Christopher Brimley updated April 18, 2012


Christopher Brimley's Tags


Browse Articles » How-To Text View Magazine View

  • A 1950s Treehouse in N Scale

    Figure - Detail of Sweetwater sage brush branch with grafted branches. Micro Engineering tire is suspended with synthetic human hair rope.
    Model Railroading - December 1999 - Page 46 Model Railroading - December 1999 - Page 47


    1959 WAS A GOOD YEAR FOR TREEHOUSES. It seemed like every ravine across North America had at least one, or the ground dwelling variety - the clubhouse or "fort." I sbould know, for as a ninth grader, I, along with my most trusted friends, would slip off into the woods to taste the forbidden fruits that society deemed unacceptable...cigarettes, beer and "nudie" magazines. Boy, have times changed since then. What was considered risque back then seems quite tame when compared to the vices of teenagers today.

    The idea for creating an N scale tree house evolved from experimenting with trunk stems for fall and winter dioramas. I found that when broken apart, Sweetwater's sagebrush HO gauge trees made ideal "oak" trunks. These were enhanced with grafted gypsophilia (Baby's Breath) with the buds removed. The gypsophilia was cemented with Elmer's Glue-All, then sprayed light gray to simulate the fine branches of an aged, dead tree.

    I felt this tree was the perfect spot for a treehouse since it was large...about 60'-70' tall...and would be easy for boys to climb. Remember, these treehouses were TOP SECRET, and no girls were allowed. Invariably, they were constructed with whatever materials could be dragged from home...or the local dump.

    The tree was placed atop a ridge over a double mainline reminiscent of the Lake Pepin ridges and bluffs along the Mississippi River near Winona, Minnesota, but it could just as easily be Maiden Rock on the Wisconsin side where the CB&Q had their mainline, with the Milwaukee and CN&W operating on the opposite side.

    I felt that a tire swing suspended from a limb would add a nice touch so I used a painted Micro Engineering cast tire (#80-140) hung with a synthetic human hair and secured with CA. This allows a natural suspension. To make the hair appear more like a heavy rope I painted it a light gray.

    Scale 2x2s, 2x4s and sections of scribed balsa were used to form the basic treehouse. There is no plan, which is appropriate, as construction of treehouses was almost always improvised depending on the materials available. The cruder the better. I added a window and simple floor aligned between the main division in the trunk. The floor was made of individual 2x4s cemented in place with Elmer's. A simple step ladder was added up the side of the trunk and a Gold Medal Models brass freight-car ladder was attached from a supporting limb to the platform. A crude roof was cut from a piece of roof section from a building found at an N scale swap meet. I gave the finished structure a thin wash of Turpenoid (an odorless turpentine substitute) tinted with a small amount of black/brown oil pigment.

    I selected Preiser figures, bending the arms on two of them, and repainting them to represent my teenagers. Dullcote was brushed over the figures to reduce shine.

    These treehouses can be as large or elaborate as desired, but remember that they could only be build with whatever materials could be hoisted by hand to upper branches.

    Article Album (1 photo)

    Share - Report