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Old West - Leadwood City

Main Street, looking East. It's quiet.. Too darn quiet...
The back of the Won Hung Lo laundry, looking past the undertaker's towards Madame L'Amour's
Ahh, sepia-tone! When will the historians admit that in the past, everything really was just shades of brown?
The far end of Bridge Street, looking North.
(More pics at the bottom of the page - keep reading! click to enlarge.)

Leadwood is by far the biggest project I've ever completed (although I've had plenty of big ideas!)

It took over a year to design and build and cost approx $1500nzd to make.

In order to fit in as much detail as possible, it was necessary to glue everything down to just two 24"x48" (600mm x 1200mm) boards. The laundry and two pieces of fence between Madame L'Amour's and the General Store are the only pieces that lift out. These cover the join between the boards.

I use The Rules With No Name (Foundry Publications, by Bryan Ansell) to stage gunfight games. Under these rules, it quickly became aparrent that any number of fun games could be played without ever changing the terrain - so a 'fixed' table would not become boring.

With a random appearance chart to determine where characters emerge when their cards come up for the first time, there are fifty-eight possible entry points.

This was built on polystyrene and styrofoam, with the buildings constructed of foam-core board, balsa wood sheeting (for weatherboards, boardwalks and wooden shingles), bass wood (window frames, posts, railings, gallows), plastic boards, rods and strips (corrugated fences, lamp posts, water wheel), mini-corrugated card (tin roofs), acetate sheeting (windows and lanterns on lamp-posts), Woodland Scenics water effects and other materials (river, bushes, grass), DAS terracotta modelling clay (contouring and boulders), lots of PVA, lots of balsa cement and a very large amount of coffee.

I would be happy to discuss any of the techniques I used here. Please feel free to ask!

Thanks to Greg for the photos (above)
Miniatures painted by Greg Simmonds and Yours Truly.

MORE PICS FOLLOW: click the images to enlarge!

Townsfolk just can't help themselves, can they? The locals look on as Lefty Jones and Red shoot it out...

McFly and Brown's Hardware; Messrs Mincer and Packer - Tailors and Milliners; Palace Alley

R. Hermans - Guns and Ammunition
The General Store, the yard and Madame L'Amour's.Note the join in the boards. The long fence is a separate piece that drops in to cover it.

The town gallows, looking from Tannery Lane towards Main Street.

The view of the stables and corral from Bank Street. In the foreground, the side of George M. Leech, esq., Attorney.

The back of the saloon, looking from the graveyard.
Waterwheel, bridge and mule.

A view of the river.
The Laundry and Tannery in the distance, looking from the corner of Church Street and Main Street.
The yard beside the General Store and the stairs to Madame L'Amour's private entrance.
Chicken coop beside the tannery. It's quiet... Too darn quiet...
Trapper Jack hunts his quarry through Hooper's Lumberyard.
A wagon at the East end of Main Street.
The Claytons - Ma, Zeb, Pa and Jethro. Very genial folks when you get past the smell, the muzzle-loaders and the complicated family trees!
Arizona Frasier, Adam 'Cactus' Tucker and Jim 'Frontier' Shaw hold the crossroads at Hooper's Alley and Bridge Street.

Brother Matthew and Young Diggin' Tom survey the graveyard.

Albert Finch (irritating banker) and Maisy, outside Green Gables, at the North end of Church Street.
Ol' Diggin' Tom and Mule on the bridge.
Stonejaw Monroe, Apache Joe, Slim, Sixgun Tess and The Kid, just hangin' about outside the bank. Nothin' suspicious here...

Before Leadwood: 

These buildings were my first attempts - much brighter than Leadwood, in keeping with many of the illustrations in The Rules With No Name.

As stand-alone buldings, they allowed us to rearrange the town as we saw fit - but we never did! Hence the decision to make a set-piece town.

Pics by Greg Simmonds. Miniatures painted by Greg Simmonds and Yours Truly.

How Leadwood Began...

A few pics of the Leadwood project as it developed.

Just a quiet, undeveloped backwater... Styrofoam and Polystyrene sheets make the basic countours of the landscape. Note the notches in the ends of the boards - these lock-in to their cases so that the model cannot slide around.

Surveyors start planning the layout of the new town. As is typical with civil servants, they got a lot of it wrong - many buildings were relocated during construction.
Pa Clayton frowns as them darned tenderfoots putdown the foundations of the new town. Most of the bases are pinned to their actual destinations. Note the cut-off buildings at the edges of the boards. By placing these at odd angles to the edge, I avoided creating a look that was too 'square-on'. This is also the reason for the curving street, river and hill.

The beginnings of Hooper's Alley, behind the Palace Theatre. The river is lined with packing tape to create a liquid-proof membrane, and then painted with Gap Filler.

Foam-core bases pinned in place and ground texture painted liberally onto the boards. This is a mixture of paint, pva, plaster of paris, grit and water. (I've kept the recipe for future reproduction.) The building outlines were later lifted off and used in the building of the, um, buildings. They could then be dropped back in and blended into the boards with the same 'goop' as before.

"Red" - a not-so-successful gunfighter but an excellent architect. The Palace Theatre and Post Office are taking shape behind him (note that the theatre juts-out over the landscape) and the lumber mill (in black) is beside him.

The side of the Undertaker's, looking towards huts on Hooper's Alley. The buildings have not yet been glued down or blended in. Windows and doors are missing, as are steps and the fence that will eventually surround the undertaker's yard.

The Palace Theatre and the Post Office (without signage or steps yet). Not yet glued down.

The Bank, The Doctor's Surgery, The Lucky Strike Saloon and Madame L'Amour's

Stables at the West end of Main Street. Sherrif's Office in the distance.
Most of the buildings are now stuck down and ground texturing is starting to look finished. No waterwheel on the lumber mill, yet - which is ok, as there is no water in the river. At this point, I was still undecided as to what to do with the Southern end of town (lower right corner in this pic.) It was originally going to be a miner's camp, or the edge of a spruce forest, but eventually became a hill-billy shack.
Slim wanders up Church Street from Main Street, past Madame L'Amour's and the graveyard.

In Ladies' Lane, behind the yard of the General Store and looking towards Madame L'Amour's rear entrance! No wonder the pic's a little blurry! No gate on the yard, yet. The piece of fence in the foreground is one of the only three items which drop-in to the model to disguise the join between the boards.

The Corral behind Won Hung Lo Laundry and the brick-built jail. The laundry and the length of fence are joined together and drop-in to the model to disguise the join between the boards.

The Palace Theatre, complete with signage and steps. Won't be long before weeds start to sprout at the edges of the road and those darned bill-posters daub their advertising all over that nice clean wall!

Al surveys the growing town from the balcony of the Lucky Strike Saloon. Next door is the Doctor's Surgery, while the Chapel bell is just visible in the distance.The lamp-post was made from plastic rod and acetate sheet. There are six lamp-posts in the town, all made in one batch to ensure they matched.

Pa Clayton, proudly defends his brand new ramshackle shack! Thar'l be trouble iffn he don't get that gate he's been a-promised!

Ol' Diggin' Tom takes a wander across the bridge to look at the waterwheel. No water in the river yet, so it would be easy for him to count the ninety-six 1/2mm thick rivets I had to glue onto the wheel, if only he could count...
The uncompleted bridge, soon to be fixed in place with modelling clay. The lumber mill, in the background, will be extensively remodelled before I am finally happy with the wheel placement. Mid-picture is the back of the Palace Theatre, while to the left is one of the huts on Hooper's Alley - as yet lacking its picket fence.

Looking through the gallows towards the Lucky Strike Saloon.

The Won Hung Lo Laundry in its very early stages. It was relocated several times before I was happy. In its final location, steps up to the doors and the posts that support the porch are attached to the boards, while the building itself lifts out.

Madame L'Amour's, without signage or steps, and not yet glued down.
The Lumber Mill and the end of the bridge.

Looking West up Main Street from the boardwalk outside Brown and McFly's Hardware Store.


  1. A truly awesome piece of terrain, and a pleasure to play a game on. Given my profession I was pleasantly surprised to have my first character start at the Apothecary, however my 2nd character emerged from the whore-house so I am not quite sure what that says about me! ;-)

  2. Thanks, Scott! It certainly was a good game. We need more - if only to justify building this thing in the first place!

  3. Anyone want to buy me a ticket to NZ so I can have a game?

  4. I thought you were a strong swimmer? Get on with it!

  5. All I have to say is: WOW!


  6. I am slack jawed in amazement at your accomplishment! Thanks for sharing the pictures and how-to tutorial. WOW! Now where did I put that ruler and notepad?!

  7. Thanks, Martin! You're more than welcome. Let me know what you come up with!

  8. Hi!
    Contact me at about plans and such, when you are ready.

  9. Will do, Sky. You'llhear from me soon.

  10. While we are waiting I was wondering two things. Would you share the ground cover recipet? Also what do you do when a player wants to chase some varmit into the saloon? All your buildings are solid.

  11. I was wondering what company your miniatures came from in the pics?

    1. Hi Erik.

      Most of the miniatures are from Artizan, along with Copplestone, Reaper Chronoscope and one or two from Wargames Foundry.

      ...I think that's all of them! Sorry to any companies I've missed!

  12. I like your town leadwood i am building a town like this my self that's why i asked about the miniatures.

    1. That's awesome! I'd love to see pictures when you're done.

      If you require any tips or advice on materials, design, techniques or whatever, I'd be happy to oblige.

      Email me at

      All the Best!

  13. Truly inspiring, I better get to work. Basically...Wow!

    1. Thanks, Kes! I look forward to seeing your work!