The Hotel Settles Gets An Incredibly Detailed Architectural Model

Tom Pantuso with B&T Model Railroad Building and Design Works LLC used Precision Board high-density urethane to fabricate an incredibly detailed replica of the historic Hotel Settles in Texas.  At almost six feet tall, the model replicates the hotel’s 150 rooms, restaurant and pharmacy.  Pantuso went with Precision Board because he knew it would be able to handle the intricate details required while also holding up to the elements.  Read on to see how his team completed this monumental undertaking.

Tom used PBLT-15 Precision Board HDU to make the castings and molds for the door frame and window molds. It was also used for the exterior of the building.

“I used Precision Board on the CNC machine to make the original casting for the rubber molds that I would then cast the windows and doors from using plastic resins from Smooth Cast,” said Pantuso. He added, “most of the actual model was constructed using SketchUp and Blender.”


They began to break the overall model apart into different sections to make it easier to build.  They did it in sections and put them all together using a plexiglass interior.  The brick work was done using either a 1/64th bit or 1/32nd bit.

“Once we had a 3d model in place, we got to work cutting the Precision Board.  Because we had so many intricate pieces to cut, it took us about four months on the CNC alone,” Tom said.  “We used several different router bit sizes, including 1/4″, 1/2″ and 3/8″ on the urethane foam.”

The main reason Pantuso chose to use Precision Board HDU was that wood was too hard, and hardware store foam wasn’t high enough density.

“Precision Board cut like butter and held the shapes well,” said Tom.  He added, “with 250 windows and doors to fabricate, the only product out there that would allow us to not go through thousands of bits and be fast enough to get the model produced in a short period of time was Coastal Enterprises’ Precision Board.”

The Art Deco routing took Pantuso’s team four to five months to rout, mostly because of the precision of detail needed and the fact that Tom didn’t want to rush the cutting process.  They tried MDF and other substrates, but nothing worked as well as Precision Board.

Pantuso’s team painted the urethane foam using regular primer and then hand-painted all the details over several months.

The model was commissioned in February and installed in November.  The modeling took three months and then it was an additional three to four months routing all the material 24/7 to get it done in time.

According to Tom, there was an unintended side effect from adding the model of the Hotel Settles to the TrainTopia display.

“The hotel looks so good that it’s making the other buildings look like cardboard boxes, so we’ll be going back and upgrading some of the other buildings using Precision Board.”

You can find out more information on the project from the joint Press Release:

hotel settles

The Museum of the American Railroad, located in Frisco, Texas, is pleased to announce the latest addition to TrainTopia, The Hotel Settles.

Designed and built by B&T Model Railroad Building and Design Works of Keller, Texas, the beautifully detailed G-Scale model rises majestically almost six feet above the busy streetscape of TrainTopia.

hotel settles

TrainTopia is a million dollar permanent year-round model train exhibit donated by the Sanders family and made possible by the current hotel owners, Brint and Amanda Ryan.

Hotel Settles opened in 1930. It boasted 150 rooms, and included a restaurant and a pharmacy. At the time, it was the tallest building between El Paso and Fort Worth.

After 75 years of decay and decline, Brint Ryan and his wife Amanda set about renovating and fully restoring the iconic hotels rich history and beautiful 19th century Art Deco facade and interior opulence.

The scale model of Hotel Settles will be a permanent feature at the 2,500 sq. ft. operating model train exhibit in Frisco.

B&T Model Railroad is owned and operated by partners Bob Nunn and Tom Pantuso. They are joined by Tom’s son, Jeremy Pantuso, who worked tirelessly to engineer and assemble the final structure. The model itself was constructed using SLS 3D printing, mold and resin casting, CNC machining, and old fashion craftsmanship. Fort Worth artist Angie Glover provided the finishing touches, with exacting hand-painted detailing on the six-foot tall 1/32 scale model.

In February 2019 Bob LaPrelle, President and CEO of the Museum, reach out to B&T Model Railroad to commission the development and construction of the hotel model. Tom and his team began the long journey, scaling down the iconic West Texas hotel using the original architecture plans, on-site surveys, and Tom’s skills in creating exacting 3D models from sight.

Detailed designs and fabrication of the substrate, walls, and façade were accomplished using high-density foam, called Precision Board, from Coastal Enterprises.

A CNC machine from BOBSCNC accurately cut the nearly 500+ pieces required to duplicate the incredibly detailed Art Deco, brick walls, and ornamental features of the hotel.

Tom also incorporated the use of mold making and resin casting to create the more than 300 windows and doors that encompass the hotel.

Fort Worth artist Angie Glover brought her talents to the B&T family. She painted the entire building by hand, bringing to life each individual brick, hundreds of Art Deco panels and blocks, and capturing the beauty of the historic 1930’s building and all its glory.

hotel settles

LED lighting, combined with relays and independent power supplies, bring life to the Hotel Settles’ interior and exterior windows, floodlights, ceiling lamps, and wall sconces. The models lighting system works both independently and in conjunction with the exhibits own state-of-the-art lighting system.

After nearly ten months of research, design, fabrication, and detailing, the creative team at B&T Model Railroad, delivered the Hotel Settles in early November, where it will remain a permanent feature of the 2,500 sq. ft. TrainTopia Exhibit.

hotel settles

The Museum of the American Railroad is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization incorporated in the state of Texas in 1962. The Museums mission is to enrich the lives of others through meaningful, relevant programs and exhibits that relate the history and technology of the railroad, and its profound impact on American life and culture.

B&T Model Railroad Building and Design Works LLC, in addition to working with the American Railroad Museum, has been commissioned by The Texas State Railroad Society, Texas & Pacific Railroad historian, author, and model railroader Michael Coyne and others because of B&T’s attention to detail and their creative 3D modeling capabilities.  You can call them at (817) 301-8786 or send them an email.

Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board HDU, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane sign material that is particularly effective for making professional-looking indoor and outdoor dimensional signs.  It is a closed-cell rigid substrate that does not rot, warp or crack.  You can request free samplesget a quote or sign up for periodic newsletters packed with helpful information.

Topographical Modelmaking In A Nutshell!

With millions of data points and tolerances tighter than some high-powered engines, topographical modelmaking, or digital elevation modeling, is a learned art requiring a keen eye for details.

Topographical models are frequently used by a variety of industries including geologists, architects, construction firms and land developers. They are often seen in museums and visitor centers, and are a great way for people to get a “Bird’s eye view” of a large area to analyze anything from geological changes to potential construction sites.


We recently had a chance to speak with topographical model maker Donn Arrell, owner of Clinton Systems, about some of the beautiful models he has made over the years. Donn’s first step before building a model is securing an accurate data source. This can be in the form of a CAD drawing provided by the customer, or a drawing acquired from a source like the National Elevation Dataset (NED).

After selecting the resolution and scaling the drawing (which is a lot more work than it sounds), Donn will run a simulation which will indicate how long it will take to CNC machine. It’s then a matter of selecting the material (Donn uses Precision Board Plus), and starting the CNC on its course.

Most of the models Donn produces can be finished in a day or two, but occasionally large projects require a week or more of running the router day and night! (Which didn’t surprise us after seeing some of the models!) Many of these models will then go onto another professional Modelmaking shop who may paint it and add LED’s or even moving parts.

Mars HiRise images of sites in Gale Crater at 600 data points per inch. Models represent areas of about 3 miles x 8 miles (8″ x 22″).


Donn prefers using Precision Board Plus HDU for his topographical models because:

“Precision Board offers a broad density range. Hard to damage touchable models can be made with the higher density foams. Cost sensitive projects gain cost benefits with lower density foams. Having a single source provider for these materials is a great advantage.”

Clinton Systems has been in business for over 20 years and specializes in high quality, high-resolution topographical models. Be sure to take a look at their website for more info:

All of these models are made out of Precision Board Plus HDU.

Model of a recent NASA Mars Rover landing site in the Gale Crater. Carved into Precision Board Plus PBLT-20 at 600 data points per inch resolution. Using high resolution data from a Mars HiRISE image.



The “Couteau”, a region of North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. Made using Precision Board Plus PBLT-20.



A site study model for new construction in in Guam from survey data. Made using Precision Board Plus PBLT-10.HDUTopographicalModel


A 15′ rendering of Sinnemahoning State Park based on the USGS 3 meter high resolution Lidar data. Made in 3 height matched sections from Precision Board Plus PBLT-20.PrecisionBoardElevationModel

Small architectural base model for easy transport. Note the recess for inserting a 3D building model in the lower right hand corner. Steps clearly show drainage and grading. The data source is an architectural CAD rendering. Precision Board Plus PBLT-20.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Ski resort with some vertical exaggeration to emphasize the ski slopes. Data from the USGS National Elevation Database. Precision Board Plus PBLT-20.


Base for a site development presentation model, 8′ x 12′ made from Precision Board Plus PBLT-6 in 3 height matched sections.
Precision Board Plus HDU