No. 19: Ackley Depot Construction, Part 1

The Ackley depot is being constructed and this would be a good time for an update on it’s progress.

The depot was built in 1908 as a combination passenger and freight depot. It replaced a typical M&StL wood structure on the same site. The building measured 24 feet by 96 feet and was built “for the ages” of brick.

Other information: Elevation at the depot 1101 feet MSL. The station was located at milepost 200.6 but the Station Number was 201. Telegraph call sign was KY.  Below is an excellent prototype photo.  Love that long Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway sign!


Photo courtesy Iowa State ArchivesThe train order signal is particularly interesting. It is a three-light US&S signal with red, yellow and green aspects. Red was used to signal stop for Form 31 orders, Yellow was used to signal approach for Form 19 orders, and Green was used to signal no orders.  According to M&StL records provided by Gene Green, the signal was installed and placed into service on October 5th, 1942. The description of work reads Install color light train order signal replacing mechanical train order board.

M&StL installed several of these signals at key stations on the system during World War II.  This type was also installed at Hopkins, Minn., Montgomery, Minn., New Prague, Minn., and one or two other places on the system. They are not to be confused with CTC signals, since M&StL did not use a CTC dispatching system.


Here is the model I built using Integrated Signal System parts.  I built it before I built the depot model so I added plenty of ladder and extra height for later adjustment.

I started building the model about a month ago. There are no known plans so I interpolated the dimensions using photos and the crude drawings available on Sanborn maps, such as the copy shown below from 1930 (north is to the right).



Here is the railroad map, repeated with emphasis on the depot area.  North is to the left.  I laid out the whole trackside portion of the building to test dimensions and so forth, against a somewhat scale drawing of the structure that I drew based on the published dimensions and the Sanborn drawing.


Then I began cutting plastic.  I first measured a footprint of 24 x 96 feet and then built up the walls of the depot around that.  I used Walthers HO scale brick sheet for the job. The depot walls are scalloped so I stacked two layers of brick sheet to get the desired effect. I began by measuring out the walls and cutting them to the proper size, then carefully cut out all the window openings. Then I stacked the layers of bricks. I did all these tasks very carefully, following the photos and interpreting the distance as best I could.

The windows are very modified parts from Grandt Line.  In the photo below they are set inside the brickwork to test the fit.


I put together the first of the side pieces and got the structure standing.


Then measured and cut out the bay window pieces–which are both scalloped and offset.


Using a square, I attached the bay window.  The Grandt Line windows are at the left–the outside window is as modified, and the second window from the left is the original.  I further cut apart and modified the windows for the operator’s bay.  I added some open windows because I’m modeling later summer.  All is going well so far…


Below.  I continued working my way around the building, estimating the measurements by carefully examining the available photos.


Interestingly, when I got to the stage above, I found out that–despite all the careful measurements and planning, my depot somehow ended up about ten feet short.  It’s going to stay that way because I don’t want to start over, and getting all the materials to re-start here in Germany isn’t easy.


Above.  Here’s how the completed frame looks on the layout today.  The roof is coming soon.

The beautiful curved brick platform was custom made for me by Bill Hoss of Lake Junction Models in St. Louis.  I was talking to Bill at St. Louis RPM  a few years ago (See!  That’s the great value in going to RPM meets!) and explained that I need a special, curved brick platform.  Bill cut it for me for a pretty reasonable price, from basswood, and built it exactly to my specifications.  The platform was built for my previous Ackley layout but I removed it and am adapting it for use on the new layout. In fact, the entire layout was built around it. I’ll explain that in a later post.


In a post on the Yahoo M&StL Group, Doug Harding noted the following about the depot, particularly the brick platform:

I have a copy of the ICC roadbed notes for Ackley, which show 430 feet of curbing around the depot platform. The platform itself had 358 sq. ft. of brick. It was 15 feet wide at the depot and south end, narrowed to 8 feet wide north of the depot. The platform length went from 784 18 mark at south end to 804 69 mark at north end. I assume the numbers are survey marks, but don’t know what they mean. The depot itself measures marks 784 95 to 794 92. As the depot was 96 feet long we should be able to figure the length of the platform. – Doug Harding

My platform is 330 scale feet long and can service four passenger cars, and I thought that distance was a good compromise.


Picture above is Rube Heetland and Edd Brunning.  The date of this photo is unknown, likely sometime in the 1920s.  This is a valuable photo that shows some construction details of the depot. The scalloped edge on the lower half of the building is prominent.  Note also that the bay window has a scalloped lower half, but the scalloped edge is below that of the rest of the building.  So are the windows.  The shape of the concrete sill on the scalloped edge can also clearly be seen.  I like the detail on the gutter drain.  Photo courtesy Doug Harding.

Also note the original oil-burning train order signal, showing a Clear indication. The interlocking tower at the IC crossing had a similar train order signal on the M&StL side of the building.  In the background, the station’s passing siding is still in place, and the original grain elevator complex can be seen at the extreme left, along with part of the cattle pen in the distant background.  The livestock pen had a water tower overhead and that can clearly be discerned.

More to follow!  – John

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