Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Friday, March 04, 2011

Hydrocal Structure Kits

Continuing with my structure building bug that has hit recently, I built 2 structure kits based on Hydrocal wall castings. The impetus for building these came from my recent acquisition of Motrak Models latest HO kit, the brick supply shed, item #87602. Jeff at Motrak asked me to do a review of the kit on the ModelRailCast podcast, so I knew I wanted to get building it sooner rather than later.

The other kit, well, that has definitely been a 'later'! The CC Crow Safety Hook & Ladder building kit has been on my shelf for about 20 years. I knew I would always get around to it, but there it sat. So instead of building one Hydrocal based kit, I thought it would make sense to build both at the same time and take advantage of doing each step needed on both kits.

A full review of my building experience will be on an upcoming ModelRailCast show. I'll post the exact show number here when it is available. But I'll hit a few highlights here. First, couple of pictures of the completed kits.

Here is a look at the Motrak kit unpacked:

I started construction by first spraying each wall white primer, with light coats. After drying overnight, I applied 2 different red colors to get a brick color I liked. Then I used Durham Water Putty, supplied in the CC Crow kit, to do the mortar. This took some trial and error to get just the right amount, but I do like the results.

I painted the windows and added the glazing, then inserted them into the openings. The CC Crow kit includes strip wood to cut for the window frames top and bottom, as well as the full frames for the small windows. This made them look more unique in my opinion. Here are the walls while the windows were going in:

With each wall done, I assembled the basic boxes and used some clamps to lightly hold them together.

You do need to be careful when working with Hydrocal parts as they are very easily broken. I did have some trouble with the CC Crow kit breaking but each one was easily fixed, except for one which did not go back together invisibly. I used some small gauge wire to hide the break, making it look like a conduit or hose running from the upstairs window down to the ground.

The CC Crow roof was also cast Hydrocal. I painted the top silver to look like metal roofing, and the edges white to look like wood trim. The Motrak kit uses black paper to represent tar paper. I used 3M Transfer Tape (available from Fos Scale web site, and others), a first for me. I really liked this product and will use it extensively in the future. It is not real cheap, but the results are great. It lays down an impossibly thin sheet of double sided stickiness that is really easy to then overlay with shingles, tarpaper, etc. I recommend giving it a try.

All in all these were a lot of fun and went together in only a few evenings. Most of the work is paint and finishing. I used chalks to add some weathering to the sides and roofs, but most of the details are in the castings. These really stand out in a sea of wood-based structure kits, and also look different next to a styrene based brick kit. So give one a try. The Motrak kit is definitely good for a beginner (which I was with hydrocal before these kits). Check out for all their products, as well as this kit, which lists for $25.