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ZM-9 N-Scale Row Houses

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 4:11 pm    Post subject: ZM-9 N-Scale Row Houses Reply with quote

ZM-9 Escape from Pleasantville – Part 1

Eastern Row Houses from DPM Reed’s Books Building

It’s hard to imagine any major or minor eastern city without row houses or town houses. As populations swelled and industry grew, urban area became more densely populated. Tenements in the central cores of the major cities concentrated huge numbers of lower class, largely immigrant, populations close to low paying jobs. Tenements were made up of small, cheap units with a bathroom and sometimes the kitchen down the hall. Row houses were a step up or several steps up from tenements. Row house prototype pictures show many styles from “economy” to relative “luxury.” Some have small yards in front and back, others not.

If your prototype is eastern, lets say Pennsy, whether you are modeling Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Coatesville or any number of other cities, it’s hard to imagine not needing row houses or townhouses to give that certain flavor to your layout.

Amazingly, no company that I’m aware of has ever made row houses in N Scale, probably not in HO scale either. Just as amazing, you can remedy this easily yourself for about $10.00 per row house.

As we have said before, DPM buildings are a curse and a blessing. The curse part is that they have been so successful over the years to the point that every layout in the world, it seems, has the same block of buildings for a town with the same building with the same cupola on the left end. The only difference being the arrangement of the buildings in the middle. And it seems a high percentage of folks seem to think that since every side wall comes with windows there has to be a walkway between each building. How many times have you seen that in the real world? Whether they call it Thurmond or Fargo, Peoria or Bakersfield, that town looks the same like Pleasantville.

The blessing side of the DMP line is its basic quality and usefulness if you can recognize its versatility. It’s amazing what can be done with these buildings if you only follow the Zenmaster’s principle: “Everything you buy is just a bag of parts.”

Reed Books (DPM Kit #51500) is one of my favorite buildings because it is a source of supply for bay windows. Bays were extremely common from the late 19th century well into the 20th century, particularly in urban areas, to increase light and ventilation. I’ve used Reed Books bays on many building conversions.

Reed Books is the ideal starting point for the row house project since it has not only the bays we need, but also 2 identical front doors.

We are only dealing with the fronts of the buildings because they will be on a backdrop. If you wish full buildings just follow normal DPM procedures – the instructions come with the kit.

Looking at the photos of the main building front you can see the razor saw cuts needed to make the parts for the first and second stories. The garden level with window (basement) was cut from side pieces.

First, remove the center windows. Align the blade of the razor saw against the interior edge of the pilaster (the raised pseudo-column made of bricks) and carefully saw through the plastic building front. Place the ‘scrap’ parts in your scrap box. That panel with small windows may have a life in a different project!

The second cut removes the doorway and the picture window. In this case, cut along the upper edge of the raised horizontal detail line.

Now separate the doorway from the window, cutting with the saw abutting the outside of the raised decorative door frame. Again, place the picture window in the scrap box.

On the upper piece, you need to razor saw out the wall with window to make room for the doorway you just cut. Take a few measurements to make sure the area you remove is the same size as the doorway section. The cuts are made where shown below:

Glue the doorway and decorative frame into the notch you created above.

Most any part of the side wall can be used for the basement window section. I thought it was most attractive to center a window under the bay. The height of the section needs to match the height of the front step units: .68”

Your first row house should now look like this:

The back side of the re-assembled parts should look like this:

Add the bay window sections as described in the DPM instructions. You will need to fabricate a floor for the base of the bay: I used some .020 Evergreen styrene sheeting (Evergreen #9020).

Here are two DPM Reed’s Books after conversion into row houses. Notice the different side wall parts used on the garden level.

I made the stairs and the little roof over the front door from styrene plastic. I put these pieces in a mold since I wanted four identical sets, and then cast them in pewter. I made some extra sets. You can order then on the GHQ website. Two sets are $7.95 plus S&H.

Glue the stair units together: look at the pictures for proper alignment. The roof over the doorway is glued just below the top lip of the decorative frame. Use CA adhesive (“super-glue”) to affix a pewter casting to the plastic building.

I base coated the fronts with a brick color: in this case I used an airbrush to apply an overall basecoat of GHQ’s ‘Rust’ acrylic paint (#CLR7). To facilitate handling the models while painting, I tacked the building fronts onto a sheet of corrugated cardboard with some rubber cement.

As the prototype images show, paint is normally applied to wooden areas. I used GHQ’s “Camouflage Green” (#CLR1). The front steps and upper edges of the brick stairways were painted a light gray to simulate marble. GHQ’s “Haze Gray” (#CLR16) would work well.

The bricks were given a thin white wash followed by a thin black wash to help define the mortar lines. Other details were painted, like the black handrails in the stairways.

I glazed the windows with thin clear plastic acetate sheets, trimmed to fit inside the windows. The lace curtains were painted on the back of the clear plastic and glued over the openings. All window and door mullions were thinned on the back before assembly for a more realistic look.

The Venetian blinds were scribed into the plastic window glazing on the back side. I rubbed cream colored acrylic paint into the grooves and wiped them off to get the effect of the blinds.

I wanted to “populate” my row houses. Since they are to be used as low relief background buildings, I created the effect of an interior with “shadow boxes.” The shadow boxes were made from styrene and painted different colors in a random way to suggest an interior. Color photos were clipped out and glued in to suggest paintings on the wall. In one apartment, I made a lamp in the window.

When all together, my first two row houses looked like this:

If you look at the prototype photos and compare them with other DPM buildings, you can see other row house possibilities, especially if you supplement them with Grandt Line doors (#8006; #8017) or Tichy Train Group doors (#2505, #2513, #2514, #2524).

You can purchase the set of stairs and awnings parts that I created on the GHQ website here:

After you have made a block of these row houses, use your imagination to create other unique urban buildings using the same concepts employed in this article.

As always, we want to know your thoughts about this article. Did you like it? Why? Was it detailed enough? Did it inspire you to make these row houses? Did it inspire you to make a different project? If you aren't registered to use our forum, then register now. Post some of your own projects, ask questions, answer questions...get involved in the model railroading hobby. The hobby grows when people share their work and techniques. Everyone benefits when you teach others how to do things. Someone may even be able to improve on what you have developed. Put some modeling in your model railroading!

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Joined: 16 Jun 2009
Posts: 9
Location: San Diego CA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a GREAT article. Best part is it works well in both HO & N with the exact same structure...
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Joined: 13 Dec 2004
Posts: 282
Location: Houston, we have a problem...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

^ The basic ideas apply to any scale and many different types of projects. That makes this article a 'keeper'...
"It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the beans of java that the thoughts acquire speed. The hands acquire the shakes, the shakes become a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion." - Programmer's Mantra
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