Over nearly 40 years I’ve built seven train layouts. I started out with N scale, then discovered large scale trains. I’ve built both indoor and outdoor large scale layouts over the years. I loved my backyard garden railroad but had to give it up due to structural issues and age.
So I returned to my first love, N scale, and I’m about 95 percent done with my layout. I love building train layouts that feature small-town U.S.A. and a rural farm area. I wanted something different on my layout, so I came up with the idea of scratchbuilding a drive-in movie theater.
I started the project by looking for prototype drive-in photos online. Since my layout represents small-town U.S.A., I wanted a theater that would fit that theme. I also knew that I wanted to utilize my iPhone 11 for the screen and build the theatre structure out of styrene.
The tools that I used include a small T-square, a scoring knife, X-Acto knife, and razor knife. I tend to use either the X-Acto knife of the razor knife to cut fine grooves first into the styrene as a guide, then use the scoring knife, as the styrene is 1/8” thick. Make sure to take your time making the cuts. These are crucial to achieve a tight-fitting structure.
I bought my styrene from a sign company, but it’s a typical 1/8” styrene that can also be found in hobby stores. [Evergreen sells styrene sheets in this exact thickness –Ed.] To start, I measured my iPhone to get the critical measurements and proceeded from there. You might want to make a cardboard prototype first and then transfer the measurements that work onto the styrene.
Once the iPhone enclosure was built, shown in the diagram above, I built the support structure. Ensure that you do add these supports as it gives the structure the stability that it needs in order to stay upright.
After the support structure was completed, I painted the structure a flat white color. I purchased some movies for my smartphone and slide it into place when the townspeople want to watch a movie. This was a fun project to build and didn’t take much time at all.