For some reason, the new South River Modelworks Spencer Paper Box Co. and the recent FOS Ludlow Building kits just seemed to belong together. I’m not sure if it was the similar sized structures or what, but I knew that they were a set destined to be joined. And now they are. Sit back and enjoy a tour of Jim Lucas and I ( Gregg Wenzl ), latest creation, the Ludlow-Spencer Toy Company, a western in-town factory built on a sloped setting.

All photos and comments by Gregg Wenzl

John Ludlow owned a prosperous retail toy store, a business he wanted to grow. It had a near perfect location in town, adjacent to Cooper's Cafe and Martin's Barbershop. (The FOS Ludlow Building kit, with a toy store located in place of the vacuum repair and cigar store businesses.)

John Lucas had a friend, Herman Spencer, who owned a wood and metal fabricating mill just across the river.

(The main mill from the SRM Spencer kit, with the basement removed as more fitting of a west coast structure.

Water discharge piping was added to the Spencer mill structure.)

The Spencer mill building was their base for manufacture and assembly of various toys. Raw materials of wood, steel, textiles and machined parts, as well as toys awaiting shipment can be found on the docks. (The mill dock was extended and additional backside windows and a company billboard were added.)

Together, the retail merchant Ludlow and the manufacturer Spencer combined their diverse retail and manufacturing experience to form the Ludlow-Spencer Toy Company.

They created and displayed a dozen new products, (bikes, wood educational toys and play toys) at the International Toy Fair in New York City, generating more orders than they could fill and guaranteeing the success of their newly formed enterprise.

The always-busy Ludlow toyshop became even busier, as people traveled miles to see the latest toys. (Many custom toy company ads and signs created and used.)

The new toy company offices were located in the Ludlow Building, upstairs. Space for future expansion was made into apartments. (This building was painted a natural wood color, more fitting for this western setting. Additional windows and a billboard were added to the back of this Ludlow structure.)

The old mill office was sublet to Augies Smoke Shop, a place the workers frequently visit

A pedestrian bridge was added to give the workers an easy access between the mill to the offices and store.

This bridge connected differing floors to compensate for the sloping terrain

Across the street sits Morrison's Market.

 This is the Tedeschi Market structure from the SRM Spencers kit, renamed.

The roof was modified to tar and gravel and the N.E. type tower was removed, to westernize the structure.

The side billboard was changed to match the new market name.)

On the uphill side of the market sits Risky's Bar.

 (This is the Shuges Bar structure from the SRM Spencer's kit, named more appropriately for a bar out west).

These two businesses, coupled with the cafe, barbershop, toy and smoke shops make for a bustling commercial area and an enjoyable work location for the toy company employees.

This build was another exercise in westernizing structures and creating a town scene on a slope where differing elevations could be used to better showcase the individual buildings. Each of the South River Modelworks Spencer's kit structures and the FOS Ludlow kit building were easily converted to fit my west coast theme. They will look great on my layout, complimenting the other structures in the town of Diablo Falls. Jim and I hope you like this Ludlow-Spencer Toy Company diorama as much as we do.

In truth it is the dreaming, or more acurately day-dreaming, that is the genesis for this and all my builds. When I first decided to build a kit I create a word document to capture all my notes and ideas I may want to include in the design and build. For instance, my high level design thoughts (build goals) for this one included:
· The build will be on a grade, along a rising, curving road.
· Showcase/Good view of front of the market
· Showcase/Good view of the bars front entrance
· Showcase/Good view of Augies Smoke Shop
· Showcase/Good view of Ludlow storefront
· Showcase Spencer main mill front with many windows.
· Tie the Ludlow and Spencer buildings together via breezeway over water
· Placement of the mill water feed and gate upstream from mill and discharge pipes downstream.

I also had a running list of mini-scene ideas, some of which I used, others I did not but still may. Here is that list:
- Add a fountain in front of the Ludlow bldg.
- hosing down sidewalk/windows
- fire hydrant with water and kids/dog playing
- advertisement balloon on string
- tug-a-war game
- dog on long leash
- throwing rope down from roof
- filling radiator of car
- men wiring telephone or power lines
- putting up billboard on Ludlow bldg?
- replace Ludlow office sign
- add pipes on back of bar
- gate/sign in front of Spencer mill with logo/signage?
- “welcome to Diablo Falls ….” Sign over street using ropes
- a box of toy parts has dropped off the dock.
- uncrating bicycle frames
- a go-cart race?
- many balloons on strings
- add a boy fishing from bridge
- a tree house?
- kite flying contest?
- dropping tools down from roof by rope

As you can see, dreaming is very important. Just remember to take notes.

This shot shows a couple of the ideas mentioned (The detailing is not finished on this side alley, but is still a good view.)


Jim Lucas and I ( Gregg Wenzl ) had much enjoyment out of this build. Regarding the history factor, this is essentially the Fisher-Price Toy Company story (with names changed to meet my layout needs). Fisher-Price started in 1930, when Herman Fisher, Irving Price and Helen Schelle teamed their manufacturing and retailing talent to launch a new toy company. They made a big splash at the 1930 International Toy Fair in New York City with sixteen new whimsical and magical wooden toys, and the rest is history.

The pedestrian bridge (made from an N-Scale bridge) added much. I gave this area a country/nature feel, an escape from the city, although if you look closely at that one tree on the back of the Ludlow building, the local kids have added a tree house.

Structure placement is very important.

For this build I started with a couple design sketches, then selected the one

In this case I needed more than the sketch to convince myself that this build would work, so I spent 2-3 hours making a mockup out of paper. (I was in my China hotel room one evening last fall and used what I had available: paper, tape, a pencil and a small metric rule to scale with. It beat watching the local TV shows.) I made the structures first.

Next, I made the base, roughing out the slope and design (I varied the slope some, then chose the one I liked best)

Here is what the mock-up looked like (two of several views created/photographed).

This diorama is 19.5" x 24"/27" (being a little longer on the Ludlow back side, where the track angles away).


There are a lot of details packed into this one. Regarding entering contests, neither of us have ever done that. My feeling is that every build has something great to learn from, so the thought of a contest where one build is judged verses another has limited value or interest. I would much rather see "showcases" verses contests.  Jim Lucas and I ( Gregg Wenzl ) goal on this diorama, was to try to make it as good as our Houligan's build, another in-town type diorama that turned out great and will be near this one. As it turns out, this one may be better in many ways, but I am still very fond of Houligans.

Regarding the fire hydrant scene, it was fairly easy to make. Just squeeze a few "strings" of clear silicon on a piece of cling wrap, as well as a few flat "plops". Choose a string of the right diameter and length and glue to the hydrant. Choose a couple plops and glue to the street around the children's legs, then glue the other end of the string to a plop so it looks right. Next, spread some CA glue around the area to secure your work and make the wet pavement. For a final touch I paint Envirotex over the silicon to make it look wet. Here is another shot.

You must first determine structure location, but even after those are set the scenes and details can run you in circles. The truth is that these in-town/city scenes just never feel truly finished and you can spend forever moving, changing and adding details. What works best for me is to think of the details in layers, placing the critical details first, then the next level and so on.

When placing a particular layer of details/scenes, I move them around a bit, sometimes taking a photo of each position, then decide what looks best.

This method reduces the indecision/pondering time down to minutes, instead of days. So you can take a scene that starts out looking like this:

and have it ending up looking like this

Creating builds, with a plan on how they will add something special to the layout is fun and challenging. Last summer, I stumbled onto the cascading water idea at Glenn Falls Locks and decided I would find a way to use this approach on my layout.

The cascading water (although wider and less steep) is incorporated into this build