Post and Cable Office

Whew. This was my third and most ambitious scratchbuild project: a Post and Cable Office. It is based on the Western Union building plan from “Early Wood Frame and Stone Structures” — modified slightly to meet the needs of my layout.


For the first time I tried to make a stone foundation. I used Sculptamold poured into a small square clear plastic container (the cover from one of the Woodland Scenics detail kits.) It fit the size of the plan for this building’s footprint almost perfectly. After some trimming, I etched the sides with the point of a hobby knife to simulate stone. Later I “painted” it with some earth tone colors and India ink with white dry brushings.

(The figures date back to my childhood when I lived in Germany with my mom and dad, then stationed in Wiesbaden with the U.S. Air Force. My first train and structures and figures were all German.)

Again I used styrene sheet and strips and strip wood for the building, with notecard strips for the tar paper roof. The steps include a handrail made from scrap wire.


And here is an inside look:


I decided to keep the top smooth surface of the Scuptamold (actually the bottom that was poured in the container) as the flooring. I added a counter and some seats and a bookcase that I papered with images of a bookshelf that I downloaded, resized and glued to the bookcase frame I made. There’s also scrap metal pieces to simulate a brass fire extinguisher (on the floor in the back corner) and a red and brass do-dad (on the counter) that might be a cancellation hand-stamp or the telegraph ticker-tape machine. I also adorned the interior with a vintage Pony Express poster. The exterior has Western Union cable office signs as well as a Post Office sign over the front door.

I added a makeshift cable pole outside and a table, perhaps where the postal workers take their lunch breaks?

Hope you like it. I intend to have it assessed for a possible Achievement Award from the NMRA along with the tool shed and Sheriff’s Office I made earlier.

Next: I have a hankering to make a derelict, abandoned building — perhaps one of those Old West false front structures. We’ll see.

New Sheriff in Town; Jail Built

Eureka Gazette, Nov. 12, 1896—Despite its reputation as a crime and violence free town, Eureka has built its first jail and hired its first Sheriff, John “Lawman” Grimes.

Eureka Mayor Brian Parker authorized the hiring and the construction project with the unanimous approval of the town council at a special session earlier this month. The decision met with the overwhelming approval of the residents who attended.

Mayor Parker said Eureka’s recent growth and prosperity were laudatory. But he also said, “There is now potential for unsavory individuals to try to prey on our fine community and its people. We cannot allow that scourge to find a home here. We must protect ourselves.”


Sheriff John “Lawman” Grimes Stands Outside The New Jail

Volunteers assembled over the weekend and built the one room Sheriff’s office with its single cell jail. While that was under way, Mayor Parker travelled to Carson City by train and held a series of meetings with potential Sheriffs.

“After those interviews,” the Mayor said, “I concluded that John Grimes was the man for Eureka. He has a splendid record and a no-nonsense reputation.”

Grimes, nicknamed “Lawman,” was the former sheriff of Winnemucca, Nevada. The town had one of the lowest crime rates in the state during his five-year tenure.

In an exclusive interview with the Gazette, Grimes said his decision to accept the new position in Eureka was largely the result of his recent marriage and the birth of his first child. “I heard Eureka was a good town to raise a family and after talking to Mayor Parker, I was convinced it was the right move for us.”

Just one day after taking up his new post, Sheriff Grimes made his first arrest: a drunken mine worker who broke a window at Lily’s Pleasure Palace. The miner, whose name is being withheld by the Gazette, was deeply apologetic after he sobered up.

“I’m really sorry. I lost my head. I should never have broken that window. I’m going to pay for the damage. And I’m never going to touch hard liquor again,” he said.

Sheriff Grimes apprehended the man without incident after hearing a commotion at Lily’s. He kept the man in the new jail one night and released him the next day.

“No sense making a big deal out of this incident and dragging the poor fellow before a judge. He made a mistake and I’m confident he won’t do anything like this again,” Grimes said.

“My focus will be on protecting citizens from the really bad elements who attack businesses like the mines and railroads and steal payrolls,” Grimes told the Gazette. He said he would be meeting with business owners this week to discuss the kinds of beefed up security measures they can take.


Sheriff John Takes Some Air


When I initially posted a version of this photo, I noticed a little gap on the top ridge of the false front. So I removed the capboard, sanded the top edge of the structure til it was even, then doubled the width of the capboard using two pieces of stripwood, painted it and re-attached it. Much better, I think.

Here’s the original posted photo:


Jail Open And Ready To Make Eureka Safe

My second scratchbuild is finished: the Eureka Sheriff’s Office.


I finished by adding, among other things, an interior with Sheriff’s desk (with scattered papers and a wanted poster that just came in), chair and lamp and some gizmo used as a paperweight. There’s also the cell with its brass turning wheel for opening the cell door.

I also added more wanted posters on the outside walls. Jesse James is there as is Billy the Kid and a notice that cattle and horse thieves will be hung. I also hung a tattered curtain over the back, barred door.

I dusted the exterior with weathering powders before sealing with Testor’s Dullcote.


As you can see, I added a base frame with a front stoop. And I added a ledge to the front barred window — so anyone coming to the jail can speak to the Sheriff without him having to unlock the front door (note the knob.)

Next? Not sure. I’ve noted the plans for a Western Union building and a couple possible small stores. Such fun!


I’ve been working on my second scratchbuild. The plan from “Early Frame and Stone Structures” was for a Tobacco Shop, but I decided, despite the peaceful nature of Eureka, that it was time for a Sheriff’s office and jail. (I also modified the roof from the original plan.)

The build isn’t finished. But I decided to set the “cell” outside with an alleged drunk inside just for the purposes of a photo.


Eventually I intend to place the cell inside the building. I also need to do some weathering and attach some weeds and the like to the frame. I may also need to add a base and then find a place for it to go. Stay tuned.

My First Scratchbuild

Having snagged what I heard was one of the last remaining copies of “Early Wood Frame and Stone Structures”  books on the open market, I decided to plunge into scratch building based on plans in this fine manual. It was the tool house, described in the text as “the simplest of any structure you might entertain constructing.”

And as the author points out, there is no reason why even this simple build can’t be used as one of the requirements for your Master Builder Structures Achievement Certificate.


I used styrene sheet siding and styrene angles and simulated wood styrene strips for the basic structure, and fashioned the door and the base support out of actual strip wood. I placed some cardstock inside for flooring and used a pin for the doorknob. Scrap metal  sheeting was used for the roof. I “distressed” the “wood” with my hobby knife and saw.


I used a beige paint, heavily watered, for the base coat, then blended in some yellow ochre, raw sienna, white and black acrylics. I used some rust acrylic on the roof, then brushed some India ink solution all over. Finally, I dusted the entire structure with a variety of Doc O’Brien’s weathering powders.

I set it down over near the tailings pile of the Parker’s Peak Mine where workers are clearing out the dump area. This way they don’t have to go back to the mine building itself to retrieve their shovels and other tools.

The “Early Wood Frame” book is really useful and I recommend it highly. I’ve already earmarked several more builds that I intend to work on.

Next up: the tobacco shop (although I may repurpose it.) The telegraph and cable office is another eventual project as is “McKee’s Keys,” another typical small town business structure.