Long time readers may remember this project from February of 2012 (!). I find it hard to believe it’s been that long since I worked on the foundation of the Robert’s Mill.

Roberts' Mill foundation

To refresh everyone’s memory, I plan to revamp the original scenery in this corner of the layout by combining two signature buildings from the line into one scene.

Original corner scenery

While the wooded hillside worked initially, I grew tired of the snow scene and thought I could do a better job here. This was the first area of scenery on the layout and I was in a rush to see something finished back then. Further, these trees really didn’t relate to anything. They were just my attempt to hide a square corner of the backdrop. As seen in the second photo, I painted the splotches of black paint on the backdrop behind the trees to further disguise the right angle nature of the sky in this area. After removing the old scenery, I cleaned and repainted the sky since the photos were taken.

Original scenery gone

The Robert’s Mill foundation from just south of Brookville, and the portion of Casper Fohl’s Mill in Cedar Grove that I modeled, both have similar dimensions and look like they would fit well together. As you recall if you’ve reread the older post, my first attempt at casting the model foundation failed miserably. My plaster mix was too watery and the plaster just crumbled to pieces when I removed the styrene forms. (Below.)

First crumbling attempt

I finally returned to the project this week and made a second attempt, which turned out much better (photo below). It still isn’t perfect, but it is acceptable for what I want to do with the scene. Yes, both gaps in the middle of the long wall on top are intentional as is the missing portion of the center wall. I’ve never found any photos of the complete building. I assume it was in two sections as evidenced by the break between the long and short sections. I don’t know whether there was a grain dump, or drive here or if it was even covered by a connecting roof. Perhaps someone will provide the answers someday.

Second attempt at Robert's Mill foundation casting

Since I poured the plaster on Monday evening, I’m waiting for it to cure completely before painting, otherwise the finish will just blister off from the trapped internal moisture.

Although the foundation looks simple, building the formwork from styrene strips took a bit of time. Because of the odd size, I had to custom cut them by hand from a larger sheet of 0.040″ stock and then texture one side with some sandpaper to impart a slight wood grain effect to simulate the texture picked up by the concrete from the full-size wood forms. This is one reason I delayed so long, I didn’t really enjoy building these the first time, let alone having to do it again. I haven’t spent much time at the bench in recent months and I had to fight the urge to rush things. I felt like I was starting from zero all over again, both mentally and physically.

Once the foundation is dry, painting and staining will commence and I plan to include all the scrub growth, litter, debris and trees you see in the photos of the real one. At one time, I planned to model the derelict portion of the mill building itself, but it was demolished before I could document it to my satisfaction, although I did measure the existing foundation. Combined with the Cedar Grove building, the empty, tree studded foundation may be a more poignant image that reinforces the story line of the I&W.

I will post a photo or two of future progress but I won’t cover this project too much on the blog. I plan to do that in the next edition of The Missing Conversation coming in late summer/early fall.




  1. Matt


    Gosh, that was a while ago. Never fear. I have projects that have been sitting around that long as well. Some, like yours, as I tried to figure out a better way to do the task.

    I think your finished product, with trees inside the foundation will capture visitors attention as well as tell the story of the I&W’s past.


  2. mike

    Hi Matt,
    In terms of age, this project is just a kid. 🙁

    I have an update planned for this week.