The Geologically Improbable Railroad


[ Home ] [ Up ] [ Previous Picture ] [ Next Picture ]

At long last, some structures have begun to appear on the GIRR. Of necessity, most of the structures are scratchbuilt because its hard to find 1:29 or 1:32 scale kits. Also, the structures are all intended to be left out in the weather all the time, so that the construction techniques that are available are somewhat limited.

tin shackThe first building to appear on the GIRR was this little tin shack made from corrugated aluminum cans. At the time that this picture was taken, the building had been outside for about 2-1/2 years. During that time, its painted weathering had been naturally weathered such that the artificial weathering had to be done again. Other than that, it has held up well.

farmhouseA JigStones farmhouse was the second building to be placed on the layout. For the time being, "placed" is the right term. No attempt has been made to integrated it into the surroundings until a little more development takes place. For right now, its getting naturally weathered. The Floquil paint used to paint and weather the building is being weathered itself and the roof is heavily faded.

warehouseThe next structure was this warehouse also made from corrugated aluminum cans. This structure covers an awful mess of wiring out in the middle of the layout.

store frontThis set of storefronts is a Mountains-In-Minutes polyurethane foam building front. The structure has three walls and a roof. The buildings come with metal window frames and cellophane window glazing. They are painted primer gray. The detail on this inexpensive ($40) building is very good, I really liked the moldwork. It is also quite sturdy as the walls are nearly an inch thick. It is also acceptably close to 1:29 scale based on the door size that I thought it would look good on a 1955 vintage 1/29 scale layout as a 60 year old building.

business backAnother building is this set of building backs. The set is designed so that they can be glued together into a single building but since they would not be visible on the "back" side, I elected to leave the backs plain. The sidewalks on both buildings were made from RapidSet cement cast in a wooden form around the Wonderboard floor.

building backsThe backs were filled with WonderBoard, a concrete and fiberglass product designed to back tilework. WonderBoard scribes and breaks well and can be found in most homeowner stores. Another piece of WonderBoard is used as a floor. Both pieces of WonderBoard are glued in place with liberal amounts of Liquid Nails adhesive. Since WonderBoard is very porous on the broken edges, I sealed the edges with a layer of RapidSet cement.

gas stationWonderBoard worked out well for me. I originally built this building in 2000 as a test article with no intent of actually using it. By 2008, it had been sitting on the GIRR all that time with only a little dirt on it to show it's age. A blast with a hose took care of the dirt. Then I converted it to a gas station.

viaduct WonderBoard had shown is ability to withstand the weather so I also built a viaduct out of WonderBoard. It was a quick and dirty project, but it came out well enough.

mission style stationWith the success of the viaduct under my belt, I launched on a long planned major project, a Santa Fe style mission station. The project also came out well. I had intended the building to be imposing, but I got a little more than I expected.

roadwaysThe station needed some access, so I started building asphalt roads from WonderBoard. These came out pretty well to, but I'm going to build the next batch of roads with a different method.

080710_girr_hotel_5247.jpgI still needed more structures, so I have built a hotel, also made from WonderBoard.

The building uses pretty much normal WonderBoard construction methods. The windows are resin castings initially held in place with small drops of Zap-A-Gap CA at the corners. The glazing is clear styrene which has been "frosted" with a CA kicker. After the CA has dried, a fillet of plumber's epoxy is applied on the backside to seal the windows and to firmly adhere them to the structure. All access is via the bottom as the roof is firmly cemented in place, both to strengthen and seal the structure. The roof is sloped to the rear and drain holes and "downspouts" were provided to allow rain to drain off the building.

The base is a sheet of WonderBoard with a cutout for the driveway. The parking lot is A-1 Grit C-71 mixed with RapidSet (2/3 grit, 1/3 cement) and dry spread then wet down. A little more grit was spread on and held in place with TiteBond II and water (50/50). The "grass" is fine DG dry spread and bonded with TiteBond II and then painted with Rustoleum. The paint is thin in spots to allow the tan color of the DG to show through to simulate dead grass.

080627_girr__hotel_ledge_skive_tool_5150.jpgThe ledges around the building were formed from concrete skived to shape with this styrene tool. Styrene makes a good skiving tool because it can be easily cut to shape. If made thin enough, this one is 0.030" which is about right, it can be simply flexed to break off the concrete that adheres to it. Building the ledges was a two pass process. First a bead of cement if formed by hand to the rough shape of the ledge and then the tool is drawn down the bead to remove any excess. There will be low spots and holes. These will be filled in during the second pass after the cement from the first pass has set up. After the first pass has set, more cement is added where needed and the the skiving tool is used again to remove excess and to detect the remaining low spots that need to be filled in. Skiving should be done only minutes after the cement is applied or it will be too late.

080624_girr_wood_barn_5140.jpgOn June 24, 2008 another building appeared. This is a redwood barn purchased from Comstock Construction Company. I've concluded that I don't want to scratch build everything. The building needs a light coat of redwood stain and maybe a coat of water sealer. The building didn't come with the foundation, I added that from Jigstones flat block glued on with TiteBond III. Putting wood, even redwood, directly on the ground is not a good plan.

The barn will cover and conceal the sprinkler riser that will eventually be a drip irrigation distribution point for that region of the layout.

080625_girr_wood_barn_5143.jpgThe barn did receive a coat of redwood stain and an overcoat of Thompson's Water Seal. The stain was one intended for redwood outdoor furniture, it took care of the "white" redwood. I initially started to brush it on, but it was hard to get in the slots cut into the siding and around the details of the doors. I did most of it with an airbrush so I could get the stain in every nook and cranny. The water seal came in a aerosol can so it was just sprayed on. We'll see what natural weathering does to this structure.

080723_girr_jigstones_house_5420.jpgThis is a JigStones house. I need a few places for my townsfolk to live. JigStones are a little expensive to get started with as the mold sets have become somewhat expensive, but the incremental cost of building construction is quite low even though the labor content is somewhat high. For outdoor use, I cast the blocks in RapidSet concrete. I am using Liquid Nails to assembled it. I used Liquid Nails on the farmhouse described above and it's been out in the weather for 10 years and it hasn't come apart. Lexel is actually a better adhesive, but I didn't have any and Liquid Nails is cheap, about $3 for a caulking gun sized tube.

The other JigStones work that I have done didn't start out on a base. This time I made a base from WonderBoard to start with and it made a significant difference in the ease of assembly of the structure. I could turn in on the workbench to work on the various sides without disturbing joints that hadn't fully set up. The base will also improve the structural integrity of the structure.

churchThe town needs a church and it looked like it would be an interesting JigStones project. I assembled this one with Liquid Nails for Marble up to the top of the sidewalls, then I ran out. The hardware store didn't have any more of that kind so I used Liquid Nails Heavy Duty. This stuff is actually easier to work with. It's not as stiff and spreads better and sets up quicker. The slop from the adhesive doesn't actually matter too much as Liquid Nails takes paint well and the slop doesn't show after a coat of Rustoleum spray paint or primer. Anything that does get on the front of the blocks needs to be immediately smoothed and spread so that it doesn't mask the texture of the "rock work."

The church entry is a built up door that is attached to the front. The windows are glass cut to shape backed with photographs of real church stained glass windows printed on transparency material. The large diamond shaped window in the front is also a stained glass simulation, however the one in back is clear just to let in more light so that the rest of the stained glass shows up better.

The "grass" is a colored sand that I found at Cost Plus Imports. There is a little yellow mixed in with the green. There are more details of the construction at my JigStones Tips page.

081030_girr_church_5918.jpgI wasn't happy with the way that the stained glass windows turned out, they were way too dark. When I illuminated the building with two #53 bulbs in series (recovered from heavyweight passenger cars that got LEDs instead), I found that I could see one directly through the front window. I put a piece of regular white printer paper behind it to diffuse the light and that worked fine. The next day, I realized that the paper was also reflecting the daylight that went in through that window and it made the image on the transparency visible in direct sunlight. I did the same thing to the other four windows and now the stained glass windows work both at night and in direct sunlight.

080822_girr_snow_shed_before_5548.jpgThere is one spot on the GIRR branch line to the garage where a serious contamination problem has existed since the construction of the railroad. The area, and the track that goes through it, gets covered in pigeon poop. This is not only an unsightly mess, but the stuff causes derailments and power pickup problems. I find that city regulations prevent me from shooting or poisoning the pigeons so I have to live with them or risk a fine.

080823_girr_snow_shed_guano_source_5551.jpgThe source of the problem is an alarm box near the peak of my roof. I should go up there and put some wire up or something to keep the pigeons off of it, but I'm not climbing that far up a ladder to get to it. There have been pigeons nesting there almost continuously for over 20 years.

One early pair of pigeons tried to make their nest from used nails. I kept finding rusty and bent nails, staples and other metal construction scrap on the walkway. They were apparently selectively collecting them from everywhere around. After a couple of years, that problem subsided as different pigeons took over the nesting site.

080823_girr_snow_shed_5549.jpgInstead, I built a snow shed to protect the tracks from the falling guano. It is made in two 2' sections and it covers the whole of the impacted track.

It only took one afternoon and the next morning to construct these sheds. They are made of milled redwood assembled with TiteBond III wood glue and nailed with a brad gun. The roof is crimped aluminum cut from steam tray covers and attached to a door skin subroof with Liquid Nails. The crimped aluminum is painted with a Rustoleum cold galvanizing spray which is really just a high zinc content primer.

081030_girr_snowshed_5919.jpgThe shed has been in service for a couple of months and it's taken a pounding. However, all that pigeon poop ISN'T on my track.

080826_girr_structures_farmhouse_5559.jpgNot all the buildings on the GIRR are scratchbuilt. This is an AristoCraft farmhouse. It looks a little big for 1/29 scale based on the doors and windows, but it is a good looking structure nonetheless. It is rated for outdoor use and is fully assembled and painted. The model is built from heavy plastic. The windows are glazed with clear thin plastic and the floor is partially open.

080826_girr_structures_water_tower_5558.jpgThe AristoCraft water tower also came fully painted and mostly assembled. The water level and spout chains need to be attached by the user.

The tower actually functions. It will actually hold and dispense liquids from a polyethylene tub inside. There is a valve that controls the liquid flow (accessible with the roof removed) but even if the valve is open, the contents will not flow out if the spout is raised. There is also a functioning water level indicator based on a couple of floating corks and a weighted chain.

Eventually, a scratchbuilt coaling facility will cover over the wiring in the background.

080827_girr_aristo_gingerbread_house_5584.jpgThe next day, a couple of more Aristo building showed up. This is the Gingerbread House. It's smaller than the farmhouse and single story. It is, however, illuminated. Inside the door, there is a switch. Two wires lead from the bottom. The single bulb is mounted on a bracket that illuminates the whole house fairly well. The bulb draws 45 mA and 18 volts.

080827_girr_aristo_interlocking_tower_5585.jpgThe Aristo Interlocking Tower was larger than I thought it would be but it fit where it was intended. It is also illuminated on both floors. The bulbs draw 135 mA at 18 volts.

080827_girr_aristo_electrical_pipe_5588.jpgThe tower was intended to cover this electrical conduit and it's associated wiring. I thought that the floor of the tower would be open like the other Aristo buildings, but it was solid.

080827_girr_aristo_floor_hacking_tools_5587.jpgHowever, with the appropriate tools, anything can be hacked. I marked the floor underneath with the extent of the area I could cut and used my Makita recipro saw to cut out a hole in the floor. The floor itself is pretty substantial. It is made of about 1/8" heavy crossbraced plastic (some kind of phenolic based on the odor while cutting it), 1/4" of foam and then a thin plastic formed sheet representing the floor. One of the cutouts can be seen on the table.

0903014_girr_new_road_6922.jpgAll those structures in the town were intended to be lined up on a road. After being on the to-do list for 12 years, the road finally went in. I waited until I was sure that I would not have to tear it up to lay electrical lines for the building lighting or water lines for the drip irrigation system. These utilities are in place now so it was "safe" to lay the road. It is made of dark gray colored rock grit laid down over bare hard packed dirt and glued with a 50/50 mix of TiteBond II and water. It took about two hours to install the road, this method goes pretty quickly.

Where the road vanishes at the lower right, it goes into a tunnel portal with the cement block wall behind it painted black. It doesn't make much sense to have a road in town that doesn't go anywhere.

The drainage culvert in the foreground is a piece of thinwall sprinkler pipe painted primer gray on the ends.

Near the far end is a grade crossing into the parking lot of the main passenger station. I put this down about a year ago as a test. The first foot leading away from the track was also put down then. I've been walking all over it on purpose to see if it would be durable and it is none the worse for wear. I expect that the road will also be a foot path to get into the town area so the road has to be durable enough to support a 1:1 scale person. Eventually, I'll stripe it too with yellow tinted cement like I did the Wonderboard road sections.

090315_girr_highway_tunnel_portal_6923.jpgAs the road leaves town, it dives into a Jigstones tunnel portal with the cement block wall behind it painted black. It doesn't make much sense to have a road in town that doesn't go anywhere.

090527_girr_school_complete_7115.jpgThe latest structure is a 50's era school with three classrooms, and office and a play yard. I still need to add some play equipment but otherwise, it's done. It is built from WonderBoard and Rapid Set concrete mostly. The texturing in the play yard is DG held down with glue, some of it painted green to simulate grass. The fence is 1/8" hardware cloth soldered to 1/16" brass rod. It is set in holes drilled into the wonderboard base and secured with plumber's epoxy putty. The building is illuminated with two #53 bulbs wired in series to light up the interior and four warm white LEDs, running at just 2 mA, wired in series to light up the exterior.

090923_girr_road_striping_masked_7752.jpgI found some Rustoleum "inverted marking paint" that matched the color that highway departments use to mark roadways. The inverted part of the name describes the nozzle of the rattle can. It is intended to be used to paint facing downward.

I masked the road with blue painter's tape and laid newspaper strips over the tape to prevent overspray.

090923_girr_road_striping_done_7753.jpgThe stripe looks pretty good... except that I didn't get one part properly centered and some paint actually got under the newspaper masking. I'll have to tape that down better next time.

Sometimes "marking" paint is designed to fade after a month or so that the markings naturally go away. We'll see what this stuff does before I paint the rest of it.

The black spot was a test of overpainting some of the orange overspray with black primer. If this doesn't fade, I'll just add another thin layer of the black grit to the surface and glue it down. If the orange paint doesn't fade, I'll overcoat the orange overspray as well and widen the road a little in that section, it looks like it might be a little narrow anyway.

090924_girr__patched_roadway_7755.jpgThe next morning, I patched it. I still need a little more around the edges of the black patch and I'll probably cover over and re-stripe the two closest segments. This road building method allows easy patching.

090925_girr_school_yard_swing_set__teeter_totter__jungle_gym_7758.jpgThe school that I finished a few months ago didn't have any play equipment in the school yard. I assembled this swing set in about a half an hour from brass rod and strip. The chain is a costume jewelry piece and the straps on the swing seats are 28 ga solid copper wire. All the joints are soldered. The whole works was painted with a primer gray rattle can.

The swing set was easy enough to do such that I spent another half hour (including letting the paint dry) assembling a teeter totter. It is also built with brass strip and rod. The hinges underneath and the handles are made from 18 ga copper wire.

The jungle gym was made from soldered brass rod and painted with primer gray. That was the easiest of the three, assembly took maybe 10 minutes.

100216_girr_striped_road_8299.jpgOn Feb 16, 2010, I finished striping the road. The paint on the section at the far end had been there since September 09 and it hadn't faded a bit so I did the rest. However, first I widened the road a little at the grade crossing where the striping was off center. The paint was in the wrong place and the road was too narrow so the obvious solution was to simply add more road on one side. The paint dries in about 2 minutes, each section got two light coats so that the paint was never actually wet enough to run under the masking. The same day I widened the road, I patched the edges in front of "boot hill" and the school. These glued chicken grit roads are quick and easy to patch. This appears to be the hot setup for a road. The roadway also survived the heaviest rains that we've seen in a decade with just some scattered dirt being washed off of it.

[ Home ] [ Up ] [ Previous Picture ] [ Next Picture ]
© 1999-2010 George Schreyer
Created Aug 22, 2000
Last Updated February 16, 2010