MODELING: Old Gas Stations

Service stations were a fixture in every small town and along the highway.  Yes, today we have gas stations with little to no service provided.   Since I model in the 1950s my focus will be on stations that were in operation during this period.

If you do a search on Google you will find a wide array of photos of past and present gas stations.  My search is constrained by geographical bounds which will further define the brands of gasoline sold.   In my era there were still a lot of individual companies selling and making gasoline.

I will share with you some of my favorites before I get to the model and construction.  Hopefully one or more of the photos inspires you to build something.


The Associated Oil Company was a refiner and marketer of gasoline products.   They merged with Tidewater Oil and marketed under the brand of Flying A.   The company operated a sizeable fleet of tank cars well into the 1950s.   This particular building was a typical design found in California and Washington.  It was made of metal with faceted walls in the rear that form a half circle.

The gas pumps are the original hand pump style.  The Back Shop offered a very nice model of this style in brass.  Wiseman Model Services  still offer the kit but with white metal casting.  Berkshire Valley Models is a good source for gas pumps, oil racks and other bits and pieces for a gas station in 1/4″ scale.

This Association station is the History Park in Kelley Park San Jose (CA) has this building on display along with other historic structures from the area.  They have over 32 old structures to visit.  It is worth the visit.   Be mindful that San Jose traffic can be challenging during the week at peak hours.

Here is an excellent example of an early metal and glass service station.  It was located in San Francisco.  I puchased the photo years ago in an antique store.  There wasn’t any date to fix the time period.

Mike O’Connell created a wonderful kit for a period service station years ago.  The kit was and is a benchmark for detail and appeal.   I remember building the kit nearlyt 40 years ago.   Warner Clark built the model shown below.   All of the details provided with the original kit are still available from Berkshire Valley Models.

I like the metal construction of these period structures but I am leaning towards a wood or stucco building.  The old Shell station located in Pleasanton, CA  is a strong candidate.   The stucco and mission tile roof has a ton of charm.

Another aspect of service stations would be which style pump you choose.  The pump can help define the era.   While some of the old style pumps hung around into the 1960s, they were replaced with a more modern design that didn’t require the attendant to hand pump the gas out of the underground tanks.



This was a very early type gas pump that can still be found in museums and private collections.  The glass top was calibrated to show the number of gallons available to transfer to your auto.  There is a lever on the side that is used to pump the gas up to the glass vessel.   Simple and effective that was impervous to modern day power outages.  Maybe would could use this in California.  The photo was taken in Plymouth, CA near one of the many wine producing regions in the state.




A more modern pump is like this one Jim Zwernmann captured in Texas.  The glass globe was illuminated along with the display panel.   This would create an attractive feature for your structure.   Jim is a connoissuer of old pumps having a few in his collection.





The Texaco pump has lots of brand markings.  This pump was made by Tokheim which was one of the largest supplier of this equipment to the retail fuel dispensers.











I have a few more designs to show you before the selection and construction starts.   So stay tuned for the next installment.




9 thoughts on “MODELING: Old Gas Stations

      • Michael Gross has the best way so far. It was in an MR article. Apply Durham’s to the surface, let it almost dry, then gentle tap at it with your finger. Pelle Soberg uses spray adhesive and very fine ballast. I can’t make either work.

      • Michael Gross’s method created a coarse stucco. Most residential applications would be smoother like the Soberg method. You can talc applied to a slow drying paint like an enamel. The talc can be applied using an old nylon stocking like pantyhose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.