Banta Model Works Ophir Depot and Tram House
By George Riley and Chuck Hladik
Banta Model Works produces a wide range of laser cut wooden kits with many based on narrow gauge prototypes. An added advantage of this line is that they are available in all of the popular modeling scales. We were able to sample two of these kits from the range when it was decided that the staff project for Carstens Publications’ sister publication, the On30 Annual, would replicate a portion of the Rio Grande Southern’s Ophir loop featuring the loop’s apex where the depot and tram house had been located. In order to meet both the printer’s dead line as well as the upcoming show schedule where we planned on displaying our finished project, I enlisted the aid of Chuck Hladik to construct the tram house while I focused on the depot. As follows are our accounts of the construction and features of each model.
Sadly, the Ophir Loop and its structures no longer exist with the right of way having been abandoned and removed and the structures razed and in filled for a new highway. When doing preliminary research on the Rio Grande Southern, I was amazed on how well documented the railroad is. The Rio Grande Story published by Sundance Books documents the road mile post by mile post in its multi-volume format. Each of the volumes covers a section of the right of way with its adjoining structures and physical plant. Volume III is specifically dedicated to the route from Vance Junction to Ophir and proved a starting point for my research on the area since the actual site no longer exists in the form that was modeled. In addition to this print documentation, several web-sites have information available and a similar depot located in Delores has recently been restored.
When the RGS was built in the 1880’s and 1890’s the highest standards for construction and physical plant were used. This was a "modern" railroad in all its aspects. However, time and fortunes were not kind to the railway and it gradually declined until its abandonment in 1952. Still the RGS’ depots were a study in late Victorian architecture and the carpenter’s craft.
Banta’s model of the Ophir Depot is cleverly designed to allow the modeler to accurately capture the look and character of this attractive structure. I began building by sealing all of the various parts with clear airplane dope that was then polished using 0000 steel wool. This is an "old school" technique that minimizes warping and provides a good base for later application of paint. The next step is construction of the building core. This was built up from laser cut plywood wall sections provided in the kit. I added additional 3/16" square bracing from my strip wood stocks to the corner joints for reinforcing since this building was going to travel with the display and I wanted the structure to be as strong as possible.
There are three different siding materials that are laminated to the core. The first is vertical tongue and grove wainscoting with a strip wood cap that covers the perimeter of the lower wall section. Since this needed to be fitted and trimmed in place it was applied prior to painting. Once installed the wainscoting was airbrushed with Polly Scale™ D&RGW Building Brown. The rest of the pieces were also painted on their carriers either with Polly Scale D&RGW Building Cream or Brown at this time. Since these are water based acrylics, pre-sealing the wood parts really pays off at this stage. The next layer of siding to be applied is the ship lap siding that is placed above the wainscoting. These pieces are supplied precut and had previously been painted the cream color. These two steps went very quickly and easily.
The last siding material consists of laser cut shingle strips that are applied to pre-cut panels that are then painted cream and then applied to the gables. Shingles or shakes were the aluminum or vinyl siding equivalent of the era when the depot was built. They were inexpensive, weathered well and could be easily replaced or repaired so they were often used in areas that were difficult to maintain. Additionally, shakes added a decorative element to a structure. Adding the shakes, while not difficult, is probably the most time consuming part of assembly. Each panel had the strip shingles applied using Alene’s Tacky Glue with care taken not to line up the shingles joints. Once completely dry each panel was trimmed with a single edged razor blade and painted. Adding these panels completed the siding.
All of the doors and windows were then added as were the trim pieces. These have a peel and stick tape applied to the back of each part and easily press in place. Once completed the only remaining task was to add the roofs and again more shingles.
The roof panels had previously been painted with the cream color to match the siding. Shingles were then applied. These were left in their natural reddish tan color and once the roof panels were assembled and flashing applied they were then given a wash of dilute India ink mixed with alcohol. The baggage end roof went on first with no problems; however, I approached the waiting room roof with its four gables with some trepidation. This proved to be unfounded. This roof is extremely well designed and assembles off the structure. It slides easily yet firmly onto the waiting room walls and can be left unglued to allow access to the interior.
The cast metal chimney was painted and installed with ACC. Decal signs provided in the kit finished off the model and it was lightly weathered with chalks. One item not included that was added was a Mile Post Models Train Order Signal to complete the depot.
The finished model measures roughly 18 inches long by 12 inches wide and is an imposing building. When comparing the model to photos and measurements it is truly an accurate representation of the prototype. The Ophir Depot took roughly 20 hours to complete with most of the time spent applying shingles. The parts fit was excellent and the kit complete.
The Depot is slightly more complex than most laser kits; however, the finished results are well worth the effort. Banta has creatively designed the kit so that an otherwise complicated prototype can be rendered successfully in miniature.
Ophir Tram House
The second structure built was the tram house that literally over shadowed the depot at Ophir. The prototype was the terminus of a two mile aerial tramway that brought ore down to the rail head at Ophir where it was loaded into box cars for further transport. The tram house construction could not be more different from the finely crafted depot. It was heavily constructed from post and beam framing and covered with corrugated metal.
Banta’s design approach to this large (roughly 23” long by 8” wide and 12” tall in O scale) structure mirrors this style of construction. The basic "house" construction consists of two main laser cut frames for the side walls and a laser cut floor. These are really large pieces, however, their inclusion makes building the tram house very easy.
All of the wooden parts were stained using a mixture of Floquil™ Grimy Black Paint mixed with DioSol™ prior to beginning construction. The Aluminum Corrugated sheathing was also painted with Grimy Black and set aside to dry.
The first step of construction was building up the main frame structure and adding the interior lining. This step progressed quickly and all of the component pieces fit right in place. The various trestle bents were then built up and glued in place. The placement of these differed from the plan since the tram house was being used over a modified track layout on the Ophir Display.
With the structure modified to fit in place and measurements taken for scenery, the structure returned to the workbench and the metal siding was added to the exterior. Photos taken during the life of the prototype showed various patterns of siding as the old rusted away and was replaced. With this in mind an approximation of the sheathing was settled upon, while not an exact match it replicates the look of the structure. Weathering and distressing was also kept to a minimum. The goal was to represent a structure that was in service and actively maintained.
The roof was the last major component assembled and was left unattached so that the interior could be accessed as needed. Final assembly consisted of adding the provided resin counter weight box used on the prototype for tensioning the tram way cable and adding the tubular ore chute.
Banta Model Works
421 Hopkins Road
Dummerston, VT 05301
O Scale Laser Cut Structure Kits
BMW–117 – O Ophir Depot
BMW–118 – O Ophir Tram House
The finished model was given a light dusting of chalks before being placed on the layout. While it took roughly twelve hours to complete this kit, the tramway was of only moderate difficulty thanks in large part to its thoughtful design. The Banta Model Works kits have proven to be very well designed and a real value. They capture the look, dimensions and feel of the prototype while at the same time are build-able by modelers with a intermediate skill level with out special tools or procedures. Both models currently reside on the On30 Annual’s 2008 project layout and have been seen at the National Train Show in Detroit and the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Portland Maine. They were crucial in bringing together a challenging display that has been enjoyed by many fellow modelers.