No. 75: Douglas Street Crossing at Ackley

The Douglas Street crossing, or “center road” as I call it, was started last December during the Winter Offensive.


I wanted to model Douglas Street as a dirt road since I expect the real road was hard-packed dirt in 1950.  Below, here is a close up from the 1970 aerial photo of Ackley that has been shared previously.  It kinda looks like a dirt road…

Ackley 2

I began construction of this road the same way I did with the other roads on the layout, by first building a subroaded base of HO scale cork roadbed (below), and then covering the subroadbed with Hydrocal from Woodland Scenics.

Middle Road 1- 251

In case you’re wondering, the “Stacked” glass is from a favorite burger joint in St. Louis.

I also used Hydrocal around the area to complete other scenic landforms.  I used a thin cork material I bought at a German art store as the subroadbed for the town site, trackside industries, and so forth, and planned on painting that with the dirt-colored paint and calling it complete.  After giving the cork a coat or two of paint, however, it just didn’t look right.  I went back later and covered it with a very thin layer of Hydrocal and then reapplied the paint, and that turned out a lot better.

Middle Road 1- 252

Douglas Street crossed four tracks—the main track, a short passing siding, an industrial track, and a team track that ran behind the depot.  The team track also served the Standard Oil distributor, and M&StL’s trackside dock, and probably was the site of the REA pole yard at some point (mentioned in M&StL 1930s documents).  I included the spur so I could model Standard Oil and the dock, but then the track turns, runs across Douglas Street and continues into the abyss of the aisle. 

Below.  This is a picture from last December, which isn’t very notable except it does show the Douglas Street cork roadbed and the siding that trails off to the left in the photo.  The real track ran behind the depot to a stub end. 


I don’t know if the track behind the depot was used by 1950 so I have modeled it as an out-of-service track.

I painted the dirt road with this German paint I’ve been using, a Mocha-colored home interior paint.  I know I’ve mentioned this repeatedly in past blog posts.  The color reminds me of dirt you might see in Georgia or Minnesota—maybe not so much in Iowa.  My buddy Clark Propst tells me that Iowa dirt is “black”.  I know what he means but modeling that is tough.  Initially, below, I tried a darker paint to try and simulate the “dirty dirt” you’d find on a dirt road in Iowa.  Not black, but dirty.  It didn’t turn out well.

Middle Road 1- 256

Above.  A whole lot of sanding and filling and shaping finished the road.  After it was painted, I sprayed a darker color, Testors Dark Tan, down the middle of each lane to simulate packed dirt on the tire tracks and loose sands and pebbles between the tire tracks.  Then I went back with different colors of tans to try and streak the road a little bit.  The darker colors between the rails happened naturally when I was cleaning the track with a Bright Boy.


The crossbuck is an old thing I’ve had on hand for about 30 years.  I have no idea who the manufacturer is.  I specifically installed the crossbuck on the other end of the road off-center.


The telephone poles are a kitbash.  I used poles from the outstanding Rix telephone pole set and crossarms from the Walthers Electric Utility Pole set.  In some cases I have mixed crossarms on the same pole per the prototype.  I really want to improve my telephone pole models and when construction comes to a close on the layout I’ll have the time to go back and get some of those projects done.  Showcase Miniatures has some cool accessories that can help with that project.

Middle Road 1- 261

Photo backdrops will complete the scene.

New Rolling Stock Projects

December was a very, very busy month with work, kid’s activities and Christmas celebrations, but I managed to take some time to clear off the workbench and get two new projects started. 


The first project is not quite a new project, but it’s one I need to finish.  This is a Bachmann Russian Decapod that I’ve had since 2002.  Yep, that’s 16 years.  I generally don’t keep projects around that long but this is a must-have model for fans of the transition-era Seaboard Air Line.   

I’m detailing this model to represent SAL 501, which was an original Russian that ran on the railroad until 1951.  The photo below is a little messy but it shows the engine disassembled into it’s major components for detailing. 

Interestingly the electric motor has Buhler stamped on it.  Not Buhler as in Ferris…but Buhler as in the outstanding electric motor company.  Who knew.


I finished the tender about ten years ago and have finally begun detailing the locomotive.  When the fun work is done I will attempt to install a TCS-WOW DCC/Sound system in the tender.  



Below are a couple of photos of Gainsville Midland 206 as it was being prepped for display in Winder, Georgia.  206 was originally SAL 518 and it is really, really close to the Bachmann model right out of the box.  If I were to start again I’d stick with the 518–it’d be a lot less work.

These are Bill McCoy photos, used with permission.

GM 206 Atlanta, GA 1965

GM 206-2 Atlanta, GA 1963

Second is a freight car project for Frank Hodina’s Resin Car Works blog.  Frank sent me special parts and decals to build a C&IM USRA wood gondola—a car I’ve been interested in modeling for a long time.  Frank asked me to do an article on the car for the blog so when you finally see the car it’ll be on the RCW site at  Eric Hansmann runs this blog for Frank and it is a great site.  It’s worth your time to check it out.

Happy 2018!  – John G








2 thoughts on “No. 75: Douglas Street Crossing at Ackley

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