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ZM-15 N-Scale Apartment Building

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Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 677
Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:45 pm    Post subject: ZM-15 N-Scale Apartment Building Reply with quote

Escape From Pleasantville –Part 2
Apartment Buildings From DPM Wilhelmi’s Mercantile

In our first building article ( ZM-9 N-Scale Row Houses ) we converted Design Preservation Model’s “Reed’s Books” into a commonly seen type of row house. Urban residential housing is a sadly lacking item in N-Scale kits, so it’s nice to take an all too commonly seen building on N-Scale layouts, like “Reed’s Books,” and turn it into something almost never seen, like row houses.

Another type of housing commonly constructed around the turn of the century -in all large, medium, and small cities- was the walk-up apartment building.

As with the row houses, you have to look at DPM buildings as a “bag of parts.” You need to look beyond the kit as it exists, and see how you can use the architectural details, and different floors, to create other types of buildings that are more useful for your vision. As it turns out, DPM #51600 “Wilhelmi’s Mercantile” is a perfect candidate to create one of the most common styles of apartment buildings on the American scene from 1900 to the present.

Most of these buildings have three upper stories, a garden level in the basement, and a center hallway with apartments on both sides. All of the window and door sections are contained within the wall sections of “Wilhelmi’s Mercantile.” All that you have to do is liberate them from the wall castings with a razor saw, and then reassemble them in the configuration in these photos.

Before getting into most of the chopping, review this image of the back of the apartment front – it gives you an idea of how the sections were ‘liberated’ from the DPM wall sections.

Examine the DPM front wall. Note that there are THREE different pilasters!
The “wide pilasters” are on the corners of the wide sheet and right side of the decorative end. The “medium pilasters” are on either side of the doorways, and the “narrow pilasters” are between sections of the store-front windows. For this conversion, I only used the wide and medium pilasters.

Begin by razor sawing the 3 ‘Wide Pilasters’ off the ends of the 2 panels. Set these aside for assembly after the other panels are prepared.

The next cuts were made on the large wall section. I used the doorway section, and the two flanking sets of double windows. To not damage the bricks with the razor saw blade, I sliced through the center of the ‘Narrow Pilasters’ as shown in the next photo. After making the saw cuts, I used a file to remove the remnants of the pilaster, leaving the brick pattern intact on the flat panels next to the windows.

This gave me the left half of the building. To prepare the right half, I made this cut on the narrower end section of Wilhelmi’s Merchantile.

On this one, I filed both bits of the pilaster off, and then moved the double window section to the other side of the doorway – that gave me the right side of the apartment building.

Now for the doorways! Use a razor saw to cut up from the bottom, abutting with the pilasters as shown below. Continue the cut beyond the windows, to open up the space the doorway will be moved into. Some detail at the top of the lowest middle window will need to be removed – a hobby knife works well for this. The horizontal cuts are most easily made by scoring and snapping the styrene after the vertical saw cuts are made.

The blue text and marks show where the storefront windows are removed. The next photo shows what it will look like after moving the doorways up. Some styrene can be spliced in to fill any gaps. Remember that the doorway roofs will cover the scar where the window trim was removed.

The trickiest part is shortening the garden level windows. I arranged the parts on the workbench, a “wide pilaster’ on each end and one in the middle, then prepared left and right halves in their places. That showed me what materials were left over and could be used to fabricate the garden level windows. I cut four out of the ‘scrap’ and then shortened them to fit in place. After removing the horizontal mullions, I razor sawed the bottom sills off, and then sliced again a bit higher up. The sill is then glued back to the window frame. I made all four to look alike, with a strip of Evergreen Styrene mullion in the middle of each.

To fill in the walls around these shortened windows, spare brick was cut out to ‘frame’ the garden level windows ( shown in green below ).

More brick was scabbed in to the space behind the stairways. That gave a backing on which to fabricate the stairways.

The small roofs over the doors were also fashioned from styrene and given a fancy edge. Chains were added using the soft brass wire/hemostat technique illustrated in “ZM-7 Making Realistic N-Scale Chain.” Stairs were fashioned from styrene and DPM brick sections.

I wanted the cap to appear different from that provided in the DPM kit. I razor sawed off the top, above the corbels. I then added strips of Evergreen styrene to build up a unique cap.

At this point I was only interested in the front of the building for a diorama, so I didn’t do the sides, or rear. The two key elements to making this, or any, model look spectacular are the interior, and a realistic paint weathering job.

Interiors are extremely important because they give the elements of depth and texture that make a scene look real. Having said that, let me say that the techniques I use for interiors must be easy and quick. In general, I don’t believe in doing “scenes” in buildings unless absolutely necessary. If I were doing a gas station with big picture windows wide open so that the manager has a clear view of the pumps, I would do more of a scene with counter, products, and people because that would make it believable. For this apartment building a shadow box with different colors for rooms and scraps of paper for paintings on the wall creates the depth, and feel, of a variety of believable rooms. Different window treatments that reflect 1940’s and 50’s practices enhance, and frame, the look seen in each apartment. It’s an impression you must create, not a scene. Various styles, and colors, of drapes and curtains were painted on the inside of the windows. Venetian blinds were created by closely scribing lines to represent blinds and hanging straps. Front doors have lace curtains that let light in, but make the vestibule private, were a commonly used theme in the 1940’s and 50’s.

The colors chosen for the building are fairly drab, but not too dark. I feel that this captures the urban American scene the best. I will never use a colored plastic part without repainting it, even the brick colors. They never look right. The yellow brick color chosen was quite common and lends realism as does the brown trim, and limestone colored accents. The brick was given a light gray mortar wash to put mortar in the groove lines between bricks. When dry, the whole building was given a brushing with a thick acrylic wash of a little black with a little dishwashing detergent. Don’t over do it, or you will totally negate the mortar lines you just created. The black wash gives it a weathered, aged look.

Now between the row houses, and apartment buildings you can create, you have many more options to produce the urban scenes that most railroads operated in when they ran through cities.

As always we would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this article, and any others in our Zen Master Series. Did this article inspire you to make this apartment building? Another apartment building? A different project? Was this article detailed enough for you? Too detailed? Do you normally do any scratchbuilding? Kitbashing? The idea behind these articles is to show that there is no need to settle for anything as it comes out of the box. Anything is possible in N-Scale. Model railroading is all about modeling, not just box opening.

If you are not already a member of our online forum, please register now**. Model railroading is a social hobby, and modeling techniques are developed and improved by sharing them with others. Show off some of the work that you have done to others. Plant a seed with them, inspire them to do get out of the box and create something unique.

** When registering for our forum please include something in the "Interests" field about model railroading, military history, military gaming, etc. All accounts are scanned with human eyes before being approved to avoid having the forum loaded with SPAM. It may take a day or two for your account to be activated.
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Terrible Tim

Joined: 29 Oct 2007
Posts: 16
Location: Gladstone, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool modelling.


Micro WW2 German and Russian (Schwere Kompanie)
1/1200 Napoleonic Ships
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Joined: 16 Jun 2009
Posts: 9
Location: San Diego CA

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amazing work!
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Joined: 17 May 2009
Posts: 5
Location: Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great Idea! I've been looking at ways to make the "fifth floor walkup", typical of the northeast. I need whole buildings for my modules, but don't think that should be a problem. Now I've got to start cutting.

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Joined: 11 Dec 2004
Posts: 2889
Location: 1 Oct: end of an era

PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is an amazing article.

I would love to see GHQ sell buildings like this as well!
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Joined: 11 Feb 2015
Posts: 25

PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cama wrote:
This is an amazing article.

I would love to see GHQ sell buildings like this as well!

Be even better if they sold the pieces like window sections, door sections, wall sections, pillars, to mix and match

Although I would like them in 1:285
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Joined: 03 Aug 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 1:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This article has lost it's usefulness because the photos are hidden by PhotoBucket.
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