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  • An Easy Cinderblock Factory Kitbash

    by Doug Geiger, MMR

    Photos by the author

    >The old part of North Star Tent & Awning is an unmodified Design Preservation Models (DPM) Cuttings Scissor Company. The modern office extension is made from pieces of the City Classics Carnegie Street Manufacturing kit.
    Model Railroading - August 2002 - Page 46

    For many, kitbashing structures is an enjoyable part of model railroading. Combining two or more kits together, often from different manufacturers can yield unique buildings. Or one can rearrange a kit so it wont look like the same structure found on a hundred other layouts. Some kits are natural kitbash candidates, while others are not. If a kit contains modular wall sections, then its a prime choice for the kitbashers saw. One such building is the HO-scale Carnegie Street Manufacturing kit (#109) from City Classics (CC). It is a simple, one-story cinderblock building that can be found from the 1950s through the present.

    Two of these kits are combined with an HO-scale Design Preservation Models (DPM) Cuttings Scissor Company (#103) building to make this easy cinderblock factory complex. The DPM kit provides the core of the factory (the original building) and the CC kits form the more modern part of the structure plus the new office extension. Two of the Great West Models Roof Toppers (part #902) are used to cover the kitbashed CC kits.

    The Modern Building

    After reading the instructions for the CC structure, chisel off the small injection pins found on the backs of all the CC wall sections. Flatten any walls that have warped by reverse bending. One very useful tool to use on this project is the slow-speed circular sander sold by the tool company, MicroMark (see Photo 1). All the edges of any unmodified walls have a slight angle to them. Although these can be filed to obtain a square edge, the slow-speed sander is much quicker and more precise. Also, any cut edges will need to be sanded to ensure a tight fit.

    Glue two unmodified long walls together to make the back wall. Apply the liquid styrene cement with a brush, then immediately slide the joint back and forth to weld the wall sections together. Keep the tops level across the joint. Make the outer edges of each wall section flush since the wall thicknesses may not be equal. Cut five pieces of .010 x .156 styrene strip for the rear wall pilasters (the vertical columns). These should fit between the wall top ridge and seven courses of cinderblock from the bottom. Space these pilasters equal distance between each pair of windows. The center pilaster covers the joint between the two wall sections. Do not add the corner pilasters until all the walls of the structure have been glued together.

    Shave off the four window ledges wherethe two loading dock doors are to be applied near the center joint. These doors will each cover over a window. Reverse a CC door/track casting so the door will be on the left of the track. See the finished photo to position these door/track castings. The track will need to be shortened slightly to fit between pilasters.

    Cut two of the long walls as shown in Photo 2. Mark the discard sections with a large X. Save any of these unused pieces for possible use later (or for another kitbash!). Two of the short walls that contain the roll-up doors are cut per Photo 3.

    This front view of the modern building is made from two City Classics kits kitbashed together. Those black stars on each wall section are the washers for reinforcement rods.
    Model Railroading - August 2002 - Page 47

    Note that one of these walls keeps the small door, while the other removes it. A razor saw can be used to cut the thick CC walls, but a cutoff disk in a motor tool (using adequate eye protection) makes the job much quicker (see Photo 4). Since this method melts the styrene where the disk cuts, always cut just outside a line, then sand or file to the mark.

    Place together the three cut wall pieces plus an unmodified kit wall. They should be (from left to right): the single freight door piece, a stock long wall with three window pairs, the small personnel door plus freight door piece, and a window pair section. These four parts should form the same length as the back wall made previously. If not, sand a piece or two slightly shorter. The joints do not need to be perfect since pilasters will fill in any cracks. Glue the sections together when the length of the front wall matches that of the back wall. Like the back wall, glue each front wall section flush to the outside, not the inside, since the sections may not be equal in thickness.

    Make five pilasters from .010 x .156 stripes of styrene. Glue them directly to the wall sections at the joints. Try to maintain equal distances from existing windows or doors. Note, however, that the distances between pilasters will not be equal. Although there will be tiny gaps under each strip at each cinderblock course, they are not noticeable. After the joints and pilasters have dried, sand smooth the top and bottom edges of the front wall.

    Remove any surface detail from one short kit wall by chiseling off the window and door sills. Then file the surface of this wall smooth. It will be joined later to the original (DPM) building. It will be hidden, but is used to maintain the modern buildings integrity. Form the rectangular modern building by gluing together the front wall, the smoothed right side wall, the back wall and an unmodified short wall (which makes the left side of the building). Glue the sections together on a piece of plate glass to ensure the evenness of the building. Assemble the structure upside-down to keep the roof edge even across all the walls. When all the joints have dried overnight, add strips of .010 x .156 styrene to each outside corner. These form the outer pilasters. Make sure each piece is tight against its neighbor to avoid any gaps.

    For strength, add a piece of .250 x .250 styrene to the inside of each of the four corners. Also add two pieces of .125 x .250 strip at the center of the building along the top and bottom edges to keep the front and rear walls from bowing inward. When everything has dried completely, fill in the injector pin holes along the top edge of each wall (see Photo 5). There is also a dip near the top edge of the molded wall sections that also needs to be filled in (see Photo 6). Use a plastic-compatible body putty, like Squadron White or Green. When the putty has dried, sand the surfaces smooth. Two coats may be necessary since the holes and dips are deep and the putty may shrink.

    Sand the bottom of the building smooth with 150-grit sandpaper. This evens out all the wall sections. Using Photo 7 as a guide, add .080 x .080 strips .200 from the top edge of all the walls. This forms a ledge for the roofs to rest on. Next, cut the roofs apart from the flash using a sharp scissors. Use a pencil to mark where to cut. It is a bit tricky to cut the vacu-formed styrene roofs and keep a straight edge. Photo 8 shows this process. Trial fit the two roof sections into the building and trim where necessary. There can be some slight gaps since the seam will be filled with tar later. Putty can also be used to fill larger gaps, but be warned: the roofs are very thin and both putty and styrene cement can eat through the material.

    Model Railroading - August 2002 - Page 48

    A stiffener is required under the center of each roof. Use a wire contour gauge (see Photo 9) to make the styrene roof rib (see Photo 10). Make the rib from .080 styrene sheet. Glue one rib under each roof. Make a paste from liquid styrene and white sprue bits. Let the glue melt the sprue to form a consistency of syrup. This may take overnight. When the paste is ready, apply it to any joints with a metal spatula tool as illustrated in Photo 11. Be careful not to crater the thin roofs with too much styrene paste. This paste will really strengthen any styrene-to-styrene joint. It is messy and should only be applied to the non-visible side of a seam. Since the paste will probably be softer than the surrounding styrene walls even when dry, it cannot be sanded or filed easily.

    The attachment angle on the CC awnings is incorrect. File a correct angle such that the bottom of the awning is perpendicular to a wall section. Splice three long awnings together to fit over the loading dock doors. Two short awnings are used over the personnel doors and one long canopy is used over the front wall garage door. There is no awning over the short side garage door. Keep all the awnings separate for painting.

    Drill several holes in the roof near the back edge for vent pipes. Use short pieces of brass wire for these vents. Glue them from inside the roof. Dont add the four large roof vents until after they have been painted. Add the kits roof support strips as decorative edging along the top edge of both the front and back walls. There should be six on the front wall and six on the back wall. Keep the rounded ends as is. Center each strip between the pilasters. For the exposed short wall, trim off a spare freight door from its horizontal track and glue the track to the wall top.

    The Loading Dock

    From leftover pieces of the cinderblock walls and one long wall of the CC kits office, cut the parts necessary for the loading dock. They should be six and one-half courses of block high. There should be enough material to span most of the backside of the building. Keep the length of each section uniform. Glue .010 x .156 pilasters across each joint. Two short sections of wall will be required under the two concrete stairs. These stairs are made from four risers of Central Valleys Stair stock or Plastruct stair material.

    The dock floor is made from a piece of .040 styrene sheet, cut to fit slightly larger than the dock walls length and width. Mark and scribe some joints in the styrene floor with a seam tool (made for the plastic model airplane folks). Round the corners of the floor and rough up the trackside edge slightly with a knife. Glue the walls to the floor, keeping everything square. After the dock is dry, sand its bottom flat with 150grit sandpaper.

    Cement the dock to the back wall of the factory building. Make sure the dock is tight against the wall. The stairs are then glued under the dock floor at each end of the dock, against the building wall. This completes the new part of the factory complex.

    The Office Extension

    The small building attached to the side of the original building is the new office extension. It is made from more pieces of the CC cinderblock kits. Photo 12 shows where to cut two long kit office wall pieces to make the single long extension wall. There should be three windows, equally spaced in this wall. As before in the modern building, sand or file any unmodified and cut edges on all the cinderblock walls to ensure tight construction. Three .010 x .156 pilasters fit between the windows and cover the seam.

    Make the back short wall by shortening a kit long office wall. It should match the length of a kit front office wall (the one with the personnel door). Two angled short wall extensions are needed as shown in Photo 13. After a cap strip is added (.040 x .125 styrene) as seen in Photo 14, these angle pieces are added to the previously made back short wall and an unmodified kit office front wall.

    All three walls should now be glued together. Use two pieces of .125 x .250 styrene strip to fill in for the missing fourth wall. Photo 15 shows the office extension after the addition of corner .010 x .156 pilasters and three of the kits roof support strips added as decorations along the tops of the three walls.

    When everything has dried, add putty to any injection pin holes or depressions and sand smooth when dry. Make a roof from .060 styrene sheet cut to fit. Small gaps will be filled later with the tar mixture. Add three roof braces (.125 x .125 strips) just below each walls top edge. Photo 16 illustrates how the shingles are added to the styrene roof. These are self-adhesive lasercut three-tab shingles produced by American Model Builders (part #285). Stagger the joints for a neat appearance.

    Odds and Ends

    While waiting for the walls to dry on the modern building and office extension, assemble the DPM kit without any modifications. This forms the original factory building. Add the kits roof, too. Putty any seams that show gaps. Wait until all the joints have set before applying any putty. Since the right end of the modern part of the factory butts against the left side of the old building, any cast detail within that area needs to be sanded off. The smoothed-off right end of the new building fits between the rear loading dock door and the first window on the left side of the old building. Use the end of the new building to mark its location on the old building. Chisel off any lintel and brick trim within this area on the old building.

    Assemble the air conditioning units. These are Walthers A/C Detail kit #9333157. Two big units are used on the roof of the old building. A vent from the scrap box was added to the casting on the DPM-supplied chimney. The two large cylindrical vents are from Rix Products. The package (#610) contains several varieties of roof vents, plus mounting plates. Note that the vent on the office extension has a slanted mount, but the vent is vertical. Build one set of concrete stairs using some of the CC step material.

    Make two street light assemblies. These are simply Campbell metal shades (part #255) with a tiny 1.5V bulb inserted in the neck. Bend the wires so they touch and coat them with a bit of white glue to form the gooseneck hangers for the lights. The inside of the lights should be painted silver or white, while the outside is painted gray or green.

    The Signs

    Model Railroading - August 2002 - Page 49

    Signs tell a lot about a structure. They can convey product, era and location all in one package. For this structure, I needed an old sign (for the original DPM core building) and some modern-style signs for the new cinderblock part. All these printed paper signs came from an old Model Railroader article. I save any signs that magazine publishers provide, regardless of what the sign was designed for. Just cut out the page and store it for future use. The trick is to remember where you saved them! You can also design and print your own signs on a color printer using a computer, but thats another article.

    Three signs are used for this industry. Trim each from the magazine page and leave some of the border intact. Cut sign boards from .040 styrene sheet. Use the sign as a template. Since the old style sign has rounded corners, the styrene back matches it. Mark and drill six evenly spaced holes in the leftmost convex roof on the modern building with a #42 drill bit (see Photo 18). The roof material is quite flexible, so drill slowly and keep a support under the roof where you are drilling. Using the same bit, drill four equally spaced holes in the front roof of the old building, slightly inset from the front wall.

    Then cut 3/64" styrene rod in several lengths: four 2" pieces and six 11/2" pieces. Insert these rods into the appropriate holes. Push each rod down so that their tops are mostly even. Straighten any leaning rods. Do not glue these sign posts to the roofs. Glue the sign backs to the posts using liquid styrene cement as seen in Photo 19. Add some gap-filling cyanoacrylate (CA) glue to reinforce the joint between sign board and post. Note that the posts extend past the sign back. They are trimmed flush after the sign assembly has dried completely and is removed from the roof.

    A common characteristic of many cinderblock (and brick) buildings is that they have reinforcement rods running through the structure. Usually these are located along the top edge of a wall. These rods keep the walls from bowing outward by applying a gentle squeezing pressure. Decorative star washers are sometimes applied to the ends of these rods to connect the rod to the building. Photo 20 shows an easy way to 20 make these washers by trimming off the outer ring from an HO-scale brakewheel. Two different styles of brakewheels were found in the scrap box. Six are needed for the front wall and four are needed for the back wall of the modern building. They are glued on after painting.

    Painting & Weathering

    Wash all the structures with soap and water. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the oils and styrene dust from all surfaces. Pat everything dry with paper towels and then let it all air dry completely. The modern building is airbrushed with MODELflex (MF) Earth while the old building is airbrushed with MF CN Yellow. The roofs are MF Flat Black. Use magnification and a small brush to hand-paint all the window frames and concrete blocks around the windows. Use Floquil Rail Brown for the frames and Reefer Gray for the concrete. The pilasters on all the buildings also get the concrete color.

    Scalecoat II Silver was airbrushed on all the A/C units, sign boards, all the roof vents and drain pipes. Mask around the large freight roll-up doors and airbrush silver on these, too. All the awnings are painted with MF TrailerTrain Yellow. The concrete dock and stairs are brush painted with MF CB&Q Gray. Brush paint the slab shingles on the office extension with Floquil GN Blue. The two sliding freight doors on the back of the modern building are Floquil Antique White, while the star washers are MF Flat Black.

    After the black paint has dried, attach all the rooftop details (air conditioner units and vents) on all three buildings. The old building gets the silver drain pipes. Also glue in the sign assemblies made earlier. Keep the signs level and apply cement from the inside of each roof. Let these posts dry. Apply a thin coat of white glue with a small brush to both roofs of the old building and immediately sprinkle some red ballast into the glue. Shake off the excess when the glue has dried. Fill a syringe with some gloss black acrylic tube paint and apply thin beads of it along all the roof seams (see Photo 21) on all three buildings. A gentle touch is necessary or the paint will glob. The black paint is difficult to remove once applied to a seam, so patience is necessary for this step, but the results are worth it. Since it has some depth to it, the tube paint better approximates tar than does just brush painting on tar lines.

    Two short pieces of new stripwood are added across the loading dock door on the old building. Add window glazing with some clear .010 styrene to all the windows. Make some curtains for the old building from some white paper and glue them behind the glazing. Apply rubber cement to both the paper signs and the signboards. Let the cement dry and then press the signs into position. Glue the office extension to the old building using some gap-filling CA or twopart epoxy. Keep the joint tight with clamps and rubber bands until dry.

    Next, locate the center of each wall section on the front of the modern building. Glue the star washers (made from the brakewheels) to those locations. The washer should be set six courses of cinderblock down from the top edge of the wall. Then using the same distance measurements, glue star washers to the back of the building, too. These will not be centered within each wall section. Skip any washers that would fall on the big wooden dock doors. Cement the two loading dock doors to the back wall. Leave a slight gap between the bottom of the door and dock floor. Finally, drill some small holes through the walls and add the two street light assemblies over the office extension door and on one outside corner of the modern building.

    Weather the buildings as you want. I used a heavy india ink wash (1 tsp of ink per pint of rubbing alcohol) on the old building and only a faint weathering on the office extension and new building. Be careful when weathering the signs with this mixture as the printing ink may react with the alcohol. Add some dirt splash along the bottom of all the buildings with a bit of heavilythinned brown paint. Some rust stains were streaked under each reinforcement washer, too. When you are satisfied with the weathering, glue the old building (with its office extension) to the modern structure using some two-part epoxy or CA glue. Your kitbashed cinderblock factory is now complete. Add some piping to some nearby tanks and some litter around the loading dock (straps and paper scraps) with some weeds to complete the scene.

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