Monday, September 16, 2013

Building Thunder Mesa Depot

Nearly all of my hobby time this past week was dedicated to scratch-building a small depot for Thunder Mesa. I described how I built the depot platform in last Monday's post, and today I'll be showing how the building itself was constructed, primarily from illustration board.

Thunder Mesa Depot - still not quite finished yet. Corner trim, a smoke-jack, platform details, more signs, and a little more light weathering are yet to be added. Also not yet installed are the LEDs for flickering lantern light effects and a digital sound system to provide looping telegraph sounds.

The design is freelanced, going for a general look of western "railroad-y-ness," but I also wanted a strong family resemblance to the Frontierland Station at Disneyland (an accurate model of this structure is planned for a later section of the layout). Last year I created a set of plans for the Frontierland Station for an N scale layout. Based on actual park blueprints and historic photos from the 1950s -'60s, the plans are as accurate as I can make them.

Plans for an N scale Frontierland Station. You can download a free PDF of this plan here.

As small as the Frontierland Station is, it's still too big (in O scale) for the location in Thunder Mesa where the depot will be located. Using strong rooflines, color scheme, and Victorian details, my depot will look like something of a little brother to this one.

A Paper Mock-Up

As usual, this structure project began with a paper and card-stock mock-up to test dimensions and clearances. I had a very solid idea in my head of what I wanted so I didn't bother drawing out a full plan.

At Disneyland, most buildings are less than full size, and the upper stories are even smaller, using a forced perspective that makes them appear charming and intimate. But forced perspective actually works in reverse when looking at a model at or near eye level. Structures will have more charm if they are built small and tall. With that in mind, a scale foot was added to the building's height based on the looks of this mock-up.

Building With Illustration Board

I chose 16ply Crescent 300 cold-pressed illustration board for this project. It has a lightly textured, off-white surface that can be scribed, painted and detailed to look like a variety of surfaces. It cuts easily with a hobby knife and results in a more organic looking finished structure than you might get using styrene. The 1/16" thickness translates to 3 scale inches in O scale.

The four walls were laid out on the illustration board in pencil and then cut out with a #11 X-acto knife. Window and door openings were cut out based on the Grandt Line castings that will be used, and board lines were scribed into the surface of the illustration board. Lastly, nail holes were pressed in using a steal T-pin.

A thin, warm grey wash of Burnt Sienna mixed with a few drops of Ultramarine was brushed on to bring out the board and nail hole detail. All paints used on this project are Golden Acrylic Airbrush colors. Plastic and styrene parts were primed with a spray enamel primer before final painting.

Titanium White was mixed with a few drops of Raw Sienna to make a nice ivory color for the walls and this was applied with an airbrush. Once dry, a few boards were picked out and "aged" with a very light wash of the Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine mixture. 

Wainscoting and trim was created from Bristol board, painted green, and then laminated to the walls using 3M 45 General Purpose Spray Adhesive.

Walls during assembly. The fancy Victorian roof gable is a Grandt Line casting. The roof pitch was created to match this casting.

Interior walls were cut from illustration board, scribed, painted and laminated into place using 3M spray adhesive. The interior walls are trimmed 1/16" narrower on each side than the exterior walls. This creates an L shaped locking edge when the walls are put together that prevents light leaks and makes for a very sturdy structure. Walls created in this way have equal stress front and back and almost never warp. The finished walls are 6" thick in O scale, very close to prototype thickness for a wood frame building like this.

Grandt Line door frames and windows were cemented into place using ACC and the windows glazed with clear acrylic. The floor is scribed basswood laminated to illustration board. 

The walls were cemented together into two separate L shaped sub-assemblies. This makes it easy to visualize the completed structure while still allowing for interior detailing.

The detailed interior. The trophy buck is from a Woodland Scenics deer. The window shades are printer paper stained with a Minwax Golden Oak marker.

I decided to model the doors open to give a better view of the interior. The wall clock is painted illustration board salvaged from an old model. A potbellied stove is yet to be installed in the lefthand corner.

Still in two sub-assemblies. The ticket desk was built from scrap strip-wood and stained with Minwax Golden Oak. The chalkboard timetable is from Main Street Station at Walt Disney World. All of the signs and posters were scaled in Photoshop and printed out on HP Inkjet Presentation Paper. The dark brown "cupboard" at left will be a conduit for the sound and lighting wiring.

The roof was created in much the same way as the walls, with an inner and outer layer of illustration board painted, scribed and laminated together. Roof end pieces were cut to shape to act as trim and also to hold the shape of the roof during assembly.  

Laser cut paper shingles from Wild West Scale Models were applied using Aleene's Tacky Glue. The ridge-top ginger bread is another Grandt Line casting. 

The cozy covered waiting area was detailed with porch posts, railing, corbels and spool trim from Grandt Line. Sharp eyed Disney fans might notice a familiar poster left of the window.

Okay! It's been a whirlwind of modeling activity lately and I'm looking forward to finishing the depot in the coming week, adding loads of details, flickering LED lantern light and digital sound. Thanks for stopping in!

Almost ready for the trains to arrive!

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