The Barger Farm

In one of those stranger-than-fiction events, it turns out that the farm belonging to the great, great, etc grandfather of my wife has been preserved in the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, VA.

"The Museumís Botetourt County farm was a product of a heavy influx of settlers of German descent from the northern Valley after the American Revolution. Tax records and deeds dating from the 1790s show German families were living on Little Pattersonís Creek, the farmís original location. This farm shows a later period in Valley history when the cultures that originally settled the Valley, the English, Scotch-Irish, and German, had lived side-by-side for several generations. Together, they created an American culture through sharing traditions, creating new ones, and, eventually, through intermarriage.
The Museumís farm was built by a family of German descent named Barger. The grandfather of the farmís builder, John Barger settled in Rockbridge County in the 1790s, and his father moved south to Botetourt sometime later. In 1832, five years after his marriage, John Barger bought 187 acres along Little Pattersonís Creek. Barger began work on his house in 1835, a date establish by dendrochronology, a technique of determining the age of log sections by an analysis of their rings. By 1839, property tax records for Barger indicate that he was building supporting to his farm at a rapid rate. (CQ)
The Museumís American farmhouse is built of logs. Its original part is the two-story section, with one large room down-stairs, one room above, and an end chimney. In the 1840s, as the family grew and prospered, they purchased more land. They expanded their house by adding a kitchen with a room above, a cellar below for fruit and vegetable storage, and porches on the front and back. The house was covered with horizontal siding, or weatherboard, to protect the logs. At some point in the 19th century partitions were added inside to create a downstairs bedroom and an upstairs hallway."

What they don't say is that John apparently was a less-than-successful businessman and the family eventually lost the farm.

Melody had visited the museum a number of years ago. I thought a model of the farmhouse would make an interesting addition to the garden railway. I sent a few emails to the folks in Staunton to see if they could send me pictures for the project. They ignored the requests. Isn't it amazing how organizations that rely on public funding can be so callous -- sort of like a Class 1 railroad!   So, we ventured down that way in October '05. (Our traditional fall getaway.) Of course, the Cass Railroad just happened to be on the way! For some reason she took the railroad pictures. I took pictures of the farmhouse.

I used the ScalePrint software to make a full-size picture of the building's front, and decided that a little selective compression would be in order. So, armed with copious amounts of Precision Products foam core board and about $150 worth of castings and wood from Garden Texture I plunged in.  Work had to be done on the QT as I wanted it to be a surprise for her. The hot tub in the basement proved to be the only flat surface that wasn't cluttered!

Construction photos follow. Target completion date is April 21.

Using the print, I laid out the four sides plus the interior wall where the building goes from 1 to 2 story. Openings were cut for the doors and windows. Sprayed the exterior flat black, thinking that any gaps in the siding would be less obvious against black, rather than white background.

Plan on using MicroMark "grey it" for the singles and siding. The windows and doors appear to have been light blue at one point. Will try to replicate that.



Used Grandt Line 3931 windows but cut off one row of panes to make the 2nd floor windows. Cast the doors from resin as I couldn't find anything suitable commercially.

Scraps of redwood were used for reinforcement along the inside edges of all walls. This is the basic structure, less roof.  Will probably put curtains on the windows. Don't plan on furnishing the inside or using interior lighting.. One of the doors will need to be removable as a smoke generator will go at the bottom of the chimney.

Porch floors were pre-assembled. At left is underside showing support framing. Finished product is above. Approximate size 19 1/2 x 4.

Siding was applied over window and door openings. Holes to mark corners were drilled thru from the back, then sawed out with one of those deadly little saw blades that go on a Dremel tool. "Cutting up a body?" asked the guy at the hobby shop.

End view shows how siding overlaps.

Siding applied above on all sides and ends of porch roof.  At right shows end with windows installed. There's no finish at this point. The reflection is simply from the camera flash.


At left, smoke generator sits on building floor, held in alignment by scraps of board. Bell is from a water bottle, glued to chunk of PVC water pipe, glued to a cut down piece of 2 x 3 with a 7/8 hole drilled thru it. Smoke generator access will be via one of the building's doors. To refill the smoke unit, I "simply" remove the door and the smoke unit slides to the edge of the building. At least what's what is says in the fine print.

At right is the "acid test" - smoke does actually come out of the chimney!

Doors and windows have been installed except for the smoke generator access. Porch floor glued into place. This is the back of building.

Front view. Siding has had a light coat of the gray stain applied with an air brush. Door handles are Ozark box car hardware.

Front porch completed with railings and shingles applied.

I trimmed the decorative top from some pieces of the Model Power fencing I bought for the marble orchard.

Back porch likewise. The real farmhouse does have different types of railing on front and back porches.

This was the start of the shingles on the porch roof. Started on an edge, built up the rows then went across.

Moving along, if you look closely you can see the tape I used to keep the shingles flat and pressed down until the glue dried.

More fiddling with the smoke unit. At left shows the piece of brass rod that I threaded and fastened to the end of the unit.

At right shows the arrangement  with the unit under the bell and the brass rod leading to the back of the door. Pull the door, and the smoke unit slides out for refill.

Finished project below. The shingles were a bit time-consuming to say the least! The porch roof has Garden-Texture's small shingles, the main roof uses their large shingles and the one-story addition used the large shingles narrowed by 1/8". Happy to say the project was finished on time and under budget. Now I can use the hot tub again!!

Front - note urchin in left window.

Left end.

Rear - smoke unit behind door on left.

Right end (obviously!)


In reality the building spends more time in the living room than out on the railroad. Consequently the smoke unit has been largely unused.