Tasha Oates updated December 17, 2010


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  • Building Broad Street Station

    Take it a step at a time, and even the most complex structures can be completed from subassemblies. You're not likely to find a more complex project than Philadelphia's Broad Street Station. Here's how one modeler accomplished the recreation of his dream.

    By Chuck Denlinger

    This is one of those projects that finds you occasionally asking yourself “Why?" Not that I've had any regrets, but as my first major modeling project, I've chosen a structure as big as some small layouts (bigger than my first). Because of my limited modeling experience, I have had to tackle more than a few construction roadblocks.

    I'm not going into great detail on various techniques but instead will provide more of a guide as to how you might approach a similar project, plus a few shortcuts found along the way.

    A brief history of Broad Street Station might explain my need for detail and how to recreate it in N scale:

    The original station was opened on December 5, 1881, and brought the Pennsylvania Railroad to the heart of Philadelphia in style.

    In the early 1890s, the station was enlarged by adding a 10-story office building above the existing station and replacing several small sheds, over 12 tracks with a single shed over 16. A fire in 1923 saw the great shed destroyed, but the station remained in service until 1952.

    Both buildings were masterpieces for their time. The 1881 station was based in part on St. Pancras station of the Midland Railroad in London. Architect Frank Furness designed the 1890s addition. It was because of their talents that mine were pressed to the limit.

    A large amount of terra cotta ornamentation adorned both structures. Angels, ivy, and the races of man needed to be reduced to 1/160 of life size. There was also the variety of peaks and towers to be reduced to N scale.

    This complex structure was designed to be moved and displayed. For this reason, the station and shed walls were built with plexiglass "Cores." Perhaps overkill, but they have already survived several bumps that might have damaged a wooden structure. It also serves as a good base for the many varieties of plastics to be applied.

    I used Weld-On Resin bond for joining styrene to the plexiglass. Remember to use plenty of ventilation. Wood may also be adhered with this cement by pre-moistening the wood surface, then placing a few drops on the plexiglass to soften the surface. I allowed at least an hour for wood – plexiglass adhering. When adding styrene to plexiglass over large areas, try spot gluing to avoid shrinkage and warping.

    One wonder material that surfaced was auto body putty for recreating stone surfaces. I found that it carved with great ease without crumbling.

    Other materials used included sandpaper for roof surfaces and for texture variety on various wood surfaces. Wood was shaped for use as towers. My father shaped ½- inch-square basswood into eight-sided towers. I might mention at this time that my father's modeling expertise frequently helped me on my way when I was at a loss on "how to…”

    Now that I've introduced you to the basic materials I used, I'll run by my steps in construction. Good research will save hours of time and produce a more accurate model. No plans of the station are currently known to exist, but plans of parts of each building do. Plans of the sheds exist, but I only learned about this afterwards. Oh, well! The only way I had to go was to make my own drawings from photographs on hand. Another helpful plan aid is the post card. Fortunately for me, there are many color post cards, circa 1900, for hints on coloring of the structure.

    Again after completion, an actual piece (pieces) of terra cotta ornament from the depot was brought to my attention. In your research, try checking with local museums. Many have photo collections, but there may be an item of use not on display. The magazine you are now reading emphasizes the many societies that are obvious prime sources of information. One source of photos for urban stations might often be overlooked. By examining background, trolley and bus photos may often give you street level details of stations they passed. In my model, I used a timetable for detailing. The actual Broad Street Station contained a large mural of the PRR system. This mural I recreated with reasonable results by reducing and coloring a photocopy.

    Having assembled what information I had, I began to make a set of working drawings. In my collection, I have a set of street and track layout blueprints for Broad Street. From these and several other known dimensions, I began to lay out a grid. By measuring a known dimension of an object, side, etc., in a photo and placing that measurement alongside those unknown sides, an approximate length can be calculated. Compare the known to the unknown, they figure out what percent the unknown is of the known. From this point, I continued to fill in the grid with reference points, then details. Eventually I ended up with drawings to scale from which to make templates and details.


    The 2nd story interior of the terminal building includes ticket counters, offices, waiting rooms and rest areas. The stub ends of the tracks are part of this structure; the tracks extend (downward, in this photo) through the arched train shed.

    The arched roof train shed alone. The terminal and office buildings will be placed at the rear of the train shed.

    The office (left) and terminal (right) buildings. The train shed will extend to the rear. 

    The plexiglass core provides a sturdy and perfectly aligned framework for the ex­terior panels and fittings. The complex pilasters, columns and spires were completed first.

    The construction of the roof gable on the terminal building is typical of all the ga­bles on both buildings. The shingles and inner structure all are Evergreen styrene strips. One of the few commercial windows (a Grandt Line part) is in the peak of this dormer.

    The dormers and spires for the office building, ready to be cemented to the plexiglass core.

    The rear of the terminal building before the arched train shed is in place. The stub ends of the tracks are visible just on top of the 1x2 wood "basement" supports.

    The street side of the terminal building. The arched train shed attaches to the right (rear) of the building. The 1x2 "basement is not yet in place. 

    HO and N scale figures were filed flat to create the bas relief sculptures that appeared on the real Broad Street Station.

    The arched roof train shed is also based on a plexiglass plastic core to al­low the core to form both support and the clear glazing. The window mullions were pre-painted before being cemented to the clear plexiglass to minimize the need for masking or hand-painting.

    The completed terminal building, office building and arched train shed.

    The first story of the interior is at the track platform level.




    Article Details

    • Original Author By Chuck Denlinger
    • Source Railmodel Journal

    Article Album (16 photos)

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  • Steven  Smith
    Steven Smith Great Article I saw this on the internet about 6 years ago then it disapeared! Great model and great inspiration. Im doing a simular project but because of space I had to cut some corners on the dimensions of my Head House and Shed. Its going to be a lase...  more
    January 14, 2011
  • Rick Schoch
    Rick Schoch IMPRESSIVE!!
    January 15, 2011