Alton Bay - Passenger Station

Publication: Railroad Model Craftsman
Publication Date: August 2002

By Trevor Marshall

North American railroading at the turn of the century is a subject thats not often modeled, even though there are many advantages for modelers with limited space. Trains, for instance, were much shorter, as were individual locomotives and pieces of rolling stock: An entire train from the 1900s may be shorter than a five-unit set of intermodal well cars or the latest articulated autorack.

For the detail-driven, turn of the century modeling offers the opportunity to embellish just about everything. A railroads passenger cars were ornately decorated, while boxcars and ice-cooled reefers were often rolling billboards for the products they contained. The automobile had not yet changed the landscape: horse-drawn buggies and wagons were the rule in the summer, to be replaced by sleighs in the winter months. Victorian houses were a smorgasbord of towers, bay windows and other interesting architectural features, liberally trimmed with gingerbread. And the depot was more than just a prefab shelter it was an important building that served as the heart of the community and its primary link to the outside world.

Bollinger Edgerly Scale Trains has nicely captured a piece of turn-of-the-century railroading in HO scale, in the first of three planned kits for the station buildings at Alton Bay, New Hampshire. The first kit, for the passenger station itself, is easy to assemble and builds into an attractive structure with interesting detailing.

Alton Bay was end of the line on the Cocheco Railroad. This line was chartered in 1847 to run some 50 miles from Dover to Meredith and a connection with the Boston Concord and Montreal Railroad. But the Cocheco never got to Meredith: by 1851, the track had reached Alton Bay, less than 30 miles from Dover. By the end of 1863, the Cocheco was reorganized as the Dover and Winnipiseogee Railroad and leased to the Boston & Maine Railroad. In June of 1892, the B&M absorbed the line into its expanding system.

The kit represents the second station at Alton Bay, in the town of Alton. The manufacturer has been unable to pinpoint the date of its construction, but guesses it was in the early 1870s. Initially, a track ran under the front half of the station to protect passengers from the elements, but by the turn of the century locomotives and rolling stock had grown so big that they would no longer fit, and the track was stub-ended just before the right side arch. A photo in the instruction book shows this spur, with another track running in front of the buildings and smoke stains above the arch a reminder of what used to be. (When weathering the finished kit, I airbrushed some grimy black above the arch to replicate this stain.)

Most interesting from a modeling point of view, the station buildings were tight against the waters of Alton Bay. A dock ran along the back of the buildings that allowed travelers to transfer from rail to the B&M-owned side wheel steam ship Mount Washington.

The kit comes in a box with a color photo of the finished kit on the front, which is most helpful when painting the various pieces and locating the brackets under the eaves. The kit consists of laser-cut walls, sheets of laser-cut wood details, cardboard for the roofs, three sheets of peel and stick shingles, a bag of white metal detail castings (including the chimney and some period figures), a collection of Grant Line windows (plus one door), assorted pieces of strip wood and a sheet of clear plastic window glazing with printed window shades. All parts were present and accounted for, and all arrived in good condition. The Grant Line windows must be removed from their sprues and cleaned up with a few passes of a file. As well, small tabs secure the laser-cut parts to the sheet from which they were cut. A sharp #11 blade will cut these parts loose, and the tabs must be sanded off.

A 24-page booklet includes a nice history of the station, a list of recommended tools, and 12 pages of step-by-step assembly instructions, generously illustrated with photos.

The manufacturer recommends painting the parts prior to assembly, and I couldnt agree more: the kit is cleverly designed so the trim parts are separate pieces and no masking is necessary to produce a neat job. A photo in the instructions helps the modeler identify 10 parts to be painted with the wall color all other pieces are trim.

I attached all pieces to some scrap cardboard and sprayed them. Use light coats on the walls, and after spraying put the walls between two pieces of wax paper and pile some large heavy books on top to ensure they dry flat. The recommended colors are Model Masters Desert Sand for the walls and Fifties Aqua for the trim. I used Model Masters #2910 Sand for the walls, but I thought the aqua was too pale certainly nothing like the photo on the box so I repainted the trim with Polly Scale #370 NYC Jade Green.

I followed the instructions for the most part and experienced no major problems, but here are some observations to help you assemble your kit.

The side walls of the main building are taller than a sheet of siding, so they were made of two pieces taped together before being run through the laser. After installing the windows, but before assembly, I braced these walls with some strip wood glued to the inside. Make sure these pieces wont be seen through the windows, and wont interfere with installing the glazing later on.

The kit includes a piece of laser-cut wood for the floor, which helps keep the building square. Before assembling any walls to this floor, I recommend cutting out most of the center, leaving about a half-inch around the edges of the main building, and a quarter-inch around the extension. Youll need this hole to install the window glass and shades after the building is weathered. I didnt make this hole until the roof was on, but was able to carefully cut away the floor with a fresh razor blade.

Note that the trim for the arch is asymmetrical: one end has a right angle, while the other is flat. The right angle goes to the outside of the arch.

There are four posts across the front of the arch. The instructions suggest the modeler space these evenly, but do not give measurements. I marked centerlines for the two middle posts 1-3/8" in from each edge of the wall. The instructions warn that the posts are very fragile and its easy to knock them loose during the rest of the assembly. I suggest mounting the station on a base after the posts are installed, remembering to cut a hole in the base matching the hole in the floor, so the window glass can be installed.

Before installing the cardboard roofs, I drew horizontal lines on them 1/16 apart to help me line up the shingles. Theres a lot of roof on this station, but roofs are the part of a building we see the most of on a layout so its well worth the time to do this. A neater roof will result.

As with the posts, the brackets under the eaves are to be evenly spaced. I lined up the four front brackets with the posts, and used identical spacing on the rear. There are eight brackets on each side. I located four on the corner trim. I located the others by counting boards, down from the peak of the roof. I made light marks on the bottom edge of the 4th, 11th and 19th boards at the outside edge of each wall, and lined up the tops of the brackets with these marks.

The finished building is approximately 33 feet (4-9/16) wide by 48 feet (6-5/8) deep, including the back extension. Its 31 feet to the peak of the roof, and the arch is 15-1/2 feet high.

The prototype for this kit was destroyed by fire on November 4, 1906 but theres no reason a piece of Alton Bay cant find a home on more modern layouts. As Ive noted, the B&M found the clearance too tight and lifted the rails under the arch: Modelers could do the same. The kits interesting lines also suggest other uses. The addition of a set of gas pumps under the arch would make it the main building in a small-town service station. It could serve as the office for a coal yard, gravel quarry, elevator or other bulk industry by modeling a truck scale under the arch. And for those whose tastes lean to contemporary modeling, replacing one of the windows on the front wall with a scratchbuilt ATM could turn this building into a drive-through bank.

Kit one for Alton Bay is a fun project that results in a really nice model. Future kits will include the Alton Bay freight house and a long covered platform to connect the two buildings. (More information about these and other kits based on prototype structures is available at the Bollinger Edgerly Scale Trains web site.) Altogether, the three kits will make a handsome station complex about 38 inches long.

I'm looking forward to building the rest of Alton Bay and sharing it with you here. Thanks to Bruce Bowden at the Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society for arranging a kit for review. The Alton Bay passenger station is kit 1004-A.


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