No. 51: Fencing for Standard Oil (Ackley Layout)

In an effort to keep vandals out of the Standard Oil yard on my HO scale layout, I went shopping for chain link fence.  There’s no evidence there was ever a fence around the real site,  but chain link fence has been around for over 100 years—and it became common in the U.S. in the years following World War II—so I felt a chain link fence would be appropriate for my layout which is fixed in the summer of 1950.

Here’s the real place around 1968–this is about the best photo I’ve got:

Standard Oil 4

A friend on the Proto-Layouts list recommended a product made by Alkem Scale Models. Alkem is Bernie Kempinski’s business.  You may have heard of Bernie–he’s a pretty popular modeler and author.  More information on Alkem products and the fencing material I’m using can be found at

I have used brass wire and wedding veil material in the past but that was 30-40 years ago when I didn’t have any money. I still don’t have any money, but this time I wanted to get it right and I was willing to spend some extra bucks to get something that actually looks like chain link fence. I think I paid around $25 for the kit and shipping.

Below.  Here’s the kit.  I got one sheet of fencing that included a couple of different doors and some other interesting things.  Each one of the long fence sections includes the barbed wire on top.  The barbed wire looks great but I didn’t use it, and just cut it off.  The different types of doors are at the bottom.  A few manhole covers—the round things at the left–are included for fun.


Here’s a close-up:


And another (apologies for the glare):


According to the Alkem website:

This kit represents a typical security fence used in many commercial applications.  This kit contains about 200 scale feet of 6-feet tall fence with triple strand barbed wire, a 30-feet long cantilevered sliding gate, a 15-feet vehicle gate, and a 3-foot personnel gate.   Note, the barbed wire can be cut off if desired. The kit includes a piece of 0.032 inch wire to use as vertical posts as needed. The parts include many of the details found in chain link fence, albeit in a flat etched part. 

The material is stainless steel that is just 0.005 inches thick. This allows the finest detail as the photo etching process will allow to be included, such as the barbs on the barbed wire. Though the material is just 0.005-inch thick, it is quite sturdy and can stand on its own. You can use the included piece of wire to add posts and horizontal bars, but the fence can be installed without any posts if you so desire. 

This is really quality stuff and it’s easy to use and apply. I began the installation by measuring where I wanted the fencing, and then cutting out the appropriate sections with a sharp hobby scissors.  I used ACC to glue .030 brass wire to the back of the fence sections to simulate fence posts, and then painted each section with a 80%-20% mixture of light gray and silver.  See below.  The pencil was a temporary thing I used to keep the door open while I put the glue in place.


Once the paint was dry, I installed each section of fence by punching a holes into the plaster where the posts would go.  I used a reamer took I got from St. Louis Microtools at the St. Louis RPM meet a few years back.  It worked great.  Then I sank the posts into the holes and that was it.  I didn’t use any glue–the posts are just press-fit.  I began installing the fence at the office/warehouse building and worked my way around, installing fence around three sides of the property.


Here is a photo of the first portion of the fencing, painted and installed.  I added the personnel door by the building for easy access.  I did not install any fence on the left because  it would be near the edge of the benchwork and I was concerned that it could be easily damaged.


Below.  A close up.  After looking at this photo I probably should’ve added a little more silver to the paint mix.  The fence is the same color as the building.  The building is supposed to be gray, but the fence is not.  Next time I’ll use a more balanced ratio of gray and silver paint–maybe 40% gray and 60% silver.


Below.  Here’s another in-progress shot with a tank car spotted for unloading.  The fence has been installed all the way around and looks pretty good.


Below.  After installation and a few added details, things are starting to look up.  I understand tank cars were unloaded here by hooking up a hose to the bottom of the tank.  Dan Kohlberg suggested I use .015 solder for the job.  That’s on order.  That’ll be a cool detail to add.


Another important item left to model are the pipes running from the pump house to the tanks. I want to model above-ground pipes in red, blue and green (gas, diesel and kerosene/home heating oil) using brass wire.  I have in mind something like the pipes seen below.  This photo was made in Trenton, Illinois, on the former B&O lines, in 2004.

Trenton 1

I modeled piping on my previous layout using parts from a Walthers set, but the piping was too thick.


My only gripe with the kit is that it didn’t include enough small people-sized gates. There was only one in the kit; I could’ve used a second one at the pump house but I didn’t want to buy another entire kit for that part. I installed one of the larger doors by the pump house and it looks fine. Perhaps I can kitbash one at a later date using some of the remaining parts from the kit.

Thanks Bernie for bringing a really nice product to the market.

So you don’t go away empty handed, here are the signs I am using all over my oil jobbers. I printed them on a color printer and glued them all over the place.  I printed them so they are about 3/16ths of an inch, and they look great.

Enjoy!  – John G



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