Davis Island Terminal (AKA Red Hook Wharf)

Started by rrkreitler, January 04, 2014, 01:04:34 AM

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Ok let's see how this goes. This is my first project posting so please excuse any editorial gaffes if this posting doesn't render as expected...

First a bit of intro to the entire project and then I will get on with the procedural info.
Project Intro:
This is the first structure for an N scale layout that is being built in a friend's garage. This is the first real project I have worked on in a couple years and I am working at getting my chops back up to snuff. My friend's layout consists of a couple sections attached to the walls and then a number of modules that get setup to facilitate operations. I want to treat each module as a diorama. This will help scope each section of the work and I think it will enhance the quality of the scenery work because it will allow more focus on each scene.

My friend's interest is primarily operation and one thing we decided on was a waterfront scene to facilitate car ferry operations and immediately the Red Hook kit came to mind. I have wanted to build this model ever since I first saw it on the FOS website. I just didn't have anywhere to put it. My friend's water front was the perfect excuse to build it. Two small flaws in this plan though.... First, the kit was sold out, and second, FOS only makes HO kits. So I did what any dedicated N scaler would do and decided to scratch build the wharf based on all the photos I could get my hands on.

With no kit of my own, I set about drawing my own set of plans based on photos and any other data I could get my hands on. Perusing other forums I found a couple guys who were building the kit and contacted some of them to see if they would be kind enough to email me some of the measurements I needed in order to convert to N scale. One gentleman sent me a few measurements and some builder photos as well. Also, FOS has a fantastic collection of photos of the kit from many different angles on their site along with basic footprint data. With those photos and measurements, I set about drawing plans for the first building, Goldring Oysters.

I started to draft plans for Goldring Oysters in Microsoft Visio (my personal preference for drawing plans). I got pretty close but when I started on the next building I could tell a few of my measurements were a bit off. I also printed out the plan and built a fold-up paper version of the structure and could tell it wasn't quite right.

At this point I had seen two Red Hook kits hit eBay and both went for about $800. I know it is crazy but I am hoping the waterfront scene on our layout project will be a centerpiece so I want it to be good. I decided I would start watching eBay and see if I could actually get my hands on the kit. That way the measurements would not be an issue. A few months went by without any luck and then a couple months ago one finally showed up and I managed to win it. With kit in hand I proceeded to update my drawings and started construction.

I also have to confess that I sort of won the modelers lottery. What I mean by that is that I recently have gained unfettered access to a laser system so I can now do my own cutting and engraving. This delayed my modeling project for a few weeks while I was learning how to use the system and experimented with different materials. After 3 weeks I was ready to give this project a try and I did my first test cuts.

The first thing I tried was doors and windows. Using a heavy paper based product I discovered I could cut to widths of two N scale inches without burning the material to ash. In these windows the mullions are 2 scale inches thick which I know is too heavy but for N scale that is still pretty good – especially when you consider these are a paper based product.

The larger windows consist of 4 parts so they can be modeled open or closed and they have sills. The Goldring building also has two large entry doors on the front which I build up from 4 layers of material so they appear to have panels. That's what the larger doors are in the photo (the 4th layer of material is clear styrene). This photo shows the version 1 design. I modified it slightly for the finished product.

I did not realize it until I was well down the road... I think the Goldring building is actually a more complicated structure from a laser cutting perspective due to the fact that is has bidirectional siding. You can't simply cut the four walls from scribed siding and glue them together. I still wanted to test my design so in the first test run I engraved the boards into the walls, cut everything and framed up the structure. There are 1/16th inch basswood subwalls and then the siding is engraved into a thick paper and glued to the basswood.

This test also let me verify the angles on all the roof panels worked out around the dormer and work out the overhang of the eaves.

While I liked the test build, I was afraid that the engraving was not deep enough and would disappear if I try to paint over it. Also, I prefer the appearance of board by board for weathered building such as these (even in N scale). So, now that I have validated my drawing, the next step is to tackle the board by board siding. I'll discuss that in the next post.

Since this is my first post, I welcome any feedback related to appropriate content or format. This post has all the project overview text. From now on the posts will focus on construction.


Can anyone shed some light on how to post photos inline?  I read the thread in the forum posting section but that does not seem to work for me.

I ended up linking to an external source for the first post and would rather upload to the forum if possible.

Any hints would be appreciated. I am going to hold off posting any more to this thread until I get that figured out.



Still working on the post in line issue but will continue using linked photos for now...

The mock-up you saw at the end of the last post was really about testing the design and learning how to go about laying out plans and using the laser. I was happy with the results and decided to move on to the "real" thing.

A laser is really just a high precision knife that gives you an unprecedented amount of control. The real trick to learning how to use the laser is figuring out the settings you need to get the result you want in whatever material you are cutting. I have been investigating different materials and wanted to find something cheap and easy to use that was thin and strong. Bonus points if it would resist warping. After thinking on this an idea came to me....playing cards. They are thin, strong, and fairly stiff. Perfect for N scale buildings. The laser cut windows (and siding) in the earlier photo are cut from a blank playing card.

So after the test build I determined that the first step in construction was making my siding. As I mentioned earlier I prefer the look of board by board. I started with some blank cards and using a makeup sponge, I dabbed on some Polly Scale Refer Gray. Then using the same sponge I added some Grimy Black. This time, instead of dabbing, I wiped from left to right to add "grain". Then I finished up with some light dabbing (almost dry) of white.

Here are a few cards in the jig I use in the laser. The ventilation system moves a lot of air through the cutting area so anything small and light needs to be held in place during cutting/engraving. I built this jig that allows me to do 8 cards at a time and keeps them from blowing around. The grain looks course in this photo but once you cut the cards into boards it looks about right.

The next step is to cut the siding. I ran the three lighter cards through the laser and cut them to scale 10" wide which is what the siding in the FOS model looked to be. Removed the card from the jig and xacto'd the ends off. This yielded my siding.

The next step was to layout the siding on a fresh card using removable double sided tape. I selected random boards to break up the look that they were all painted at once (this is why I like board by board). Here you can just make out the double sided tape as I lay out the siding.

Then run them through the laser and cut to length. This is where the laser is an outstanding addition to the toolbox. I am a patient person and love the time I spend at the modeling bench. That being said, one thing I find very time consuming and tedious is cutting N scale window openings. I have the hardest time keeping them perfectly straight and evenly sized. The laser makes short work of this step. The siding is bidirectional on this building so I had to make sure I laid out the drawings appropriately based on the orientation of the siding on the card.

At this point I had my siding prepped. The next step is cutting all the parts for the actual structure.


So my plan was: mount the siding to a card with removable tape, cut it to length on the laser. Then peel it up and glue it board by board to the subwalls. Seemed like a reasonable plan at the time....more on this later....The siding was the one thing that required prep beforehand. Once it was ready, I could cut the rest of the parts. This is essentially the "kit" for this structure:

The upper left parts are the subwalls cut form 1/16th inch basswood. This is what the siding will be mounted on. Hindsight tells me this should have been 1/32" or even the card stock. I was concerned about warping so went heavier. Next time I will go thinner and do more bracing.

Going left to right and starting at the top, the first 4 cards are all of the door and window parts as well as most of the rafter cards (more on these later). The first card with the siding was my test card where I was testing engraving the Goldring sign. The black card contains the small sign engravings for the sign on the front of the building. The smaller text is 2 pt – you need a magnifying glass to see it but it is legible. The last two white cards are the last of the rafters, the trim for the eaves and the roof panels. The last two cards are the siding discussed earlier however you can see that the sign has been engraved into the end wall. The one odd piece of card up on the basswood is the mask I used to paint the black background behind the sign engraved into the end wall.

Regarding the "rafter cards"... I had a couple logistic problems to solve and the rafter cards were the answer. First, one detail I wanted was rafter tails. In N scale these are tiny and can be hard to work with. I wanted an easy way to add this detail and ensure it turned out as accurate as possible. The other issue was bracing. This entire structure is about 2 ¼" tall and roughly 1 ½" wide. When you consider door and window placement, not a lot of room for bracing.

The rafter cards serve dual purpose. First, the "rafters" protrude through tiny slots in the wall to expose the tails under the eaves but rather than using actual rafters (long skinny boards) the cards only model the exposed portion which makes them much easier to handle. The remaining portion of the card is enclosed inside the structure out of site so it doesn't matter what it looks like. I cut the cards to the internal width of the building and then run glue along the edges of each card. This provides plenty of lightweight, yet strong bracing to protect against warpage in the walls. The top edge of each cards provides support for the roof panels just like actual rafters. Lastly, the cards act as spacers to help ensure uniformity as the building comes together.

So the next step was to weather the rafter tails. These are the parts of the rafter cards that will be visible after the building is assembled. This was done by using the makeup sponge to dab Reefer Gray and Grimy Black onto the rafter tails and trim pieces. Remember to do both sides...

This step is much easier to do while the parts are still in the cards. After the weathering was done then I removed all the parts.

The smaller parts are the rafter tails for the small end section with the shed roof. The large piece is for the main building and the medium size parts are for the main building as well. They are shorter so they do not extend down into the windows. You can also see a couple of the trim pieces for the eaves on the main building. The only parts of these pieces that will be visible after the building is built are the rafter tails. All else is inside the structure and used as bracing/spacers.

The next step was building the windows. Apologies but I neglected to shoot any pictures of that step. The large windows consist of 4 parts, an upper and lower sash, a frame, and a sill. I used Weldbond stretched across the mullions for "glass". While the results have a few warbles, in N scale I am not going to worry about it. For larger windows (like on the doors) I use clear styrene but the glue works for the smaller windows.

Essentially window construction is: 1) Add the glass 2)when dry glue upper sash to lower sash 3) insert assembly into window opening in wall making sure sashes are properly oriented 4) add frame 5) add sill. Repeat as necessary.

Next step, assembling walls.


Darn clever to board by board the walls and then laser cut them.  Looking forward to the rest of your project.



So my plan on the siding was to cut it on the removable double sided tape, peel it off and then apply it to the basswood. That was a good plan on paper (no pun intended) but turned out to be a real challenge due to the fact that some of these parts are quite small (like the horizontals between the windows on the side and on the dormer). Even though the tape was removable (theoretically), it still had too much grip and I destroyed a number of boards trying to peel them up. Next time I will glue the siding to the basswood and then cut it. You still have to deal with the corner joints but that happens either way. The siding debacle ended up adding another day to the project while I got it straightened out.

Another thing you can see in the last photo is the large sign on the end of the building. This was done by engraving. Essentially what you do is adjust the power of the laser WAY down and then burn away successive layers of paint until you expose the color you want. In this case I had a white card, then a layer of gray weathering, a layer of grimy black weathering and then the pure Engine Black background. I used the mask from the earlier "kit" photo to paint the black rectangle and then used the laser to burn away the paint and expose the white card underneath – an actual N scale sign that is painted on the wood. I am REALLY looking forward to experimenting more with this technique.

So at this point I am ready to really start assembling the structure. As you can see in the previous photo, following FOS's lead I used tab and slot to align the front and back wall with the left side. After gluing the three walls together I then follow up with the rafter cards to ensure the spacing was correct down the length of the structure. The shorter cards are located above windows so they aren't visible inside. Taller cards are used where no doors or windows are involved.

I did not use tab and slot for the smaller shed section on the left side. Instead I relied on the rafter cards to maintain even spacing from the main wall. You can't really see it very well but the siding on the short end wall extends beyond the end of the basswood (this is why I cut it separate from the basswood) to cover the end grain of the front and back wall sections. Between the overlapped siding and the rafter cards for spacing, aligning the shed wall was a no brainer during assembly. It pretty much just slid into place.

At this point it is starting to look like its namesake and I am encouraged by the results.

The next step is the roof panels. I am fortunate to have a good supply of Paper Creek roofing on hand. I am looking forward to making my own in the future but for now I have this and it is perfect for this project. At the 2012 NNG convention I spent some time talking to Ron from RS Laser and he introduced me to some great 3M double sided transfer tape. I applied this to the roof panel and then laid the Paper Creek shingles down. The tape made short work of the process although there were a number of shiny spots showing through some of the gaps. A dusting of Bragdon Powders and PanPastels hid the shine. Glue the roof on and away we go.

Incidentally I use the dark brown Paper Creek shingles and slightly weather them by lightly dabbing white ink on them with a torn makeup sponge. A very light dusting of powders after the roof is on the building followed by washes of my light AI wash complete the roof weathering.
Next came adding the main roof and the dormer. I will confess to a few problems with the dormer. It was a lot of small awkward parts and dealt with many odd angles. Once again the "peel and apply" siding idea bit me and the process was over complicated. Eventually though I persevered and got the dormer assembled and installed.

I put the clear styrene in the doors, mounted them and added a few other details (two vent pipes in the roof and a lamp over the main doors. The lamp is a shade from Ngineering with some .008 brass wire for the neck. Weathered by painting with Engine Black acrylic and then dipping in Bragdon dark rust powder while the paint is still wet. Let it sit for a minute and brush off the excess. The sign on the front of the building was laser engraved on the black card and then laser cut to shape. I glued the two pieces back to back and then CA'd the sign to the front of the building. It's hard to see in this photo. There is a better view in the next photo.

The back and right walls are essentially blanks since they will butt up against the next structures on the pier.

I firmly believe that the single best modeling technique out there is the application of sunshine. A quick shot outside in real sunlight really brings the model to life (be even better if I had some water behind it).

So the first structure is officially complete and I can move onto the next one. I am pretty happy with the result when compared to the original photo from the FOS web site (top). I REALLY like Doug's weathering and plan to add a bit more once I have all the buildings built and placed on the pier to help tie the scene together.

Langford Ice is next.


"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." A. Lincoln


You say you're just getting you chops back?   :o  Wow.  You must be busting my chops.  This is fantastic.  I'm looking forward to following along and seeing how this turns out.  Well done!
Bob Butts

There's a fine line between Hobby and Mental Illness.



Super stuff, I admire anyone who can work in N scale with human hands and eyes.


Outstanding work.  Even more impressive that it is in N scale.


Unbelievable, I wish you could make this a kit  ( the whole Red Hook wharf ) in n-scale. 
I love photo's, don't we all.


Great Job I wish my chops were as good as your rusty ones.  I'll be following !
Ken Crump
KC's Workshop


Thanks for the kind words everyone. I am glad you are enjoying the build. I will post the Langford build next (that structure is complete) and I am currently working on the Sternad Freight building (about half done).

Most of the techniques I use I learned from folks on this forum and over at the RRLine forum. I based the siding I did for the Goldring structure on the method Troels Kirk uses for his paper structures. The things he does with paper simply amaze me. I just used playing cards instead of paper.

Speaking of that, in case anyone is interested, I find playing cards to be an interesting material for modeling. They are heavy enough that they have some rigidity to them yet light enough to be easy to work and cut to shape. They seem to take paint pretty well too. I will confess though that I have not yet tried dousing them down with a whole bunch of liquid to see what happens. I have been fairly conservativie with my washes and such.

One of the things I really like about them is I can get a box of 500 for about $13 on Amazon. These are the cards I use http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1572814993/ref=oh_details_o05_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I have also purchased some blank flash cards. So far, doing N scale work, I have managed to fit everything on the playing cards (2 1/4" x 3 1/2"). The flash cards are a bit bigger (roughly 3" x 5 3/4") In case I need something bigger or start an On30 project. I put the calipers on the playing cards and they are right on 2 N scale inches thick. The flash cards are about .003" thicker (roughly an additional 1/2 N scale inch).

After doing two board by board N scale structures (Langford Ice uses some board by board) I find the card material very easy to work with and would recommend folks give it a try.

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