Petticoat Junction Models

I’m not much into railroading, but I found this interesting article:


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This isn’t working, so I will have to try something else.

This is from Facebook. Does anybody know how to connect directly from Facebook?

Article By Richard C. Datin

It might come as a surprise to many readers who at one time during the 1960s may have watched a segment or two of the long running television series Petticoat Junction without realizing the show occasionally utilized a set of scale models to enhance the image of its thin storyline. Heretofore, the popular sitcom show satisfied its backdrop needs to partially-built full-size studio sets housed on the sound stages of the General Service Studio in Hollywood. Its stock film footage of the Cannonball Express train was shot on location using the Sierra Railroad facilities at Jamestown, CA.

Among the more noteworthy stage props of Petticoat Junction was a full-size model of Sierra combine No. 5. The other star was a redecorated wood, fiberglas, and steel replica of Schenectady-built Rio Grande Southern locomotive No. 20. Built originally by Twentieth Century-Fox for its 1950 motion picture “Ticket to Tomahawk”, the narrow gauge 4-6-0 movie star “stood in” for Sierra’s standard gauge ten-wheel movie star No. 3.

Petticoat Junction attracted its own audience of loyal fans in the 1960s-unlike those diehard individuals who studiously watched each TV episode of Star Trek. The shows seemed to be at opposing ends of a wildly different entertainment spectrum, though both employed miniatures built by the author. More than thirty years have passed since that particular period in 1966, which became the busiest season of my commercial modelmaking career since starting a modelshop in Los Angeles during 1954.

Over the years, a wide variety of projects crossed my work tables, including architectural and engineering scale models, full-size mockups, miniature props for Speedy Alka Seltzer, Sugar Jets cereal and Jolly Green Giant TV commercials, as well as several models for the original Star Trek TV series.

It was during May, 1966, when I segued from installing lights in the twelve-foot long model of the U.S.S. Enterprise at the behest of Gene Roddenberry to my long-sought reverie of not only building a model railroad train, but getting paid for it, too. Unfortunately, Petticoat’s shooting schedule did not allow much time for a model railroader to wallow in this seventh heaven more than a few hours. I had only six weeks to accomplish a miracle before delivery.

Produced by Paul Henning, whose other TV series included Green Acres and the Beverly Hillbillies, the Petticoat Junction program ran for seven years, beginning in 1963. It garnered a niche in television antiquity as perhaps the slowest-moving sitcom in TV history. Following the first three seasons, the powers-to-be felt the half-hour show needed to expand its scope as well as reduce the expense of production personnel traveling from Hollywood to Jamestown, California to film background scenes featuring Sierra locomotive No. 3 and the “shorty” combine No. 5, the real-life counterparts to the models soon to appear.

During my initial conference with the people of Filmways TV Productions, they envisioned models of one-inch to one-foot scale or larger, as had been the practice for years in Hollywood movies. Knowing the tremendous expense for miniatures of this size, not to mention the months to fabricate them, I suggested 7/16" [that is 7/16" = 1’-0"] scale would be ideal. They were quite cold to this idea at first, but when confronted with the costs, my delivery time, their schedule, and the superb detail attainable, they agreed.

Since I was familiar with the wide variety of scale model trains produced by Dick Wheeler, long-time owner of Model Engineering Works (MEW) in Monrovia, CA, I had in mind using his 7/16" scale model of Colorado Midland’s No. 25 engine. The imported brass ten-wheeler, part of his “sideline hobby” of manufacturing large-scale detailed trains for outdoor use, happened to be quite similar to Sierra’s Rogers-built No. 3, with some major readjustments on my part. Besides the combination car and 60 feet of track, models of the “Shady Rest Hotel”, “Sam Drucker’s General Store,” the Hooterville Station and Shady Rest Stop, plus the Jamestown water tank, completed the wide array of 7/16" scale structures used in conjunction with the abridged Cannonball Express.

Starting in May, 1966, I sought out long-time rail fan and friend of Del Rey, CA, the late Stan Snook, to take close-up and side view photos of both the engine and combine with emphasis on detail for modelbuilding. From these shots I drew a 7/16" scale side elevation drawing of the Sierra ten-wheeler and another of Wheeler’s model as a comparison to judge which portions of each could be utilized/discarded and/or built new. Meanwhile, Walter McKeegan, art director of Filmways, handed me their drawings of the false front sets and hotel. Immediately, I sought help from the local model railroad fraternity to construct models of the structures.

I found Lorin Brown, an exceptional modeler, who was contracted to build the combine complete with sagging steps as well as the water tank. For the ornate Shady Rest Hotel, a young Bill Gould emerged as a tremendous help in getting that large project well on its way. At the same time, I dismantled MEW’s model locomotive, built a new cab, pilot, working headlight, smoke stack, lengthened the Colorado Midland frame to match the Rogers wheel arrangement, installed a Seuthe smoke generating unit, reduced the size of the sand dome, and repositioned both the sand and steam domes. For the tender, I simply added a flat metal washer above each truck bolster to attain the correct height, plus a load of “authentic-looking” cordwood fashioned from a nearby neighbor’s hedge.

The colorful paint scheme established by the show for the train was faithfully followed. The lettering, numbering and headlight artwork were left to the art director to apply. Sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed that the Sierra engine was number three on their roster of locomotives. However, it became Number 8 during the Petticoat Junction series. Interestingly, the reason behind the studio’s choice of using number “8” for the Cannonball Express was that “8” still read “8” when the film is flopped for a reverse and different view of the short consist as it rolled by the camera. Following the completion of the locomotive I began modeling the buildings.

When the project was finished, some moments were spent photographing the scale models on a landscaped platform in the backyard of my home in North Hollywood. Due to the nature of this demanding type of work, it was feast or famine at times. As a consequence, I missed many of the Petticoat Junction shows due to the more immediate need of additional models for the Star Trek series. Two of the segments stand out, though. A night scene using the Shady Rest Hotel was highly dramatic (for me at least) except for the excessively illuminated windows which tended to wash out portions of the detailed model. The other show pictured the Cannonball Express “steaming” toward the viewer to slice a ceremonial ribbon stretched across the track for some sort of homecoming event. That was an exceptional scene, even if I must say so! [Editor’s note - This is in episode #6605 called “Cannonball, Inc.” and the banner says “Welcome Hooterville Cannonball”]

Twenty-five years have passed since I last built scale models for the studios in Hollywood; this includes working at Twentieth Century-Fox on the motion picture “Tora, Tora Tora” followed by a brief stint at Paramount Studios. Within this timeframe I found employment as a professional modelmaker, then as model shop supervisor for the Marine Division of Litton Industries and later by Bechtel Power Corp. in San Francisco. Nor do I live in LA or SF anymore; however, collecting toy trains, writing and publishing history books occupy my retirement years in Nevada as the founding curator of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. And you might wonder what ever became of the Cannonball Express models? Larry Jensen, author of “The Movie Railroads”, last said that they were carefully stored and in possession of producer Paul Henning.

Cool stuff!


There’s a little hotel called the Shady Rest at the junction - Petticoat Junction
It is run by Kate , come and be her guest at the
junction - Petticoat Junction
and that’s Uncle Joe - he’s movin’ kinda slow at the
junction - Petticoat Junction
All Aboard !

A model of the water tower with the three sisters enjoying a bath would be fun. I have long wondered why there are not more 1/35 kits of that nature.

This is an interesting synchronicity. A couple months back I found myself reading the Wikipedia article for Petticoat Junction. The series was before my time but I vaguely recall seeing some episodes in reruns. I cannot remember what caused me to seek information about it.

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I believe that Green Acres was a spin off from Petticoat Junction .

I don’t know if it was a “spin off” but it was made by the same people and existed in the same “TV universe” along with “The Beverly Hillbillies.” They all had crossover characters and stories; they were all cancelled at the same time during the infamous “rural purge” of TV shows in the early 1970s.

A layout I have an invitation to operate has this P.J. scene.

Note figures on lower left porch.

Only one daughter (your fantasy can choose whom {she’s in there}) in the tank:

Other cool parts of the F.M.R.R. There are two stations on the single track railway, one up front, one in the back. The front station has the interior. Both have a light sensing diode in the track and when the train passes it, nano-animations plays morse code “OS” (meaning the train has progressed the protected track block and they can allow another train to advance) at the other station.


There is at least one in O (1/48) scale: O-Scale Brown Hootersville Water Tower Petticoat Junction Miniature 1/ – Gold Rush Bay

HAHA! I just learned something! I always thought that tower held drinking water. It never occurred to me that steam locomotives need regular access to water. I presumed steam engines conserved water in a closed loop and all the stuff coming out the stack was waste from combustion of coal and wood.

The linked model is fun but rather crude. The water chute, in particular, looks like it needs a lot of detail work. Those pictures are probably enough to scratch build a better one out of plastic or wood. I live in Northern California and wonder if the prototype still exists within reach of a long drive.

That layout is really neat. My mother’s father, who I never met, collected trains, as does a good friend of mine. Unfortunately, I do not have enough room to build anything similar.

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Concur. However, some of their models look good. I bought their HO light house (no longer listed although the N lighthouse is):

Amazing model, the facade slips off to reveal a full interior featuring beds, wall hangings, kitchens, everything. All a single 3D printed part. How I will paint the inside of the covered porches through the railing and other structural parts, it will test patience. Gold Rush Bay has a few others I want to try, including printed passenger car interiors.

I certainly sympathize with lack of space for a layout. However, depending on what you would like for a layout, depending on scale you can have a nice one with only say 3 foot by one foot. In England, there’s a lot of shelf layouts and fiddle yards. They’re just short lengths of layout, the fiddle yard being off-layout being where you can store your trains, and then run them along the track, i.e., “the main stage”, where you can simulate switching and loading and unloading a passengers and anything else. Often very simple affairs with only one main line and a siding for trains to pass each other. Also being a small layout, it saves you humongous amounts of aggravation with wiring and track cleaning and other maintenance. And you can create some brilliantly detailed scenery and structures. They are also easy to store. I have one made on a 2 ft by 4 ft piece of 2 inch extruded foam. Very light. It has two main lines and a crossing to a branch, with a single turnout and a single slip switch. Lots of room for adding buildings and scenery. Switching potential, as well.

Bench work of extruded foam gained popularity back in, I think, the 90s, and whether you use that or some of the other lightweight materials of today, there are people who even design their layouts to be hung up on the wall. There are even layouts built in garages, that can be hoisted up to the ceiling to make room for the automobiles after you’re done running your trains. I don’t know the biggest one that I’ve ever heard of but they can be bigger than several 4’x8’ sheets of plywood.

The lighthouse you linked looks wonderful. Many years ago, I made a point of visiting lighthouses during camping trips along the coast of California. If I ever build a train or village layout, that is exactly the sort of building I would seek to include.

Last month I began sculpting terrain pieces for dioramas or gaming or…something? I also bought a bunch of birch coffee stirrers and popsicle sticks for making buildings, chests, crates, fences, wagons, and similar items. My eventual goal is to construct small dioramas in 1/35 or 1/60 scale, including some buildings, sized to fit a display case. Come to think of it, there is a landing in my house currently devoid of…anything. It could easily house a table measuring 2’ by 6’. Hmm.

If I may, where do people who build model train sized buildings obtain plans? My modest efforts to find instructions for making scale buildings and wagons have not yielded much useful information.

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Sorry I did not find this question earlier. I’m going to bed now but tomorrow I will send you information. In short, there are many books, and all of the model railroad magazines that I’ve ever seen well occasionally have drawings of buildings to scale. So messy have them every month, some occasionally. If you go to some of the railroad historical organizations, a lot of them have digitized the actual architectural blueprints that railroads used. Depending on what you want to model, and era, look up the narrow gauge gazette. Those are usually filled with two or three building drawings per issue.

Or info tomorrow.

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Here are a few sources to look into.

White River Productions put out a very good book a few years ago about 21 structure ideas (it was reviewed on Railroad modeling but before the new server, and the original railroad modeling archives have not been restored by the site master), they include prototype and scale drawings:

And a new one:

Some links were removed as they are not sanctioned by the proprietary owners, and I do not want any intellectual piracy or copyright infringement on this site.


Thank you very much for providing all that information! Having spent a few hours exploring the provided links, I now understand this rabbit hole runs very deep and that the model building, train, and fantasy gaming hobbies are heavily interrelated.

Anyway, thank you for bringing up this topic. I’ve decided to try building a fantasy version of Petticoat Junction featuring a European style tavern and inn with an adjacent water tower. I also love the idea of building a train that runs through an underground cave system full of monsters, sort of like the Rocket Railroad of Ming the Merciless.

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@Damraska , sounds inspired. Will you post photos of your progress?

Also, I think you said you are working on scenery. Show us some?

A few months back I started a thread in the Fantasy and Science Fiction forum and put all my diorama type stuff there.

Damraska’s Fictional Projects

Right now, it is mostly fantasy pieces but that will change in the near future. My interests cross a lot of boundaries. :slightly_smiling_face:

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