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Dave's Park!

Dave's Park!

CN Yard Shop

Every rail yard needs a shop and Middletown is no exception. It is not so much a place where repairs are done to the locomotives and rolling stock but more a machine shop to support yard maintenance.

This was my first laser-cut wood kit. It is a kit from River Dam Model Works in Maine. You will have to take my review for what it is worth. The bottom line is, if I was unable to scratch build my own from a sheet of wood, I would definitely buy this kit again.

My difficulty was that having done my own modelling from scratch, in paper/cardboard, wood and styrene I was not overly impressed. There was nothing wrong with the parts and the fit was mostly good. I just kept thinking all the while that I could have cut my own for less money.

Having said that, for those who are not good with drawing a plan and cutting their own building parts, it was a very good kit with only two real flaws and that was more in the manner of adjustment.

The Build

The first photo below is a shot of the instruction booklet showing that this kit starts in life as "Cleaves Machine Shop". As is typical of these kits, the parts came as you can see in the second photo. It was a simple matter of identifying the parts and removing them from the wood sheets. It takes very little cleanup and you're ready to start work. The laser cutting is superb.

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The first thing I did was to, as recommended, prime both sides of all wood pieces. Painting both sides helps uniformly seal the piece and eliminate warping problems that happen when only one side is painted. Being used as an old yard building the paint would be somewhat worn and so a grey primer was ideal. When the primer was dry I very lightly brushed on the blue wall color leaving some grey exposed and making it look old and weather-worn. I also painted and weathered the windows and doors.

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Once the paint was dry, it was really a matter of following the instructions and putting the pieces together. Corner posts mean that there is no exposed area at any corner where the end of a panel shows. It is very nice. One of the wood strips called for was not in the bundle but there was certainly enough extra for making your own.

I started using the Chopper to make my cuts but I have never liked this tool. Anyone who knows anything about tools knows that you can not get a square end cut by forcing a wedge shaped blade into the material. It works a little better on thin styrene because thin styrene will snap off almost square when pressured by the blade but wood has to be cut all the way through and it is never an accurate cut. Having to fine tune every cut with the knife I just set the Chopper aside and used the knife to make my cuts. It is a good tool for marking when you have a lot of pieces to cut the same size but I would mark only and make the cuts with your favorite knife. I would never recommend the Chopper for serious model work, especially if you work with wood.

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The windows were from Grandt Line and they make excellent quality detail parts. The doors and frames were laser-cut from very thin wood and extremely difficult to glue together and install. There is approximately a 1/128" overlap of the door onto the frame on either side - getting near the area of humanly impossible to put it together. This kit could be greatly improved by supplying two Grandt Line doors. I installed all windows and doors and added the support piece for the front edge of the roof.

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The side porch was built in the same way. The middle wall of the porch was too large and had to be trimmed by the thickness of a corner post but that was easy enough to do. The height of the porch walls also had to be cut down a bit. As given, the porch roof would be a tiny bit higher than the main roof where they meet. Having built many roofs I knew that was wrong and so I lowered the height of the porch so its roof would tuck under the main roof. Again, a simple fix but it should have been made right in the first place. The card stock roof pieces installed very easily.

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At this point I departed from the kit contents and went my own way. The roofing paper supplied was white and the builder is expected to color it. I figure it would have been nice if they had simply included roofing paper that was roof color. I had purchased some metal roofing sheets from another supplier and so I made my own, installed the supplied chimney, weathered it and added the sign. I went a little heavy on the weathering on this one but that is what one would expect to find in real life for such a building.

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I would give this kit 8 out of 10.


- The instructions are badly layed out. When there is a picture on the page you have to read the short part of the line, scan through the picture and pick up the text on the other side. Very difficult to read. If the page was laid out as a sheet with two columns the problem would be resolved. It is a simple printing fix.
- The kit should be supplied with roof colored paper, not white paper that the builder is expected to paint. Even a photo of roofing would be better than plain white paper.
- Grandt Line doors would be a great improvement over the laser cut ones.
- A few adjustments are needed to the porch pieces to make it correct.


- The laser-cutting was superb - beautiful wood pieces.
- Nice detail pieces included, including several period correct signboard ads.
- Reasonably priced at about 15 bucks.
- Very easy to build.

All in all, it is a very nice building with options as to how it can be used. For example, it would be possible to flip the two side walls putting the large door on the opposite side, and the porch could be left off entirely or added to the back.