Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Shedding an Image in the O-Gauge Zen Garden

The Plasticville freight station. A good
-- but not great -- track side structure.
When I first created my 0-Gauge Zen Garden, I used a lot of things I already had to get the layout setup. Like the Plasticville freight station that sat beside the inside loop, for example. I purchased it in the 1960's for my childhood train layout. Placing it on the new layout (built on the same train table), seemed natural.

But although the structure filled the space, something was missing. The station didn't have much character on its own, and without lights, the stretch of track it abutted seemed kind of dark.

Finding a replacement wasn't easy. The layout's pretty cramped, so whatever I chose had to be very small indeed. And the Ameri-town 503 Trackside Shed was just that. A simple structure with a very small footprint. Perfect! Construction was pretty simple, although I did a few modifications.

The joints along the sides were pretty flimsy, so I reinforced them with square plastic rods. Set into the corners, the rods help keep the corners perfectly square, and presented a larger surface area for the glue to bond with.
I knew I'd be placing a light inside the shed, so I took steps to ensure it only shown through the windows. The windows, like all the other structures on the layout, have vellum inserts. I have neither the time nor talent to construct miniature interiors for all those buildings.

I spray-painted the interior surfaces with flat black paint. After I finished gluing the shed together, I lined the interior roof joints with electrical tape to get a perfect seal. As you can see in the finished photos below, those two steps did the trick.

Initially, I was just going to set the shed directly on the table, but then decided to build a base/platform for it. The base was constructed by gluing three pieces of foam   core together.

I marked where the door would be when the shed was placed on the platform, and made sure I didn't glue the area between the edges of the foam core and the mark.

After the glue was dry, I cut a section out of the top layer, then a smaller section out of the middle. Since they weren't glued, the scrap just came right out, and voila -- I had steps leading up to the door.

At first I thought I could just get by with spray-painting the platform gray to represent concrete. But that didn't look very convincing. So I covered the rough edges with some of the embossed brick paper I had left over from the billboard project. It actually worked pretty well.

By cutting along the brick
...the joint was hidden when I
glued the strip to itself.
To join up the two ends of the strip that circled the platform, I cut along the brick outline on one end. When glued in place, it's readily apparent where the seam is -- as it would have been with just a straight edge.

The rest of the project was pretty simple. I drilled holes through the platform and the table for the light wires. The light socket itself was fastened to the table with a long wood screw that went through the platform and into the wooden table top below.

I'm happy with the way the shed looks...
...especially at night.
And I'm happy with the results. There's a little more light in this section now, and a much more colorful and interesting-looking structure.

Those colors, BTW, weren't selected at random. The Montpelier estate in here in Orange County, VA has used the same green-with-white trim paint scheme for all their outbuildings since the 1960's -- including those next to the railroad tracks at Montpelier Station.

And if you look carefully at these photos, you'll see my next project. When I started, I used black construction paper to represent roads. Over time, the paper's absorbed moisture and become wrinkled. Time to move to a more realistic -- and permanent solution.

The original inspiration. Most
of the buildings at Montpelier
also have white doors.

Sure, the shed looks great. But see the way the pavement warps
up on the left? That's the next project.

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