Our Wharf Street Layout

For lack of a better name our own layout located right here in our station at Bar Mills is called “Wharf Street”.

Not all model railroads are based on prototypes… our is “freelanced” and inspired by the legendary Maine 2-foot lines that ran not so very far away from our headquarters right here in Bar Mills.

As has been my practice in life, as well as with “Bar Mills” I’d asked for some help building this model… while I could have (eventually) finished it myself, the best part of the hobby for me has always been the interaction with other creative and selfless modelers.  The photos below are captioned with little story and idea snippets that may help you along with your own projects.  Some of the photos show an older and as unyet finshed layout, while other illustrate our final efforts.

Well, we’re actually gonna discuss the last structure put on the layout.  This is actually only “half” of a covered bridge.  It’s positioned against a rear “profile board” (made from masonite) where the far end of this bridge appears to disappear into a forest.  It’s actually just not a whole bridge, we used the illusion to end the track on this point-to-point layout.  The rock entrance to the covered bridge is made of actual rocks that we found on the ground (where else ?).

“Midcoast Whale Oil” was an interesting story.  My great friend Jack Ellis (from NH) scratchbuilt this with the intention of this being the backside of the building. After playing with it during positioning we decided it would look better this way.  The shingles are the paper ones that we include in some of our Bar Mills kits.  Despite the fact that Bar Mills is a structure manufacturer we tend to scratch-build most of our own stuff… it often serves as an inspiration for the kits we produce !

Now, you’re going to be hearing Jack Ellis’ name a lot.  At an hour away he’s actually one of the closest modelers up in this neck of the woods.  In this photo you can see the water is yet to be done.  I painted the water area glossy black and coated it with several layers of varnish so I could get an idea what the final results would be.  The final coats of “water” were made with Envirotex.  We tried several different products but feel this is the best product available.
“Catpain Parker’s” in the back was drawn up by our own Jim Mooney, Mike Tylick scratchbuilt it.  It’s actually based on a design fellow modeler Dave Frary suggested.  Hart’s Trading Company in  the foreground was another Jack Ellis project… the little fishing shack actually became an “HO” scale “Basic” Bar Mills kit.  Even though the scene was not complete I kind of liked the “look” and decided to add it on this part of our website.

If you step back a little this is the almost finished layout.  The water and additional details are yet to be added, a neat look edge trim was affixed to surround the entire water’s-edge of the layout and give the benchwork more the look of furniture.  “Fuller’s Market” in the distance was built by Tom Staton of Spafford NY.  Many of our structures feature both full interior details as well as lighting.

“Jebidiah Mooney’s” was named after our man “Jim”.  It’s actually a larger version of our “Mortimer Stiph’s” kit.  I added interior details and lighting.  We liked it so much that we released it as “Jebediah’s Carraige & Wheel Works” in O-Scale… the S-scale version of the kit is in the works. I generally prime our structures with gray primer, sanding away at the finshing coat of paint once applied to thin it out and reveal some of the gray primer beneath it.  It’s fast & simple.  Does it work?… you be the judge.
The larger trees were made using sagebrush trunks (available from Scenic Express) and Woodland Scenics “Fine leaf foliage clusters”.  These trees take less than 20 minutes to make using these products.

It’s amazing what a little water will do.  It takes some time (and a few coats of Enviro-Tex) to get water to look like this.  I keep the water black, and stipple some “green” paint to represent algae between the epoxy layers as they are added to the mix.
This whaling ship is the “Kate Cory”, it’s 1:64 (which means it is actually dead-on accurate for S-scale) and was the only commisioned model on the layout.  It’s actually a full-hulled model, we had to countersink it into our “water” benchwork.

I wanted to make sure the layout had an inlet… keep in mind that this layout (although small) has about 23-25′ of un-interrupted waterfront… “land” NEVER touches the edge of this layout.
This finished scene features Jack Ellis’ scratch-built lighthouse.  This corner view is the deepest part of the layout.  The front edging is impossible to miss in the shot, it was the finishing touch on our efforts.
Photo By Jack Ellis
There are two buildings on this scene that don’t even have roofs yet !  I like to spend time developing ideas as I go along… note that the planks on the front left lower end of the docking platform haven’t been blended in yet either.  Sometimes it pays to just wait and think things out in order to give them a more “natural” look.  I find the really nice layouts look as if they weren’t thought about… they just happened … and it takes a lot of thought to make them look that way !

This is one of the first scenes that took shape. Two of the strucures in the rear are HO scale, one is an RDA model that I kitbashed.  I found that the RDA stuff was a little “meaty” and worked as well in “S” scale.  The little farmhouse by American Model Builders (HO) was almost a straight-build, although the back end of it had to be trimmed and mildy “butchered” to get the angle “right” on it… it’s flush up against the profile board.  I built the “Curry Dry Goods” store as a false-front… it’s not “S” scale, not “HO” either… almost all of our scratchbuilt background buildings were made in-between the two scales to introduce a slight… but none-the-less significant…. forced perspective.

A better view of Mike Tylick’s “Captain Parker’s” (named after fellow modeler Sam Parker).  Here again, Bar Mills roofing shingles did double-duty for the building sides lending the building a nice waterfront look.  I looked around the internet to find some appropriate artwork for the signs.  The building is slightly undersized but looks great against the tiny Sn2 engines.  Most of our buildings were drawn, printed, mounted on cardstock and placed before actual construction began on them.  The foreground rocks were hand-carved using “Sculpta-Mold”.

This unusual photo offers a “long-lens” view of the layout… compressing the scene visually.
Photo By jack Ellis

The “L” extension on the left of the layout gave us room to install “Staton Cove”…. named after good buddy Tom Staton.  There’s alot going on here, and although the scenery, and some of the structures on the layout were my work, without the help of some other modelers the layout would have looked different… much different !  The boat was scratch-built by Brian Curry… an n-scaler !  Most of you will recognize the original “Schmidtchen’s” building,  Jim Mooney designed and scratch-built this gem.  The white building with the gambrel peak is actually a replica of a store here in Maine… Jack built this one too !  The hotel is a free-lanced project by Mike Tylick… and the great boatyard in the foreground is the work of Tom Staton (of “Staton’s Cove” fame).  For  months I’d work every night (and weekends) on the layout… but even with the hundreds of hours I’d invested in it without the generous support of the other guys I don’t know how this layout would ever have been brought to life !
Remember, the background building are scaled larger than “HO”, but smaller than “S” scale to trick the eye into perceiving them to be at a slightly greater distance than they really are !

I’ve shot alot of model railroad articles over the years… some layouts have great details and structures but still don’t “work” !  the reason… to convince the viewer that the railroad is actually going somewhere the scenery should change as the train passes through it.  This scene is different, not great, but unique, and it helps make the layout feel bigger than it actually is.
Photo By Jack Ellis

This quiet little scene lies at the tip of “Staton Cove”.  I like to use B-B-Q skewers for pilings… they’re cheap & look better than milled wood for that purpose.  Having many structures is fine, but I feel nature should always pre-dominate our modeling efforts… a model layout shouldn’t look like you built it, it should look like it “happened” by itself !

Nothing much going on here… the scene wasn’t even totally completed, the question is “does it look plausable” ?

A closer look at “Schmidtchen’s”.  While the trackwork doesn’t sport any grades even a waterfront layout can use land elevations to help introduce drama to the scenes.  This elevated building helped to dwarf the tine 2-foot train passing by.

If you were a tiny Preiser figure Brian Curry’s scratch-built ferry might look like this to you.  I think we often try to model places we’d like to be… I have to admit, “Staton’s Cove” is a place I wouldn’t mind calling home !

A different focus on the lighthouse scene.

This photo of the ship stern illustrates the complexity of the actual ship model.  I wanted to put a boat in this location because, not unlike our original line of billboards, it would add detail to the scene without obstructing what was behind it.  One of the challenges of this layout was that I thought it was important to not become repetitive with the treatment of the shoreline… so as we went along some areas had rock formation, some retaining walls, and others like above possibly a wharf or small fishing pier.
Photo By jack Ellis

When I sent this shot to Jim Mooney he used it on his computer desk top.  Both my original “Niagara & Pearl Creek” layout (link on the right) and “Wharf Street” have illuminated backgrounds.  When combined with interior details and interior illuminations photos like these become easy to take.  The mill in the back was actually a combined effort of Jim Mooney, Mike Tylick, Jack Ellis & myself… we each threw something into the pot while developing the idea… I’ve always felt that it’s exactly this kind of creative spirit that makes this the hobby that it is. The pilings on the small lobster shack are again B-B-Q skewers… they have a great vertical texture to them.

Maybe this is one-too-many photos of this scene… but here again while the railrioad plays a part in our efforts “Mother Nature” (especially here in Maine) is always the star.

“Crabby’s” is a simple building… sometimes there’s simply “too much complex”, and simpler can often do a better job telling the “story”.  You’ll notice that we used more white structures on this layout than you might normally expect.  There are some good reasons for it… they range from the time frame you’re modeling (in this case 1925), to helping to resolve issues with all-to-often dim room lighting.  Lightly colored structures and details can attract more attention and highlight detail better than their darker counterparts.  “Crabby’s” was built by Tom Staton with a little help from myself.  See how “flat” the water is?… it didn’t stay that way for long !

This is a “Showstopper”… I’ll take credit for building the dock (yeah, the easy part)… but Tom Staton scratch-built this beauty from some basic plans mocked-up by Jim Mooney.  Hundreds of pieces of wood, and nearly as many NBW castings went into this amazing effort.  The layout features a full sound system… the inside of one of these buildings conceals a speaker hidden within it. This building is baswed on a prototype that stood in Wiscassett, Maine.  It’s one of the two prototypical buildings on the layout.

These two overall shots of the left side of the layout let you see the techniques and methods we used for expanding the visual depth of the waterfront past the original benchwork, as well as how I used the back of linoleum that was cioved and painted to represent the sky.  Only room lighting was used for these photos… the “sky” wasn’t created in photoshop.  If you backlight your sky as I’ve done here these photos will happen by themselves with no additional effort on your part. The photo above shows the completed scene before we added the pine trim to the front edge of the layout…. look at the difference it makes on the next photo !

“Remember, it all began with a mouse”
Walt Disney, (my personal inspiration for much of what I do)  was once quoted as saying “Remember, it all began with a mouse”.  Well,  I’m no Walt Disney, but if a project like this seems to complex for you,  you might want to remember that earlier on it actually looked like the photo below.
Thanks for sharing this small tour with us.