While building Ark Number 4 for the Tiburon Railroad-Ferry Depot Museum I needed to make a weathered wood shingle roof.

Ark number 4 in place in museum

Here’s the recipe I came up with.

  • Apply Campbell Shingles or other paper/wood shingle material
  • Ink-alchohol wash lightly
  • Dry brush Tamiya XF-66 LIGHT GREY
  • Dry brush Tamiya XF-23 LIGHT BLUE, followed immediately by more ink-alchohol
  • Very lightly dry brush Tamiya XF-21 SKY
  • Highlight with china white pencil
  • Seal with Dullcote
  • Add more highligts with ink-alchohol and very small brush

Hindsight: airbrushing a control color to tone down the contrast would have made the effect a bit better.

The final result on the model:

Roof of Ark #4

No, the title is not a typo…

I’ve always loved photos of early Tiburon, California. Tiburon grew as the “town at the end of the tracks.” Those tracks belonged to the San Francisco & North Pacific Railroad and later the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.


By the 1920’s Tiburon housed a dense cluster of rail yards, ferry piers, and shops. It was also home to an extremely wild bunch of buildings that grew organically around the end of tracks.

Because the shore near Tiburon was extremely steep, any flat ground was created entirely by filling in the surrounding bay. The railroad did a pretty organized job of it. The townspeople just threw dirt in as needed, drove piles into the remaining shallow water and threw up their structures in a way that would strike terror into the heart of any modern building inspector, fire marshal, or health inspector. Here could be found hotels, cheap housing for railroad workers, bars, cathouses, and stores.

The picture above is looking west. If you looked to the east of the yards and shops you would find much more respectable (but to me less interesting) housing.

I want a town on my layout that captures some of the feel and spirit of Tiburon of this era. However, given my tiny amount of available space I cannot make a serious attempt to model anything about Tiburon of the 1920’s except its “feel.” Additionally I’m going to emphasize, to the point of exaggeration, many of the more colorful aspects of the town so I decided to highlight that by dubbing my version of the town “TiburBon.” Amazing what the simple addition of a “b” does.

Locals insist Tiburbon is pronounced “Tiburr-bon” although visitors seeking a bottle of liquor (found here in abundance despite Prohibition) unfailingly pronounce it “Ti-bourbon.

After looking at maps and photos of Tiburon in the past and walking the streets today (I live in Tiburon) I shaped an idea for the land and water around Tiburbon onto my planning model.


Before I go further with the track work in Tiburbon I decided I’d get a start on the rough scenery here since the town will end up a highly detailed scene behind the tracks and will be easier to work on before the track is laid in.


First I cut a sheet of ¼” plywood to fit which runs the full length of this module. This plywood will be the bottom of the bay. Everything goes up from here.


I laid out paper on the plywood and penciled out shapes guided by what I had on the planning model but I always find that I end up making adjustments once doing it full size. Once I was satisfied I re-traced it in pen.


I cut the paper plan into a templates and cut the shape I needed out of 2” thick bead board sheets. I use a Woodland Scenics hot wire cutter and an electric hot knife to cut Styrofoam. I wear a mask for the fumes and do as much as I can outdoors but as far as I’m concerned heat-cutting foam is the only way to go. Here I’m test fitting them before gluing.

The boat shaped piece of foam board is testing the size of a 60 foot boat.


There’s a gap in the back and eventually I’ll be pouring in my bay water so I laid a piece of  3/16” foam core board there as a dam and glued it down with liquid nails.


The first base level exactly matches the height of the top of the cork roadbed in the adjacent rail yard (good planning on my part). I cut stacks of 2” foam boards up to until I liked the height. I’ll carve these down with the hot knife and glue them down later.


Most materials used to model water (I haven’t decided what I’ll use yet) will seep through any available holes so I sealed the edges with silicon sealant.


The two blue lines were different ideas I had about the water level. Looking at the photos, Tiburon was (and is) built very close to high tide level so I’ve settled on the higher water mark.

I added a fillet of paper mache. This is needed since most paints refuse to stick to the silicone sealant and I want to start to build up the texture.


I painted everything from the high water mark down with my “wet mud” color. This is a base color I had made in latex paint and I use it everywhere under dirt. The color ends up basically olive drab. I’ll probably paint black any areas I want to appear as deep water.


Well, this is all I’m going to fit in on Labor Day weekend.

Waterfronts have always been interesting to me since they are often funky and usually have lots of history visible.

I live just across the bay from San Francisco and a couple weeks ago I took the ferry over to the waterfront and took some pictures.

The tracks on the San Francisco waterfront were operated by the State Belt Railroad and were standard gauge with a large portion dual-gauged with 3 foot trackage to handle narrow gauge cars ferried over from the south-east bay and north bay.

Here’s a nice bit of old pier left. There are railroad tracks on it as well. This is the remains of Pier 22-1/2. That little bridge in the background is the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. A beautiful bridge in its own right but forever outshone by the nearby Golden Gate bridge.

If you have the free Google Earth application (HIGHLY recommended) you can go right to this location and follow along the next few photos by clicking on the location link here: San Francisco Fireboat 1 Phoenix

Close up showing the girder style (like street traction) track in the old pier.

This bit of pier is near the San Francisco Fire Department’s Fireboat Station No. 1 station which is itself built on a pier. The fireboat was away that morning.

Just south of the Bay Bridge is this tight little space between buildings with the track intact. This is the north side of Pier 26.

A little further south is Red’s Java House. When I first saw this building ten years ago it was very funky. Imagine it without the spiffy new paint.

When I was younger I used to go climb and play on this little ship. Many years later (around 1982) I got a picture of it. Unfortunately, I only had a cheapo camera and the boat has since collapsed.

The SS Marin

I found the print (only 3×5 inches) and scanned it at 300 dpi optical about ten years ago. I’ve always thought she’d make a great model for a RR/Wharf scene.  

I’ve never been able to find any reference to her but she had “MARIN” faintly painted on her bow.

I think the Marin worked as a small freight and passenger ship. The main deck was very heavy construction: three layers of 2″ planking at skewed angles with asphalt and fine gravel coating on top. There was no evidence of any forward bulwark. In other photos of similar boats you see removable open rails on the forward deck.

It looked like cargo was loaded on and off the foredeck and stored as far back as the area under the main cabin. The part of the main deck covered by the upper cabin was open except for 3 or 4 support posts up the middle. One of these can be seen directly under the front of the wheelhouse.

The engine and hardware were long gone. There were indications that two cylindrical fuel tanks were mounted under the main deck on either side leaving room far a good size in-line gas/diesel engine mounted above the keel, towards the stern. She had a single screw and rudder.

There was only four feet of headroom inside the flat-bottomed hull between the frames and the deck beams under the main deck. I think she was built as a motor-boat (not converted from steam) since boilers usually had to be in the middle of the hull and there really wasn’t head room on the MARIN below the main deck.

The wheelhouse was elevated about three feet above the upper deck level. Inside, the wheelhouse had a large “shelf” across the after portion which was actually the roof of the Skipper’s cabin. The upper cabin had a small captain’s cabin forward that went full width. The remainder was undivided and had benches along the walls facing inwards.

The boat used to be about 100 feet from the water on the north shore of Bodega Bay, California. The location at Mapquest (or other map website) may be found by entering the following location: Bay Flat Rd & Whaleship Rd, Bodega Bay, CA 94923

Measurements: The yellow circle shows where I placed a story pole on the ship to aid in measuring it from the photo. It was painted white and black on the belt rail of the hull, just forward of directly below the front of the wheelhouse. It is marked in feet with the first and third feet white and the middle foot black. The middle foot also has six inches marked in alternate white/black patches (these are slightly below the resolution of the camera).

I estimate the length to be about 60 feet, beam almost 20 feet.