National Model Railroad Association Master Model Railroader Gerry Leone notes that many plastic structure kits come with simulated wood loading docks, but it is difficult to make the plastic look like wood. In this video, Leone demonstrates how to scratch build a loading dock using real wood. First determine the size of the dock, docks are typically made with 2 x 10’s, 12’s, or 8’s. The frame is 8 x 8 scale lumber. The underside bracing is spaced by every 6 feet for a 24 foot scale dock.
First the wood is distressed by adding grooves. After staining, this will make the wood appear old and cracked. Leone uses a tool called a file card – a brush with heavy bristles – a steel brush can also be used. The file card is brushed lengthwise along the wood with heavy pressure and then sanded to remove any fuzz. Leones uses a Northwest Shortline chopper to cut all the wood pieces for the dock. After cutting, they are stained all together so all edges of the wood are stained.
Bass wood is recommended because it takes stain very well and is sturdy. The stain Leone uses is a mixture of ¼ teaspoon of India ink to one ½ pint of 91% isopropyl alcohol. He stains the pieces by simply pouring the ink in a container and dumping the wood pieces in. They can be removed quickly or not depending on how dark the desired stain.
The pieces are placed on a piece of paper to dry. Leone makes a quick mockup drawing of how he wants the dock to look and uses it as a template. Using painters tape, he tapes his template to the work surface and covers with wax paper to keep it protected. He starts building by laying the framing pieces and temporarily taping them down so they don’t slide on the wax paper. White glue is placed with a toothpick and used to glue the pieces together.
Leone recommends cutting the bracing after all the dock legs are on so they all fit perfectly in either an x or v shape. The dock can be further finished by breaking off some ends of boards for distressing, or adding rusted areas.