M. Tressell - General Store

Publication: Railroad Model Craftsman
Publication Date: April 2011

It was once the centerpiece of a small town, the epicenter of rural America. You got everything from your news, groceries, fresh produce, hardware, gossip, comings and goings, death notices and just about anything of social import on a day to day basis there. It is, of course that universal structure of Americana, the General Store I cannot think of a single structure on a layout that could garner as much attention, nostalgia and overall good feeling than a General Store.

Bollinger Edgerly Scale Models or B.E.S.T. as they are more commonly known has released a model of a General Store located in Davisville, New Hampshire. It is a typical, almost generic, two-story General Store with a basement. From any angle, its simple architecture, symmetrical window arrangements, turn back eaves and, just enough, ornate trim typify what a General Store is when you close your eyes and imagine one. Countless similar establishments to this fine model are found throughout New England, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. All are remarkable in both their similarities and their uniqueness.

Open the box and you find crisply laser-cut walls, roof sections and eaves trim. There’s a package of color coded strip wood trim, a bag of what appears to be Tichy Trains of Grand Line window and door castings, laser-cut glazing, a few big sheets of peel-and-stick shingles, a package of cast metal details and figures, some copper strips, a sheet of paper signs and a Jordan horse drawn Buckboard model. Well written instructions, which include a brief history of the prototype M. Trussell Store and a special sheet of how-to finish wood and stone, round out the contents. I read through the instructions to familiarize myself with the materials and steps and got right into assembly.

There are four laser-cut clapboard walls and four laser-cut sub-walls which are to be laminated together. Care must be taken when doing this. You want to be sure they are in as perfect registration as possible before clamping to let the glue cure.

Registration means all the widow openings line up and most important, the ends of the wall and sub-wall. Once together these are tabbed to interlock at the corners and if they are slightly off, the gap at the corners is probably just a slight bit wider than the corner stock. This isn’t a real problem as you will see. To clamp the walls together instead of the prescribed clothes pin method, I placed the walls between two scrap pieces of flooring I had. This was held fast with large A Clamps. When the walls were cured, I added square basswood stock to reinforce the walls and corner joints. Directions say this is not necessary, but I brace every structure I build regardless of medium. I highly recommend it but it’s your choice as to whether you do. When the glue was dry, I painted al the interior walls and bracing flat black.

B.E.S.T. describes a method of adding nail holes to the exterior clapboard, and I followed it with excellent results. This is a tiny but noticeable and very realistic detail. B.E.S.T. offers two color schemes: the original late 1800-early1900s yellow with white trim or the later red with white trim, I chose the latter. Al the walls were brush painted with a dark red acrylic paint from a craft store. The windows and doors were spray painted with two light coats of flat white. When this dried, the laser glazing was cemented in place and the windows were put into their respective openings. The four walls were cemented together onto the tab-and-slot base. One wall was slightly out of registration; so instead of the corner strip wood, I used 6”x6” strip styrene all around. Where there was a gap, I added a laminate with a 1”x6” strip on the 6”x6” effectively closing the gap.

The roof trim goes on next. It all went together according to the instructions. There was a diagram to use to cut the angle in the cove molding, and it provided a precise fit at the pea and turn back eave. If you are intimidated, cut it slightly longer and do some light sanding on the end to make it right.

There are a lot of windows, so before cementing the roof on add some window treatments using a combination of City Classic Venetian blinds and curtains. Also attach some shades cut from a green Pendaflex file folder. Each window treatment must be cut precisely to fit the opening as there is a set-back to each window from the sub-wall. I used the basement window castings as a template and Canopy Cement, similar to white glue but dries invisible, along the top edge of each treatment.

On the two big front windows, I cemented photos of boxes and crates onto scrap sheet styrene then cemented these set back a quarter inch or so behind each window. This gave a sense of goods and product and depth. In one of the front, second-story windows, I cemented a piece of strip wood as a sill and made some potted plants from thin slices of styrene rod painted red with bits of green ground foam glued on top.

I painted the edges of the two sub-roof panels white and then began shingling the roof. B.E.S.T. makes about the most realistic, easy to apply “peel-and-stick” shingles I’ve ever used. Finished in a pleasing light tan with miniscule contrasting color fibers throughout, they’re cut precisely with a good random pattern and have an almost organic quality to them once they’re on the roof. The tan colorant only compliments the red or yellow color of the prototype store but just about any color should you decide to go your own way finishing the model.

Yes peeling and sticking shingles on a structure is about as much fun as cutting clear sheet styrene to size to glaze numerous window castings on a structure. Yawn…wake me up when it’s over! The instructions tell you to use the shingle guides provided, strips of paper with horizontal lines drawn on which you glue to the roof surface. These are supposed to help align the strips of shingles and I’m sure they work. However, years back, I learned a foolproof and easy technique assuring parallel and evenly lined up peel-and-stick shingles.

With a tee-square or angle, I draw parallel lines the length of the roof spaced about an eighth of an inch or less apart. Extend these lines all the way up to the peak of the roof. These lines will then provide a visual reference to line up the top edge of the strips of shingles. One doesn’t have to necessarily line the shingles up exactly on the line either; they’re so close together your eye will readily see the strip is going on parallel to the line as you apply it. One strip will not cover the width of the roof, so cut and stagger the point where the two strips join. This assures there won’t be a visible vertical line up the roof where the two strips meet. You might have to cut off the first one or two shingles at the beginning of a strip to maintain a stagger of overlapping shingles row-to-row. Take your time and you’ll be rewarded with a realistic looking shingled roof.

The roof sections were cemented together laying them in place on the roof. It’s a tab-and-slot method getting the roof onto the edge of the walls; an almost foolproof assembly. I say almost foolproof, as I found it necessary to cut back on one tab and file one slot larger to get the roof to sit properly.

The chimney casting was cleaned of flash and painted brick red, and when it dried, a wash of Aged Concrete settled nicely into the mortar lines. I carefully cut an opening into the roof at the peak for the chimney. I used a hobby knife with a fresh blade and started smaller than the casting cutting and fitting as I went along. I used a hot glue gun to cement the casting in place from the inside. Lightly tack the roof to the structure with cyanoacrylate so it can be removed later to add a few more window details. A piece of black paper fits diagonally across the interior to block the view through the structure.

The porch roof eave brackets were painted white while on the fret. Three coats of white acrylic with light sanding between gave the excellent coverage. The brackets were carefully removed and spot glued with cyanoacrylate into their slots. Once in place, I painted the inside faces of the brackets and the underside of the roof panels white. The roof panels are slotted and the bracket’s spot cemented to the walls to allow enough leeway to get all the tabs on the brackets into the slots on the roof. Once lined up and in place, cyanoacrylate is applied to the tabs and slots and more adhesive applied to the brackets in the wall to make them solid and sturdy.

The instructions stated there could be a gap at the 45-degree angle where the roof sections meet and there was. The instructions say to use masking tape to cover the seam and then shingle. I decided to first apply the shingles instead. Once they were on, I trimmed back the shingle overlap over the seam and with some of the scrap strip wood, trimmed a section to close the gap in the roof.

Flashing in the form of what appeared to be narrow strips of copper “bare metal foil” is included. This is an interesting flashing material. Bare metal foil, is foil with a wax backing. When it is peeled from the carrier sheet, it sticks to where it is burnished. It takes patience to work with it as it will curl as you peel off the backing. Be patient and straighten the foil as it comes off. Use tweezers to apply it at one end. Overlap the flashing slightly and follow the top of the last row of shingles on either side of the peak. It will take two strips to cover the peak in a realistic appearance.

Small strips were cut to flash around the chimney casting. I used a black fine point Sharpie pen to ink in the tar lines. Copper this shiny is new copper and is a visual contrast to my usual technique of using strips of masking tape for flashing. Paint it light green and then dry brush with Grimy Black to look life copper verdigris. I used that technique to flash the porch roof. Seeing the difference between new copper and verdigris, I became curious as to what copper would look like between the new and final stage of patina. I came across this website; http://paradigmshingles.com/weathering.html.

On this site are a series of various colors of patina copper between the beginning and ending stages of corrosion Looking at it is very informative, and I will use the website to vary the color of copper flashing on future models.

The porch boardwalk is made up board-by-board strip wood cut and cemented to the base. A NWSL Chopper II ensured uniform board length. To finish in a weathered manner, I applied a few washes of alcohol and Grimy Black. When each application dried, I sanded the surface of the boards and applied another wash until a pleasantly weathered boardwalk appeared. To bring it all together, I applied a final light wash of Roof Brown and alcohol and one last sanding.

I framed out the edges of the porch with 12”x12” strip styrene instead of the wood provided in the kit. I did this so I could make the side railings from styrene instead of wood. My reasoning and past experience involved preventing the wood railings from getting damaged in handling. The railings were made from 6”x6” posts with 2”x6” railings and 2”x4” cross pieces.

The foundation is what makes the eventual sighting of the General Store on your layout unusual and wildly realistic. The foundation is made from four plaster castings of brick walls which when assembled is the bas of the store. Measure the foot print of the foundation and use foam as the scenery base. Then, cut a hole into the foam the size of the footprint. A door at the rear corner and two full size windows on the rear wall allows one to build a slope along the sides of the building front to back. In essence you have made a structure look like it was originally constructed on the slope of a hill. You can now cement or merely place the store on the sited foundation.

One of the long wall castings was broken when I received the kit. Instructions say to make repairs with carpenter’s wood glue which I did, but I did add a bead of cyanoacrylate to the inside wall where the crack was. I painted all the brick Pollyscale Aged Concrete and when that dried, I went back and dry-brushed Mineral Red over the brick faces. I applied this in many coats. If I had tried to apply it all at once, the result would have been red paint running into the mortar lines. Once I had good coverage of red on the brick, I dry-brushed a random coat of Roof Brown just to add some tonal variations to the coloring.

The indents for the door and windows were painted black. Prior to glazing the basement windows, I sanded one side of the window with 600 grit paper to make the glazing translucent. Then I cemented them, non-sanded surface out, into the frames. It looks cool and hides the black painted plaster immediately behind the window. The finished door and window castings were cemented in place. The four walls were assembled with carpenter’s glue and short lengths of square basswood stock were added to reinforce the corner joints. When that glue had set up, a bead of cyanoacrylate was added to insure a tight joint.

I found it necessary to turn the foundation over and gently sand the top edges so the store sat flush on the foundation. One end wall was a bit higher and a sheet of sandpaper on a glass in a picture frame made the task easy and precise. I may cement lengths of square basswood stock along the inside of the interior of the long walls with a hot glue gun for added strength when handling the foundation.

Now the fun begins, adding the details. If there is one shortcoming to the kit and easily corrected, it is some of the white metal detail castings. Unfortunately they lack the crispness of many similar white metal and styrene detail castings. I liked the boxes of produce, birds, yes teeny birds, and the chimney. The lesser castings carefully painted and weathered can be used as a “stand-in” until replaced with similar much finer ones.

A case in point are the pumpkins. B.E.S.T. certainly chose one specific detail, that when added to the General Store, conveys an overwhelming emotion and a sense of a seasonal time only surpassed by Christmas trees and wreathes displayed in front for sale. Looking at a pile of pumpkins on the boardwalk in front, one can feel the crisp autumn air on the cheek and the hint of condensation on your breath and the rustle of blowing leaves. Excited children and the long shadows falling over the scene are an indication of one of the last few reprieves before the onset of winter. There are a decent range of pumpkin castings from giants down to medium but there is little surface detail compared to other castings I’ve encountered.

Again using the extra strip wood, I cobbled together a display rack for the boxes of produce for display in front of one of the front windows. I painted two of the kits barrels, a stack of Tichy Train sacks, a milk can of unknown origin and a SS Ltd. crate of empty soda bottles. The soda crate was painted yellow, the bottles Metallic British Green and the edges of the box in red to look like a Coca-Cola crate.

B.E.S.T. includes a Jordan Buckboard kit, and while I did not build it for the review, I’ve built enough Jordan vehicles to know they are exceptional. The paper signs were cut out, the edges painted dark gray to hide the white paper and cemented in appropriate locations on the building. B.E.S.T. gives excellent instructions on how to place the building in a sloped hill of typical extruded foam. I made up a simple section of scenicked (is this a word) sloping hill to give a sense of just how fine this model will look in a scene.

The finished model is robust in size and will occupy a piece of layout real estate roughly 8 inches by 4 inches. Even if you choose to paint it all non-descript white, this is a model that will become a focal point of the scene regardless of what surrounds it. This store posses the exact perfect blend of simple and purposeful architecture. While based on a New England prototype, it looks right on layouts from just about any region of the country save for the Southwest desert. Character is present in spades throughout the finished model. Your unique interpretation of personality is gained in the details, and the kit provides generous porch surface, large window space and an area around the entire building. There literally is no limit to the amount of creative detailing you can add to this structure and the surrounding scene.

I thoroughly enjoyed building this kit; I spent a little over an hour or so for two weeks constructing the model. The quality of the material, the simple and concise directions, very creative techniques for finishing and detailing with just a few gray areas to make it a bit challenging made this one of the finest and fun to build kits I’ve done in awhile.

B.E.S.T. states the kit is for beginners to experienced, “We’ve done almost all the work for you” I heartily concur and would recommend this even if you’ve never built a craftsman laser style kit. Take it slow and easy, it will come together and you will have taken a quantum leap up the kit building learning curve and have a show piece model, too. B.E.S.T. is to be applauded for bringing the General Store t the symphony level; I can without even a hint of hesitation recommend this kit for all modelers regardless of skill level. The price is $129.95.

-Don Spiro


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