Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Practice makes perfect... Really?"

Allen McClelland popularized the 'good enough' philosophy on his legendary V&O layout. I don't know how he felt about the adage that 'practice makes perfect,' but I find it flawed. Aside from the debate whether anything can actually be perfect, (insert joke here), how about we agree in the interest of time that 'practice makes improvement' is a more realistic statement?

As mentioned early in this blog, I had  been away from active involvement in the hobby for about 35 years, so I was anxious to assess my skills and familiarity with new tools and materials. Structure building was always my favorite part of the hobby so I wanted to practice on some inexpensive kits that I had on hand... and if I could ultimately end up using them, even for just awhile, so much the better. 

The depot at Ilchester has always intrigued me for its distinctive roofline, intricate windows and multi-style siding. Prior to being demolished in 1964, the roof was simply tar paper laid in non-conventional vertical strips.

For some reason, two Atlas 'Rural Station' kits were in my stash so they were chosen for this project. While the siding was not a match for the Ilchester depot, the roofline and the windows are the two most distinctive items and they could be replicated. The kit is very basic with some chunky details, but serviceable for this task.

A chip board mock-up was put together based on some rough 'guesstimates' from historic photos. It showed that the depot needed to be longer on one side. The window/door configuration as detailed below confirmed that. But the roof pitches seemed about right.

The four sides of each kit had tabs that needed to be snipped off, while the projection of  the window mantels needed to be sanded down dramatically. The bay window wasn't used, but will be a nice addition to another model when the time comes to rescue it  from the scrap box. Each window grille will be filed down a bit to minimize its mass.
The two kits were altered considerably to match the door and window configuration of the Ilchester depot. The board and batten siding was the perfect candidate to be sliced into multiple wall sections that could be butted together and glued with little evidence of joints. Windows in the front and rear of the structure were ganged together where necessary, while one end had its windows carefully reduced to single sashes.

The model was squared with the .060 styrene base that I fabricated and also reinforced with some ceiling joists. The new gable ends are a gentler pitch than on the original kit and the clapboard contrasts with the board and batten. The boxed-out front matches the prototype nicely.

The new roof is still being test fitted and the structure will be mounted on a stone foundation for interest. The top sash of the double hung windows are being replaced with some N-scale windows I found in the scrap box. I  cut out the middle of each to replicate the B&O style decorative upper sash.

The kit's original gable ends have been used in the upper cross gable for a distinctive look in lieu of the ugly prototypical slatted vents. I'll withhold judgment on the two types of siding until the model is painted and weathered. The final roof treatment is still being considered.

When this is complete, I'll post photos of all four sides of both the prototype and the model. My goal for this project is to represent, not replicate, the depot while practicing on techniques. We'll see how it goes and whether it's 'good enough.'

Tuesday we'll look at the first of several 'final' track plans.


True or false?  Visitors who endlessly debate the merits of replication vs. representation in modeling prototype structures will be warmly encouraged to continue their discussion with my hearing-impaired neighbor who is very lonely, but has all the time in the world. 


  1. I've heard it this way - practice does NOT make perfect. PERFECT practice makes perfect. Nice kitbashing. You are taking an old classic in a new direction.

  2. You're right, Galen... I had a coach or two say that during my sporting days... not sure, but I think that may be attributed to Vince Lombardi... anyway, thanks for the comment on the kitbashing... no need for you to meet my neighbor!

  3. I lean strongly towards replication. All my structures on my Santa Fe Alma branch layout are scratchbuilt from photos, plans, building records, etc. except two grain elevators that I bashed from Walthers' Valley Growers kits. However, even there I used the kits for the raw material for a scratchbuild.

    1. Hi Jared... welcome to the Old Main Line... do the Prototype Layouts Group guys know you're moonlighting over here?... I think replication in most cases is probably preferred, but not always possible, based on available historical documentation... or space constraints/selective compression forces compromise... and of course it's possible that everyone's definition of replication may be at different levels of detail and rigor... I do enjoy seeing your work on the Group pages... be well - JF

  4. Readers should know that Jared puts his money where his mouth is. He has an article in the Model Railroad Planning 2014 issue entitled, "The Value of Field Trips." He discusses the importance of visiting prototype sites for photographic and informational purposes and advises to do so sooner than later in case of demolition, decay, etc. - JF