Scratch-Built Paned Windows in HO Scale

In a previous post, I wrote about scratch-building small cabins with balsa wood. By trial and error, sometimes resulting in more error than success, I filled in the window frames without actually making windows. I simply framed the space and added some trim.

I decided to try my hand at building paned windows that I could make in advance and pop them in place as I’m building new structures.

HO window template covered with wax paper

I first drew a template I could use repeatedly. A fellow modeler suggested covering templates with wax paper to prevent glued pieces from sticking to the template. Brilliant! (I then remembered my uncle building a plane from balsa and using wax paper to protect the template.)

I measured the windows on several of my plastic structures and many of them are about the same size, 3 x 5 on the HO scale ruler. I drew pane lines evenly across the window space.

I cut strips of thin balsa about 3mm wide and glued them together on the template. I use very small balsa material for the panes. I first painted the balsa and stood the pieces in a jar for drying. I cut the pane material just wider than the frame width and length. I glued the horizontal pieces to the frame, then put a spot of glue on the panes and the frame to hold the veritcal piece in place.

Three balsa HO scale windows

I think these windows look pretty good for a first attempt. They might still be a little large for HO scale, but not by much.

Scratch built HO scale balsa windows with trimming finished.

My first idea was to use two layers of framing and glue the pane material between them. That didn’t work well. The frames were too thick. After the glue has dried, I cut the trim back leaving a more realistic appearance.

Two balsa walls with HO scale windows installed.

After framing the walls, I drop the finished windows in place, gluing them to the studs. I then finish the walls by adding siding. Once the four walls are completed, I trim the edges for a smooth fit and glue them together.

Small HO scale cabin with windows ready for roofing.

I’m hooked on making these little cabins. I’m getting better at framing more quickly, and I build a few at a time. On recent models, I included the gables with the wall framing, making roofing easier. I don’t enjoy making roof trusses.

HO scale balsa four walls for layout store.

This frame is going to be a retail space on the Maple Valley Short Line Railroad. The large window and double door looks great. It may become the Ya’ll Sit Cafe in Maple Valley, owned by Shorty and Hannah Cloverton. (They’re the ones – among several others – who were sued for the unfortunate demise of Mrs. Madeline Overweist after a bat landed on her face outside the cafe.) The BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team is still working on the problem.

HO scale pencil template for balsa structure.

This is a template I recently finished for a larger scratch built structure. The building will be a two-story model with a first-floor extra room and a shed attachment. The numbers on the template correspond with measurements on the HO scale ruler.

Scratch building is a lot of fun. I have always enjoyed the scenery-building process of model railroading almost as much as running trains.

I am really looking forward to finding out what happened with the lawsuit brought against several prominent members of the Maple Valley town council. The lawfirm of Skellson & Skellson served Shorty Cloverton with the suit at the Ya’ll Sit Cafe a few days before Christmas.

One thing is certain. The Scandal at Maple Valley is not over. Not by a long shot.

Remembering My Friend Mike

I first met Mike when we were sophomores in high school. I played cornet in the school band, Mike played the sousaphone. Although we didn’t become close friends until our senior year, Mike was hard to miss. Tall, dark hair, rosy cheeks, well-equipped to carry a tuba, and Mike had an infectious laugh that made everyone smile.

Our paths crossed, in a life-changing way, in January, 1971. Our high school drama department announced the spring musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”. I loved going to the plays, but had never been in one myself. I had no desire to act or get involved. In Drama class, however, I became acquainted with a lot of students I hadn’t known before, and got a tiny bit of exposure to the stage.

I don’t remember how I got roped into playing the piano for the auditions. It was so unlike me. Hiding was more in line with my inner self. I thought I was better on the piano than I actually was, and sight-reading was not my forte. I remember trying to play “Eleanor Ribgy”, for a girl attempting to impress the the directors. When I plastered the song I had never heard of, she said, “You’re terrible!”

When the auditions were over and almost everyone was gone, the music director said to me, “Are you going to sing something?” I said, “No.” He said, “Come on, just try it.”

I literally felt like I had a finger stuck in my back, pushing me. I gave in. The director handed me “Climb Every Mountain.” As I sang, he walked to the back of the choir room and listened. As I finished, “….’til you find your dream!”, one of the student directors said, “Sounds like Frank Butler to me!” I didn’t know who that was.

The next night I went to the acting tryouts. I knew I didn’t have a chance, I was just following the encouragement of the director. I read lines as I was paired with various other students several times.

The day came when the characters for the musical were announced. I walked into the Drama classroom after school. Several students were gathered around the bulletin board and a girl named Mary, said, “You got it!” I knew who she was, I saw her in several other plays. I didn’t think she knew who I was.

I looked at the actors’ list and read, “Frank Butler – Dale Parsons. Dolly Tate – Mary Wagner. Sitting Bull – Mike Lynch,” and many other names of those who would quickly become friends.

Mike and I soon began spending time together. He said, “I knew I was going to be ‘Sitting Bull!’ There was a part in the musical when Frank Butler joins the wild west show headlined by Annie Oakley. Mike was supposed to walk up to me in all of his chiefly attire, face to face, and gruffly say, “You in show too?” We busted out laughing every time he did it.

I treasured the time I spent with Mike, as we had a great deal in common. He and I both believed we were called to ministry. He planned to become a priest in the Catholic Church, I planned to become a minister in the Protestant Church. We often read Scripture and prayed together after play practice.

Before meeting Mike, my repertoire of music enjoyment was all churchy. Our car radio was glued to a local religious station owned by the church I attended. That’s not a bad thing, I just rarely listened to secular music. Mike introduced me to “Chicago.” Oh my gosh! I loved it! What a sound! “25 or 6 to 4!”

The topic of girls came up in many of our conversations. As rehearsals for the musical continued, there were two girls I was thinking about asking for a date. One was in the play, one was not.

One night after play practice, Mike and I talked about the two girls and he said I should draw straws to decide which girl to ask, so I did. One straw for Marcia, one straw for Mary. I pulled out Marcia’s. I said, “I’m gonna ask Mary out.”

Mary and I went on our first date on Friday, March 5th. We will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary next year.

“Annie Get Your Gun” was an incredible success. Three nights of performances, standing ovations, surrounded by new friends, and in the final scene standing next to “Dolly Tate”. We’re still standing together after all these years.

During the summer of ’71, Mike and I continued our friendship. He actually came over and helped me work on painting our old barn, a job I never finished. We talked, laughed, cried, and dreamed.

Sadly, after Mike and I went to college, we lost touch. I didn’t write as often as I should have and the communication finally stopped.

Last Sunday night was our oldest grandson’s baccalaureate in preparation for high school graduation. As we sat waiting for the ceremony to begin, my wife noticed the name of the first guest speaker, “Pete Lynch, Catholic Deacon Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church.” She said, “I think that’s Mike’s brother!” I didn’t think it was possible.

As Pete was sharing his inspiring message of faith in Christ, he said, “I remember when I graduated from high school in 1975. My brother gave me a Bible.” Mary said, “I think that’s him! You have to talk to him!” Pete said it wasn’t until years later he began reading the Bible and followed God’s plan for his life.

After the ceremony, I walked up to Pete and said, “Did you graduate from Lapeer High School?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Did Mike give you that Bible?” His eyes widened and he said, “Yes! Who are you?” I said, “Dale Parsons.”

We laughed and hugged. I introduced him, again, to my wife, Mary. He remembered us. In fact, he said, “My sister and I were just talking about you a few months ago.” Pete has that same bright smile and laugh I remember in his big brother.

I asked about Mike. He said, “Mike passed away with cancer six years ago. He had several bad bouts with cancer.” I told Pete I hadn’t heard, and was sorry to hear that he was gone.

Deacon Pete and I exchanged phone numbers. We’ll get together for coffee and talk about life, family, and ministry. We’ll also talk about Mike.

I’m sorry I didn’t continue writing to Mike. I last saw him fifty-one years ago. I’ll always be thankful for him. I can see his face and I hear his laugh. I see the straws in his hand, and I see the one I pulled out. I’m so thankful I broke the rules.

I’ll see Mike again some day. We’ll get reacquainted. I know what he’ll say when he sees me.

“You in show too?”

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 23

Sheriff Pete walked into the Ya’ll Sit Cafe on Monday morning, just like he does every week. Something felt different. He didn’t know what it was, but he had the eerie sense he should sit by the door instead of taking his usual seat at the counter.

“Good morning, Hannah!” he said.

Hannah Cloverton looked up but said nothing.

Pete noticed a few people turned to look at him. He knew them and nodded. Nothing.

He picked up a copy of the Maple Valleyan and was surprised to see his name on the front page. “Questions Swirl Around Sheriff Terkinberry” the headline read in bold letters. “What is this?!” he almost said outloud.

Hannah startled him and Pete dropped the paper face down. “Do you want to order, Sheriff Terkinberry?” Hannah asked.

Pete saw a stranger in his friend’s eyes. “Hannah, you haven’t ever called me ‘Sheriff Terkinberry’. What’s going on?”

“Would you like to order now?” she asked.

“Yes, Hannah, I’ll have the same thing I’ve had every Monday morning since the first time I came in for breakfast twelve years ago.”

“What would that be, Sheriff?” Hannah Cloverton asked.

“Hannah, what is going on? Are you okay? Is something wrong?” Pete asked.

“No, sir, why do you ask?”

“Why do I ask? Are you kidding me? You just called me ‘Sir’!”

“Sheriff Terkinberry, would you like something to eat, or not?”

“Yes. I’ll have two scrambled eggs with onion, bacon, hashbrowns, toast, and coffee. Please,” Pete said, perturbed.

Hannah wrote the order down as if she hadn’t heard it a hundred times before and might forget. She left without saying anything more and returned to the kitchen.

Pete picked up the paper once again and started reading.

“Questions regarding the behavior of Sheriff Pete Terkinberry have residents of Maple Valley concerned. A confidential source told this reporter, ‘Sheriff Pete Terkinberry allows people to see him in his boxer shorts.’ This reporter asked, point blank, ‘How confident are you that Terkinberry wears boxers? Could you be mistaken?’ My source responded, ‘I don’t make mistakes like this.’

“Outrage has swept across this town. With tourist season just a few weeks away, shock, dismay, and horror are words that have been spoken in the wake of this devastating news.

“Questions roar in everyone’s mind. Will Sheriff Pete Terkinberry resign? Will he be removed from office? Will the town council act quickly enough to repair the tattered remains of this battered community.

“This reporter has been on the front lines of news for several months. I can tell you, without equivocation, this has shaken Maple Valley to its core.

“I’m on the scene for you. Derk Quimberz, reporter, The Maple Valleyan.”

Someone grabbed Pete Terkinberry’s shoulder and shook him. “Pete!! Pete!!”

Pete opened his eyes and was surprised to see his own bedroom, with Alvin Thrashborn standing over him.

“Are you alright?! You were yelling about someone named Derk Quimberz! Who is that?!” Alvin asked.

“What are you doing here?!” Pete yelled.

“Don’t you remember? We were supposed to go fishing this morning. I banged on the door but you didn’t answer, then I heard you yelling, so I came in. Your door was unlocked.” Alvin said.

“It’s always unlocked.” Pete said, sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to find his way through the fog.

“Get up, we have an appointment with several big bass,” Alvin said, walking out of the room.

“Who is Derk Quimberz?!” Alvin yelled from the kitchen.

“I don’t know! Some reporter who doesn’t like boxer shorts!”

A Coffee State of Sixty-Nine

I was absolutely sure Jesus would come back before 1969. Everything I learned from my classmates of all sixty-nine meant assured the return of Christ before humanity had to endure the shame of entering that awful year on the calendar.

I am twenty years older than my mother was when she died of cancer. I am seven years older than my father was when he died of cancer.

I don’t feel old. Sometimes.

I look in the mirror and the one I see is different than me. That guy has wrinkles. Lots of wrinkles. His ears are almost flappy. Two people left their skin under his chin. He has a few strands of white on top, more on the sides. There’s a scar on his head. Skin cancer removed. One eye is more squinty than the other. Now a drooping eyelid makes it smaller.

His eyebrows have taken on a life of their own. “Reach for the stars!” is their motto.

The hair that was once on his head now lives in his ears.

A broad chest now rests on his belt.

He looks different, but I feel the same. Mostly.

Hello 69.

Treasures from a Model Railroad Swap-Meet

Packages of styrene, balsa strips, plastic windows, and metal junk.

Everyone in model railroading, from those just getting started with the first circle of track to those seasoned folks with several layouts under their belts know how easy it is to quickly spend a lot of money.

Swap meets can be a model railroader’s best friend.

I love going to model railroad swap meets. It can be overwhelming with so much to see and choices to make. The good meets have rows and rows of tables with a wide variety of gauges from N scale to G and everything in between.

Just because it’s a swap meet does not mean prices are going to be rock bottom. You have to patiently search to find those great deals. There are many displays with folks who regularly do train shows. Some prices are no different than can be found in local hobby shops.

Yesterday, I attended the Railroad Days Train Show in Durand, Michigan. This is an annual event, but this was the first time for me, so I didn’t know what to expect. The show was held at the Durand Middle School. I couldn’t believe the number of cars in the parking lot!

We paid the five dollar entrance fee and started hunting. I already have plenty of locomotives and rolling stock. (I know that sounds like blasphemy, but my shelf-style 21 x 4 feet layout just won’t realistically hold any more.) I have more buildings than I can use. What I need most is junk. It’s the stuff lying around that makes scenes look realistic. Old tires, rusted bicycles, piles of broken pallets, window frames, and paint cans. Junk.

Box containing many random items from model railroad swap meet.

As I was about to enter the second large room of vendors, I spotted the treasure I was looking for. A box of junk for $5.00. I couldn’t believe it! I could see right away this was the find of the day. I thought it would be rude to dig through it, so I handed the owner a five dollar bill and thanked him before he could change his mind.

The first chance I had, I carefully searched through the items and everything convinced me I had struck gold!

I don’t run long passenger cars on my layout, so the four packages of car diaphragms will probably not be used, at least not for their intended purpose. Piled against the side of a building they will look terrific. I’ll improvise a spot for the elevated conveyor system. The little caboose-shed will look great with a little bit of weathering.

The small stationary crane is fantastic! Hidden down in the box were eleven small sheds including two outhouses! Scenery treasures!

A sandwich bag was packed with wheels, trucks, couplers and other junk. Some of the trucks are spring loaded. This load of stuff will be perfect for the engine house yard.

I have been making my own windows for the cabins I’m scratch-building. I found several packages of HO scale windows!

The barrels, tanks, and other items are metal. Just the stack of barrels is $12 at the hobby shop! The box of stuff got better with each item I pulled out.

One of the things I was looking for at the model railroad swap meet was vintage automobiles and trucks. I’m modeling the 50’s era, so finding the right vehicles at a good price requires some diligent searching. Once again, I uncovered a treasure!

Six metal and plastic HO scale cars and trucks.

I was a little kid on Christmas morning! A ’56 Ford T-Bird, a ’59 Chevy El Camino, a 40’s delivery truck, a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air, a 40’s Buick police car, and a ’55 Chevy Bel-Air Sport Coupe. The T-Bird, El Camino, and the ’55 Bel-Air are metal. Beautiful! (These were not in the junk box. The vehicles were purchased from a retired middle school teacher/assistant principal. It was great fun talking with him and he gave me a fantastic deal!)

The police car is especially important. Pete Terkinberry, the Sheriff of Kertok County, who lives in Maple Valley, has been using his own car for county duties. The police car was purchased from the Chicago Police Department when they ordered all new vehicles. Sheriff Terkinberry is looking forward to using a real police car to patrol Maple Valley and the surrounding area. The Maple Valley town council voted unanimously to purchase the used patrol car. They also approved the purchase of plane tickets for Sheriff Terkinberry and Mayor Alvin Thrashborn to fly to Chicago to retrieve the car and drive it back to Maple Valley.

Maple Valley Railroad box car and HO scale automobile

Probably the discovery that was the most fun was this Maple Valley box car. My layout is the Maple Valley Short Line Model Railroad.

I plan to make Durand Railroad Days and the Model Railroad Swap Meet an annual event on my calendar!

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 22

Three Tower Bridge with track deck and timbers holding the bridge in place.

Poor Sylvia Meisner. Sylvia disappeared from Maple Valley almost a year ago. Poor Sylvia Meisner. She has missed so much in her little home town. Folks still talk about her. There are a few who believe they know what happened to her. Most don’t pay any attention to them, which makes the believers even more sure they know the truth.

After Vee Burthrap left Sheriff Terkinberry’s kitchen, she wandered around town as if in a daze. She bumped into Quintin O’Dillmotte and didn’t even say excuse me, which upset Quintin. He decided to give Pete a call and tell him about Vee’s rudeness.

“Sheriff?”

“Yes, this is Pete, Quintin. What can I do for you?” Quintin O’Dillmotte has an odd voice. Everyone knows who it is when he calls. His voice sounds like a mixture of gravel and explosive diarrhea.

“I want to report an assault,” O’Dillmotte said loudly.

“What assault? What are you talking about, Quintin?”

“I was assaulted by Vee Burthrap over on First Street?”

“Vee Burthrap never hurt a fly in her life. What happened?” Sheriff Pete asked.

“I was walking along, heading back to the funeral home from Ya’ll Sit, after I ate my muffin and finished my coffee.”

“And?” Pete asked.

“And what?”

“Quintin! You said you were assaulted by Vee Burthrap. What happened?!” the Sheriff shouted.

“Oh! Right! Well, I was walking along, and all of a sudden someone ran into me. It was Vee Burthrap! She just ran into me and kept right on going. She didn’t stop, didn’t say excuse me, didn’t look at me. I was assaulted and I want something done about it.”

“Did she hit, push, shove, kick, or knock you down?” the sheriff asked.

“No, but she bumped into me really hard.”

Pete thought about the conversation he had with Vee in his kitchen when she insisted she knew what the letters D-S-L meant. “Don’t stop looking!” she shouted.

“Quintin, what time was this?”

“It was about ten minutes ago,” he answered.

“I think I know what happened,” Pete said. “Vee was at my house this morning.”

“What? Why was she at your house,” O’Dillmotte asked in a hush, as if he was about to hear a wonderful tidbit of forbidden gossip.

“She thinks she knows what D-S-L means. She came running in my back door without knocking and I was standing in the kitchen in my boxer shorts. She was hollering “Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!”

“Don’t stop looking for what?” Quintin asked.

“Don’t stop looking for Sylvia!” Pete yelled.

“Oh! Oh! Don’t stop looking for Sylvia. Oh. She saw you in your boxers?”

“Yes, Quintin, she saw me in my boxers, but I’m not sure she noticed.”

“Why wouldn’t she notice? Has she seen your boxers before?”

“Quintin!! Of course not!” Pete yelled into the phone. “Let’s get back to the reason you called!”

“Oh, right. She assaulted me.”

“Quintin, Vee Burthrap did not assault you. She ran into you because she was thinking about her conversation with me and not watching where she was going. Does that sound about right?”

“Why wasn’t she looking where she was going?” Quintin asked.

“I think she was upset about talking to me,” Pete answered.

“Was it because of your boxer shorts?”

“Quintin, I have things to do. Are you finished?” the sheriff asked, exasperated.

“I just think it’s strange she saw you in your boxers,” Quintin said. “Don’t you?”

“Quintin, I’m going to say this slowly. You called me to report an assault. You said you were assaulted by Vee Burthrap.”

“I was.”

“No, you weren’t. She bumped into you. You were upset because she didn’t apologize, she didn’t stop and make sure you were alright. I’m quite sure she was thinking about Sylvia and about talking with me. Oh, and another thing, Quintin,” the sheriff continued. “I’m upset with you about telling Vee about the cookies we received before Christmas.”

“What cookies?” Quintin asked.

“Quintin, are you feeling alright? You sound like you’re sleeping. The cookies several of us recieved with the letters D-S-L on top. Remember?!”

“Oh, those cookies. Yes. I remember,” he answered.

“Do you remember me telling all of you not to tell anyone about it because I thought it would give us an advantage if people were talking about it even though we didn’t tell anyone?”

“Uh, I guess so,” Quintin answered.

“So, why did you tell Vee Burthrap?” Pete asked.

“I didn’t tell her,” O’Dillmotte said.

“You didn’t tell her about the cookies with the letters on top? She said you told her,” the sheriff said.

“Oh, I guess I did.”

“Right. Case dismissed, Quintin. Maybe you ran into Vee. Were you reading the newspaper while you were walking?” Pete asked.

“Yes. I always do. You know that,” Quintin answered.

“Goodbye, Quintin.”

“Bye, Pete.”

Quintin O’Dillmottee decided to walk back up to the Ya’ll Sit for another cup of coffee. He was exhausted after talking with the sheriff.

“Good morning, Alvin!” Quintin said when he saw the mayor walking.

“Quintin, how are you?”

O’Dillmotte and Alvin Thrashborn stood along First Street.

“Listen, Alvin, did you know Vee Burthrap saw Pete in his boxer shorts?”