Franksville, Wisconsin is located off of Highway K approximately west and slightly north of Racine, Wisconsin between Chicago and Milwaukee – on the Milwaukee Road line. I’m building a series of Modutrak modules depicting this town and area.  In the drawing above, Franksville sits to the right on the diagram above with Caledonia, Wisconsin to the left (or North). This is typical Wisconsin midwest scenery with farmlands and trees in between. There was also a switching tower in the middle of two passing sidings between Franksville and Caledonia. Below is our next installment. You can find an index of all the articles from this series HERE. Thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions in our discussion forum topic dedicated to this project. 



Here is an aerial view of the various buildings circa 1950’s:

I’m at a point where I can start to plant buildings into the modules semi-permanently. I like to use some piano wire super glued to the corners to push the buildings into the foam base. I also run glue into the holes so they remain snug and don’t move, but if I need to dig them out, I can still do it. Worst case I can carefully “break” the CA bond on the piano wires and pull the structure up that way as well. Being that these are portable modules, crap happens and sometimes I have to “fix” things. 🙂

Anyway, the lumber building will be the first thing I’m work on. I recently added some interior details with some beams and storage areas. They don’t show up well in this photo, but you get the idea:

At this point the building is just sitting on the module. I need to make some repairs/improvements to the dirt yard in front of the building before I “plant” the building more permanently. Once it is attached I then go back and build the dirt up around the building, add weeds and so on so that it looks like the building is part of the scenery as opposed to sitting *on* the scenery.

To get the dirt between the track and to build it up on the outsides, I used some 1/8 inch thick self-sticking cork that I picked up at Hobby Lobby. After I cut the cork, I laid it in between the rails to build it up and also added it to the outsides of the rails. Then I took a brush and some white glue and carefully painted the surface of the cork and then sifted some  dirt over the top. Once the glue is covered with at least an 1/8 to 1/4 inch of dirt I take a sheet of paper and gently press down on the dirt to compact it a bit. Then I mask off the rails and center portion of the track, mist everything with 90% alcohol and then diluted white glue. This gave me a good base layer of dirt that when dry actually had some cracks that formed just like real dried-out dirt. 

The flangeways need to be cleaned out a bit more (as does the track itself). I also will go around once it is completely dry and rub it down a bit to give it a more worn and smoother look.

The yard will have a wood fence around a portion of it and there will be a transition area full of weeds and such between the yard on the street (as well as a drainage ditch). There is also an access road out of the lumber yard. These details will all jump out once I start to add details and greenery.

That said, I have been working on piles of lumber materials and the fence pieces. I’m going to add some thin piano wire in a few key spots to replace a couple of fence supports so it has a little more holding it up. The detail on these RS Laser pieces are great, but it is very fragile. I may have to add some plexiglass to the viewing side of this module for shows so I’m not replacing fence all the time.

Close up of the fence section:

You can see the finished “stained” fence if you scroll up above. Lastly for the lumber yard, I built an out-shed behind the building to help corral the scene in a bit. This is a styrene built structure (I sand the styrene in one direction to create wood grain) that I primed with thinned Kilz primer and then applied coats of thinned black and brown acrylic paints. Finally I give it a couple coats of an india ink/alcohol wash:

The Klema building closest to the tracks is now mounted in place and got some experimental weathering. I’m going to work on that some more to try and improve the look:

On the other side, the Klema feed mill and structures also got test fitted. I also made some cement piers for the loading dock out of anchor bolt cement that I poured into styrene forms. They are pretty beat up on the prototype, so I’m striving to give this building an old weathered look:

Lastly, I’ve built the Klema store and it can be seen here for placement:

So before all these buildings get mounted “mostly” permanently, I need to build the gravel lot they sit on. First I bought some sanded and non-sanded grout from Home Depot. I picked the color “Snow White” as the label made it look a little more off-white and not so stark bright white. It isn’t as tan colored as it looks on the label, but I think it is just about right. I bought both the non-sanded and the sanded as I wanted to try them out. The non-sanded is a bit too much like flour and ends up looking chalky and too smooth once you hit it with water. The sanded grout gives it some texture which looks more realistic. I mixed them both for this lot, but that’s not a necessity (I just wanted to use up the products I bought).


So I pour small piles of grout on the area I want to cover and then spread it out carefully, raking it out and distributing it out to the edges where I try and keep it a little thinner. You’ll want to make sure you get the grout only where you want it and brush it off the areas where you don’t want it. Otherwise when you apply the water to it, any place there is grout it will be a pain in the a$$ to dig out (like in between ties!). Once you have it raked out to a fairly uniform depth, take a sheet of paper and gentle lay it over the top and push down evenly with your hands on top of the paper. You can feel it compressing and it should be fairly even when you lift the paper. You can take the paper and gently smooth out ridges or other uneven spots and then reapply even pressure to compress it again.

I take a brush and touch up the edges and try and get them relatively even, but in real life gravel does get all over the place, so you are just trying to remove the heavy unevenness and things that don’t look right. Once it is all compressed and looks the way you want it, I take paper towels to cover/mask anything I don’t want getting wet. Then I use a misting bottle with some water in it and hold it about 18-20 inches above the grout and mist the whole thing heavily. You should start to see the grout look wet. When you just start to see actual ponding or saturation of water on top of the grout, you’ve gone far enough. You don’t want pooling of water as it will float the grout away and leave a mess, so be careful how much water you put down. Here is what it looked like after misting it:

You can always go back after it dries and add more water if you think it needs it.

Once it dries it will look like this:

Overall this technique seems to work really well and leaves a nice textured surface that has enough variation in it to look more like real gravel (as opposed to just painting some sandpaper white).

Later on after the buildings are in place I’ll go back and weather the roads and add cracks and such. I’ll also take some white weathering powder (or the non-sanded grout) and drag a little of the gravel lot gunk onto the road. 

Last detail for this installment is the drive-up scale outside the Klema Store. The scale hasn’t ever been replaced and here is what it looks like today:

So I scratched built one, weathered the wood a bit and need to finish details before cutting it in:


And that about covers it for this update. Lots more structures to be built and eventually mounted and detailed. Stay tuned…


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