Bassett Street House

  • move
Bassett St. House
As a member of a regional modular model railroad club, I try to make scenes familiar to visitors to our layout set-ups. I really enjoy watching people's reaction when they recognize a local landmark. When designing one of my modules, with a 90 degree curve in the mainline, I found a similar alignment here in the city of Madison, alongside a popular roadway. One of the more interesting buildings along this curve is a large wood-frame apartment building with prominent windows and round, peaked turret. This feature is a step-by-step of how I created a compressed version of this landmark.
The model
Backdrop in place on the module right
This photo shows the placement of the model in the HO Scale railroad module, to represent an actual location on South Bassett Street in Madison Wisconsin along a curve in the Wisconsin & Southern railroad there. This mock-up allows me to determine the compression I want to use and the final dimensions to work toward.

From here, I made 1:1 sketches of each face and footprint of the final model, as plans for the construction. Then I could cut styrene parts to match the sketch parts.

Jets have soooo many decals
This photo shows the model being pushed into the back of the workbench, where it sat off and on for several years as I worked up ambition and worked out construction ideas in my head. The brick material I used, from a Colorado company that I don’t think is in business anymore, is very thick, so cutting and filing the window openings took a lot of effort. I was very glad to be done with that stage.

Bassett St house: basic shapes almost there
For the porch section that is almost entirely windows, I built the shape from clear styrene sheet.

Roof begun
This greatly helped to stiffen the assembly.

The Mad Scientist himself, setting the main side dormer
This is the time-consuming process of making many, little pieces, test fitting each several times, and verifying plumb and level from all angles. This is very important to the credibility of the final model!

Dormer set and…
Note to paint any visible inside parts black before encasing them in windows and other later pieces.

Tower Peak
The tower was built on an octagonal styrene base with a copper wire vertical backbone. The triangle shapes were individually prepared, working opposites at a time for evenness and fit.

Work on the Front Porch begun

Windows now, will detail and mask next
Instead of collecting commercial window castings, if such exist of storm windows over wooden double-hung, in such a broad range of sizes, I simply applied clear styrene to the outside dimensions of the window frame. I worked in sets of same-sized windows. Each floor of the house has a particular height in general. My plan is to later mask off the clear panes and apply decals for the center mullion.

Progress on Trim Details

I made the block columns too tall, …
{The photo says it all.}

This side is ready for masking and primer, front porch to go yet
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move

About the Author

About Sean Hadfield (windysean)

I picked up model building and HO-scale model trains from my father. I've been working at it now for more than 45 years, always learning more. Although a self-proclaimed cheapskate, I always modify or add to my builds to make them unique and special (for better or worse, ha ha).


Sean, Those of you who scratchbuild these complex structures simple amaze me. Bassett Street is a great example of craftsmanship.
FEB 07, 2016 - 07:48 AM
Sean, That is a very impressive scratch build Thanks for sharing the SBS
FEB 07, 2016 - 08:05 AM
Thanks, guys. This was one of those challenges we set for ourselves, and you pick away at it and strategize until it's done. Cheers! -Sean H
FEB 07, 2016 - 08:14 AM