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An Old Man Contemplates an Old Man's Layout

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  • One More Classic Structure Bash

    The rear corners of the layout are at right angles, so there are vertical seams where the commercially made backdrop sections intersect. The blue sky parts of the backdrop are visually not a problem. It is lower area where the mountains scenes butt against each other that needs some help.

    Although I juggled the scenes around so that the adjoining mountains were of the same elevation, that very sudden change in direction at the seam would not work. The right hand seam is effectively hidden by the hulking rock bunker behind the factory, but the one on the left is clearly visible, all the way down to grass level. I tried using large deciduous trees to cover it up, but the corner needed to have a hard focal point.

    At the recent train show, while chewing on an idea to address the problem, I looked for a Bachmann HO coaling tower kit to use as bash material. The list price for this venerable, snap together kit has gone up to thirty one dollars, so extensive bargain hunting was carried out.

    Despite the size of the show, I did not see what I wanted at a price that I was willing to pay for something that I am going to hack to pieces, perhaps unsuccessfully. Even the ubiquitous under the table bargains have doubled and tripled in price. Instead, a reasonably priced “pre-owned” kit was acquired on eBay.

    The idea for the bash was to cut off the top and bottom of the HO structure, which is rather tall and narrow, to make a smaller, open top version of the existing rock bunker that was bashed from the Bachmann O-scale kit. When placed deep in the left rear corner, back from the current layout track and partially hidden by trees, it becomes a remnant of an earlier operation, when the rock was being stored at the quarry.

    Although these snap together kits will never win a modeling award, with a bit of tweaking they can be made presentable. They are easy to modify and my trusty razor saw made quick work of the present job, despite of my compromised hands. However, when assembled and placed on the layout, it needed a vertical, nonstructural accent to completely cover the backdrop seam and to hide the unattractive bits that developed at the rear of the bash, while matching the height of the flanking trees.

    I have always been intrigued by how trees will grow inside of an abandoned building after the roof and interior floors have fallen in, so local legend has the bottom rotting out of the abandoned open top bunker, allowing a tall pine tree to grow within and above its still standing walls. Its dark green color contrasting nicely with the lighter green of the surrounding trees.

    The photos show a trial fit of the basic parts. It is my kind of layout project; quick and easy as well as cheap. Without the tree and with the bunker bottom added, along with some details, the bash also makes a believable On30 foreground model.

    Click image for larger version

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    • Interesting idea and something I don't recall seeing before.
      But in nature anything is possible.


      • For decades, the B&O Museum had a significant locomotive displayed outside in a state of advanced neglect, with a tree growing out of the smokestack!

        In the rundown parts of town, tree limbs project out from the window openings of abandoned houses that still have intact roofs.

        Trees will grow pretty much anywhere they can get light, water and nutrients.


        • Stacks of Stacks

          The layout needs two major smokestacks, one between a pair of firebrick kilns and a bigger one behind the factory boiler house. However, as they protrude significantly above the surrounding scenery, they and the surrounding areas could be prone to damage if they are mounted permanently to the layout.

          Modern, large brick kilns are available in HO-scale, I believe by Walthers, as is a stack for them made by Model Power, but as the space on the layout was rather small, neither was suitable for bashing. I found some cut stone, beehive ovens cast from Hydrocal in O-scale (Sonora Scale Models) that were of a suitable size and an older shape, but they needed a stack.

          I always liked square smokestacks, but they are seldom modeled separately, so I salvaged one that is one inch square at the bottom and eight inches tall from an old Walthers HO factory kit. While not quite a bash, after all it is still a smokestack, it is close. When placed between two of the kilns, which were always worked in pairs, alternately, sharing the same stack, it was a good fit.

          However, as the stack is part of a changeable vignette, it could not be attached to the layout, making it prone to wobbling. As the stack is molded hollow, the problem was cured by stuffing a four ounce chunk of lead, which is left over ballast from my RC boating days, into its lower end.

          For the factory boiler house, I use a round, Walthers HO Tall Smokestack. It is an inch and a quarter in diameter at the bottom and nearly eleven inches tall. The molded in brick detailing is too small for O-scale, but as it will be placed in the background, a simple spritz with flat red primer will tone down the plastic sheen. As it is also molded hollow, I stuffed the bottom with an eight ounce chunk of lead.

          With sufficient weight at the bottom of each stack to make them stand steady, should Geriatric Godzilla attack the layout, as he has in the past, the stacks will lay over in place with little or no damage.

          The photo shows both smokestacks and their associated structures, this time with Loafing Guy in the foreground. Waving Guy and his older brother have the day off.

          Click image for larger version

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          • Rusty Rescue did a video on a steam shovel that was locked in place by a tree. They used a chain saw and tankers bar to free it.
            Those HO stacks will work. Hey it's On30....


            • Looks like both those stacks will work just fine.


              • Should look good Dan. I've used an N scale version of the round stack on a factory build.
                Used a wash of a concrete colour, then wiped most of it off, just leaving it in the mortar lines. and then stippled on some black for the soot.
                They are a really nice casting.
                Click image for larger version

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                Regards Rob

                Despite the cost of living, it's still popular

                My current build.



                • Thanks Guys,

                  As usual, comments are always welcome as well as appreciated .


                  • Dan, that's a nice scene. The stack looks terrific. ~mike