Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shack #2

A few weeks ago Mike Hamer graciously invited me to visit his Boston & Maine railroad. It's as spectacular as the photos at his blog suggest.

The visit inspired me to try my hand at building a laser-cut structure kit. For a first project I thought I'd try something straightforward, and the Bar Mills Shack Pack [changed from Blair Mills on 30 June - thanks Mike!] I bought at George's Trains in Toronto was just the ticket. Shack #2 in this three shack pack looked like it would fit in the E.L. Moore industrial park - it'll be part of a windmill park sub-scene - so I picked it as the first project.

I won't give a step-by-step summary here since the kit instructions are very comprehensive. Basically, the only modification I made was to dry brush the colour coat with Tamiya Hull Red, and to leave off the side extension since I didn't think it would fit in with the windmill park I have in mind.

It went together very quickly and I'm satisfied with the result. It was a fun little project that I highly recommend to anyone looking for an easy way to try a laser-cut build. It was almost too easy, and at times I felt like I was cheating on my first love, old-school scratchbuilding :-)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Amtronic ranch

This is the second HO scale project utilizing the leftover parts from the L'il Aqua build. The first was the L'il Overlook project that used the cab of the AMT / Ertl L'il Gasser kit. This one uses portions of the passenger compartment from the AMT Amtronic kit as the basis of a retro-futuristic ranch house.

The build is actually pretty simple. The upper half of the Amtronic passenger compartment was assembled more-or-less as per the kit instructions, but was modified slightly at one end to accommodate a main entry door (note that it doesn't have an alternative entrance, so it's probably a fire hazard!).

The front door was an item included in a Tichy Train Group variety pack of HO scale windows and doors I bought last year. The porch lights are also items from Tichy Train.

I should note that the parts in the Amtronic kit don't go together well. I had problems with fit on the L'il Aqua project - which made use of the Amtronic cab - and also had problems with the passenger compartment in this project.

The windows especially had to be finessed, and I'm still not too happy with the end result. The black seals banding the windows were an attempt to hide some rather hideous gaps. The 'seals' are just strips of 0.012 inch styrene.

As well, the windows were painted light grey on their inner surfaces to prevent seeing inside the building.

It turns out that the bottom edge of the Amtronic passenger compartment is slightly curved. I sanded it a bit to flatten it, but only a little because sanding it completely flat would have not allowed enough overall height to install the door and the entry-way modification. Scenic bushes and grass was used to hide the remaining gap once the building was placed on the base.

The retro-future wouldn't be complete without an old-school satellite dish, so one I had in the scrap box was added to the roof. The basketball hoop is scratchbuilt from some plastic tubing, sheet styrene and balsa. The basketball is a plastic bearing painted orange.

The trees are from JTT Scenery Products and I really like the fine canopy and branch structure. The trunks are ok, but one can see that they are made from twisted wire - it's not completely unpleasing, but a superdetailer would probably clean them up a bit, I just painted them with a loose wash of grey, flat black and brown to tone down their colour.

What's going on in the driveway? I'm not too sure, but it might have something to do with leaving unattended bikes where they might accidently get run-over!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Red Thunder

John Varley’s 2003 sci-fi novel Red Thunder is a fun read. I picked it up because I had heard that it was written in classic Robert Heinlein style, and being a Heinlein fan, I wanted to see if it was true. It was.

In the story the main characters build a spaceship out of used railroad tank cars. They can get away with using such low-tech components because one of them has discovered a propulsion source so powerful that the mass of the vehicle it propels is irrelevant! All that matters is that the structure is strong and robust enough to handle the rigours of pressurization and flight, so seven cylindrical railroad tank cars - a central one surrounded by six others - fills the bill.

My guess is that it’s probably rare that a sci-fi novel features a spaceship built from used railroad gear, but this one goes even further and in Chapter 21 Mr. Varley describes an HO-scale model of the ship that is used by the team for PR purposes. Mr. Varley even discusses some of the components used to build it: the landing legs came from an old model of an Apollo Lunar Excursion Module (my guess would be the Airfix 1/72 scale LM), springs from an R/C Hummer model, and spherical fuel tanks for the magic fuel were made from Christmas tree ornaments.

So, maybe if I eventually get my act together and build the launch pad micro-layout, I’ll have to consider adding a model of the Red Thunder.

Monday, April 5, 2010

October 1973

We’ve been reorganizing the house over the last few months and that has meant, among other things, that my model building magazine collection has been relocated. However, I think I’ve spent more time leafing through the old issues than actually moving them :-)

This one - the cover of Model Railroader from October 1973 - really stuck out. There is no text overlaying the cover photo. The image of the FT diesel locomotive (shot by Mr. David N. Chamberlin; model owned by Mr. Robert Kennedy according to the title page) is dramatic and makes a powerful image by itself, uncluttered by text advertising what’s inside.

I don’t know if that cover helped or hindered sales that month, but I don’t think I have another magazine in my 200-odd collection that has foregone superimposed advertising text for a pure image.