The structures on John Gray’s Union Pacific Cheyenne Division layout are massive. It features huge engine facility buildings, huge car shops, a huge diesel facility and more. Allen Keller asks if they are exact models of the prototype. In the west, this is exactly what a person would see, large structure looming out in the middle of nowhere all by themselves. This is the impression that John has tried to translate on the railroad. In Cheyenne in those days, these were the largest buildings in town and they were impressive, looming over everything. Almost everything needed to be scratch built on the layout to achieve what John wanted. There were no available buildings that he could use, so they did use quite a bit of design preservation components to help build them. All of the other buildings were scratch built.
The backdrop was painted to help convey that distance and Steve was the artist who painted them. His expertise is airbrushing. Much of the work on the layout was airbrushed and then touched up with painters brushes. It was labor intensive, but John thinks they used the most efficient method. They built the layout first and then painted in the backdrops to blend the layout with the backdrop. In many places across the layout, it is difficult to tell where the layout ends and the backdrop begins because the colors match perfectly. Steve knelt on the layout on pads and painted the backdrop, as John describes it, “like the Sistine Chapel”. For more tips for creating structures or making structures from scratch, visit the Model Railroad Academy archives.