Modeling a Beer Distributor

by Bruce Petty

In a city like Los Angeles, the most valued industrial property is where a company receives or ships its products using rail service along a main line right-of-way. Industrial structures are nested next to the other with little or no space between them, and usually served with a long spur track along the right-of-ways property line to the companies loading dock doors. In cities, the majority of companies are receivers of products because of cities are mainly consumers of manufactured goods.

Cities grow, businesses run their course of manufacturing and in time become obsolete, some caused by consumer preferences, others from changes in technology. The business closes and buildings will sit idle until another buyer can use the property as is, or a new structure built in its place to meet the needs of a new owner. Such is this case for the Miller Beer Distributor warehouse in Burbank, CA. Built about 1955, of steel construction with corrugated sheet metal siding. These type of warehouse structures can be built quickly and at low cost.


Miller beer is made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This Soo line ice reefer made the trip in 1958 to be unloaded at at the Miller Beer Warehouse in Burbank, CA.

The prototype warehouse I estimated being 50 feet wide with a single loading dock door set in the center of the warehouse to handle a 40 foot long reefer. Additional switching would be needed on the spur track to handle the consumers thirst during summer time.

I drew these detailed drawings of the Miller Distributor before building the model. I figured the roll-up door was standard, being 12 feet tall, enough height to clear a forklift taking pallets of beer out of the reefer car and transferring them into the warehouse. I also wanted to have the door open on the model structure to add interior details to make it a more interesting.

The depth of the low-relief model is 10 feet not including a 5 foot deep loading dock. The prototype loading dock was made of concrete construction typical for a newer building, but not seen in the photo I also added steps at one end of the loading dock, a common practice in modern construction. Like the other model industrial structures that I've built, they have the same depth for placement on my layouts spur tracks being laid at 3 1/4 inches from the backdrop.

I used Evergreen plastics simulated corrugated metal for the siding for the structures three sides. I also used smooth sheet plastic for the back of the structure, the back and inside wall of the corrugated plastic will be painted flat black so not to emit light through the plastic for interior lighting. The floor is painted light concrete gray. The loading dock and steps are built up of styrene stock, then sanded smooth and painted gray. The hand rail was made of wire and painted dark blue. Two small screw with nuts are used to hold the loading dock to the structure, just in case changes are ever needed.

The corrugated metal is painted a light blue matching closely to the photograph. A darker blue is painted along the roof edge.

The correct Miller logo was found on back of an old beer truck that I chased around town to photograph it with a digital camera. Then scaling the logo down to the correct model size from the high resolution digital image using Adobe Photoshop then printed it out on a sheet of white self-adhesive paper stock. A piece of .010 plastic was cut out for the backing and applied to the structure above the roll-up door.


The finished Miller HO model of the Beer Distributor is located along double track main line as its prototype.

About two feet of roll-up door was made using the corrugated styrene so to be placed horizontally inside the top of the doorway , then painted light gray. It was added later during detailing. A fine chain was added inside the door, for operating the roll-up door. I made a wallpaper to look like stacks of beer cases in Adobe Photoshop and printed it out on self adhesive paper to stick on to the back wall. Empty pallets are set to the side of the door and a forklift in the doorway.

Here is the method that I used to make wallpaper that can be done with Adobe Photoshop or a photo program like it. I found a Miller beer label on the companies Internet website and reduced it down to .150 wide (width of a HO beer box end), and set the DPI at 300, to make a wallpaper that looks like stacks of beer boxes that I can have inside the open door against the back wall. I opened up a new blank photo box 1.5 high and 2 inches wide. then used the paint bucket to color the background a tan looking box color then with the Move tool, drag a label from the from the small label to the blank box, do this so several pixel wide will be between each miniature label. Using the Move Tool will build up Layers in Photoshop, so flatten the image after 20 or so times, save and continue. Print on self-sticking white label paper and put on the back wall inside the low relief structure.

Adding lighting inside the structure also gives the beer distributor a very busy look.