Surroundings Interiors

As I’ve previously mentioned, a majority of the structures on The Hills Line are not rail served. Including them on the layout remains necessary, since they’re essential to setting both era and locale for the layout. The goal then becomes developing methods to construct these buildings in a way that’s both efficient and effective.

For Surroundings Interiors, the interior design company on the corner of Maiden Lane and Kirkwood Avenue in Iowa City, I had enough space to model a portion of their warehouse that faces the industrial spur. It’s a relatively straightforward structure, but one that allows me to combine multiple techniques while testing out new ones that will help with future construction projects.

The core of the warehouse was built from premium pine trim boards. Notches were cut for the loading doors to fit flush with the exterior. The core was nailed together using my pneumatic brad nailer.

Concrete block sheets from JTT Scenery Products were cut to fit on my Cricut Explore. The material is not much thicker than .020 styrene, which makes it simple to score and snap with the Cricut.

Rix Products doors were slid into the openings in the concrete block sheet. Loading docks were cut from .020 styrene sheet and attached to both the doors and the sheet. Multiple repeated items like this are one area where having a Cricut makes the process considerably easier than cutting by hand.

The completed sheets were then attached to the core with construction adhesive and some CA glue. I clamped them while drying to ensure a snug fit.

Styrene supports for the roof were also cut using the Cricut, again because they were a repeated shape and size. Originally I pitched the roof to match the prototype, which was the typical 12/4 run rise ratio. When I mocked it up, however, it just didn’t look correct. So I ended up increasing the rise based on what looked right to my eye.

Just to prove I haven’t gone Cricut crazy, the roof was made the old fashioned way from one sheet of styrene for stability. The edges were capped with .040 square styrene strips from Evergreen Scale Products.

There are a few concrete pilasters located across the front and sides of the warehouse. Some scrap pieces left over from construction perfectly fit the bill. They were attached to the concrete block sheet using thin CA glue.

All of the visible surfaces were then painted with a dark gray spray paint primer that best matched the prototype. I made sure to get into all the nooks and crannies so that the color was consistent and even, then let it dry for a few hours.

The roof was covered with a shingle pattern that I designed in Adobe Photoshop, then attached with spray adhesive. I then covered everything with Rust-Oleum’s Dead Flat Clear spray to mottle the paper and give it a weather-beaten look. The skylights were cut from styrene and filled with thin acrylic.

The rest of the structure was weathered with the tried and true combination of PanPastels and an India Ink and rubbing alcohol wash. Probably unnecessary for a structure that doesn’t even face the aisle, but a good practical test of combining construction methods that will serve me well on the rest of the railroad.

8 thoughts on “Surroundings Interiors

  1. Looks nice, I love learning/using new techniques. So the Cricut just scores the styrene for you to snap it correct, it can’t cut through it? Or does it go through ultra-thin styrene?


  2. James, any special blade needed for the Cricut? My wife has an EXPLORE II. I also wondered about the whole “score & snap” thing when you were cutting the overhead door openings. Any special tricks/tips there?


    1. I use the Deep Point Blade and Housing when cutting styrene with my Explore Air. Nothing special about the process compared to the regular use. You just have to accept that it’s not going to cut completely through the sheet, requiring you to trim and cut the parts out when complete. You’re still going to need your X-Acto knife.

      Liked by 1 person

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