Every small community once had a General Merchandise Store. But the store doesn’t have to be big. This little store could also work as a small office: a land surveyor, a lawyer, a barber, a dentist, a post office. it’s adaptable to many uses, and the small size allows you to place it just about anywhere on you layout. Mine sits on the property just outside a curve bringing interest to what could be an easily overlooked corner of the layout.
Time and Difficulty
The goal is to build an versatile, small office that is suitable to fill any leftover space on your layout that needs attention. This project will take some moderate building skills and probably more than one day to finish.
What You’ll Need
Styrene sheet or foam core board
heavy card stock
optional: scraps of balsa or basswood for the pillars
clapboard texture sheet
metal roof or shingles textured sheet
clear sheet acrylic or acetate
small craft or popsicle sticks
one small window
Optional: a second small window and or or door
Interior graphics and accessories
Cut Out the Floor, Walls and Roof
Cut a scale 12′ x 20′ floor out of heavy card stock and cut the walls and roof out of sheet styrene or foam core board. Cut the openings for doors and windows.
Construct a Base Frame
Build a wooden frame from the craft or popsicle sticks. The width of the sticks in unimportant, but the height should be between 1/8″ and 1/4″ (6 to12 scale inches). This will be the height of the sill plate and to me, less looks better.
Glue the card stock flooring on to the base frame with a thin coat of carpenter glue. You want the flooring to be card stock so it doesn’t add much height. Glue any flooring graphic or material onto the card stock with rubber cement. Coat both the card stock flooring and the back of the flooring graphic or material with cement and let it dry. Once it’s dry, you can rub off any glue that got any where it shouldn’t be. Once both sides are dry, you get one shot at sticking them together, so be careful. The benefit of using rubber cement is that it will not curl paper products like white glue does.
Glue craft or popsicle sticks flush along the top edge of the side and back walls. This will give the roof support when it is added later. You may also want to glue a similar piece along one side wall of each wall to strengthen the corners, but that is up to you. Cover the exterior walls with clapboard material and the roof pieces with roofing material. Connect the two roof pieces at the top with a ‘paper hinge’ glued along the top edge of each of the roof pieces. The paper hinge will hold the roof pieces tightly together, but allow them to fit over the apex of the rear wall.
Glue the door and window frames into the openings. Now is the time to paint your building. I recommend a white acrylic or white chalk paint works really well. NOTE: If you use chalk paint, NEVER wash your brushes out in the sink; chalk paint will clog the drain pipes. Glue any interior graphics you are using to the walls using rubber cement. Glue the clear plastic to the window frames using Testor’s Clear Cement and Window Maker. Testor’s clear will not craze the plastic and remains clear. Glue the four walls together and let them dry. Glue the roof on top, add external signage and you’re done!
A swimming pool is not something you see on every layout. Lighted from below, it attracts your attention immediately, and it is so unique that I gave it a central location on my layout. The people you see in the water are 1:48 scale white metal figures by Arttista. The people standing around the pool are1:43 scale by Preiser. But you really don’t have to build a large community pool to use this technique. This method can be used for a backyard pool, a fountain or any small body of clean water.
Time and Difficulty
This swimming pool is easy to make, but will probably take a couple of days to construct.
What You’ll Need
foam core board
hot melt glue
a sheet of blue translucent acrylic, slightly textured
a small white LED or light bulb
heavy card stock
Build a Box
For the pool structure, cut a rectangular pool deck to the dimensions of your overall pool area (pool opening and surrounding pavement) from foam core board., My deck is 6″ x 9″. Cut an opening in the pool deck the size of your pool. My pool is 4″ x 6″ (a scale 16′ x 24′). Cover the entire opening of the pool deck with the blue plastic sheet. Cut four pool walls, and construct an open box that will fit within the dimensions of the pool deck opening. In the center of the back wall, make a small hole for the bulb. Place the pool deck on the layout board and mark the dimensions. Cut a hole in your layout board slightly larger than your box dimensions and glue the box inside. Alternately, you can glue the box underneath your pool deck and fit it inside the hole., with accurate measuring and cutting, you can glue the foam core box flush inside the pool deck opening. Hot glue holds well and you only have to tack it; the foam core is not very heavy. You don’t have to worry about small gaps, you can cover the foam core deck with an optional heavy card stock “deck pavement”.
Pave the Pool Area
Cut heavy card stock to make the pavement around your pool. Cut an inner opening the size of your pool. I would make a the outer dimension a minimum of four feet (one inch scale) for a home walkway or up to six feet (3/4″ scale) for a commercial/public pool. Twelve feet (3″ scale) makes a good-sized area for sunning. For finishing details, you can add figures, a cooler, beach towel graphics, a fence, and wooden decking. Then pour yourself a Piña Colada and enjoy your new pool.
Window mullions are so small, you would think them difficult to model. But using a technique credited to Tim Fairweather and Mike Chandwell, they can be modeled quite easily. You can watch Chandwell’s YoutTube video here.
Time and Difficulty
The goal of this project is to simplify the modeling of tiny window mullions. This project can be completed in a few hours, depending how many windows you decide to make. It requires moderate cutting skill with a straight edge and razor or scalpel.
What You’ll Need
Inexpensive label sheets
computer with drawing program (optional)
a printer (optional)
Clear acetate plastic (can come from a blister pack)
razor or scalpel
steel straight edge
Printing the Labels
Draw the windows full-scale with mullions about 3mm wide. Print the mullions in white or on a colored paper, and print the glass part in black or a contrasting color. Print them on full-size self-adhesive label paper. Inexpensive labels work better, premium labels tend to adhere too well.
Cut out one or two widows at a time from the label paper and press them on the clear plastic. Use a straight edge to guide your cuts, Cut along the outsides of each mullion using a straight edge to guide your blade. Cut fully from side to side, and top to bottom. don’t worry about the intersection of mullions, just cut through as if the crossing mullion weren’t there. Cut lightly using a sharp blade. Try to cut completely through the label paper without cutting through the clear plastic.
Once all the mullions are cut out, use the knife point to lift the corner of the dark boxes, leaving the mullions firmly attached to the plastic. Trim the plastic to the window size and finish with a frame.
The Bachmann Brothers plastic company began producing the O-scale Plasticville small gas station in 1950. Its initial production spanned the years 1950-1954 and it was reissued again in 1967. The assembled structure measured 8 ¼” long x 2X ½” deep and 2 ¾” high. That’s a scale depth of 10 feet. A typical American automobile is 14 ½ feet long and the average single car garage is 12′ x 22′, so you can see that the small Plasticville gas station is severely under-sized. In fact, a scale car or truck is about 4 ¾ inches long; 2 ¼ inches longer than the bay. Additionally, the station’s bay doors are too narrow and the roof to low to look real. This article tells how I remedied those problems.
Time and Difficulty
The goal of this modification is to make the garage bay large enough to accommodate a 1:43 – 1:48 scale car or truck and give the station a more realistic appearance overall. This project will take moderate model building skills and a day or more to complete.
What You’ll Need
A Plasticville small Gas Station
a hobby or razor saw
a jeweler’s file
1/8″ thick foam-core poster board (10″ x 10″min)
razor or hobby knife
white or Carpenter’s glue
Tacky Glue (see recommendation)
hot glue gun and glue sticks
Styrene sheet with concrete block texture (see sources)
Clear Plastic sheet (can be cut from discarded blister packs)
Grandt Line 18-pane Factory window (optional)
strip styrene, 4″ scale width
clean fine sand
aluminum foil, cut to 2 x 3 inches
18 volt GE-1813 incandescent bulb and socket or L.E.D.
18 volt grain-of-wheat bulb and shade
printed graphics (see link at the end of this post)
resin-cast detail items
white chalk paint
glossy enamel paint in your station’s color
light grey or tan flat acrylic paint
Begin by cutting the front wall of the gas station apart between the entrance door and the first bay door. Be sure to cut all the way through the wall as vintage Plasticville material is usually quite brittle and does not snap cleanly like modern styrene.
Measure from the outside wall to your cut. Carefully transfer the measurement to the roof and rear wall sections and cut them as well. Set aside the office walls and the short section of roof to reassemble the office. You could potentially use the front and rear walls of the garage section and just cut new side walls and roof, but I decided to cut an entirely new garage bay from foam core board.
After cutting the front wall, you will find the name “Plasticville” is split between the two sections. Take a jeweler’s file and remove the raised letters “Plasticville” from above the door on the front wall.
Build A New Bay from Foam Core
To construct a new scale 17′ x 22′ scale bay for the station, cut the following pieces from a sheet of 1/8″ foam-core posterbord:
Two 4 ½” x 2 ½” panels for the front and rear wall
Two 5 ½” x 2 ½” panels for the side walls
One 4 ½” x 5 ½” roof panel
Use Tacky glue to attach sheets of textured Evergreen Styrene to the wall panels. Trim to fit. Use Tacky glue or hot glue to assemble the four wall panels together to make a box 4 ½” x 5 ½” box 2 ½” high. I painted the block walls a chalky white. Cut an opening for a Grandt Line Factory Window in the side wall of the garage. If you do not have a Grandt Line window, you can cut a donor window from a Plasticville airport hangar or a Plasticville Bank. Again, be sure to cut all the way through as Plasticville material is brittle and will not snap cleanly like modern styrene.
Glue a scale 4″ band of strip styrene horizontally about one-third the way up the wall as a construction detail. Paint it with a glossy paint. I painted it a contrasting glossy red. Recess the roof section about 1/8″ from the top of the box, and glue it into place. Cover the roof top with white glue and sift on a layer of fine sand to resemble roofing gravel. When it dries, paint it with light grey or tan acrylic paint to both color it and seal it down. Hint: do not use black or dark grey for the roof; it should appear sun-faded.
Modify the Bay Doors
The stock red Plasticville garage doors are too narrow for O scale, so use a razor saw to trim the edges and join the two garage doors into a single, wider door. Glue a strip of styrene across the back side of the joint to reinforce the junction and keep it straight.
Reconstruct the Office
Turning your attention back to the office, file off the window tabs that hold the cardboard window insert. Use Tacky glue to glue together a frame of 4″ scale strip styrene and glue a piece of clear plastic to the inside of the opening. Glue another piece of clear plastic to the inside of the door opening. Use Tacky glue to cover the inside roof portion with the aluminum foil. This will help distribute the interior lighting later. Print the graphics sheet (see the link at the end of this post).
Cut out the interior wall graphics and glue to the side and rear walls. The sheet includes wall calendars, signage, and both a wooden floor and a tile floor graphic for you to choose from. When everything is dry, glue the office together with hot glue.Paint the office with chalky white and a gloss color to match the bay.
Cut a large hole in the side wall of the foam core garage bay where the office will attach. This is to let light into the bay. Attach the office to the garage bay section with hot glue.
Here you have a choice of lighting. I used a single GE-1813 type, 18 volt incandescent bulb in a bayonet base to light the interior. I hot-glued the bulb base on the ceiling between the office and the bay so the lamp would light both interiors. Alternatively, you could use two white LEDs with a current limiting resistor (see my article on lighting with LEDs).
Drill a small hole in the front bay wall directly over the center of the door opening and fish the wires of a grain-of-wheat bulb with shade through to the inside. Again, you could use a super-white LED for this. (A super-white will throw a spot of light on the ground in front of the station). Solder or tape the leads to the wires that connect in parallel to the GE-1813 bulb, or other LEDs, and run the wires for both lamps down the inside corner of the back wall. Secure with hot glue. You can leave the wires bare for the connection, but I recommend you build an electrical junction instead.
Add Finishing Touches
I painted the layout base where the garage bay would sit a concrete grey and dripped some blackish-brown wash on for oil stains. I glued the checkerboard graphic to the base where the office would sit. In front, I placed a surplus tire from a model kit mounted in a frame built using scraps of styrene. I glued a resin-cast tool cabinet (of unknown manufacture) to the side of the office. I reused the Plasticville oil cans, but scratch-built modern fuel pumps. I glued pump graphics to the face of the pumps. I added resin castings of oil drums, boxes and tires to the back, and added foliage and weeds to complete the station transformation.
The Graphics for this Project
This PDF File includes all the graphics used in this project.