The Cyclone Fence Factory

Building an HO Scale Model

by Bruce Petty

I first spotted this 1930s, corrugated sheet metal building while riding a speeding Metrolink passenger train along the old Southern Pacific right-of-way, between Glendale and Burbank, CA. This is the type of industrial structure I'm looking for modeling a low relief industries for layout. So, I snapped a quick photo as we passed. However the photo just wasn't all that good to work with, especially while traveling on a train at high speed. I needed to get better photos and measurements. So while on an auto trip to LA this April, 2005, a side trip was planned to accurately record details of this structure.

A 1959 Southern Pacific, Los Angeles industrial directory, listed this plant as The Cyclone Fence Company. Inside would have been the machinery that weaved reels of wire into of chain link fence and through the galvanizing tanks. I noted that the high horizontal 10 foot wide window on the right side of the complex most likely had a door below the sash at one time. The wide door would have been used to receiving wooden reels of steel wire shipped in by box cars to be unloading down a ramp into the building. The finished chain link fencing wasn't ship out by rail, only trucked to customers around the Los Angeles area.

My drawings of the factory shows that over time, three additions were made to the main building (seen on the left), during initial growth of the business. Some time later the receiving door was removed and covered with corrugated sheet metal. I added a double, wooden type of doors (as it may have been built), to my model structure as receiver steel wire on my layout too.

Following the drawing that I made of the structure, .040 thick Evergreen simulated corrugated styrene was used for the walls and roof. The smallest square stock 2"x 2", was used to build up the windows. The walls with windows were built first on a flat surface. This is the easiest way of making windows when having to cut and glue those little short pieces of 2"x 2" stock in place. Modeling this structure by using Evergreen styrene and Tenax 7R cement was very easy.

Painting and Weathering

The prototype structure is well weathered, and I choose to do the same to my model. I airbrushed Floquil's, Southern Pacific's, Lark Light Gray as the first coat, also painting the interior the structure the same color . I highlighted the corrugated sheet with Floquil's Graphite color to give a metal looking effect.

I use Latex interior flat house paint that I use for weathering, Dark Gray, White and a Rusty Brown looking color. I store Latex colors in 35mm film canisters for easy access. I applied a wash of Gray over the entire structure, then with a adding a little White to lighten up the Gray for highlight following along the corrugations. The Rusty Brown color was streaked on the roof areas and highlighted on the walls.


I used some Scale Scenics, Aluminum Micro-Mesh to make rolls of chain-link fence set beside the building. I cut this sheet into 6 foot widths and rolled them up on an 1/8"dia. shaft. Used a little fast drying cement to hold the stack together. Short pieces were scattered behind the building as scrap. A few wooden reels would be good to set around the building too. They may have been returned to the steel wire plant after enough were stored to make a box car load.

A note about what I've learned about building model structures

I like modeling prototype buildings, somehow they just looked better than if I had designed structures for my layout. And. . . I finely understood why modeling after the prototype looks better. Each prototype structure I model tells a story about its own style of architecture. Someone had carefully thought out the design to suit the business. How the business expanded over time and the building materials were to be used in its construction. Maybe I can say this is industrial archeology in model form.

I also discovered that modeling industrial structures with different roof pitches tend make better low-relief models, they break up that sharp 90 degree angle between the layout and backdrop. And having only one side of a building to model, I spend more time detailing it.

A model railroading friend, Jay Mika has built nearly a hundred finely detailed structures for both his home and his club layout. I've wondered how could anyone have build so many structures? Several years ago, I just had to ask him what was the secret? "Did you lock yourself in a room working day and night?" I asked. "No" he said, directing me to the living room of his home pointing at a TV tray covered with modeling tools. Jay works on a project while watching TV with his wife for a few hour in the evenings. It may take several weeks picking away at it a little each evening to complete a structure, and not rushing the project. So, I gave the TV tray a try, and this method really works! I can spend time with my wife, and my model building output has amazingly increased. That old term "arm chair model railroader" has a different meaning for me now.