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Pre-purchasing and accumulating structures prior to having a layout design in hand is a recurring theme on this blog. It’s a recurring theme because the same story plays out with regularity. For many, having the time and/or space for a layout has been (or will be) a long wait. In order to get a jump on that future layout, and also to have some sense of engagement in the hobby, it’s only natural to want to pick up kits in the years leading up to the big day.

The problem is that having an inventory of accumulated kits, and then having the design be driven by a need to accommodate them, rarely produces the best result. If a prototype look is important to you, the problem is compounded because you need a very specific mix of structures to create a coherent look. Adding further to the problem is that structure manufacturers are no dummies. Whimsy sells, the mundane, not so much. The kit market is loaded with enticing structures that look cool individually but often don’t match what is the norm in the real world. When it comes time to design the layout, and smack in the center of your plan is your typical Railroadtown USA, ca. 1955, those whimsical, cute, kits just aren’t a good fit visually. When all is said and done you are either on ebay looking for fifty cents on the dollar or using the ill-fitting kits and compromising your long-held goal of capturing the feel of an actual time and place.

Let’s take a different approach to pre-purchasing kits in anticipation of a future layout. If you study Sanborn maps over any length of time you’ll notice a trend. There are some rail side industries that appear, without fail, in every town. You will, without question need them if you’re modeling the steam to diesel transition era. Why not pick them up and build them in advance? Getting to specifics, the two industries that are trackside on every map are fuel oil dealers and team tracks. Fuel oil was the way homes were heated back in the day. Not every business that received freight by rail had its own spur. The solution was to have the carrier spot a car at a trackside team track unloading platform and then send a truck over to get the delivery.

Fuel Oil Kits

Fuel oil distributors had a relatively standard look to them. Most were horizontal tanks on concrete saddles, a few had vertical tanks. Add in an office and unloading pipes and there you have it.

Walthers Interstate oil (pn 933-3006) and McGraw Oil (pn 933-2913) are dead ringers for the typical fuel oil distributor, at least the tanks are.  I’m less impressed with the office structures, particularly with McGraw.  If it were me, I’d substitute the Walthers “Industry Office”  for the office structures.  In the case of McGraw, I’d also substitute Tichy walkways and ladders.

A better look for a fuel distributor office would be Walthers “Industry Office” (pn 933-4020)

Team Track

For the team track platform, Blair Line makes a dead ringer kit in their loading ramp (pn 184-174) .  For each location, I’d use two kits and splice them together to make a longer platform.  I like to pre-weather the laser cut wood prior to cutting them from the sprue by giving them a wash of 1 teaspoon of India Ink per pint of 70 proof rubbing alcohol. Weigh the sprue down while the weathering solution is drying to prevent warping.

So, if the day you can realistically start your dream layout is going to have to be in the future, and you have the itch to “do something” why not make it something you know you’ll need.  Pull out your credit card and start accumulating the parts for a fuel distributor and team track.

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