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Odessa, Texas S Scale Module

by Philippe Coquet

Edited by Craig S. O'Connell, July 23, 2008



After more than 20 years modeling HO scale American prototypes, Odessa TX is my third S scale module, following Big Horn Sheep Canyon (2000) and 1300 Railroad Drive (2003) both presented in these pages. This new module is based on the same main principles which have guided my previous modeling work:

- re creating as faithfully as possible the atmosphere of Western US small towns in the 80s or early 90s;
- based on pictures taken during numerous trips in this region or on various photography books such as the one of Wim Wenders “Written in the West” (Schirmer/Mosel 1987 – still available on sites such as gathering the spotting phase before for shooting the film “Paris Texas” in the early 80s:
- matching as much as possible the prototype and scale appearance for each and every scenery detail while keeping parts robust enough for enabling train operations:
- each and every time trying to find engineering solutions for scratch building scenery components in a semi-industrial way.


Overall view of the Odessa module.

Odessa TX – genesis

While the two first displays took a couple of years to be finalized, Odessa TX (4 3 D4 ft long / 1 1 D2 ft large) took 4 years to be completed. The reasons for this are twofold:
On the one hand this module includes quite a lot of "special projects" such as the laser cut designed buildings, operating street lights, cast pavement and sidewalk. On the other hand, the family grew by one in March 2005, which brought productivity downwards quite a bit since then….

During the first twelve months (mid 2004 / mid 2005), I designed and built 3 out of the 4 main structures of the diorama.

The second year (mid 2005 / mid 2006) was mainly focused on creating the cast pavement and sidewalks as well as laying the double track and building the fourth structure of the block

During the third batch of twelve months (mid 2006 / mid 2007) I designed and built the operating street lights, the photographic backdrop (also presented in those web pages), and I took care of two recent entries into my roster (2 gorgeous SD40-T2 tunnel motors, one SP version and one Rio Grande version) which I super detailed, painted and weathered (those are featured in many of the accompanying pictures).

The final period of twelve months was dedicated to adding the finishing touches to the whole display, design and building of the utility lines, traffic lights, structure's interiors, street vehicles' detailing and weathering, and last but not least wiring of the module for train and lighting effects operations.

On this display the only commercial products which have been used are:

- road vehicules (sourced from ERTL, SpecCast)
- figures (from Arttista)
- railroad track (Tomalco)
- motive power and rolling stock (mainly Overland Models brass models produced in Korea during the 1980s)

Hence, the display includes quite a lot of fully scratch built complex parts which prevent me from sleeping from time to time, but which also provided me with great pleasure in creating.
Among them, let's mention:

- Fully Scratch built structures designed with CAD software, using the laser engraving / cutting techniques (Bill Wade from BTS kindly accepted to deliver my custom laser work)
- Street pavement and sidewalks cast in Hydrocal to create the very texture of asphalt and concrete pavement
- Street guardrails scratch built from thin aluminium foils (Builder In Scale) shaped in a specially designed press-jigs
- Prototype matching operating street lights built from filing brass tubes of various diameters to recreate the typical tapered silhouette of the masts;
- Street traffic lights (non-operating) created with drinking straws!
- A group of US prototype city street details master models (newspapers vending machines, parkmeter, USPS mailbox ...) scratch built and then duplicated by a industrial molder using lost wax techniques
- A fully scratch built utility line including home made cross arms and insulators and 0.010" music wires for matching the natural swing of the prototype
- A custom photo montage created with Photoshop and some of my own pictures as a backdrop.

Each of those sub-projects could be worth an article on its own. On those web pages, one can tap into creating a custom backdrop.
In a recent Model Railroader article (How to design realistic urban scenery April 2008) one can also gain better understanding at how to create cast Hydrocal pavement and sidewalks for prototype appearance. Should time permit, I'll add some more "How to" articles in the near future, to share some of those quite rewarding techniques.


A few fellows have helped me and supported me over the past four years in creating this new display and I would like to thank them.
One of them is Jean Luc Collard, a French fellow modeler (although he is still dealing with HO scale) who supported the entire project with ideas and suggestions. He is also the one who helped in creating the Photoshop custom backdrop.
Another one is Jean Yves Quéré, another French fellow modeler, animating the French Proto87 modelling club, who provided me with contacts and advice for creating master models and having them cast by the right contractor.
Finally, Philippe Guiffard kindly lent his glass beading unit for preparing brass models.
On top of this, a couple of friendly U.S. hobby shops have supported me over the years managing to provide the source for various scratch-building supplies: Stan of Coronado Scale Models of Phoenix AZ and Ron Sebastian of DesPlaines Hobby ILL.
Last but not least, my wife Caroline and my daughter Mathilde who have shown great patience and understanding during all those years.


Go to Odessa Module Photos