Scratch-Build a Two-Story Trackside Structure in HO Scale

Two story balsa Maple Valley Supply Co building h finished.

This is the Maple Valley Supply Company. It sits on the line that brings passengers from Midtown to Maple Valley on The Old General. The two-story structure is scratch-built in balsa. The windows and doors are plastic models purchased at a model railroad swap meet.

I drew plans for the structure on card stock. I built each of the walls by cutting, gluing and pinning balsa pieces on the wax-paper covered plans.

I love the way the framing looks on the wall interiors.

The gables and the front wall are two stories tall. The back wall is off-set by a scale 12 inches, so the walls were built separately. The end rooms are single story.

Balsa two story building without roof.
Two story balsa structure.

The siding pieces are cut from 1/32″ balsa sheeting. Since I have stud framing, it is easy to cut and glue individual lengths of siding for a more authentic appearance. Each siding piece is 3mm tall. Some modelers stain the balsa before gluing, but I choose to paint the finished structure.

Balsa building with roof trusses and decking.

I build roof trusses and individually glue them to the walls. I admit it’s difficult to build a bunch of balsa trusses that are exactly the same, but I get pretty close. As my middle school band teacher used to say, “It’s close enough for jazz.”

When the roof truss glue is dry, I apply individual planks the same way I attach the wall siding. My roof planks are all the same length. I don’t apply any covering other than paint.

The loading dock on the front of Maple Valley Supply Company is approximately 3 scale feet high and 4 feet deep with a ramp at the end. There is a double door on the far end and a single door in the center. The small storage room on the end has two small windows and a door.

Side view of balsa Maple Valley Supply Co outside town of Maple Valley.

I use acrylic paint diluted with water and mixed with a small amount of matte medium. With a little more scenery work to do around the structure, I think the Maple Valley Supply Company is ready for business.

Fall banner says thankyou.


I’m thankful for a lot of things, but these are probably different than the ones you’re thinking about.

I’m thankful I got to answer a phone hanging on the wall because someone called our number that started with S-W.

I’m thankful for black and white television. The picture was black and white, not the box, and every night a TV test pattern came on when they ran out of stuff to broadcast.

I’m thankful for AM car radios with chrome push buttons.

I’m thankful for typewriters with sort of a kick-stand sticking out I had to pull over after hearing a ding. I could type really fast. Still can

I’m thankful for the metal bright-lights switch on the car floor over by the clutch, and for manual shift on the column.

I’m thankful for the rubber hose on the gas station driveway that makes a loud ding-ding-ding inside the building so someone in a Texaco uniform will come out and fill the car with gas for three or four dollars, and for gas station bathrooms with the cloth towel that disappears back into the box it came from.

I’m thankful for the milk box on the porch.

I’m thankful for the clothes chute and a slamming screen door.

I’m thankful for ice milk that tasted like a snow cone without the red syrup.

I’m thankful for street-car wires.

I’m thankful for chalk dust.

I’m thankful for player-piano rolls.

I’m thankful for pedal cars, even though I never had one, but I did have a new bike.

I’m thankful for an abacus with blue, green, red, and yellow beads.

I’m thankful for hard green clay that got soft after I held it for a while, then rolled out a long worm, wound it into a spiral, folded up the sides, made little green balls and put them in the bowl.

I’m thankful for hand-towel cranks.

I’m thankful for white gym class towels that smelled like something I still can’t describe.

I’m thankful for small battery-powered reel-to-reel tape recorders that make you sound like a chipmunk when you put new batteries in it.

I’m thankful for huge film projectors that make a clackety clack sound.

I’m thankful for cash registers that make a loud ding when the drawer opens.

I’m thankful for huge Hires Root Beer barrels.

I’m thankful for Oxydol and wax covered milk cartons.

I’m thankful I got to spit in a tiny toilet bowl at the dentist’s office.

I’m thankful I got to ride in a car with an upholstered rope across the back of the front seat.

I’m thankful I tasted Elmer’s Glue and ate a dog biscuit.

I’m thankful I made long Christmas chains with construction paper and learned to write with a fat pencil on tan paper with green lines on it.

I’m thankful I called collect and asked for myself so my mom would know I arrived safely.

I’m thankful I drank milk from a cooler in the barn.

I’m thankful I got to hold a young calf on my lap and play with a baby raccoon.

I’m thankful I got to stand waist deep in grain and yell in an empty silo.

I’m thankful we had a baby lamb in our kitchen.

I’m thankful I learned to water ski.

I’m thankful I talked to a friend through a tin can and a long string.

I’m thankful for Ola Corners.

I’m thankful for walking over the Mackinac Bridge. Twice.

I’m thankful for Nik-L-Nip wax bottles.

I’m thankful for Fizzies and sea-foam frosting.

I’m thankful for Bill Knapp’s.

I’m thankful for Ken & Tillie.

I’m thankful for Radio Mystery Theater and Suspense.

I’m thankful for Maurice and Villetta Brundage.

I’m thankful for ditto paper and mimeograph machines.

I’m thankful Mary said, “Yes”.