There it was Christmas and I got a present that I didn’t have any use for, much less any room for it, on my train layout. But my wife thought that the Ertl County Fair set was just so cute, so all that you can say is “Thank you dear”. After years of being stored in the basement, I finally made the decision to expand my layout. Of course not wanting to hurt my wife’s feelings, I added the County Fair to the expansion plan. The “out of the box” set is mainly white. You might call it vanilla or just plain boring. It is supplied with some stickers and a number of small accessories. Not exactly a fine scale kit but none the less I did feel that the word “potential” could be applied to the product. Well who would of thought it. I’m actually happy that she bought it for me.
First of all I started working on the Ferris wheel. I made the choice not to use any of the furnished stickers. At the outset, the wheel frame was painted silver. Besides the painting and placing 33 paying customers in the seats, I drilled holes in the seat sides and placed a styrene-restraining bar to meet OSHA safety requirements for the passengers. I purchased gold colored rhinestones at my local hobby shop for 5 cents each and used them on the Ferris wheel to simulate lights. Many were placed on the wheel supports and others in the molded pockets on the framework. The paint, a little styrene, one hundred rhinestones and 36 little people did the job. With a slight modification to the ticket booth, a miniature control panel and park attendants, I was finished and off to start on the Merry-Go-Round. This project offered other challenges. Paint, paint, more paint, and more rhinestones plus a little patience were required. Some of the supplied stickers were used and the remainder of the ride was repainted with the focus on matching some of the colors in the stickers. The horses were red and blue. Have you ever seen a Merry-Go-Round with any of the horses the same colors, well neither have I. Painting all 12 of the horses, saddles, bridles and other gear and making all of them different was just the beginning. The obscene modifications that I had to make on MTH figurines to get them to sit on those horses were a real chore but the mission was accomplished. All is well that ends well, with the exception of what I had to do to those poor little people.
The major rides having been completed it was on to the exposition center. I added a styrene back to the structure and made a couple of modifications to the grandstand seating. Changing the judge’s box and adding a total of 53 fans in the stands, flagpoles, a copula, paint and posters really added a degree of character to the structure. The small carnival booths, which were included, were modified slightly to add height. With the addition of some paint and utilizing some of the provided stickers, their appearance was improved.
Ertl does not provide much fencing with the set. With the help of some friends and scrounging around at a few swap meets, I was able to come up with enough fencing for the entire fair grounds. This additional fencing enhances the whole county fair facade and makes it an entity in itself.
As Paul Harvey would say: “And now for the rest of the story”. Fairs are for kids. In other areas of my layout I had the miniature Hallmark, peddle car, Christmas tree ornaments. I had removed the hooks and inserted Circus Craft children in all of them. Now if you take a plastic coffee can lid, a clown cake decoration, a bottle cap that I had lying in the basement, some styrene strips, and a little paint, what you end up with is a Kiddie car ride. After that take some Ertl fencing, bend it, buy some little horses (two in a package) for 49 cents a pack, paint them and painstakingly add some more of those MTH little people and what you have is a Pony ride. Add a detailed Plasticville barn (minus the silo) along with some fencing, some small animals and a few children, the result is a nice little petting zoo. A Plasticville farm implement shed serves as a dual carnival booth by adding height with styrene strips, adding a partition and front counter tops. Knock over the cans or pop the balloons and win a prize.
I scratch-built the ticket booths, added turnstiles and a food stand. In most of the buildings that I kit-bash or scratch-build, I utilize windows and doors from broken Plasticville structures. It’s less time consuming and they actually look pretty good. I made a lemonade stand from one of those lemon concentrate squeeze bottles. I cut it down in height, inserted a baby jar lid for a base and used Popsicle sticks and styrene for the service window and rear door. (The squeeze bottle lemonade stand idea was copied from someone else’s layout. Sad but true.) The K-Line newsstand when fully detailed and painted is a great addition to anyone’s layout.
What does every event held outside have a shortage of, Porta-Potties that’s what? That translates to more than one, which means that you just have to construct a lot of them. They can be made for under $1.00 each. I used a piece of wood 3/4” square, a 6” plastic ruler (59 cents), a package of Evergreen .015 thick by .125 wide styrene stripping and a piece of tubing for the vent. I used the following procedure to construct them.
Step (1) Cut the wood approximately 1-1/2” in height. Step (2) Glue styrene strips to wood sides making corners to three sides and add three cross pieces. One at the bottom, one about a 1/8” from the top then one in the middle. This gave a molded reinforced appearance. Step (3) Make the roof from the ruler cut about 15/16” square. (I used a ruler because it had a molded roof look.) Step (4) Make a base 15/16” square, wood or styrene. Step (5) Drill into the roof and add a short length of tubing for the vent pipe (Vent pipes are essential.) Step (6) Add any piece of styrene to the front for a door. This can be crafted however you like it. I used a ribbed material. A simple short piece of rod glued on the door can act as the handle. Step (7) I painted mine blue with a white door and roof. I used silver paint on the vent pipe, door handle and 1/8”areas on the three sides under the roof to represent vents. Since I already had some of the materials on hand, my actual cost was under 50 cents each. I fabricated six of them. (The six-inch ruler was the limiting factor.)
The fair wouldn’t be complete without picnic tables. One box of Atlas HO scale Stacked Mill Lumber along with a few 1/16” thick by 1/8” wide styrene strips will provide you will enough material to construct more picnic tables than you will need. The Atlas package contains a variety lumber sizes, I used the largest size. Four pieces made two tabletops with the attached seats
Other small enhancements like stickers from a craft store, small chains, small hand made detailed controllers for the rides and many other items made from “stuff” laying around in my basement, added to the upgrading of the original set.
All in all, the Ertl set cannot be compared to the more expensive animated circus rides and accessories that are currently on the market. However it acts as a serviceable conversation piece on my layout. I might add it was accomplished at a very minimal monetary investment. But then again, let’s not talk about the cost of the nearly 400 little people at the fair. Motorizing the rides in the future, maybe?