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Stumpy’s Station – “The Junkyard” Part One

April 2nd, 2013 · No Comments

Way back last Fall, there was brief discussion on the S Trains Yahoo group about making junk cars out of 1/64 scale die cast cars. I gave the subject a brief overview, others added their ideas and experiences, but there is far more to the subject. While admittedly of interest to only a small group of hobbyists in S gauge, it nonetheless is an interesting subject because there are so many other things to be learned on the way to the junkyard.
For instance, before we even get ready to put up the corrugated fence and drag in junkers, there are questions to be answered and a LOT to learn about real cars in order to make the yard as authentic as possible. We’ll start with a very basic question: What year is your layout set in?
When the junkyard scene takes place, you have to have an idea of the era involved. Obviously a junkyard, or the entire layout for that matter, would not have eighties era automobiles in a fifties era scene! We don’t have to be exact here, because setting a time for your railroad can quickly involve the types of buildings you must use and even the billboards will “date” a layout. You wouldn’t have dozens of steel buildings in the early 1900’s or cigarette advertising on a modern day operation!
Nothing sets the era of your railroad better than automobiles, especially in North America! After the end of Model T Ford production, car styling changed every three years, with “facelifts” in between. Therefore your time window could be as narrow as three years! That certainly narrows down “when” your railroad is set in time.
But it need not be quite that precise. Since most “Baby Boomer” modelers like the era when steam was on the way out and diesels were becoming mainstream, let’s say that our sample time frame is the early sixties. This gives you the widest range of railroad equipment to choose from, but also gives you quite a range of automobiles too.
Your streets and roads can have several early sixties cars, and fifties cars in large numbers. Late forties cars will be fewer, and pre-WWII cars will be there, but rare. Anything older than the mid-thirties will be most unusual by then.
However, in a junkyard, there will be some twenties autos, a lot of thirties and forties cars, early fifties cars and maybe a few late fifties cars. Having anything in a small junkyard as modern as three years old was rare then because specialist salvage operators grabbed them.
Cars built in the twenties and thirties will generally be one color, almost always a dark one. Black, Maroon, or dark blue, green, or brown were common. Autos of that era in “two tone” were always the higher end cars, but the combination was usually black or dark color fenders and running boards with lighter body color. The lighter colors were often a medium blue, green, or brown, but sometimes tan, cream, or light green would appear. Sometimes wheels were painted different colors, with red, yellow, and tan being favorites. Vehicles for police and fire departments, or specially painted commercial vehicles would be different of course.
Just before World War Two, some cars started to be painted with the body and fenders a dark color and the tops a lighter color. This style continued into the fifties. But by the mid-fifties, better paint and more color was available and some companies went wild with two and even three tone paint jobs, often in tasteless, even bizarre combinations. Most disgusting of all was a FOUR tone 1958 Nash (Rambler) Ambassador station wagon I saw painted white, yellow, pink, and black from the factory! I certainly hope it was a special order beast! In the early sixties, cooler heads prevailed and paint jobs returned to those designed by Earth people instead of Martians!
Full wheel covers were extremely rare until about 1950 and were uncommon until late in that decade. Most cars had “hub caps” as they had since the twenties to cover the lug bolts that held the wheels on. Some cars from about 1935 onward had “trim rings” which were thin chrome or stainless steel rings around the outer edge of the wheels.
White sidewall tires were limited to high cost cars or as owner purchased replacements until after the war. Those huge “rim to road” white walls were found on late twenties and early thirties Cord, Lincoln, Packard, Cadillac, Auburn, Pierce-Arrow, and Duesenberg cars, but you didn’t find these cars in small junkyards! Otherwise you just didn’t see many white wall tires on older cars in junkyards. If they had them when they were dragged in, and they had any tread left, the yard owner snatched them up right away!
Painted bumpers were standard until the thirties except on high end cars, or by special order. Chrome bumpers on pick up trucks were rare into the late fifties. Even then, they were optional and most pick ups had no rear bumpers unless the owner added one.

Stumpy Stone

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