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Red Brick - Yard Structures

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MSM
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Red Brick - Yard Structures
Posted by MSM on Saturday, September 18, 2021 8:19 PM

As I plan my yard structures, I was curious as to why most railroads across the US 1900 – 1950’s built their major yard structures (round houses, car shops, back shops etc.) using red brick, yet their wooden towers and other wood buildings are color coordinated.  

Red bricks are one of the least expensive to manufacture but there are additional colors like white, gray and about a dozen other colors that are the same price and in a lot of cases cheaper depending on the region.  Is red a safety color,  a  requirement, railroad rule or? 

Thanks…

 

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, September 18, 2021 10:41 PM

Brick colours, in many cases, depend on the clay which is available locally.

F'rinstance, in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, many structures, including houses, stores, and factories, along with public buildings were built of orange brick.  Due to the amount of heavy industry in the city, it didn't stay orange for long.

In the '60s, many owners began to clean those buildings by sand-blasting or pressure washing.

This is one of the five Westinghouse factories in the city...

...another Westinghouse factory, east of the first one...

This is one of the many textile mills which were in the city from the late 1800s...

...another one, likely cleaned more recently...

This was the Hamilton head office for Westinghouse Canada...it was empty at the time the photo was taken, but has been completely restored inside, and leased-out to various companies and businesses...

...this one's had the orange bricks painted-over and had its mirror image attached, to the left, when I lived there as a child...

...here's the back, unpainted, viewed from an alley...

...note the recently cleaned-up backs of the structures to the left.  That street, and many others within the city, had orange brick houses for blocks and blocks.

My former house is now gone, too, but when we lived there, two doors up our street from our house, there was Queen Victoria Public School...

...also orange brick, and also gone now, too

Not too many miles away (30 or 40), in Brantford, Ontario, yellow (buff-coloured) bricks were very common, for both factories and homes.

While I have a number of red/brown brick structures on my layout, like my version of Mercury Mills, also in Hamilton...

...or Bertram's...

...and this factory, named for a friend...

...or this Walthers LCL warehouse...

I decided to redo some of them in orange brick, and some in buff-coloured brick.

Here's the re-painted warehouse...

...and the revised version of Mercury Mills...

Tucketts Tobacco was a real factory in Hamilton, also in orange brick, but this re-worked version of Walthers Greatland Sugar is a pretty decent HO scale version of the real Tucketts building, which is still in existence, although no longer making cigarettes...

My Westinghouse factory in Mount Forest (another buff-brick hub about 80 miles north of Hamilton) has orange brick, which is fairly heavily weathered...

...and, as you can see, some other structures are orange brick, too.  However, I plan to make this town one of mixed brick colours, and today painted four or five DPM structures with buff-coloured Floquil paint...they'll fit in just fine with the town's train station...

While many places used locally-made bricks, eventually non-local bricks began to be affordable and available.  Depending on the era in which your layout is set, the majority of the structures may be similar, while later eras will often be a collage of different colours and materials.

Wayne

 

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, September 18, 2021 10:45 PM

I'm sure the railroads considered every possible option for building construction materials as far as cost versus return on investment. As you mention, red brick was the ubiquitous "building block" of the time.

Brickyards were local operations since shipping great distances added cost. Whatever clay was common to the area became the predominant color. Seems to me the tans and lighter colors were more common in the west and deeper reds in the east.

Fire resistance may have played a role and when studying the Sanborn Fire Maps there is important distinctions to building construction, fire apparatus, watchmen and sprinkler systems installed, etc. so there may have been a financial return for using brick over a more combustible material as related to insurance underwriting.

Railroads used their own B&B (Bridge and building) departments and I'm sure there were company standards adhered to in the specification of construction materials by the design engineers emplooyed at the time.

The railroads had close working relationships with brickyards located on their lines. There may have been advantages to using the products of an on-line customer for their own construction projects.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, September 19, 2021 12:28 AM

Was that "Yard Structures" portion part of the original topic, or added while I was hunting for photos?

I have only two yards with facilities for locomotives, and both have service buildings (car shops, engine storage/shops and or roundhouses), all in brick.

This is the roundhouse at Mount Forest...

...with this background building representing changehouse facilities on the ground floor and general offices above.  I'll eventually add piping on supports from part of that building to represent a steam generating plant for locomotive pre-steaming...



The only other structure of significance that's part of this area is the concrete coaling facility...

Lowbanks has a turntable with a brick enginehouse (which was originally a roundhouse)...

...and a brick carshop...

...there's also a brick oil-house...

...and a concrete coaling tower...

Both the engine house and the carshop have wood (styrene) annexes...

...and the rest of the buildings are wood (styrene), too...

Wayne

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Posted by jjdamnit on Sunday, September 26, 2021 5:53 PM

Hello All,

"When life gives you melons, make melon-ade!"- -Victor; Still Game (Scottish comedy).

I, along with "She Who Must Be Obeyed", her best friend and her new husband recently visited Central City, Colorado.

They live in Connecticut. He is a retired stonemason- -not by choice but because of inoperable shoulder damage from years in the trade. 

As we were admiring the brickwork of the historic structures in Central City he made an observatory comment.

While looking at the pale yellow brickwork he mused, "I know a guy who has hoarded this color brick back home. It's a rare color in Connecticut."

Yes, some of the buildings in town were the traditional "brick red" color but he noticed how this "rare" colored brick was used so commonly in this region.

I pointed out that most of the roofs in town were tin, tar paper, or asphalt shingle.

He commented about the abundance of slate roofs in the New England states.

I grew up in the Los Angeles area, where historic Adobe brick was superseded by the ubiquitous gray speckled cinderblock, in construction.

Even Santa Fe advertising touted the South-Western Adobe architecture. Modeling many of their depots in this style.

Now, that being said...

Many forgotten lines had a "look" and/or style of their buildings. That's why many prototypical modelers are true to a railroad to model the structures along the line.

For modeling purposes, you can compress scenes and miles.

One end of the line could be the unloading/transfer point to further destinations- -more modern brick facilities.

The logging operation, on the other end, would probably be based more on timber structures- -log cabins. Further advanced camps along the line would be tent-based.

Structures in between could model a transition from brick to timber.

In Central City, the ground-level facades were stone or brick. The rest of the structures were predominantly wood.

The adage, "Ya use what ya got!" comes to mind when it comes to some of the decisions railroads used in construction. 

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, September 26, 2021 6:14 PM

I would imagine that resistance to fire would be a prime consideration in the steam era, with all the fire-breathing dragons moving about the yards.  A few unnoticed cinders might start a fire in a wood building, while a brick building would not be harmed.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, September 27, 2021 2:55 PM

Northern Pacific's shop buildings in Brainerd and St. Paul MN were made of an almost yellow brick. Not sure why, if they got them cheap from an online brickyard or what.

Found this online for the Brainerd shops, the St.Paul ones became the (unfortunately named) "Bandana Square" shopping / office complex.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Northern_Pacific_Railroad_Shops_Historic_District.jpg

Many brick buildings in Minnesota's Mesabi Range communities are a soft red, about the red of Campbell's tomato soup.

Stix
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Posted by jjdamnit on Monday, September 27, 2021 4:15 PM

Hello All,

wjstix
Many brick buildings in Minnesota's Mesabi Range communities are a soft red, about the red of Campbell's tomato soup.

When my family visited the Mesabi mine site in the early 1970s I got a souvenir packet of taconite pellets.

Unfortunately, I lost them along the way back home.

It would not surprise me if the buildings are colored "Taconite Red"- -a distinctive color indeed- -from the surrounding building materials.

Hope this helps.

 

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by hbgatsf on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 10:45 AM

Wayne -

What paint did you use for the orange and red brick?

Rick

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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 2:40 PM

hbgatsf
What paint did you use for the orange and red brick?

A lot of my brick structures go back quite a few years, and those that have dark red bricks, like Bertram's...

...may not have been painted at all, other than some washes of weathering.  I'm guessing that the office building in the foreground (originally a LifeLike bottling plant) may have been painted to match the factory building in the background, but it's also possible that I actually did paint all of those structures, and if that was the case, most likely the colour would have been custom mixed, either using Floquil or PollyScale paints, likely based on freight car colours.

I'm sorry that I can't give you a definitive answer on those colours, but I'm pretty sure that this one...

...built from an MDC 3-in-1 kit, was not painted at all (other than the details), as I still have a couple left-over wall castings, which match the struture's walls almost perfectly (the structure may have received a light wash of water-based weathering).

The orange brick structures were a later choice, and I was originally uncertain if the colour would look credible - just because lots of structures in my home town used orange brick didn't necessarily mean that they'd be acceptable to viewers who'd never seen bricks in that colour.  That accounts for some of my photos of orange bricks on real structures.
The first one I did was this Revell kit...the original one was based, I think, on one of John Allen's scratchbuilt enginehouse structures.  In the mid-to-late '50s, I missed out on the original kits, and then Revell did a slightly revised version, making a new front wall (replacing the doors for locos) with a new facade, calling it the Superior Bakery.  I was apparently slow on the trigger with that one, too, and by the time I had the money for the kit, it had another new facade as a printing plant, which I did manage to get.

When that original layout was sold, I "rescued" a couple of structures, one being the printing plant.  It had the lower front wall done as tiles (very '30s/'40s era), a look that just wasn't appealing to me. 
After deciding where to place it on my current layout, I built a new facade, and turned it into an auction house for livestock.
I'm pretty sure that I repainted the brick with either Floquil or PollyScale paint, but not sure of the exact colour.
It was the first structure I'd done using drywall mud to create mortar effects - rag over fingertips to smear on the drywall mud, then after it had dried, outdoors to wipe-off the excess with a clean rag (a dusty process, not suitable for the workshop or layout room).
The drywall mud was mostly removed from the face of the bricks, but enough of it remained to tone-down the intensity of the orange.  Some further washes of water-based PollyScale paint helped to make it look like it had been around for a while...

I just now gathered up my orange paints, and have a full bottle of Floquil UP Light Orange, and SP Daylight Orange, and a half-bottle mixture of Floquil UP orange and CN orange.  I often add other colours to vary the orange, usually small amounts of red, yellow, and/or white.
I also have four bottles of PollyScale Orange, one each of GN Orange, Milwaukee Orange, BNSF Orange, and Reefer Orange, and again, will often mix these colours or add small amounts of other colours.

My version of the real Mercury Mills is a combination of two Walthers Stamping Plant kits, plus some leftover parts from the George Robertson Printing plant.  I originally painted the bricks using one of PollyScale's versions of boxcar red/oxide red, or freight car red...

...but later decided that orange would be a closer match to the real factory...

...which by this time, had been demolished.

When I built my version of the real National Grocers (the model is apparently much larger, scale-wise, than the hometown real structure, which had outlets all over Ontario) I deliberately painted the foreground portion of the structure a darkish red, then painted the five storey portion (just beyond the reefer) a bit lighter version of the same red, and likewise for the part in the righthand background, just to suggest that the business had grown from its early beginnings...

 

After so many years of painting and re-painting structures, I'm convinced that you could use almost any reddish/orangey/yellowish paint for brickwork and it would likely match a prototype somewhere on this planet.  The drywall mud (I use a small tub of the ready-to-use stuff, which seems to keep well if closed after each use) will tone-down the colour of the bricks.  You can then airbrush some weathering over it if you wish. 
If you want to use water-based washes for weathering, it may be wise to try them on an inconspicuous area, as the "mortar" may be removed.  If that's the case, an overspray of clear flat-finish will protect the mortar when you apply the wash.

I hope that there's something here that will be of use, and that you haven't fallen asleep due to my somewhat lengthy and rambling reply.

Wayne

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 3:45 PM

doctorwayne

I hope that there's something here that will be of use, and that you haven't fallen asleep due to my somewhat lengthy and rambling reply.

ZzzZzzZzz

doctorwayne

A lot of my brick structures go back quite a few years, and those that have dark red bricks, like Bertram's..., an overspray of clear flat-finish will protect the mortar when you apply the wash.

Bertram's!!!  Did someone say Bertram's???   Stick out tongue

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by hbgatsf on Thursday, September 30, 2021 6:54 PM

Thanks Wayne.  I would never think badly of a long response.  If someone takes the time to write one I will take the time to read.  Most of the time I will get information that I can use.  

Many years ago I was given a VHS tape of George Sellios discussing how he had just constructed the first section of his F&SM layout.  He mentioned that he used rattle cans to paint the buildings.  

I was at the stage where I wanted to do it "right" and used many of the same Floquil colors that you mentioned.  

I don't have a permanent paint booth/station so it is a PIA to get everything set up to use the airbrush.  Lately I have decided that if rattle cans are good enough for George they are good enough for me.  If I can get away with using one that is now my first choice on structures.

Edit: I don't know how the first part of my response got underlined.  Please ignore.   

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, October 1, 2021 12:22 AM

hbgatsf
Thanks Wayne. I would never think badly of a long response. If someone takes the time to write one I will take the time to read. Most of the time I will get information that I can use.

Your comment is much appreciated.


My homemade spray booth was originally in a small room in a garage I built when we purchased our first home.

Several years later, we bought a building lot and I built a house on it.  There wasn't much room for a garage (I've never used a garage for our cars, but more for kids stuff, bicycles, etc. etc.) 
A couple years later, we bought the house next door, which had a rather large lot (some of it extended behind our property) and a few years later, sold it for a good profit.  Before selling, though, we severed all of the property behind us and an equal-depth portion of the lot beside us, which included a two car garage with an upstairs, and a workshop room in the back, adding it to our original lot.

Until then, my paint booth was in a small room in our basement, vented directly outdoors.  However, my wife is very sensitive to the odour of paint (even water-based paints), and suggested that I build a room in the garage to use for airbrushing.

As usual, our garage is not used for cars (it's about 100' behind our house and, according to the people from whom we bought our building lot, is approximately 155 years old, and was once a home.)

Anyway, I built a small room in the workshop area, about 4'x8', with a direct vent to the outdoors and electric heating, so I can paint there any time, day or night, summer or winter, with no worries about stinking-up the house or bothering the neighbours, as there are none nearby.

I built my spray booth from odds and ends and left-overs from other projects that I had on-hand.  The exhaust fan is a remnant from air-powered hocky game, and has been in use for about 40 years, including a stint of commercial painting....

If you can find a little space in your home or even in your backyard, you might be able to build your own paintshop, which would be useful for both airbrush work and spray cans, too.

Wayne

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Posted by hbgatsf on Friday, October 1, 2021 7:53 PM

I have thought about a permanent spray booth many times.  The big issue is venting to the outside.  If I put it in one of the garages where that would be easier they are not heated.  If I put it in the train room venting will involve a long run and much cutting. 

It doesn't seem to be worth the effort.  

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Posted by dehusman on Friday, October 1, 2021 8:51 PM

hbgatsf
The big issue is venting to the outside.

What i did was have a portable spray booth with the exhaust attached to flexible dryer vent hose.  I then took a piece of plywood and cut it to the width of a window sash and about 8" high.  I then cut a dryer vent diameter hole in it and put an exterior vent on it.

I would open the window sash, put the plywood in the window and then lower the sash onto the plywood.  Attach the hose to the vent pipe on the exterior vent and spray away.  When you are done, detach the hose, remove the board from the window and close the sash.  Work summer or winter.  You might have to remove the screen from the window.   All the benefits of a vented spary booth, no holes in the wall, no piping to run.  Just 15-20" set up and take down.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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