I’ve long planned to model a yard office for the railroad by the abandoned station platform next to Mill Street. The image of a portable/mobile field office fits the theme and mood I’m creating with the layout, so it’s time to head for the classroom at Valley Jct. and do my homework.

Yard office Valley Jct.

A scene from the late 1990s-early 2000s showing the larger trailer used as the yard office.

I have earlier photos that show a larger trailer that used to sit near the junction switch at Valley and several years ago I started a freelanced model loosely based on this one and using the modular building vernacular commonly seen today. It would have been fine but I went stale on the project and never completed it. The original model was designed to fit a different scene and when I removed the wooded hillside in order to model Valley more faithfully, it felt odd in the new landscape. I can’t explain it, it’s just one of those art things I’ve learned to trust.

Less track equals more room for effective scenery.

My initial freelanced version of a portable office. I can do better.

Recent trips revealed the old trailer has been replaced with a smaller, more modern one that now serves as the yard office. Given my priority toward modeling reality more accurately, I’ll go with this building.

Current yard office at Valley Jct.

The current yard office.

Current yard office at Valley Jct.

The rear view won’t be seen on the layout, at least from normal viewing angles.

On the surface this could be just another modeling project, something you’d crank out and be done with. But in the spirit of treating the craft as an ongoing conversation, I’m thinking about what I would like to learn here. Those wrought-iron steps and railings beg to be modeled using some brass mesh and bar stock and that would certainly challenge my skills. It sounds like a lesson plan with multiple benefits.

I have a few photos already, and even though it looks like a simple project, I want to do a more complete contextual study of the scene. Along with noting the dimensions and details like the ice machine seen above, I want to capture the feel of the building, which will require careful notes and thorough observation of things like the pattern of the grasses around the base and how misaligned the skirting is. There’s also the general clutter of all those coolers and other debris.

I hope to take a field trip to VJ in the next few days and also hope they haven’t replaced or removed this one since my last trip!



  1. Trevor

    That looks like a great project.
    I would model the back of the building too – even though it won’t be seen, I would know it’s there. And one never knows: Some day, you might turn the whole layout 180 degrees and you’ll be glad you did it then.
    I’m looking forward to following your progress!
    – Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

  2. mike

    Turning it around would make work on the background scenery less of a chore. Then all I have to do is decide which of the THREE yard office trailers to model.


  3. renegourley

    “even though it looks like a simple project?”

    Are you kidding? This trailer is oozing with character and detail. Check out the right hand door, which has been kicked open so many times it’s bent. The stairs are crooked, the siding covering the wheels and the skirt above it are all mishapen, especially around the back. There’s that whacky electrical cable, and what’s with all the locks on the door? Gaps in the siding above the quietly rusting hitch…

    Also, don’t underestimate how difficult it is to make the basic box so it is as clean as one of the factory-manufactured things, especially when you want the siding to line up properly.

    I can see why you abandoned the other version: it was too idyllic, and not at all true to the gritty utilitarian nature of today’s railroad.

  4. mike

    Hi Rene’,

    Yes, there’s a lot more than one might think here. And, I agree that the workmanship required to reproduced a tightly controlled factory standard quality will be more challenging than say, the typical broken down shack so many are drawn to.