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  • Reading 1887 - Victorian Freight Station Frackville, Pennsylvania

    Prototype Modeler - February 1980 - Page 29 width=

    Photos and Article by Joe Shidisky

       The town of Frackville, was settled in the year 1861 near the site of the great hoisting engines of the Mahonoy Plane on top of Broad Mountain. By the 1880's the town had grown considerably and boasted a sizeable railroad yard. The main traffic was anthracite coal, hoisted up the Plane from the large Middle Anthracite Field, and transported over the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad to the Schuylkill Canal to Philadelphia. There were also locomotive servicing facilities in Frackville serving the Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania Companies who along with the Philadelphia & Reading shared trackage in to the town.

       The Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company constructed the freight station in 1887 on the site of the former Danville and Pottsville station built in 1832. It was constructed in the Victorian style, with the typical brown and cream color scheme preferred by the Reading. Architects were Gilbert and Son, and the total cost was $5,000. The main dimensions are 90' by 16' with an 80' extension platform on the East side. The station served both freight and passenger traffic until the Lehigh Valley built their passenger station in the 1890's on the opposite side of the tracks.

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       The station is not on the main line , but on a blind siding of considerable grade. It was used by the Reading Company until 1954, and from then on by a local lumber company. It has been lying idle for the past few years and a recent fire in an apartment building across the street would have resulted in the destruction of the old building if it hadn't been raining.

       The station is constructed of board and-batten siding of random spacing with boards from 9" to 15" wide. Unusual for a freight station is the ornate roof brace trim of carved wood. The large (4' x 8') office windows make it ideal for interior detailing.

    The Model

       Northeastern basswood was used throughout the model. Capped siding of 1/8" spacing was supposed to be used for the walls but due to some distributor's errors I kept receiving 1/8" clapboard. So I decided to use bass sheeting with small strips for the battens. This way I could also get the random spacing as in the real station. Walls were laid out in sections on 3/32" square bracing; also 3/32" was used for the outside supports. Door and window openings were braced all around.

    West Elevation

       The small office window could have been a number of commercial window castings but I built mine up from stripwood. Grandt Line Durango Station 6"2'-6"3" 36" x 87" windows look pretty close to the originals although smaller so they were also fabricated. And since the interior of the office is visible it was important to frame the insides of the windows as well as the outside. The office door was constructed of a small piece of wood with thin (.012) strips forming the raised portions. A small sheet of clear vinyl was sandwiched between these strips to form the window. SS Ltd. has a pretty close door, No. 2061, but it has no transom. 4" scale stripwood was used both inside and out as door framing.

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       All doors and shutters were fabricated in this manner. It wasn't as hard as it first seemed and I had to make several sets due to a measuring error on my part for the first try. The freight doors are also the same except they were made from scribed wood. The panels of all doors and windows are cream and the trim and framing brown. Incidentally, the colors used were Floquil Roof Brown and Great Western (British) Cream. They are about as close to the original as I could find. The older the station, the lighter the cream, and the brown either gets a reddish tint or just peels off with age.

       A 1" x 9" piece of stripwood was cemented 15" from the bottom of the wall between the outside braces. The battens had to be trimmed away to accomodate this kickboard. Note that there is no kickboard on the office portion, just on the freight side. This board should correspond to the bottom trim on all doors.

       The only slightly difficult task on the West wall was the curved trim above the shuttered windows and the main door. I shaped a piece of wood to the right size for one-half the top trim. It took several tries until I got it right. Then eight small pieces of basswood were cemented together using water soluable cement. After several minutes for the cement to set, I sanded these to approximate the final shape and used my original pattern as a check. When I felt they were about as perfect as I could get them, the pieces were seperated in warm water and set aside to dry. These were cemented to the tops of the shuttered windows with a small piece of scrap wood used for the small square trim in the center. I did likewise for the trim above the main door, except only four pieces are needed and they are slightly larger.

       The walls, with doors and windows in place, were painted prior to final assembly. Walls are brown to 4' up from the bottom and cream the remainder of the way. Framing and trim is also brown.

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    East Elevation

       The East elevation is basically the same as the West except for some small differences in the office, such as two large windows and no window in the door. The main door is also different with only four panels per door as opposed to six on the West side.

    North & South Elevations

       North and South elevations are constructed the same as the sides. I refer to these as the ends. On the North side the two large windows are the same dimensions as the side walls, and on the South side, the shutters are the same, only the trim being different. This simply consists of 1" x 4" framing around the opening. The station name is placed on the South side only and is centered the bottom.

       Currently the South side is covered by unpainted boards of random width and has been this way for several years even when the station was in use by the railroad. Why, I do not know. I preferred to build it as original so I included the shuttered windows. I have never seen any of these shutters open and therefore cannot say what is behind them, or rather what was behind them. So I simply built them closed.

       Now that all the walls were complete they were assembled and the roof was attached.

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       This is the most interesting feature and was also the most time consuming to construct. I felt that by altering the roof bracing or leaving it out completely I would change the whole atmosphere of the station. Although it looks rather ornate it wasn't all that difficult to build. I suppose you could elect to hand carve every little piece of trim but I'm not that dedicated. Besides I'm not that artistic. So I chose the easy way: make one set of trim and make all the others that are required by casting duplicates. It really wasn't as difficult as it sounds.

       The originals were made from ordinary modeling clay that's hard enough for carving. No detail was carved into the clay because it is too brittle and as small as the detail is, it would break rather easily. So the basic forms were carved and set aside to harden. When they were hard, a latex mold was made from each of the five pieces. (I use Bersted's Liquid Rubber. For my purposes I find it works quite well). When the molds were dry, the originals were broken out and the molds were cleaned and prepared for the first castings.

       These were done using five minute epoxy rather than commercial casting resin. For one thing, you don't have to mix much for small castings and it doesn't take long for it to harden. I use Fantastik spray cleaner to treat the molds and also use it as a release compound. These five rough castings are now easier to work with than the original clay and they were brought down to the final shape and the holes drilled in them. Again, another set of molds was made from these epoxy castings and then the final casting process could begin. Fourteen sets were required, but I made a few extra sets and was glad I did. Some were bubbled and some were simply lost which can be so frustrating with small objects. At this point I chose only to trim the castings and paint them after they were applied to the building.

    Prototype Modeler - February 1980 - Page 37 width=

       The roof bracing consists of 4" x 8 rafters one for each wall brace with one in between and at five foot intervals over the office. There are other smaller rafters in the building but these are the main braces. I gave my model a very slight sag to indicate age and this was built in to the roof. Now the trim was added and the entire roof bracing painted in Roof Brown. The roof proper was made of 18" boards in the pattern shown and extend two feet beyond each end. Four by eights are added to the ends of the roof, and a 1" x 9" board was used to cover the rafter ends.

       After several tries with my own shingles, Champion shingles, and Campbell scale shingles, I decided to go with the Campbell. They are slightly smaller than the prototype, but they give the best effect. (The newer roof has asphalt shingles, but the originals were wooden. I built it for my layout, which depicts the 1947 era). The chimney was added, a Model Masterpieces No. 305 with the bottom rows of bricks filed down to give the effect of the tin sheeting as on the prototype. The shingles were painted in Floquil Grimy Black.

       The platform was made of individual boards of random width, and extends 6' out from the station walls. The under bracing consists of scrap wood with 2" x 12" runners. The platform extension is 80' long by 8' wide and is underbraced with 2" x 12" runners. A wash of Floquil Grime was used to give the look of unpainted, weathered boards to the platforms. Here and there a few boards were broken to add to the overall effect of age.

       Platform supports were made from homemade plaster castings, and seem to be placed in no specific order, ranging from five to nine feet apart. Some of the prototypes are cracked and sinking, so are mine. A wooden frame was set up three scale feet high for the foundation and basement and was filled with plaster. The station was placed upon this base and it and the platform supports were painted in Floquil concrete.

       Campbell brass lampshades were added above the doors, an order board hung near the office door, and the Frackville freight station was ready for its first car load of goods.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Joe Shidisky
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date February 1980

    Article Album (2 photos)

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