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Scroll Down- Banta Apothecary

Doc Holiday’s Apothecary, aka R.E.C. Thompson Investigations


Let’s get into the Apothecary. The Apothecary is another fine kit from Banta ModelWorks. I decided to build it because a good friend of mine likes it. Mostly because he wanted a structure on my layout that was named after him, and he thought the Apothecary would be a good choice. I tend to name structures after members of my family and friends. In some cases, just people that I know. The style of the building is not a great fit for northern New Mexico and having an apothecary in my small town of Chamita in 1947 would be out of place. Of course, it isn’t all that likely that there would be a private investigator in Chamita either. Artists (painters) often use the phrase artistic license to justify how and what they paint. I justify what and how I model by saying modeler’s license. Anyway, I decided to make the building into the office and home of Private Investigator R.E.C. Thompson. 


Of the 14 Banta building/structure kits that I've built (out of 23 available) so far on a 1 to 10 scale of difficulty, if I had built this kit totally following the directions, I would say that this one rates a 4.5. I recently did a review of the Ophir Depot. I would rate that one a 7 out of 10. This rating applies only to Banta kits. To put the difficulty scale in perspective, a Banta outhouse would be a 1. Even though I haven’t built one I would have to say that Bill’s Ridgway Pro Patria Mill would be a 10. Thinking back, I would say that Bill’s F/G kits tend to be in the 3 to 5 range with a few exceptions.


I need not remind you that Bill says to read the directions then toss them out and build it your way. While I did not toss out the directions, I definitely built it my way. So, if you want a step-by-step review of how to build this kit, I’m afraid that this review may not meet your needs. I made significant changes to the appearance of the building. If you look at the photos below you may not even recognize the building as the Apothecary. If you want to know how you can modify a Banta kit to meet your needs, read on.


How I built it my way:

  1. You will immediately see from the photos that I covered the side and back walls with individual wood boards. I liked the idea that Bill used stain rather than paint for all but the front wall. Let me point out that what I’m about to say is a super nit. When basswood sheets are stained rather than painted you can see the wood grain through the stain. It becomes obvious that the siding is not made up of individual boards. Yes, with some effort you can cover up part of the wood grain. You can also paint the walls or use strip wood over the siding. In this case, as in so many of my other structures that I have built, I used coffee stir sticks for exterior siding. See review on the Ophir Depot for info on coffee stir sticks.

    1. I used a razor saw to distress each stir stick. I then stained each wood stick with a grayish wood stain. After they were dry, I used a reddish-brown powdered pigment over the stained wood. At first, I cut each piece to size with scissors, mostly because I was too lazy to find one of my several scale lumber chop saws/miter saws. After completing one side I decided to find a chop saw. It took all of two minutes to find it. I know, don’t say anything.

    2. I stained the exterior walls with a dark gray wash, applied contact cement to the wall and then used Goo to attach each board to the wall. It was easy to make sure that my siding remained parallel to the base and top of the walls because of the etched wall siding. 

      1. Using 8’ long wood siding was a little problematic. Trying to use wood siding in increments of 16” was also problematic. Why? Because the location of the doors and windows did not allow for increments of 16” for the siding boards.

  2. I went with concrete stem walls for the foundation. Why? Just to be different. Would it be prototypical in the 1920’s and 30’s in northern New Mexico? Not common but not unheard of, especially if the structure was built in the Rio Grande or Rio Chama flood plain.

  3. I also decided not to go with all the ornate gingerbread. Why? It just does not fit the type of structures that were built anywhere near the part of New Mexico that I model. Carpenter Gothic style with all the gingerbread was very common in the 1860’s and 70s and beyond. If my railroad were in Denver Colorado, as well as many other parts of Colorado and the US, it would be fine. 

  4. One more thing. As you can see from the photos, R. Thompson’s building looks rather old and rundown. I tend to weather the heck out of structures. But also, unfortunately, private investigator Thompson is not doing well financially even though he gets $25 per day plus expenses for his services. His office is also his home.

  5. The ornate upper porch rail was just a little too ornate for me. It was kind of a shame that I didn’t use it. As you can see from the photos, I went with horizontal rails and added vertical posts.

  6. I added a backdoor porch platform and placed stairs to the lower front porch on the front rather than the side.

  7. Using MDF substructure, vertical stir sticks for siding, a Banta window, and a scratch-built door, I built an extension on the building. I would have used a Banta door, but I could not find one in my box of Banta stuff. The roof has stir sticks glued on MDF with some kind of weird roofing material glued on top of the stir sticks. The roof looks like it’s in very sad shape. I’m sure that it leaks. Thompson needs to get a client soon.

  8. I decided to change the building front when I was about ready to install the roof. Not good planning on my part. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I plan as I go and model by trial and error. I used a razor saw to cut off the front wall roof extensions that extend above the roof and added two rectangular pieces of MDF to the roof. See photos.

  9. As I did with the CONOCO gas station, I went with a corrugated roof. In this case I eased up on the rust.

  10. One of the most difficult things for me to do was to come up with a suitable sign. So, I gave up and asked Chipper Thompson, aka R.E.C. Thompson, who is a Taos artist, if he would be interested in hand “painting” a sign. He agreed. The slogan, ”The Right – Reverend – Colonel” seems a little too southern for northern New Mexico but what the heck. My RR is fictious and it’s all about having fun. The large sign on the right side of the building, like the sign on the front of the building, was all done by hand. The big sign justifies the right reverend colonel.


Things I noticed and other comments that you might actually care about:

  1. The back porch roof has the lines to locate the placement of studs on the wrong side.

  2. The front porch roof rafters were oversized.

  3. Add the front door and window frames before you add the upper porch and four supports columns. 

  4. All the parts fit extremely well, and very little sanding was required. I even test-fitted the parts that I didn’t use.

  5. If you choose to deviate from the instructions this is a good kit with which to do it. The basic core structure of the building lends itself to doing it your way.

  6. It seems that too few large-scale model railroads have houses on their layouts. This kit would make a great home for your railroad superintendent or whomever. It has the porch chairs that give it the homey feel.

  7. It probably took me twice as long as it should have to assemble this kit. I’m guessing that it took over 40 hours. An experienced modeler that has built Banta F/G scale kits before could probably do it in half that time. Hmmm, not that I have anyway of knowing that. If any of you have assembled this kit, I would be interested in knowing how long it took you to build, and I would appreciate it if you would send me a few photos. I might even put them on my website.

Coffee stir sticks stained gray and with reddish brown powdered pigment added.

Wall with siding added. Corrugated roof added rather than tar paper roof. The little yellow sign says- $25 Per Day Plus Expenses. No job too big or too small.

Wall stained gray with contact cement added prior to adding stir stick siding. Note the wood grain.

MDF added to slots in roof.

Storage shed added to side of building.

Windows with black out curtains. Roofing added. Note the sorry shape of the shed roof.

Modified upper front wall.

Back of building with added porch

Steps added to front of building. Upper porch railing changed

Sign added to front of building. Investigator Thompson waiting for clients.

Sign added to left side of building.

In the process of placing the building.

I didn't take a good photo of the sign. It was slightly warped, so I had to flatten it before mounting.

Building the kit following the directions.


Responding to emails I received regarding my last two kit reviews:

  1. Most recently after doing the CONOCO gas station review regarding the lack of “detail” in large scale kits I received several comments. While it is true that fine scale F/G kits, such as Banta’s Modelworks, do not come with lots of detail parts such as crates, barrels, roof vents, cans, and other exterior castings, and that the kits are typically of relatively small buildings/structures. From my perspective, there are good reasons for this.

    • For the heck of it let’s say that the average cost of a Banta F/G scale building is $250. If it were to include the type and amount of detail of a super detailed HO kit it would likely cost $750 or more.

    • While it is true that Banta has three relatively large structures in F/G scale, the Ophir Depot which costs $650, the Sargents Roundhouse that can costs ~$900 for three stalls, and the Pro Patria Mill which costs $2,600, most of Banta’s F/G scale structures represent moderately sized buildings. From my perspective there are a few good reasons for that.

      • I assume that Bill wants to keep the cost of his structures within reason.

      • Most indoor large-scale railroads are not suited for extremely large structures.

      • Making large scale kits with a laser cutter is far more time consuming and takes considerably more material.

      • Making large industrial complexes that include several buildings would not be practical for most indoor F/G scale railroads.

      • Super detailing the interior of the Sargents Roundhouse for example would costs well over $1,000. I’m basing that on what it cost to detail the interior of my engine facility.

    • ​​ 3-D printing F/G scale details are not inexpensive. For example, Banta’s gas pump costs $45.

    • Many model railroads, typically those in smaller scales, often have extensive city scenes. Large scale railroads, both indoor and outdoor tend not to. As said previously, Banta kits are not designed for extended stays outdoors. Based on what little information I’ve been able to find between magazines and the internet, most privately owned large-scale indoor railroads are narrow gauge and are contained within 500 square feet. There are a few that are 1000 square feet or more. The indoor portion of my RR is in a 900 square foot building. You can only have so many buildings in 900 square feet, especially if you model sparsely populated areas such as northern New Mexico and you want to be able to operate trains and not just run them.


Off on another tangent:

Unless you have time to waste, stop reading here. 

I was asked how probable it would have been for a private investigator to exist in Northern New Mexico in 1947. In the United States, Allan Pinkerton established a national private detective agency in 1850. By 1940, over 100 years later, there were numerous private investigators in the state of New Mexico. Private investigators performed services ranging from undercover investigations and detection of crimes to plant protection and armed security. 

I decided to use blackout curtains in the windows. No, New Mexico did not require blackout curtains during WW2. But Thompson is quite paranoid and is concerned that he may be spied on by communists as he has been hired on a couple of occasions by the Los Alamos Lab. His primary client is the D&RGW RR.


Just for the heck of it, a little info on the use of blackout curtains during WW2 in the United States. Since the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government was concerned about coastal air attacks in the continental US during the war years. Many west coast communities were required to use blackout curtains, paint their windows, or cover them with cardboard. Unfortunately, along the Atlantic coast, the lack of a coastal blackout requirements served to show silhouettes of Allied ships leaving US ports, and thus exposed vessels to German submarine attack. Coastal communities resisted the imposition of a blackout curtains, citing potential damage to tourism. The result was a disastrous loss of shipping. Rather stupid, don’t you think?


If you made it this far, raise your hand. Thanks for reading this "how not to follow the directions" review.

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