The steam era railroad scene included a number of non-descript buildings that supported operations and maintenance. The privy or water closet was much needed structure in certain locations. Rural depots lacking indoor plumbing would have a W.C. located away from the building. Yards and areas where maintenance shed were located would also likely the location of this essential function. Your favorite railroad often had a standard design that would have been replicated in many locations around the system.
Railroads developed standards for section houses and signal and telephone maintenance crews and other functions like the storage of lamp oil and coal. The structure shown above is a model of oil and coal storage shed that would have been located at a junction or a significant operating point. It would have supplied lamp oil for switch stands, possibly train order signals and caboose markers as well as lamps used in the depot. The coal would resupply caboose or depot stoves. Some maintenance structures also had a heating stove to provide a minimal of comfort for the workers.
Rick Leach built these two oil and coal storage sheds. The Northern Pacific had a basic design that could be scaled to fit the location and expected need. Rick built the painted shed for a Mainline Modeler article. He used styrene as his primary material.
This view shows the siding used on the coal bin and oil storage area. Rick took this photo.
This is yet another variation on the basic Northern Pacific design. This shed was at Dixon, Montana.
Storage sheds, section car sheds and tool houses provide some interesting modeling subjects. While the above shed is in a state of disrepair, it does show a board and batten version of the more common drop or novelty siding found on NP structures.
Rick built this section car house and privy based upon NP standards and actual buildings in Cle Elum, WA. The Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association has plans of many of the roads structures online at their website. They also offer laser-cut wood kits for many of the smaller sheds and such.
The idea of using standard railroad designs for your layout adds to the realism. Standard designs and paint schemes will go a long way towards setting the railroad scene.