The new Rural USA collection of buildings from Wm. K. Walthers consists of several kits for typical American farm structures, including barns, sheds, silos, and dwellings. Not only are these kits well designed and easy to build, but they go a long way to allowing a modeler a wide number of options to construct realistic and specific farms on their layouts.
Review: "Rural USA" Buildings Collection in HO scale from Wm. K. Walthers
by George Riley /photos by the author
While the initial early development of railroads has been linked to their support of the mining industry, the original common carrier railroads were built to supply our nation's expanding cities with food stuffs to feed the growing populations and raw agricultural products for the newly created factories. Railway transportation allowed a city's radius of supply to expand rapidly from tens of miles to hundreds of miles, to the thousands of miles that are taken for granted in our modern times.
The starting point of this supply chain is the farm where crops are sown, harvested and initial processing takes place before beginning their journey to the end user. Historically the farm provides some of humanity's oldest examples of collective manufacturing in which raw materials are grown, collected and processed into either food stuffs, textiles or building materials.
As with all "factories," the physical plant and machinery is determined by the product being produced. This leads to a diversity among farms based not only on a region's dominant crops but also the owner's business plan. North America, due in part to its large sections of inexpensive arable land, strong immigrant settlement, liberal homestedding policies and strong economic development in the 18th and 19th centuries now hosts the ultimate evolution of the family farm and sets the world's standard for modern agribusiness.
Sadly, farms and farming are not often included on most model railroads. Whether this is due to a perceived lack of space or possibly and more likely, a lack of knowledge on the subject is not certain. Hopefully, this shortage of model farms will be alleviated by the introduction of a complete collection of HO scale farm structures from William K. Walthers. This collection includes eleven separate kits which when combined with one another will provide the modeler with a seemingly unlimited number of farm options. These easily assembled kits have been divided between three types of modeling media; injection molded plastic, cast resin and laser cut wood, paper and cardstock.
Included in the injection molded kits are the Lancaster Farm House, Meadowhead Barn and Cast Concrete Silo. The Farm House is the most complex of the three kits and represents a classic two storey frame structure that would be at home either in a rural or urban setting from the 1880s to present. The Barn is molded in red and features a gambrel roof or Dutch roof. This iconic barn kit comprises less than twenty individual pieces in its construction. The last kit in the injection molded category is the silo. The model represents a silo constructed of cast concrete staves held together with steel tensioning bands and turnbuckles. This type of construction places the model in the general era of the 1920s – 1950s. Cleanly molded, all three kits are easy to build and are molded in color therefore can be assembled unpainted should the builder desire.
The second kit category features the resin molded fieldstone barn base and ramp. This kit can be used with either the plastic Meadowhead Barn or the laser cut Sparrow Creek Barn kits. Consisting of five cleanly cast resin pieces that have a minimum of flash this foundation for the barn will require a moderate skill set to build and finish this kit. Prior to assembly with gel ACC glue each of the pieces were thoroughly cleaned to remove any mold release and oils. A slight amount of sanding and filing of the pieces needed to be done to assure that all of the seams had a tight fit. Once the foundation was assembled the entire structure was primed with flat grey spray primer before the individual stone work was painted with acrylic craft paints and finished with a black acrylic wash. Adding the assembled barn to the foundation completed construction.
The largest category in Walthers' RuralUSA offerings comprises seven easy to assemble laser cut wood, paper and cardstock kits that are perfect for novices. In addition to the laser cut pieces, injection molded casement style windows are included where appropriate and can be assembled in either open or closed positions.
The largest of the kits is the Sparrow Creek Barn which has the same foot print as the injection molded plastic Meadowhead Barn which allows the resin base kit to be used with it as well. Featuring a peaked gable end roof in its construction, the laser cut barn is particularly common on farms in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the country.
Next in size is the kit for the machine shop. Unlike the other two barns, this model features end doors making it useful on more modern layouts in the role of a tractor or machinery repair building. This building can also be easily used as a stable or small barn.
Both barns and the machine shed can be further expanded and customized with the addition of the three walled lean to shed. The addition of the shed will allow the modeler change the foot print and overall look of these buildings with the addition of one or more of these kits.
The jewel in the crown of the laser kits in this series is the corn crib. While appearing complex and very detailed clever design allows the crib to be easily built with dramatic results. The one piece interior slated crib walls are cut from thin card stock that takes paints and stain like wood. When glued into a wooden box frame the two cribs are quickly assembled the structure quickly takes shape.
While barns and out buildings house most live stock in addition to acting as storage for fodder and machinery some live stock requires specialized accommodations. This is particularly true when hogs and chickens are raised. Chickens and eggs often would provide a side business for the farmer's wife while hogs would frequently be raised and processed as a meat source for the family.
The RuralUSA series offers both a hog house and a chicken coup in the line. Both represent early to mid twentieth century style structures. These are small in comparison to today's large Agribusiness poultry and hog houses making them perfect additions to a space starved railroad layout. The chicken house could also be easily included in some city dwellers back yard.
The last structure in the series is a small pump house. Since most farms in the late 19th to the mid 20th century were self sufficient, providing water for live stock, the farm's household needs and crop irrigation required some provision for pumping large amounts of water. Pumps and their motors were frequently housed in separate buildings on the property close to the farm's well, pond or other water source. While not specific as to the type of power used to run the pump this small easy to build kit adds additional detail to the farm scene.
The general construction of these laser kits follows several easy steps. The first is sealing the wooden and card pieces on both sides with a sealer. For this review MinWax spray Stain-n-Seal was used. Once dry the pieces were burnished with 0000 steel wool to remove any grain that had been raised or fuzz. Depending on the type of finish that one wishes the models to have the parts can now be painted prior to assembly or after the models have been put together.
The fit on all of the kits was excellent so all that was needed was to trim the tabs holding the parts to release them from their carrier sheets. A wood glue was used to assemble the main parts with ACC being used to add the plastic windows to the models. The peel and stick roofing materials were pre-painted prior to application. Not only are these kits well designed and easy to build, but they go a long way to allowing a modeler a wide number of options to construct realistic and specific farms on their layouts.