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Modeling a Reading Tool Shed in 1:1 Scale

Written by Conductor

We have all heard over the years of many different scale ratios but have you ever tried modeling in real life 1:1 scale?  I'm not talking anything on a big, grandiose scale like a passenger station. But how about a small wayside structure?

My case in point. I once needed a tool shed.  But I didn't want any ordinary tool shed, I wanted a Reading Company Tool Shed.  Since there were none for sale in my lifetime and I live about 1000 miles away from Reading territory, I knew that the real thing was out of the question.  So why not build one?  I was going to have to build a tool shed anyway, so why not build the one that I wanted?

I thumbed through the book "Reading Maintenance of Way Plans" by the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society, and I saw a drawing for a Reading Tool Shed.  While this structure was a bit large for my needs, the one thing the plan book did have was detailed views and descriptions of how one was constructed.  Then I found what I was looking for.  In the December 1983 issue of Model Railroader was an article called " Build a Track Gang Headquarters."  In this article were drawings for a Reading Tool Shed located at Coatesville, PA. Apparently this structure was originally built with double doors, which is what clinched it for me.

My wife had been nagging me for about a month to get some sketches of a tool shed ready for her to see.  One day, I said that I had them already finished.  She couldn't wait to see them, so I flipped open the bookmarked magazine and she hit the roof!  After I calmed her down, I showed her that the Reading style Shed was exactly the right size we both had agreed upon. She still was not thrilled, but I built it anyway.

In constructing the shed, I deviated from the plans a bit.  I used residential style framing and plywood sheathing. I simulated the board-and-batten walls with strips of wood nailed at twelve inch intervals.

John Caples' Reading Company Tool Shed under construction


The December 1983 Model Railroader article that started it all...

I did duplicate the gingerbread trim as I felt this was the best feature of the prototype. I also built the structure on a stone foundation just like the real thing.  However, I opted not to paint it in RDG colors as this would clash with the color of my house.

Closeup of the gingerbread trim on John Caples' Reading Co. Tool Shed


In building this shed I discovered that I had a new respect for the art of woodworking.  These artisans had constructed a thing of architectural beauty without the aid of modern power tools. I had a lot of fun researching their style and technique so I could capture the look and feel of the prototype on my shed. I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do.

John Caples' Reading Company Tool Shed - Front View

John Caples' Reading Company Tool Shed - Rear View

So go ahead!  Build what you want instead of settling for some prefab shed from Lowe's that all your neighbors have identical copies of.  Why not model something in 1:1 scale? After all, this is why we are in this hobby, is it not?

Editor's Note:  15 years later, John's wife Beth has forgiven him for this stunt, and now brags about their authentic, hand-built Reading Company Tool Shed!

Today's Image

Did You Know?

November 14, 1948
Service on the "Schuylkill" Main Line train to Pottsville is inaugurated.


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