No. 100: More Southside Scenery Work

I’m not a streetcar guy but I was in Milan, Italy on Monday and was surprised to see a whole bunch of old trolley cars running around downtown.  I managed to get one halfway-decent photo shown below.  I read online that these cars have been around since the 1920s and were built to an American design. 

The most interesting thing about these cars, apart from their cool early 20th Century design, was that they are loud!  Modern trams running nearby are quiet and comfortable, but these cars clank along and with every turn of the wheel there is a creak and moan and clatter over rail joints.  It’s great!  The photo below almost looks like it could’ve been taken in the 1930s, right?

IMG_1955.jpgThe Milan cars have a pretty cool history, some of which can be read about at  Even if you’re not a streetcar guy the read is worth five minutes of your time.

Back to Ackley

In a recent post I mentioned that I had completed a lot of work adding new photo backdrops and trees to the south side area of my 16 x 2-foot layout.  Here are a few more photos of the work, plus some new photos of work in the center section of the layout.

Below, here is an overall view of the newly completed area.


Here’s a close-up of the layout near the M&StL-IC junction, with the new backdrop in place in the background.  The backgrounds are simply color photocopies, cut out around the tree-lines, and glued on the backdrop with Elmer’s Glue.


Here’s another view, slightly different from the view at top, with more trees added and a few more details filled in.  You may note that elevator in front.  It’s new.


In the early days there was another elevator on the stub-end spur across from the Ackley depot.  No photos of it have been found, and having just a footprint on an old Sanborn map, I went about finding a suitable prototype model the structure and provide a little business on that track.  

I focused on this elevator, below, which was on the M&StL lines at Carver, which is one station east of Chaska, Minnesota.  Chaska and Carver have a family connection.  One of the guys on the M&StL IO Groups list, Vern Wigfield, was a longtime agent at Carver.  Vern has been a great resource for M&StL historians and modelers, and a few years ago I found out that Vern and my mom went to high school together in the 1940s too.

m&stl carver mn 4-7-65

I quickly threw together a model of the elevator, guessing at the dimensions.  I used Evergreen Models Novelty Siding for the job, and planned on sheathing the entire model with styrene strip to simulate wood.


I built up the basic superstructure first…


…then added the roof and elevator (below).


Above.  I think it’s too big.  The elevator part of the structure is too tall.  But I’m going to finish it and even though it might not be the final building on that site, it’ll work for the time being.

Meanwhile here’s another photo of the road at the center of the layout.  I shot the photo in downtown Litchfield, Illinois—does it look familiar, Lonnie?  I still need to match some colors and add a few details but it’ll work.


I also added about 30-40 new trees to the layout.  My daughter Kirsten and I built three different types.  We built some puffball trees on Woodland Scenics tree armatures, we built some puffball trees on Swiss weed armatures (more on that later…) and finally we made some trees using Super Tree material.  They all turned out well.


Below.  Here’s a view at the center of the layout where the road backdrop was installed.  There are several types of trees here, but the best-looking one in my opinion is the tree just to the right of the highway at the backdrop.


I made the tree using a cutting from a bush I came across in Switzerland last June.  The armature looked nice and I painted it lightly using a mix of dark brown and light gray paint, and then covered it with Woodland Scenics fiber and coated the fiber with Super Leaf material from Scenic Express.


My funny, funny daughter took a photo of me harvesting the weeds last year.  We stopped at a local grocery store to pick up food while staying near Lake Geneva, and I spied the bushes and grabbed a handful of weed cuttings.


Here’s a view of a freight car with the new backdrop in place at the center of the layout and some new trees in place.  To my untrained eyes the “back-scene”, as British modelers call it, looks perfectly natural.  Definitely not perfect, but the background and trees fit together and compliment the foreground scene where all the action is.


Progress is good and continues this week. 

Meanwhile, this photo, below, is added for all the guys on the Proto Layouts list on IO.  I posted a similar picture and one of the guys said “Looks good…now go straighten that crossbuck!”


Until next time.  – John G





8 thoughts on “No. 100: More Southside Scenery Work

  1. John re your elevator model. It doesn’t look right because you have the roof pitch wrong. The elevator has a steeper pitch, I think it is a 8/12, ie 8″ high for 12″ run. It looks like you cut your model with a 4/12 or 5/12 pitch. A common mistake. Today we have a lot of 4/12 roofs, but back then 6/12, 8/12, even 12/12 was more common.A steeper pitch will put the lower roof ridge right between the twin windows on the head house. Your roof ridge is too low, because of the shallow pitch.


    • You’re absolutely right about the pitch of the roof. I’ll fix it but it’ll require taking the whole thing apart. I have a plan and intend to get to it today while I have the time. By the way do you know whose picture I used on the blog? I need to get in the photo credits. Thanks! John


  2. HI John, been following progress on your layout, looks really good. And you can’t have too many elevators.
    Just started the under frame for my p48 b3/4 SAL box. I know some SAL boxcars had black roofs. Do you happen to know which classes?
    Thanks, john


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