A Handy Shack with a Hidden Purpose

By Paul Joel

The completed shack

Whilst building the Yu-Bend Canyon extension to Pine Bluffs, we found the need to cover the turn-out operating mechanism, which due to the construction of the boards, was now mounted above the base of the layout, instead of below. This was located right in the scenic area of the board and therefore needed disguising whilst still being easily removable. In an old Model Railroader (May 1992) I found an article for a tar paper shack that would just about do the trick, and so elected myself to construct it, on a removable piece of wood. After some deliberating, I decided that I didn’t like the tar paper effect, and instead decided to make it wooden planking – which I felt would fit in with the surroundings much better than the tar paper finish.

I was happy with the basic size of the hut, but decided to swap the wood-store to the viewable side. I started by photocopying the basic plans, taping them to a board, and then taping an acetate sheet over the top – this lets you use the plans again. As this was to be a wooden shack, it seemed logical to work in wood – I use scale lumber, but cut balsa will work just as well. To get a good color for the hut I stained the wood with a mixture of Indian Ink, and Methylated Spirits. I mix this in a jam jar, and just drop the wood in for 10-15 minutes (depending on the amount of ink used). This method gives a good, but uneven color, which is perfect for a remote shack.

I started construction with the floor laying out the stained wood to make the deck, securing it on top of the plans with a strip of double sided tape, and trimming the boards to match the plan. I glued on the joists at right angles to the decking, with scale 18″ gaps between them. I then added two sills with the same orientation as the decking, at either side of the base. Finally I added a leg to each corner to lift it clear of the ground, this completed the floor. The four walls were all constructed in a similar way – I constructed a framework for the edges of the wall, and then glued the boards to it. The windows were added by cutting them out of the sides afterwards, and putting a brace on the inside above and below the gap. the door was cut in a similar way, and re-enforced all around the frame. The walls were then glued to each other and the base, with care being taken to make sure they were square. The door and shutters were constructed using the same method, then fixed to the structure.

The main roof, porch roof and cover for the wood store were constructed in the same way as the walls. The main roof was added first, with the porch roof added so that it came out from below the overhang of the roof. The porch roof was held up by a 6″ by 6″ support on each corner of the base. The wood-store cover was done in a similar fashion, but with the supports reaching the ground. Flat cross boards were added that joined to the side of the hut, to give the store a fenced in feel. The hut was now ready for the layout, and its finishing touches. I added some cut buddleia inside the woodstore, to look like logs, and put a larger piece outside to give the impression of a chopping block. I finally added porch steps constructed from off-cuts, added a rocking chair I found in my bits box, and put a spare caboose chimney in the roof, for the stove pipe.

This looks really quite good on the layout, and does its job really well.