Mount Union Development Commitee


I am slowly migrating back to my hobby workbench after completing a trying period of work/study for my job! The Mt Union downtown “block” is next up. This block parallels the A&D track in the street. To fill out some of the details (matching road signs etc.) I am calling this Railroad St. and the intersection in front of the depot is Front Ave.

This block is all of four buildings long. From north (depot side) to south, the buildings will be 1) a stainless steel “dinner,” 2) a two-story Rx pharmacy, 3) a three-story “Union Hall” with rooms for rent above, and 4) a small town “ACE Hardware” that is also the office for the lumber yard in the rear. My original plans were to have a “burned down” building but I have since decided to go with one more structure; the pharmacy.


Construction started with the base-plate. This is a hardboard sheet fitted to the layout space. I laminated .060 styrene sheet to the top. The front and side edges are built up with styrene stock and capped with a quarter round styrene strip. I sanded this to form a “poured” concrete curb look. After all the sanding and shaping the curbs, I scribed expansion lines to simulate the sidewalk areas in front of the future structures. The foam board mockups were a huge help with measuring and spacing the sidewalks. I also notched the curb in front of the dinner to receive a storm drain and drilled the mounting hole for a fire hydrant. The location of these two future details needed to be determined now so I could scribe the associated sidewalk joints to fit.

This base plate is sufficiently rigid, so I can move it around as each structure is fitted to the base. Once the structures are past the roughed-out stage, I will be able to paint and detail the base for the sidewalks and building foundations. After another test fit on the layout, I will be able to locate other details such as parking meters, signs, and utility poles with streetlights. The base plate will be “keyed” for each structure so they can be individually removable. My intent is to semi-permanently attach the base plate to the layout before completion to allow for a seamless integration of the surrounding scenery and street.


The first building is the ACE Hardware store on the south corner. This building has an inset entrance set at a 45-degree angle to the street. Most of the front of the building is a large display window. This will have an era appropriate display behind the glass to show off the wares for sale inside. Signage is proto-inspired to reflect a 1960s era ACE franchise. I’m not sure if ACE is a traditional West Virginia business, but it seems familiar, so I’m going with it!

This is a single story brick building with a false front on two sides, and a flat roof. The side street wall will be a large “painted-on” sign. I am using my “standard” laminated core wall construction. Each wall is a .080 styrene core with the outside layered with JT styrene brick sheet. Any interior walls that are visible will be finished with brick or paper texture as appropriate. The front wall with the window is two layers of .040 styrene. This makes cutting out the windows easier and more accurate. My preferred technique to do this is to measure and draw out the openings on the styrene. I score and snap the sheet along the lines of the opening and remove the material where the window/door will be. Next, I glue the pieces back together to “re-construct the wall. The second layer is scored and snapped along perpendicular lines for the openings. When I laminate the two layers together, the perpendicular pieces form a rigid and braced wall. The score lines will not show on the finished model since the outer layer of texture sheet (brick) will cover everything. Any wall that does not have an opening is cut from a single layer of .080 styrene. Once all 4 base walls are cut and laminated they are assembled to form a box. Extra attention is given to insure everything is square and bracing is added to the inside corners. This box becomes the shell that all of the textures and details will be added to. My two main adhesives are 3M Super 44 spray adhesive for laminating, and Tenex-7R for all other styrene joints.

The union hall and pharmacy use the same styrene core and brick laminate construction. I have decided to permanently join all three building cores together. This has greatly increased the rigidity of the structures and eliminates any visible or unsightly gaps between buildings. This will require all three buildings to be finished together.




I’m a big believer that the finished model scene should tell its story without the model builder standing nearby to fill in the details! Signage is an important part of this storytelling. I did a lot of Google searching for pictures of mid 1960s vintage signs. Some artwork is printed on gloss photo paper to resemble metal and porcelain signs, and some artwork is printed on regular paper to make “painted on brick” styles signs. I also use printed details to fill in the interiors of buildings. Due to the limited scope and viewing angles through the 1/48 scale windows and doors, photo realistic textures laminated to core shapes can be very convincing. With a few select 3D details, it can be hard to detect this optical illusion!


Bravo Rick. It’s looking great! Can’t wait to see the progress…


I’m still trying to figure out where you got in to buildings… :grinning:


What an eye-riveting, engaging town Mt. Union will be. And very WV. Super thought-work and execution, Rick.


Rick what a fabulous build; keep them coming!


Thought I’d post a work bench shot of the tools of the trade I am using to build Mt Union. Nothing ground breaking here. I do enjoy building with styrene! It is easy to cut and shape, and fast to glue! When I laminate large areas of styrene together (to increase thickness or add textured sheets like brick) I use 3M spray adhesive. All of the rest of the styrene joints are made using solvents like Tenex 7R or Plastistruct’s Plastic Weld.

A side note about X-acto knifes. The published hobby standard is the #11 blade. Growing up, this is what “real modelers” like David Stewart, Shepard Paine, and every author in Model Railroader magazine used! Over the years I faithfully followed suit. The secret to styrene is always use a sharp blade. It turns out to be kind of expensive changing blades all of the time! One day David showed me his secret; he has a little contraption that holds a dull #11 blade and re-sharpens them! Cheater! David is VERY good at finding the best balance of results and economy! Another local and very accomplished modeler (and the gentleman behind Railyard Models), Gene Fusco mentioned a technique he uses; straight razors. I tried this and really liked it! My only complaint is that I prefer to use the blade with out a handle and the hand fatigue is noticeable. Recently I was wandering through a hardware store looking to buy anything when I paused in the cutting tool section. I noticed a variety of retractable razor blade knifes that use those “snap-off” blades. I found one that was refillable and the blades were 5/8 inch wide. This seemed like it might be usable, so I bought a handle and a package of blades. WOW! I have gone through 2 blades on the Mt Union project so far! I snap off the worn tip regularly and have never had this much success keeping my knife sharp and the price is far less than #11 blades, even in bulk! The added weight of the handle reduces the need to push down when cutting, which helps with accuracy and avoiding slips. I still use straight razors, they are great for chopping and making square cuts in thin material, and the trusty old #11 is at times the only tool that works (shaving and twisting).

For safety, I use an old plastic water bottle as a “sharps” container. I drop all of my used razor blades into it and keep the cap on. This keeps the blades out of the trash and protects form accidental surprise stabbings and cuts!


Now that the basic styrene shells are done, it’s time to start bricking things up! Most of the brick work is JTT styrene brick sheet. I cut each “panel” to fit and laminate them to the core using 3M spray adhesive. I usually touch up the edges with liquid solvent to make sure nothing peels away in the future. Special attention is given to make sure that all of the brick courses line up at the corners.

To simulate the architectural feature of inset bricks, I build up the core with an extra layer of styrene. Any special designs or patterns are individual bricks carefully layered on top. Stonework and caps are styrene sheet cut and shaped as necessary.

On a brick structure the window and door openings are flush or inset to the face of the bricks. I either used Grandt Line masonry window castings or modified standard windows by trimming the frames and in-setting the casting to be flush with the brick. Looks OK to me! When applying the brick around the openings, special care was again given to make sure all of the bricks line up.


The hardware store at the end of the block has a large display window. I framed the window opening with styrene strip. I also built a “shadow box” for the interior and used printed artwork to finish these walls. There will be 3D details on display also when finished. The front door is a more modern metal and glass insert. It is a combination of styrene strip and sheet around a Grandt Line door casting.


I have started the other store fronts and am thinking they will be built as inserts to facilitate easier detailing. At this point there is a lot of details to layer on as well as edges to be dressed. I have to admit, scratch building these structures is a ton of fun!


Wow, Rick! I’m speechless! Maybe not quite. How do you plan to detail the mortar joints?

Must… buy… large… quantities… of… Grandt… Line… windows… and… doors…


I remember that device he has; I think MicroMark sold em. Not sure if they still do. After working at Parkway Plastics I discovered I really like the big red handled knives, #5?, best; much less hand fatigue. A bulk pack of 100 #2 blades is 17 bucks free shipping works out to 1.7 cents per blade. I can handle that. Especially with how much(little) modeling I actually get to do. To extend the life I actually have two on my workbench where one is a new sharp blade and teh other is a duller blade for heavy duty cutting. In the smaller classic #11 size I like the #10 curved blade. Rarely use a #11 any more.


Thanks Bob! I am seriously having a ton of fun with this. It is so cool seeing what is in my head beginning to appear in 3D! Honestly though, I’m just making most of it up as I go! My plan based on the gas station already completed (the test bed for a lot of my techniques) is to start the finish with a grey flat primer. This will even the tone and give everything a “tooth”. Next I brush paint the brick with craft paint (cheap stuff from Wal-Mart) which will take 2 coats. All of the stone work will receive it’s own color appropriate craft paint too. For the mortar I think I will try a couple white based gauche washes. This should pool in the mortar cracks and following darker washes should achieve the mortar correct color. Final highlights will be dry-brushed.

Jay, I do remember you having those bigger handles. I also keep a supply of #17 chisel blades around too.


Bravo Rick. I think your stuff beyond top notch! I’d love to sit down with you and discuss the process you do. The laminating process sounds like a great idea.

On the windows…I agree Bob. But on that front I think the 3D modeling is becoming a good 2nd place. I saw a guy printed some HO scale windows for his passenger car. They looked really good.


The store fronts are coming along. I think what I’m going to do is treat the whole lower floor interior and building front as a “drawer”. This way I can complete the interior details and solidly mount the front. A simple track or guide will hold the completed “drawer” and keep everything in alignment. The idea is that I can just slide the “cassette-like drawers” into the main structure. We’ll see how it goes…

The front of the Union Hall is based on two Grandt Line windows and a door minus its frame. I used my trusty .040 styrene sheet to fill out the front. Notice that the window castings are installed backwards. When I add the brick layer, I overlap the exposed flange of the window casting and butt the brick right up to the window frame. I my eye, this makes a decent masonry type window that is flush to the outside surface of the wall.

Styrene strips are shaped to simulate stonework that matches the rest of the structure and help hide joints.

The Pharmacy building front uses the same “cassette drawer” idea. For this front, I scratch built a more modern business door from styrene strip. I set the doorway to one side to avoid a repeating pattern along the entire row of buildings. Avoiding patterns (or equal balance, symmetry, and/or parallel lines) can improve the realism in a scene. This is a technique I first read about when I was a kid, in Shepard Paine’s armor and diorama modeling books. Shep Paine was the guy behind all of the completed models on the box covers for model kits from Monogram Models (planes, boats, and tanks) back in the 70s and 80s. He was a master of visual art, and authored 3 Kalmbach books about his techniques. After I wore out the copies at the library, I bought my own!

I also decided to make this front more of a set in with the door and window recessed into the structure. This required extra brickwork to finish the inset. Under the window, I repeated the 4 brick diamond detail to visually tie the store front to the top of the structure. It is a small detail, but I think it adds some more believable texture to my little story!


As of Monday the 16th of April, all of the major construction and brick work on the hardware store is complete! It is now in primer. The interior needs to be finalized and it will be time for painting and finishing! All of the artwork for the signage and interior is complete, now to just bring it all together. I also think it’s time to start painting/finishing the sidewalk/curb base.