn’t thinking in terms of ‘modeling’ but was defaulting to how I would draw the buildings: with shaded eaves. As happy as I am with those models now, I still regret that choice, and will likely go back and fix the issue.

Anyhow, I spent the past few days and evenings building the hoist house, but I took a lot of breaks, especially when I was transitioning between steps. This time around, I decided that I would not paint the walls by hand. Instead, I spray painted the walls, roofs, and components (windows and doors), and then painted a few details by hand (a few touch-ups and the inset loading doors). While the spray paint gave some grainy texture to the wood, it did not cause as much warping as hand-painting.


The spray paints I used are a combination paint and primer, which saved me a step. Colonial red satin and white semi-gloss (which was not an accident–the semi-gloss finish matches the Testors acrylic finish better than satin paints, so I can touch up the white details without parts looking ‘flatter’ than others).


The pieces, all laid out. You can see the bit of trim that I painted to match the walls just under the ‘double’ loading doors. This made the raised doors less awkward-looking.


I got a 90-degree square to help keep my corners true. It was more helpful than I expected when holding joints together while the glue set.


Here it is, pre-roof. I haven’t decided what kind of roof the brewery will have. I am leaning toward corrugated metal sheets, but I might use traditional shingles on some areas. I also haven’t put the glass behind the windows and transoms yet. First, I will need to spray the structure with Testors Dullcote, but I am letting the glue set a bit longer before I do that.

Where the Magic Happens

I figured it would be fun to post a picture of my workbench, which is really just an antique spinet desk that I got dirt cheap six years ago. While the desk doesn’t offer much space to spread out, I am able to protect my projects by closing the lid (in this picture, the lid is folded beneath the box and spraycans). This is important, as my cats love to knock things down and chew on them.


On any given evening, but certainly not on most of them, you can find me here, planning and tinkering, drinking Twinings Earl Grey or home-brewed oatmeal stout, listening to some Bowie, or Eno, or Sparks.


Loading Dock for the Malt Store

I have decided not to include a malt house or kiln on this module, due to spacial and logistical constraints. My plans for the malt house were awkward at best. At some point, after I expand the layout, I can add a malt house and kiln elsewhere.

Instead of a malt house, I will be including a malt store, where malted grain is hoisted and stored (historically, grains and malts were usually transported in large sacks; it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that hoppers and silos became the preferred method of transport and storage). 

The malt store will be comprised of the N Scale Architect foundry ore house, which I already had, and a grain elevator that I purchased from Train Time Laser. The grain elevator will be a loading dock and hoist house for incoming malts and hops, and the ore house will be where these items are stored (malts need to be aged before they are used).

To transform the grain elevator, I first removed the window that was laser-cut in the front wall, and will be replacing it with a Tichy window that I had modified.

This window was originally designed to fit horizontally, so it had a wider frame on one side and a sill that protruded a bit. I sanded down the frame and removed the sill. As you can see, the hole that I cut to fit the Tichy window was too wide, so I ended up having to shim it a bit.

Next, I pilfered two of the Tichy loading doors from the N Scale Architect foundry (I ordered a set of four to replace them). Using the front wall of the foundry as a template, I cut out squares in the grain elevator to fit them.

Next, I will likely add an awning above the loading doors, and then start putting it all together.

Another Sign

I haven’t been very productive lately, as my family and I have been snowboarding most weekends since the start of the new year. I have a few days off next week, though, and I hope to get some modelling done during that time.

I did take an hour or so tonight to make another Featherstone sign. This one is an alteration of a very rare prohibition-era poster for Drewry’s Extra Stout. Drewry’s was a turn-of-the-century brewery in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I found this poster through an appraisal website:


I fell in love with the design, but I couldn’t find a better photo anywhere else. Instead, I did a lot of cropping, cleaning up, and adjusting before slapping on the Featherstone name. Here it is:



This past weekend I put together most of the ‘creamery’ which will be annexed to the main brewery building to act as an extension of the cellars and a cooperage. I still need to ‘tarpaper’ the roof and add a chimney, put some ink-washes on the stone foundation, and add a loading dock. I don’t like the loading docks that are included in the Branchline Trains kits, so I’ve filled and painted over the holes in the face of the building where the loading dock is supposed to be inserted and glued. I wasn’t too careful, as the holes will mostly be covered by a scratchbuilt loading dock. I will probably replace the ice house’s docks while I’m at it.

The kit has been a lot of fun, although my insistence on Tichy windows made it challenging. A few windows turned out a bit crooked, but they add to the charm, I guess. Here are a few pictures of what I’ve done so far:


After completing some of the trim, I realized that the interior needed a backdrop to give the illusion of closed rooms.


This is close to how the building will be placed on the layout, though it will be dwarfed by the main building in the near future. You can really see one of the crooked windows here. I could probably fix it but I can just as easily forget it. I call that attitude ‘progress.’


The back of the building has a loading dock which will likely be for local purveyors to pick up barrels via horse and cart.

Last but not least, while waiting for the glue to dry (and also while brewing an oatmeal stout of my own yesterday) I started playing around with some ideas for brewery signs. I am leaning toward the name Featherstone Brewery. I ripped off one of Samuel Smith’s logos to serve as the basis for my design, although I customized it a bit:


Why Featherstone? Initially, I wanted the brewery to be named after an ‘everyman’ (something like Wm. T. Cadwell & Son or Geo. L. Stephens & Co.) but I found that I couldn’t settle on any of them. I needed something with gravity and mythos. I made a list of some of my favorite surnames and ‘Featherstone’ was the winner, especially because Featherstone is King Goshposh’s page in the Muppets’ Frog Prince (which I watched dozens of times in the 1980s).


“Hear ye, hear ye! The coronation is about to begin!”

Etymologically, ‘Featherstone’ derives from Old English feother-stan, or, “(place at) the four stones.” These ‘four stones’ were likely a waymarker beside a road (in this case, the road that winds through Little Snoring where the brewery now stands).

Creamery Kitbash Part 2

I spent an hour this morning working on the creamery. I’ve not been optimistic about Branchline’s ‘peel and stick’ window frames, and I wanted to do something about it. They are easy enough to put together but they look flat and blocky after assembly. I was prepared to live with that before, but now that the creamery building will be appended to the brewery I think the level of window-detail should match.

N Scale Architect’s foundry kit uses Tichy windows in several sizes and shapes. The 12-pane windows were a pretty close match to the creamery’s window ports, but they were a bit small. I looked online to try and find a slightly larger size, but didn’t have any luck. Instead, I decided to make the window ports smaller to fit the Tichy frames. I cut a bunch of slivers from the ‘shed’ that I’d hacked off the kit yesterday, then glued them to the insides of the ports and trimmed as needed until the Tichy windows fit.


Fitting balsa-wood shims into the window ports.


I painted the shims to match, then test-fit the windows again. Here, you can see that the shim is still evident behind the window’s frame. I’m okay with that, though. It simply looks like the windows were retrofitted.


The windows here need to be primed, painted, and glued in place. It’s a shame that Tichy doesn’t sell them in white.


Here they have been primed and painted with two coats of acrylic. I have also glued them in with Testors plastic cement. They need another coat of paint and then I will spray the flats with Testors Dullcote before assembling and glazing the windows. I’m afraid that if I spray Dullcote after the windows are glazed, the ‘glass’ will get cloudy.

I just ordered a dozen more windows from Tichy to replace the ones I pilfered.

My next step will be to start putting the creamery (well, what’s left of it) together.

Suddenly, I’m Kitbashing

Yesterday I had plans to complete the Branchline creamery (which, as I stated in earlier posts, will be a cooperage). I sat for half an hour, staring at it. I even painted some of the walls red. Then I took my family out for lunch, then to the sporting goods store, then to the bookstore. By the time we got back home, I had other obligations besides modeling (a couple of friends and I play Magic: the Gathering most Saturday evenings).

In the wee hours of the morning I woke up with a lightbulb over my head. Instead of the cooperage being a standalone building, I’ll kitbash the Branchline creamery kit so that it is annexed to the main building of the brewery. This will provide in-house space for the cooperage, an extension of the cellars, and maybe some offices to boot. In some half-informed corner of my mind, this layout makes a lot more sense. Conveniently, the ice house and the creamery have narrow ‘insulated’ doors intended to transfer ice sheets from the former structure to the latter, which should keep the cellars cool when summers get too hot.

The only major kitbashing will be on the right hand side of the cooperage. I have to truncate the shed and back deck from the building. I’ll also have to fill in the window ports on the side of the brewery where the cooperage will be (otherwise, some of the windows will be half-covered). So, without further adieu:


Hacking off the ‘shed.’ The raw edge shown here will be fixed to the side of the brewery as an extension of the building.


The old creamery wall on the left had window and door ports in addition to slots for the shed walls. This wall was no longer going to work. Instead, I needed a simple armature that could be affixed to the brewery, without tabs. I made one from 1/8″ basswood which should do the trick.


I have a long way to go before this part of the project is complete, but I already feel much better knowing that I’m not just building model kits; I am creating creatively. That was why I got stuck in the mud recently. Now that I’m not just following directions, I’m getting fired up again.


I am much happier with this consolidated layout. It was really bugging me that the cooperage was a standalone building. There was something ‘off’ about that. The ice house makes sense, as it could be owned and operated by a separate company for the benefit of the brewery and other local businesses.