In 2018 I attended the National Model Railroad Association National Convention in Kansas City, Mo. Across the street from the convention hotel was Kansas City Union Station. The structure, opened in 1914, was designed and built in the Beaux Arts style. It was a hub for freight and passenger service. After a period of decline and closure, it was restored in 1999. Today, the station is served by long-distance and regional Amtrak trains and is also home to restaurants, museums, and a large ballroom for events and exhibits.
When I returned home to New Hampshire after the convention, I had new inspiration to work on my freelanced HO scale Boston & Maine layout. I felt Bristol (my version of Boston), the southern point of my railroad, deserved a new, grander train station. I looked at kits but didn’t find any that were the right size or had the architectural features I wanted. So I set about designing a freelanced station in the style of Kansas City Union Station. Since my station sits at street level and the trains come in below ground like they do in Kansas City, this was the ideal prototype to draw inspiration from.
Before designing the station, I measured the footprint of the space I had available. I tried to keep the overall proportions of the prototype, but had to compress the design. I wanted the large windows to show off the illuminated main hall interior, complete with signs, benches, passengers, ticket booths, and stairs to the platforms below street level in the wings.
My first design was good, but after making a paper mock-up of the structure from photocopied drawings, I felt I needed to make the station taller to better fit among the surrounding big-city structures.
The second mock-up fit well. I started with a .040" plain styrene sheet base that was 70 scale feet long and 22 scale feet wide. I again turned to .040" styrene sheet to build the two end boxes of the main hall. I then built the front and back walls with three arched windows above three double doors. I used Tichy Train Group 13-pane half-round windows (no. 8128), 20/20 double-hung masonry windows (no. 8036), and doubledoor and frame (no. 8192) as templates 1.
I scribed the walls inside and out with a hobby knife to represent 2 scale foot tall blocks of granite. I removed any burrs from the scribing process with 400-grit sandpaper.
I added a second layer of .040" styrene above the arched windows. To prevent warping, I braced the walls from the inside with styrene strip. At this time I glued the back wall in place, but not the front.
Each two-story wing measures 121 ⁄2 x 151 ⁄2 scale feet; the floor between is used as bracing. In the wings I added Tichy Train Group spindle rail (no. 8093) to suggest there are stairs leading to the platforms below. For the flooring I printed an image of 12" square black-and-white tile and attached it with 3M transfer tape. I added a ticket booth at each end of the hall.
Next, I laminated styrene to the building’s core. I glued two rows of .040" x .188" strip to the foundation. On the outer walls of the main hall I placed horizontal layers of .020" x .125" strip: six courses with 3⁄32" spacing and five courses with 5⁄16" spacing. See 2 on previous page.
I made the four columns from 5⁄16" wood dowels, tapered slightly on a table sander. I did the finish sanding by hand and painted the dowels twice to make the wood grain less visible. The 31 ⁄2-scale foot-tall square boxes (.015" styrene sheet) around the bottom of each column are open on the back.
I built a box from .040" styrene sheet above the arched windows on the back wall. On the bottom of the box are four .040" styrene capitals. I used styrene strip for the trim. The dentils, spaced a scale foot apart, are 10 scale inch pieces of .040" x .040" styrene strip.
I added four evenly spaced ornamental stone pieces to the top of the box, which I made from .060" styrene sheet. The ornamental pieces are aligned with the columns 3.
Next, I added peaks and interior bracing to the end walls. The end caps are .040" x .188" styrene strip with .060" x .100" strip below. I added dentils below the trim. The caps on the end walls are built up from two layers of .080" styrene 4.
Kansas City Union Station has round decorative stone medallions across the facade. I replicated these by drawing 7⁄32" circles on .015" styrene sheet. I used a drill bit in a motor tool to draw crescent-shaped decorations 5.
I washed the station in warm water with dish soap added to remove impurities. Then I rinsed the structure and let it dry. I sprayed the structure with gray primer. A day later, I airbrushed the station with a mix of 50 percent Reefer White, 30 percent Milwaukee Road Gray thinned with isopropyl alcohol.
I painted the windows Roof Brown. The sides of the wings feature Tichy Train Group two-lite doors (no. 8050). I trimmed and glued the castings together to make a double door.
The three main doors on the front and back walls are Tichy double doors with frame (no. 8192). I reversed the frame and put it on the inside of the hall. I painted the doors Floquil Roof Brown (Model Master no. 4884 is a suitable replacement for the discontinued Floquil color). Once dry, I applied Tamiya Clear Red (no. X-27). The translucent red, when applied over the brown, captures the look of mahogany.
I weathered the station with an India ink and alcohol wash as well as powdered pastels. The North Station lettering is Microscale Roman condensed alpha-numeric set no. 90033.
The large windows make it easy to see inside the station, so I needed to add interior details. I scratchbuilt the benches from styrene. I used the same technique as before to simulate a mahogany finish.
I also used more of the checkered tile floor in the main hall. I scaled down photos of posters promoting Boston & Maine snow trains and a train information board from Boston’s North Station to add interest to the walls. A clock is located above the center set of doors 6, opposite.
I used light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to illuminate the building. I installed bright white LEDs on the first floor of the wings. In the main hall I used three 3V, 5mm warm white LEDs mounted on mat board with styrene bracing underneath. The wiring is connected with 1 ⁄8" copper tape from Microlumina. All the wires travel across the ceiling and down inside the end wall to a single mini-connector 7.
The roof material is from left over from a Pikestuff kit. I built up the ends of each roof with layers of .040" and .060" styrene. I used .020" x .080" strip for the ridge cap; the side trim is .040" x .188" strip. I airbrushed the roof Model Master Pale Green (no. 4739) 8.
I used an assortment of styrene to make the canopies above the doors. The core is .040" styrene with strips of .040" x .060" on top, .060" x .100" on the bottom, and .040" x .040" strip for dentils 9. After painting the canopies Roof Brown and Pale Green, I added .015" brass wire supports. I used .032" brass wire for the downspouts 10.
If you’re looking to add a station to an urban scene, turn to the prototype for inspiration. Start with pictures of various stations and design yours using the features you want to replicate.
My new urban station is grander than the last one. It doesn’t look anything like North Station in Boston. But my passengers don’t complain, as long as the trains are on time.
124 .020" x .080" strip
126 .020" x .125" strip
142 .040" x .040" strip
143 .040" x .060" strip
146 .040" x .125" strip
148 .040" x .188" strip
155 .060" x .100" strip
166 .080" x .125" strip
167 .080" x .156" strip
9015 .015" plain sheet
9040 .040" plain sheet
9060 .060" plain sheet
8606 6" x 6" strip
1⁄8" copper tape
90033 Roman condensed lettering
4739 Pale Green
4884 Roof Brown
X-27 Clear Red
8036 20/20 double-hung masonry window
8050 two lite door
8052 6/6 masonry window
8093 turned spindle porch rail
8128 13-pane half-round masonry window
8192 double door and frame
.015” and .032” brass wire 3mm 5V warm white light-emitting diodes
Thomas Oxnard is a retired pediatrician who lives in New Hampshire with his wife, Sally. He earned his National Model Railroad Association Master Model Railroader certificate in 2015. Thomas’ other activities include skiing, golf, woodworking, painting, and enjoying eight grandchildren. His article “Building a brick switch tower” appeared in the May 2015 MR. ■