CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Structure - Iroquois Millwork

The green and gray building on the right (1984)
The foreground area of my North Albany section was pretty bare, and I didn't want to do another gravel or dirt lot. There was plenty of that already! The prototype had some industries that were located on this side of the tracks, and a few were even still served by rail. However, the available real estate included an odd wedge-shaped location and I wasn't sure what to put there. The track modeled in front of it included some old but active rail which was blocked by crisscross ties and an out-of-service switch. I had a boxcar in my collection that never ran well, and car spot here that needed a stationary boxcar to look like it was being loaded. Perfect.

The same building on the left in 1986. There are
no traces of the yard at all!
There was a design challenges with a building here: any access to the yard tracks behind it would make it susceptible to damage. And, its height limits the ability to see over it. But, the front is visible while standing in the duck-under access aisleway so the front had to be somewhat detailed. One business that seemed perfect was Iroquois Millwork, which manufactured wooden doors and windows (thanks to Dominic Bourgeois' awesome Bridge Line Freight book). In 1984 it had two boxcars spotted at its two loading doors, and it sported an interesting gray and green paint scheme.

It turns out that I had actually photographed this building, now operated by a small regional paper company, in July of 2010. Most of those pictures were helpful, but I needed a few more to flesh out some details. For example, the building is set on a poured concrete foundation, with walls of concrete blocks, followed by vertical metal corrugated siding. I don't know why it has such an interesting assortment of facade treatments, but modeling it would be fun. And relatively simple too, as aside from the two loading door openings there were no special cuts. The far end of the building had an office with windows but I chose not to model that portion.

I settled on a size of about 16" long and 3.5" tall, which seemed pretty close to the prototype building and yet not overwhelming of the scene. Casting around (get it?) online for some suitable stone block walls led me to Rix Products Concrete Blocks (#541-1004) which are 4" long and 2.125" tall, which matched my building's length perfectly. Their height was within 1/8 of an inch of what I had sketched out. I ordered two packages (4 pieces per package). I also needed some freight car loading doors and found the Walthers "Truck and Railroad Dock" doors (#933-4070) which looked perfect.

The basic core of the structure is 0.060" thick styrene. Because of the angle of the building, there are two right-angle corners and two other angle corner. To make it a little more complex, the Rix concrete block wall pieces are thicker than the corrugated styrene sheet, so I had to compensate by building up the sides of the walls with different thicknesses of styrene overlaid on them so that the end result would be nearly flat in front. I first laid out where the loading doors on the concrete block panels would go and opened them up with drills (in the corners), knife cuts, and files. Everything was perfect and I was feeling pretty smug about how everything was lined up smoothly when...

I realized my math was off in a very bad way. I took my completed wall to my layout and set it next to a boxcar to visualize how they would look together, and discovered to my dismay that I had located the two boxcar loading doors too close together! The boxcar doors were supposed to be 3.5" from the end of the boxcar (and 7" apart), but I didn't double the distance to account for two boxcars coupled together. Though the error might not be noticed by others, I knew it looked stupid so I cut the wall apart and spliced another block section between the cuts. The width of the Rix wall section worked close enough for my purposes, but now there were two vertical lines going down the courses of bricks I would need to disguise.

The structure had to be significantly braced on the inside, both because it might get hit with wayward elbows and I didn't want it to warp. Copious amounts of 1/4" square styrene were used along the edges, and some home-made right-angle corner braces were employed wherever possible. Thank goodness for that 4'x8' sheet of 0.060" thick styrene I bought from the plastic supplier this spring, as I used a lot on this project. For acute-angled joints, I used pieces of interlocking 1/4" square that when welded up with MEK were rock-solid. I also glued braces spanning the center of the building to prevent bowing in the middle, as it would be quite apparent when sighting down the length it.

The corrugated styrene was made by JTT Architectural Model Parts and came in a large sheet. Strips were cut and mounted along the top. This stuff was pretty delicate looking but once glued to the wall became nice and strong. The roof is just more 0.060" styrene supported on the 1/4" square styrene bracing that runs along the top of the building. Some shimming was necessary to get it all level. I then went around the top of the building and used some thin styrene strips to hide the exposes edges of the various styrene pieces that make up the wall. I then washed the model in soap and water in preparation for painting.

Painting was done with spray cans. I first painted it with gray primer, but it was too dark a shade. So, off to the hardware store to purchase the right color of Krylon paint. After two days of drying, I then masked the top and painted it with Rustoleum "Spring Green". In person, the spray can cap looked a bit garish and hideous but the overall color matches the prototype pictures well. I waffled on whether to paint the back (aisle side) of the buildings black or not, but decided to continue the gray/green scheme all the way around. I think it blends in better with the scene, where as a large black backside would draw attention away from the layout behind.

The prototype roof has some sort of tar application on it, and there are visible ridges or seams, but at first I didn't bother to model them. I just brush painted the roof flat black. However, it was too dark and didn't look weathered. Since the pictures showed the roof a faded gray, I cut strips of blue painter's tape (to represent tar paper) and applied them to the roof in rows, and then painted them with gray acrylic craft paint. Once that dried, I liberally applied a black oil paint/mineral spirit wash on the roof. The oil paint "broke" and left black pigment particles in random patterns on the tape, which looked a lot like the satellite image of the roof I had. The prototype currently has small square roof vents, but I used some Pikestuff (#3102) castings that were sprayed flat black and drybrushed with silver.

The rest of the building was also given a black oil paint wash, which pooled in the brick crevices and looked like years of diesel exhaust smoke and grime from the air had settled and collected on the sides. The boxcar loading doors had been recessed into the walls and painted with the same gray primer as the rest of the building's side. The surrounding metal "shroud" was painted a flat charcoal gray, and then I dry-brushed various colors of brown and orange to simulate rust. Rust strikes were also streaked down the side of the building where rainwater would have caused them to stain the bricks. 

I glued the building to the layout with tacky glue, surrounded the foundation with dirt and ground foam to "plant" it, and scattered some random junk and debris to look like discarded garbage. The boxcar is an old Robins Rails kit which I purchased very early on when I got back into HO. It was too complicated for me at the time, and in retrospect I think there may have been some issues with the kit itself. I had modeled it with an open door when I built it, and added some random details inside, but it never ran well so I declared it a non-operational "scenery only" car. I knew it would be perfect for this structure, as it just had to sit in front of the loading doors waiting to be loaded. And with that, Iroquois Millwork was finished.


  1. Really good looking industry you've built there. I particularly like the steel siding at the top of the walls.

    Jim @ JSSX

  2. Thanks. Coming from you, someone who is very talented at modeling urban scenery, that means a lot!