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One of my projects is realising a lifelong interest in US Model Railroading.  I'm assembling the pieces for a Santa Fe layout inspired by a Model Railroader Magazine Project from the 1980s: "The Washita & Santa Fe."  There's isn't a readily available kit for the wooden board and frame Combination Depot and Freight House I need, so I'm going to have a first attempt at scratchbuilding one as a Cakebox Model.  Hopefully it will look something like this:

 

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I have drawings from MR Jun '83 for the larger #4 Standard Santa Fe Depot used in the MR project, but even though that was compressed from 140' to 80' it is still over 11" long, so this will be a shorter, trial version.

 

Plans for a smaller Depot were published in Model Railroader in Nov '79, along with an article about a lad who saved up the money from working on his family farm one Summer to buy that station when it closed (it was moved to the farm to house his model railroad).  Those plans are just under 40' sq. (5.5" in HO Scale).  It's not quite as I've drawn it here (there was no railside access door), but it gives me the key details I need to tackle.

 

In terms of my rubbish* modelling, the post-Christmas tidy-up has provided some card, festive boxes, an offcut of 6mm cork sheet and some MDF :

 

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I realise these could all be classed as standard modelling materials, but other than the cork, which is from a roll of domestic insulation I bought for track underlay, all are being 'repurposed' for this project (there was a pile of MDF pieces in the house when we moved in).  This is very much a test piece for me, but I'll see how I get on, Keith.

___________________________________________

(* if this idea works I hope that can be a noun, not an adjective)

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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As an aside for anyone thinking about Cakebox modelling for the first time, the diorama I built for the first round of the 2019 competitions was the first time I’d ever tried putting together a scenic composition:

 

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The experience and encouragement I received gave me the impetus I needed to try more ambitious builds, including an HO station big enough that my Cakebox would easily fit inside it:

 

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and this industrial building for my planned layout:

 

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So do have a go...

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Day 1 Step 1 - Board all ready:

Just a reference photo for later as I don’t have an 8” Cakebox.  I’ve cut my baseboard to be approx. 7 7/8” x 7 5/8”:

 

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OK, I’ll admit I marked it out to be 7 7/8” sq. but made such a mess rushing one side that modeller’s pride had me recut it a bit smaller and straighter before taking the photo (hey, it was cold in the workshop) :rolleyes:

 

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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Day 4 Step 2 (Part I) - Mark your card

Although I’m trying this build in card, it’s also a dry run for a planned styrene / plasticard version later.  As such, I’m not trying to design parts with folding tabs (Metcalfe style), but am using double layers of thicker card for the main shape.  I’ve had my first go at marking out some pieces this evening, starting with both ends (and a strengthening interior wall):

 

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I’ve decided to follow the Model Railroader plans which have the door on the side, to make it easier for me to transfer the measurements given.  I can’t show the plans here due to copyright, but what I hope to learn by breaking the build down into simple steps anyone can follow is that this kind of basic scratchbuilding is something even I can have a go at.

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Day 5 Step 2 (Part II)
Saturday is my day off, so a chance to do a bit more this morning - not much progress to share, but natural light is better for the photos, so I’ll put this up now anyway:

 

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The key point is I’m cutting out the windows and doorways before cutting the walls to size, so I have a better surface to place my steel rule on.  Cutting card dulls blades quickly, so I’ve put a new blade into the Stanley knife: fortunately I have some ‘in stock’.  I’ve measured the front and back walls to be 1mm lower than the ends to allow for the protruding overhang of the roof (see original drawing).  The tricky bits are next, especially the bay window, so there will be a gap before my next post.
 

Although I’m making this up as I go along, I think I’ve managed to avoid any mistakes so far - other than making my coffee this morning with some out of date Colombian Ground that tasted rather like, well, Colombian ground :rolleyes:

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Day 5 Step 2 (Part III) - Visiting the bay
Slight change of plan as I had more time today.  The bay window is the main reason for scratchbuilding the depot: Walthers do a fairly generic Union Pacific Depot kit with a square bay, and a very generic small country depot with a high pitched dormer roof, neither of which are distinctively Santa Fe.  So I’ve had a first go at cutting out the bay today after all, as I don’t know if the thicker card I have will work here (it came as box inserts in some packaging):


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I’m not planning to make the bay double thickness, and if it doesn’t work I can try a folded, thinner card instead.  To get the calculations right the trick seemed to be to start with a plan view, even though I don’t need one to cut to.  The diagonal roof profile that looks to fall short of the 25mm measurement shown is not a mistake - that’s the measurement for the overhanging dormer roof when I make it.

 

One thing I’ve not yet sourced is some good plastic packaging to use for windows (I’m committed to making it from rubbish).  In one sense that’s a good thing - it means far less plastic packaging has been in evidence this Christmas.

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Day 6 Step 3 (Part I) - And it was all yellow

While the packing card I have cuts nicely, I was a bit concerned as to how it would take paint, as it’s not sold as modelling card, so did a small test: 

 

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Top to bottom on the left: 

 

the card I’m using for the walls,

the shiny side of a cereal packet,

and the dull side of a cereal packet.  

 

All are painted with identical yellow paint (two coats).  I think this confirms my suspicions, so I’ve marked out an outer skin of card pieces using a Christmas Biscuits box, similar to the dull side of the cereal packet: that seems to work best for a ‘painted wood’ finish.  The good news is that none of my painted samples have curled when painted - and the top piece (the ‘wall card’) has been glued to double thickness too without trouble.  That’ll be all for this weekend.  Take care and stay safe, Keith.

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Day 7 Step 4 (Part I) - Windows upgrade

An unplanned free evening has given me some time to have a first think about the window frames I need.  Santa Fe Depots often used a distinctive sash window, with an upper panel of six small lights over a larger, lower panel of nine.  Window frames were white, with the surrounding woodwork in green.  I found a small piece of left-over glazing sheet from a Ratio kit, and while it was bought for railway modelling, I think this can count as rubbish:


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If I had a budget for this project I’d be looking to buy pre-cut HO Tichy window frames, and if times were different I’d be going to a coffee-shop for some stirrers (and a Latté), but without any strips of wood lying around I’ve resorted to using paper for convenience.  My first attempt involved cutting out individual small squares - total failure:

 

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Attempt 2 involved individual narrow strips of paper glued behind the card wall.  It took a while to realise the absence of edge pieces was the problem - I’d painted the card wall edges white, but not given the window frames an edge.  Unfortunately I’d glued the inner wall behind the windows before I realised, so I had to make new walls - second failure:

 

54463036-5574-4B80-90E2-32D4B6C62674.jpeg.04695c54be7c4975e0462332e4b0b813.jpeg

 

Attempt 3 has been more successful - I cut a single paper template with holes for both windows that were each 1mm narrower than the holes in the card (along all edges), then placed longer strips of paper across both windows:

 

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They’re not perfect - the wider piece that is supposed to show the join between the upper and lower panels isn’t very distinctive, but as this is the rear wall of the depot I think it will pass a ‘good enough’ test at normal viewing distance:

 

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I’m sure there are better ways of doing this - with more time, skill and patience traditional matchsticks could be used, for example, but hopefully the overall effect will look OK when I’ve finished.

 

Edit: after looking again with fresh eyes this morning, I’ve added an extra piece across the middle of the windows to simulate the separate upper and lower sash arrangement:

 

73CABE6C-5FAB-407D-8346-6086A2479D24.jpeg.1061ce0bf85d6026e6a2e4ca30750d32.jpeg

 

I also checked the size of a match: it scales to around 7” square: too big for either a window frame or the battens I need to add to the walls, although I think I’ll be able to get away with using matches to support the loading dock.

 

While I’m experimenting like this, and finding my limitations, I think it makes sense to continue assembling the rear wall of the depot first, where my mistakes will be hidden.

 

The main thing I’ve learned so far is just how much respect is owed to the more experienced scratch builders who do such a fantastic job of inspiring us.  Hats off to all, Keith. 

 

 

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
(Additional photo and comment)
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1 hour ago, Wrenn said:

Keith it will all look good once the rest of the building progresses. I have respect for the guys and girls who produce some excellent card kits.

 

Thanks Kevin - good point about the card kits too, I agree 100% that the ingenuity and standard of kits today is incredible, both ready printed and downloadable.

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Keith, your making excellent progress with using the items you have to hand. You must have already hit the requisite 2 items of 'rubbish' already and your concept already covers the railway elements, so your well on the way.

Keep the updates coming Keith, this is just the early stages of a soon to be splendid Cakebox entry.

 

Mark

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22 hours ago, Wrenn said:

Keith it will all look good once the rest of the building progresses. I have respect for the guys and girls who produce some excellent card kits.

 

20 hours ago, Keith Addenbrooke said:

 

Thanks Kevin - good point about the card kits too, I agree 100% that the ingenuity and standard of kits today is incredible, both ready printed and downloadable.

 

12 hours ago, MAP66 said:

Keith, your making excellent progress with using the items you have to hand. You must have already hit the requisite 2 items of 'rubbish' already and your concept already covers the railway elements, so your well on the way.

Keep the updates coming Keith, this is just the early stages of a soon to be splendid Cakebox entry.

 

Mark


Day 9 Steps 3 and 4 (Part II) - Hiding round the back

Thank you for the nice comments and encouragement: hopefully I’ll live up to expectations.  The next photo does look promising I think: 

 

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I’ve added some thin card strip battens along the rear wall of the outside layer ready for painting.  The windows and rear layers are not yet glued in place, but this mock-up looks OK to me: the paper window frames don’t look too thin, and there is some degree of texture / profile to the whole thing (the traditional problem with commercial card kits).  The battens aren’t perfect, but I’ll see how they look when painted.  Onwards and upwards, Keith.

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Day 9 Step 4 (Part III) - New Windows

I’m jumping about a bit, as I had an idea.  The windows on the side of the Depot will be more visible than those at the rear, so I’ve tried what I hope will be a better window.  Using card rather than paper, I tried a two part frame (for each window) - I marked out a full length frame first, then carefully cut a separate square piece to glue in front of it to represent the upper sash:

 

527A813A-7FCF-4250-8315-61A153922107.jpeg.10c0ccf3f920c50e9df1f48aef4b757d.jpeg

 

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I used paper for the thinner parts of the frame between the smaller lights, but the overall effect seems to work:

 

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I then glued the thick card inner wall behind it all - I won’t know until tomorrow how well this has stuck (as the card ‘sandwich’ between the inner and outer walls is thicker than the paper one on the rear wallow the Depot I tried first).

________________________________________
 

I’m not very accurate when it comes to marking out and cutting, and I’m making more mistakes than I should.  I’m happy to be advised of better techniques, but there are four steps I’ve found seem to help minimise errors:

 

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1.  Mark out measurements as far either side of the piece I want to cut as possible: that way any mismatches between either side are minimised across the bit I’m actually cutting.

2.  When cutting ‘outside edges’ start and end the cut beyond the piece I want.  I do use a steel rule as a guide, and make several gentle cuts rather than one deep one.

3.  When cutting ‘inside edges’ I try and work in from each corner: after making the four cuts shown in my diagram, I then make four more the other way (turning the card clockwise) so I am always cutting from, not into, the corners.

4.  (Not on the diagram).  I’ve found scissors better at cutting 1mm strips of card and paper for battens than a knife.  Even using the knife carefully, there is a tendency to tear the layers of cereal packet card, which scissors avoid.

 

I have no idea if these are recommended techniques for cutting card, but they do seem to be helping me give it a go.

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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9 hours ago, Pokemonprime said:

Would just like to point out that you've accidentally named your American layout after an American home improvement store. Thought it was going to be a layout built out of only hardware store materials, at first! heh.


Correct, but it may not have been an accident :rolleyes::

 

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I hadn’t thought of making a model just from leftover Home Improvement materials though.  I won’t run out of card...

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