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!
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.
The toy company, ERTL, makes a highly detailed 1947 International truck cab in their Vintage Vehicles Series. The model features a die-cast metal frame and body, free-rolling plastic wheels with rubber tires, and clear plastic windshield and headlight lenses. It is quite easy to find one for sale and not terribly expensive. I have only seen it offered in bright glossy yellow with glossy brown fenders.
1947 International K-12 Semi-Cab by ERTL
The ERTL truck is a very nice model and makes a great foundation for a work or farm truck on an O-scale layout. But fresh out-of-the-box, the truck is shiny glossy new, which is never the case with an actual work truck.
Time and Difficulty
The goal of the modification is to make the ERTL truck more realistic in appearance. Commercial vehicles usually see rough treatment during their service life. The modified truck will be no exception. Time and use have aged the paint, and the fenders are no longer the smooth sweeping curves that left the factory. It will be fitted with a custom-made stake bed to allow it to haul a work load. The bed project takes one afternoon and requires moderate skill. The body repaint takes two days and requires intermediate skills with a rotary tool .
What You’ll Need
An ERTL die cast 1947 International K-12 Semi-Cab
resin-castings (oil drums, gas cans)
wooden cubes, 1 inch square and smaller
1/8″ – 1/16″ wood strips
rotary tool with sanding, grinding and polishing bits
Age-It wood stain or black ink wash
flat paints in various colors
Modify the Truck Body
There are two steps to modifying the body: aging the body and repainting. The aging process entails adding signs of wear to the body. The evidence will be dents in the sheet metal, and maybe loss of a side mirror. It is entirely up to you and requires a little skill with a rotary grinder and a good eye.
Customized with a stake bed
You can’t just take a hammer to cast steel models and create dents. At best, the blows will do nothing, and at worst you will crack the casting. Dents have to actually be cut into the metal with a coarse grinding stone. With a grinding bit in your rotary tool, begin grinding each dent into the fender or sheet metal. You’ll have to remove quite a bit of material to make a realistic dent, but be careful not to grind all the way though the casting or your dent will become a hole.
This step may seem strange, but once you have given the dent the rough shape you want, switch to a polishing bit. Coat the bit with polishing paste and polish the dent down to a mirror-smooth surface. Clean with alcohol and a dry paper towel to remove the polishing paste and prepare for paint. Cover the windows, tires, wheels and headlight lenses with masking tape and paint the truck a light, flat color. Light colors look best because, just as in real life, dark colors tend to fade over time.
Build the Truck Bed
Because the Semi-Cab doesn’t come with a bed or trailer, you’ll need to build one from scratch. The bed boards should be be between 3″ and 12″ wide. The bed itself should be between 48 and 66 full scale inches wide. I don’t typically measure the bed width; I just make sure it completely covers the dual rear tires. Cut the bed boards to length and lay them out side-by-side. Use Carpenter’s glue to secure two or three more sticks perpendicular to the boards to hold them in place.
Use Tacky glue or cyano glue to fasten two thick wooden sticks to the metal truck frame. Paint or stain all the wood surfaces with flat paint, Age-It or an ink wash. You can glue resin castings, small wooden cubes, and thin jewelry chain onto the bed for additional interest.
Once the truck body has been painted, remove the masks and prepare for final detailing. From the top down:
Paint the cab marker lights with flat silver (or leave the body color) and the lenses bright amber.
Consider removing a headlamp.
Paint unnaturally bright plated parts with gloss silver to tone them down.
Consider a rust-colored wash and other weathering techniques.
Add resin-cast or hand-made detail items.
The ERTL International semi-cab is a fine O scale truck model right out of the box, but with a bit of time and effort, the looks of the truck can be transformed into a realistic representation of a road-ravaged commercial workhorse.