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Stumpy’s Station – Build Your Own Models by Terry “Stumpy” Stone

January 1st, 2012 · No Comments

Well folks, if all goes according to plan, this will become a regular feature here at, thanks to Chuck Harrington’s kind invitation. And since this is the first one, let me give you an idea of what you’ll be finding here in the future.
It seems that I have found a nitch in the S gauge world by being a champion of all that collectors and rivet counter despise, Kit Bashing and model building using basic materials. I suspect there are one or more “Stumpy Voodoo Dolls” out there, because it seems that every time I write something even the tiniest bit controversial, I get these shooting pains in my rear parts!
I’m not sure why this is, I have built just about all my kit bashes out of junk box finds, and have never condoned butchering rare items. I also don’t think much of people which get hold of complete locomotives and strip them down for parts to sell like some low rent Flyer “chop shop”.
Ouch! There’s that pain again! A new group doesn’t like me. :-)
I also get some nasty e-mails from rivet counters for not adhering to exact scale fidelity or prototype. Well guys, after years of being a “scale” modeler, I have tired of the hassle and am looking for the fun! And, after all, that’s why I’m in a hobby!
As we progress through these “essays,” there will be some history, stories, humor, and a lot of encouragement to strike out on your own and do something which satisfies YOU! It’s YOUR railroad, your miniature world, do it your way!
We’ll be talking about Kit Bashing. Sometimes that means spending time hunting down locos, cars, parts, and usable materials just like those guys in “American Pickers,” that’s fine! There is the “thrill of the chase,” and the “triumph of the find.” Not only have I done this with model building, but during my years racing Stock Cars and building Hot Rods. Wandering through the old “Mom and Pop” junkyards in search of car parts was part of my hobby world. The goodies are where you find them!
In S gauge, I usually cruise around a train show, checking the tables in my first lap, and then checking UNDER the tables on the second. Often what is on the tables can be an indicator of what might be under them. Many times the seller will give you terrific bargain for the stuff underneath, sometimes you can get a whole box for what you expect to pay for a single item!
Here’s a tip; TAKE THE WHOLE BOX IF THE DEAL IS RIGHT! You get the item you want, a box to carry it in, and a bunch of other stuff you just might need down the road for another project! You just never know when that Hudson tender shell or those Plasticville windows might come in handy.
What do you do when you decide you have too much? Last year I had built up seven large boxes of parts and pieces. That was more than enough to store. So I went through them all, set aside one or two of anything usable, and came up with three boxes to sell. I priced the stuff cheap and ran a “Thinning the Herd Sale.”
This also works for locomotives, rolling stock, and structures too. I have been in every scale from Z up to “ride on” size (7 ½” gauge) and you just can’t keep everything when you change scales. So I “blew it out” in a similar sale at a train show.
The guys at the hobby shop I used to work at always asked why I sold things so cheap? Well, it was simple; I needed money for the new scale, had no place or reason to keep the old stuff, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to get top price. Better to get a little than waste a lot time and money carrying the stuff around to train shows for years. After all, I’m not in a hobby to make money, someone else is welcome to that stress.
I’m also asked why I use common materials and build things rather than just buy kits or ready to run items? Well, you must remember I was started on this trail back when there weren’t many R-T-R items. I also had a father who was a professional model builder for a time, and I learned from him. Money was also tight, so we made things out of common stuff.
Dad was a master at this, even when working for the company. He used those round Quaker Oats cereal boxes as oil storage tanks, sandpaper to make shingles or rolled roofing for buildings, dowels from the lumber yard for dock pilings, air tanks, and logs, lots of 3×5” file cards, and probably a ton of balsa wood over the years.
The possibilities are endless. But today we have it much easier with wood pre-cut to dimensionally correct sizes, excellent plastic structural shapes, and all sorts of detail parts! You can build from scratch today more easily than you could build many kits years ago!
So along with the other stuff, there will be a lot of articles here about building things. Some of you may recall the series I did for S Gaugian a couple of years ago on layout building. Well, I might even do some articles about that here as well!
With the economy as it is, you can save yourself a lot of money by learning to use your imagination and your hands, instead of your wallet! And, you’ll have the personal satisfaction of building it yourself! I’ll be explaining how to do that and how even someone with no experience can build models! You CAN do it! Don’t be afraid, I’ll help!
See you next time. …Stumpy

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