More scratch-built Diner models

When I posted the text and photos of the two scratch-built diner models I worked on (and finally finished) last month, I got an interesting comment from Philadelphia resident Phil Juska. Phil enjoyed seeing the images of my efforts and informed me he had recently completed a similar project. In fact, he had built a 1:24 scale model (1/2 inch for every foot) of the Miss Worcester Diner.

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Exterior view from left end of Phil’s model

Starting in October and finishing before Christmas, Phil did an amazing job of capturing the essence of the diner both inside and out. Using a combination of polystyrene and bass wood, Phil’s first effort in scratch-built modelling is simply tremendous!

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Interior of model with walls and roof removed for viewing

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Front view exterior of model

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Interior of model with walls and roof removed for viewing

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Interior of model

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Looking through left side window into the diner

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Interior of model with walls and roof removed for viewing

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One more interior shot

In Phil’s own words I will let him describe his creation…

Basswood of various thickness for the walls, roof, tables, booths, doors, windows (which go up and down), counter, cutting board (basswood strips glued together like a real cutting board), refrigerator, overhang and backbar.  Styrene for the grill, deep fryer, soda dispenser, coffee urn, and the sinks under the counter (not visible in the photos).  My main tool was an exacto knife with several different blades and lots of sandpapering.

The model is 14.5 inches long, not counting the two sets of steps, and 7 inches wide.  The roof is removable and the whole body (4 walls) can be lifted off the foundation.  The interior back wall is permanent.  The electric strip for the overhead interior lights is mounted on the outside of the back wall so it can still be removed.

The lower half of the interior wall, the floor and the front of the counter are pre-fab styrene sheets (over basswood) scored to look like tile.  For the walls and counter, I cut the styrene in strips for painting and then reassembled it on the walls.  Taping and painting did not give a precise enough line.

For the floor I painted the whole thing brown and then, using an exacto, scraped away the paint to make the white tiles.  Not exactly like the real thing, but close.  For the marble counter top, I printed a marble print sheet from the internet, decoupaged it to the counter and varnished it.

The stools are a finishing washer for the base, a scrapbook spacer for the post (these are threaded at one end so could be screwed right into the tile/basswood floor), two stainless washers and a wooden button, with the holes filled with wood filler, for the seat.

I purchased the coffee mugs, the cake, and the two food platters two in front of two of the diners.  I made everything else, including the figures.  One of the most enjoyable parts was creating the “scene” and making it as realistic as possible.

The diner was a Christmas gift for my brother and his wife.  He was a student at Holy Cross in the 60’s and the Miss Woo was one of his favorite places.  That’s them, circa 1965, in the booth.  He’s having his usual cheeseburger and his (future) wife is having her usual cup of tea.

The cook is reading the Boston Globe.  For my own amusement, I made the other two figures the “midnight watchman” and the “rotund waitress” from the classic Harry Chapin song, A Better Place To Be, one of my favorites.  I’m also a fan of photorealist painting so the little groupings of ketchup, mustard, sugars (a single silver sequin made a perfect top), salt, pepper and nabkin dispensers are my own tribute to the diner paintings of Ralph Goings.

Except for the Kennedy pic, which I added for 60’s flavor, the framed pictures on the overhang are exactly what’s in the diner photos I have, as are some of the signs (e.g hamburgers, hotdogs) on the end walls.

I asked Phil what motivated and inspired him to create this model and how he found Diner Hotline. He answered…

I’m from Philadelphia, PA.  I’ve always been a fan of diners…visiting a number in the Philadelphia area like Bob’s, Daddypop’s, Frazer Diner, Olga’s, Melrose and others with a nephew….and always thought the unique architecture would make a good subject for a model…and had often thought of doing the Miss Worcester because of the connection with my brother.

Not being an experienced modeler, I kept my eyes open for a kit I could use as the basic structure and then modify (kit bashing?).  Unable to find one, I just decided to try to figure it out myself.  I figured out the concept of “scale” and what scale I wanted to use, found some pictures and a floorplan online and I was on my way.

I have Richard Gutman’s Worcester Lunch Car Company book and used several pics from it for research in building my model. Many hours of research, experimentation and trial and error later, I had the Miss Worcester.  I really enjoyed the challenge, creativity and problem solving aspect of building a model from scratch…starting with nothing and ending up with a finished piece.

In researching my next piece I came across Ted Boardman’s pictures and his website.  I sent him a few pictures and he sent me the link to your article on scratch built diner models on Diner Hotline.


After Phil sent the photos of his model I decided to let my readers see these as well as my original first effort in scratch-built modelling. As I said in my earlier post showing the models I built of the Star Lite Diner and Cape Ann (Portside) Diner, these were smaller versions based on a large model I built in 1995 of the Star Lite Diner.
The newer ones were just exterior versions with attached buildings. The first model I built was much larger (approx. 30 inches long) and had a complete interior. This model was only the diner on a display base and no attached building or foundation, etc.
In my research for this model, I only had one exterior photo to go by. There was no interior layout drawing at my disposal at the time, only my memories of  the inside and my own knowledge of Worcester Lunch Cars. It was fortunate that the Cape Ann Diner still exists as it had a very similar interior with as I later learned some small changes.
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Exterior front view of large Star Lite Diner model
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Exterior front left view of large Star Lite Diner model
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Exterior front right view of large Star Lite Diner model
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Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model
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Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model
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Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model
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Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model
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Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model

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