Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mr. Scott’s: Painting corrections

I did some work to tone down the colours on the upper level. Basically, all I did was apply a number of thin, loose washes of grays, browns and blacks to the hangar doors and the landing pad. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s improved. I think I’ll move on to installing the windows and internal view blockers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another Day, Another Town

I was reorganizing my old vinyl albums on the weekend after they had to be shifted to make-way for a cable installer. I’d forgotten that this one had a railroad track photo on the cover (and I'm still wondering if it's model railroad track). It’s a little weird for a cover shot, but back then – believe it or not - I didn’t buy it for that reason. I was a big Jim Croce fan and a completist one to boot. I had to have every album he made, so when I stumbled across this one, I had to buy it. It’s a collaboration with his wife Ingrid. I’m certainly no music critic, but I’d rank it as ok. It’s enjoyable, but a little too folky for my tastes. Then again, I haven’t played it in probably 25 years, so I should give it another try.

Ok, while I’m on the subject of albums, this one, Moon Safari by Air, has even less to do with trains, but it does have this great idea for a VW van / spaceship conversion on the back cover of the CD. When I was building the E.L. Moore van conversion last year, it was vying in my mind with building this disco- hippy spaceship. Obviously, Mr. Moore’s conversion carried the day, but now that I’m considering a rebuild, maybe this time around I’ll try both.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Grille's: Patio & Parking

Over the past week or so I've been working finishing the roof-top patio and the surrounding parking area.

Grille's will be located on a corner lot as were many old fashioned gas stations.

The parking lot base was cut from a piece of 0.080 inch styrene to fit the lot. It was painted with loose washes of flat black and gray paints. A fine-tipped art marker was used to line the parking spaces. The old British American Petroleum sign in the parking lot is an item from Penitentiary Products.

The roof-top patio lawns were cut from Woodland Scenics Forest Green grass mat and glued in place with thick super-glue. The Woodland Scenic grass mats are very different from the Busch ones used at Art Park. They have a much finer surface, and the backing is a plastic / vinyl type of material instead of a papery one. A set of steps was made from strips of 0.080 inch styrene to join the two patios. The railing along the back wall is a Grandt Line product. I suspect that if this was a real building a railing would be needed along the front as well, but I thought it would detract from the look.

That's about it for major construction. All that remains is to add a number of details to help bring it to life.

Monday, January 17, 2011

30 posts in 30 days comes to an end

I’ve been posting a lot recently. And not by accident. I wanted to see if I could do 30 posts in 30 days (or less), and chose January to do it in because it’s the dead of winter and I had the time. Also, 30 seemed like a good number because over the past 2 years I’ve done about 30 posts per year. Some preparation was required for this test. I had a backlog of photos I had taken now-and-then throughout the fall and early winter so that I had some material to think about. I’m also working on three building projects (Grille’s, The Barrel & Marble Works, and Mr. Scott’s), as well as doing some work on the layout, so that stuff promised to provide some other sources of post-able material. Ideas for posts also just naturally arose during January, so I made use of those too.

Now that I’ve finished my experiment I’m going back to my usual haphazard posting although I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be a serious blogger. Writing and photographing and preparing posts cuts into model building time, so I’ll go back to more building and less posting.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cedar Heights Station in context

I've added the street corner where the Cedar Heights Station will be located. It's just on the northern end of Art Park. The corner facing the street will get a bus stop and shelter so that it's easy to transfer from bus to train.

Switch control camouflage

I stumbled across the blog New WopiLand and found a neat little photo showing how the authors disguised the switch control buttons that they had placed on their layout board as headstones in a cemetery. Yes, a little macabre, but quite ingenious! So ingenious that I’m inspired to do some sort of similar camouflaging of the track controls on my board. Probably not as headstones, but I’ll put my thinking cap on. I’ve been planning to move those expediently placed controls to a more traditionally styled control panel, but I like this idea much better. As for the power-pack, it’ll definitely be moved off the table, but to where is still a question.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Barrel & Marble Works: Paneling begins

In my previous E. L. Moore rebuilding projects I had used his old technique for making simulated metal panels from paper. It was rather tedious, and maybe not as high fidelity as one would hope for these days, so I decided to use Campbell Scale Models HO-scale corrugated metal siding instead. I had bought a packet of their scale 12’ wide stock back last summer at George’s Trains although I didn’t have a use for it at the time. This was both a good and bad thing to do.

I cut the aluminum strip stock into 4’x8’ panels and began gluing them to the substructure much as I did with Mr. Moore’s technique, but in this case I used thick superglue. A little misalignment and oddness to the paneling adds a bit to the look of the building, so I didn’t get to hung-up on achieving perfectly ordered paneling.

Ideally, I should have paneled the styrene substructure prior to gluing up the plastic pieces into a building. This would make the whole job easier, especially when it came to cutting and trimming around the window and door openings. It’s not that hard to do with the building built, just make sure you always use a sharp knife. Cutting the aluminum dulls the blade quickly, and I’m finding I’m using a lot of #11 blades on this project.

Now, here’s the problem. I’ve almost run out of aluminum panel stock and I’ve still got about 2/3 of the building to panel. Yikes! I knew I didn’t have enough when I started, but I casually assumed it would be easy to get more. No such luck. It’s been tough to find any in stock at various on and off line places. I’ve got some on order from George’s Trains and I’ll continue paneling when it arrives.

I can imagine some tisk-tisking from Mr. Moore. If I’d stuck with his method, I’d just make some more and it wouldn’t cost too much either.

The 70's Files: The PB Paper Company

This model was the only E.L. Moore building project that I actually completed back in the 1970s. It’s a build of Mr. Moore’s RMC Paper Company that was published in Railroad Model Craftsman in April 1974. My build isn’t very well done, but it does have one retro-construction method that I still find interesting even though these days your computer and printer could certainly do it better.

Mr. Moore’s project calls for commercial brick embossed paper for the exterior surface. I’d didn’t have much cash in those days, so I used a technique I had read about in the British magazine Model Railway Constructor instead of buying brick paper. In the November 1973 issue, Mr. Dave Booth wrote - in an article called Rowsley modelled in card - about a very simple method he had developed to replicate stonework on buildings. Here are the steps:
  1. Use a grey cardboard as the surface for the stone. Mr. Booth recommended using the cardboard that new shirts came wrapped around - I don’t think that’s done much anymore, so any mid-weight grey coloured cardboard should do.
  2. A ruler and a 2H pencil with a chisel point are used to scribe the horizontal, vertical, and any curved lines that define the stone work. I think I used a spent ballpoint pen for scribing as I did for making ‘metal’ panels as in other E. L. Moore building projects. When you’re done you’ll have a surface where the surface of the stones are raised and the lines between them are depressed into the cardboard.
  3. Now you need 3 crayons (any type of wax children’s crayons will do): yellow, dark brown, and black. In that order scribble them over the embossed cardboard surface. When you’re done use your finger to blend the colours a bit.
  4. If you don’t like the resulting colour, you can always use the edge of the modeling knife to scrape off the crayon and try again; however, Mr. Booth reported that his 8-year old son had no problem getting good results, you might get good results on your first try!
The black-and-white photos accompanying Mr. Booth’s article show two pictures of a building clad with material using his technique and they look good. My young and rather unskilled hands didn’t pull it off too well, but the hues and colours that resulted have some promise. With some finer and more closely spaced scribing work, this old technique might still have some life in it for use in background buildings, and maybe even foreground ones if very carefully executed.

I imagine that I could make my own brick or stone paper with a digital camera, some photo manipulation software, and a printer – and no doubt I suspect someone has in the vastness of the internet. This would provide an infinite source of very good exterior surfaces, and might also point to a way to revitalize many of the projects in Mr. Moore’s legacy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Peter’s Pucks

I was sitting on the deck one day last summer doodling [23 Jan: Update. Was 'doddling', now 'doodling', thanks to she-who-must-be-obeyed] in my sketch book and thinking about some kind of thin building that could be shoe-horned between closely spaced siding tracks. The not-too-serious Peter’s Pucks was the answer. Basically, it’s a half-puck main building with smaller puck-like wings on each side and loading docks on the front and back. If I had all the materials for it at hand, it might be buildable in one long day – although I’ve said this before

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Old School Rolling Living Space

The houses on rails and Airstream at Art Park posts prompted me to go look through my old photos. This one was taken in July '75 at Havelock station. It looks like a living space of some sort mounted to a flat car. Very spartan compared to the Norwegian proposal.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The 70’s Files: Coaling Tower

This coaling tower was based on an article designed and written-up by Eugene Le Doux in a project book called Easy-to-Build Model Railroad Structures, published by Kalmbach. The opening pages of the book suggest it was first published in 1958 and had been reprinted several times at least up until the 1971 printing I bought. It has lots of interesting building projects; I built a few of them, and studied all of them to one degree or other. The construction methods are fairly dated by today’s standards, but it still has lots of good ideas for simple builds.

You know, I don’t know why I built this structure. I didn’t have any steam locomotives; mine were all diesels! Although the construction is very rudimentary, cardboard and balsa, with pencil lines to indicate siding, it still has a simple charm.

One interesting feature is that the roof surface is made by gluing a piece of Kleenex to a card backing and painting it a black and brown mix. And all the dust it has accumulated over the years has only improved its looks! Simple, but fairly effective.

The other rolling home

The buildings on rails post reminded me of the other, more conventional rolling home. This one is being parked at Art Park - not a bad location all things considered.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Barrel & Marble Works: The mystery tank

A classic E.L. Moore article often included some sort of tall-tale. Maybe I’ll settle for a joke.

An acupuncturist and a porcupine walk into a bar. After a few drinks the acupuncturist leans over to the porcupine and says, “You know, the needles are supposed to go into the patient.”

I know, I won’t be giving up my day-job for stand-up comedy anytime soon.

And speaking of mysteries, at the back of the prototype there is some sort of storage tank wedged between the recyclery and the main part of the old building. I don’t know what it’s for, or what sort of structure surrounds it. It looked interesting, and I wanted to retain it, so I had to make-up something that seemed not too unreasonable.

The two candidates I had on hand for the storage tank were an old N-scale tank car and a stem holder that florists use in flower arrangements. I decided to go with the stem holder. Cutting it roughly in half and gluing a partial balsa frame around it was basically all there was to construction. I didn’t need to make a full model of this tank because most of it will be obscured by the roof that will be over it, and there won’t be any lines-of-sight that will allow a view into the building into which the tank is inserted. The tank roof itself is another guessed-at item. I didn’t have a clear view of any of the building near the tank, so I just installed a slanted roof over the tank and let it go at that.

Hastings’ “Feed & Seed” circa the 1970’s

I’ve got a thing for feed and seed type buildings. Don’t know why. I just like the way these buildings look. While working on the Barrel & Marble Works I thought I’d look up some photos I took of a feed and seed building back in the 70’s. It was located in Hastings, Ontario, nearby the Trent river, just off of highway 45. I had the photos in one of those old ‘magnetic’ photo albums that seals the pictures between a sticky cardboard sheet and a piece of thin, clear plastic. Unfortunately the photos can’t be removed from their flat tombs without damaging them, so they were scanned as is.

I’ve visited Hastings a few times every summer for the last few years, but there was a long period between taking these photos and my first return visit. By then this building was long gone and a new tourist oriented building was there. I don’t lament the loss because the new building has helped revitalize the area. Hastings is a nice town and I’d recommend dropping by.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mr. Scott’s: Basic painting

I wanted to tone down the molded in colour of this kit and give the building a slightly aged look.

I must admit up front that I don’t use an airbrush. Just about all the painting I do is with a brush except for model car bodies and airplane fuselages. And for those I use spray cans and shoot outside. This means spray painting is confined to the good weather in spring, summer and fall. We don’t use aerosol sprays of any sort in our house, and I’d need to step-up to some sort of high-quality ventilation and spray-booth before indoor airbrushing becomes a possibility. All the painting done on Mr. Scott’s is done with brushes. This isn’t the best way to paint a building, but reasonable results can be obtained.

The base coat on the stone walls is Floquil’s Aged Concrete. It turns out this is the only non-acrylic paint on my shelf. I more-or-less brush paint exclusively with acrylics because water can be used for cleanup, and the paints are almost odourless. Floquil has an acrylic Concrete paint which I use a lot, but I wanted to try their so-called Aged Concrete to see if there was any noticeable difference even though it requires varsol for cleanup. To my eye, and since this is the first of many layers of paint, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in hue, so if I were to do this over, I’d just use the acrylic Concrete paint.

The hanger doors are base coated with Tamiya’s Sky Blue in order to give a strong contrast to the duller stone of the walls. The shuttlecraft landing pad and the hanger roof base coat is a loose mix of Floquil Oily Black and ModelMaster Flat Black. The flashing on the roofs is basecoated with Tamiya Flat Aluminum.

When the Aged Concrete on the stone walls was dry they were painted with a number of thin and loosely mixed washes of white, various shades of gray, and flat black acrylic paints in order to give some three-dimensionality to the surface.

The window and door moldings were then glued into the wall openings. These items come cast in a flat forest green colour that I rather liked, so I left the window frames as they were and didn’t paint them. However, the doors did get some finishing prior to installation. I wanted the main entrance to stick out a bit, so the door was painted flat aluminum. To add some interest, one side loading door was painted red - later a ‘DANGER’ decal was applied to it - and the other was painted yellow.

The lines on the landing pad were drawn with ‘Galaxy Markers’ that I used on the Grille’s project. The exhaust vents on the hanger roof are items from a Walthers HO-scale roof top detail set. The street number above the main entrance is a leftover from my decal box. I figure an operation such as Mr. Scott’s would try to remain incognito - well, as incognito as one can be with shuttlecraft landing on your roof - and forego signs identifying the business.

Once all the components were glued in place, some final thin washes of flat black were applied. The hanger roof got an additional loose wash of browns and grays to soften up its uniform blackness. On the landing pad I used some ground gray pastels to make it look more used, but one certainly couldn’t tell that from the photos. Turns out I sprayed it with Dullcoat to fix the pastels, but the spray – which I did in a rush outside in the cold contrary to my opening remarks! – obliterated the effect, so it’s back to the drawing board.

Although there are still some funky areas on the walls - which don’t look too bad considering this is after all a dilithium crystal factory - at this point I’m declaring basic painting of the shell done. However, there is a little more weathering and aging I want to do (especially on the hanger doors and landing pad which need some significant correction), and I think it needs a few more detail items to bring it a bit more to life. Maybe some additional details on the hanger roof, some lifting and loading machines at one of loading dock doors, and possibly an outside storage tank or two. I’ll have to think about how to proceed.

Before: Gulf tank cars

If I was a real model railroader I should discard these old tank cars. They are a little beat up with age, and the detail is not up to today’s standards. However, they were given to me by my father back in the 70s when he was a Gulf employee. Since model railroading has a big nostalgia and sentimentality component to it, I thought I’d try and refurbish them. They won’t be perfect little gems when I’m done, but with some new wheels, couplers, and a little painting, they should be serviceable.

You can see from the top photo one has already been started. I did a coupler replacement - swapped out the old horn-and-hooks for Kadees - just to see if upgrading was possible. It seems to handle well on the tracks, so I’ll try fixing up the other two.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

30 Squares Line diesel fleet

Well, a 'fleet' of two diesels is something of an exaggeration, but the layout isn't very big, so two small switchers is plenty. The one on the left is Bachmann's GE 70 ton switcher, and the one on the right is Bachmann's GE 45 ton switcher. I bought both of them last year, and they run fine on the 30 Squares Line's DC setup. I have a few diesel relics from layouts built in the 70's, but after all these years they don't run reliably even after cleaning and a tune-up. I guess I shouldn't expect them to after around 40 some-odd years. Ok, I should be a little more specific, two of the oldies are also Bachmann diesels, and they do run in a reluctant sort of way, with lots of grinding and groaning noises - so I hope for a long life from these two little switchers.

The 70’s Files: Mr. Daniels' retirement home

Mr. Daniels' house is basically a flipped version of Mrs. Hatley's house. The young me was even lazier when I built this one: it doesn't even have drawn-on siding! These days I might use these houses to fill in background in a photo, but other than that they're just around for sentimental value.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Grille’s: The street sign

I wanted Grille’s to have a distinctive sign facing the street. When I started this kitbash I had no idea what that sign would look like. I was rummaging through some parts looking for something for a car model conversion that I’m working on and came across a grille for a 1940’s or 1950’s car. I flashed on what the sign would look like even though I wasn’t too sure how to build it.

I think this grille is from a 1940’s Mercury kit I worked on a few years ago, but I can’t say for sure. Regardless, it had the right look, but it was chromed, so I soaked it in SuperClean to strip it.

Once the chrome was removed I washed it in warm soap and water to remove any SuperClean residue, and then glued on two styrene tubes for the wall attachments. I also glued a third tube between the two wall attachment posts, parallel to the main axis of the grille in order to provide a mounting bar for the letters.

The letters are plastic items I had left over from a plastic municipal garage / firehouse kit I bought in the late ‘70s. I think it was made by Kibri. After all these years they came in handy! I cut pieces of steel piano wire and superglued them to each letter. Holes were then drilled into the long letter mounting tube for the piano wired letters. Superglue was also used to attach the wired letters to the support tube.

The piano wire stubs were then inserted in the wall attachment tubes because I wanted a very sturdy connection between the sign and front wall of the building. Two matching holes were drilled into the front wall so the sign’s wire stubs could be inserted for a secure fit. Again, superglue was used to glue the support stubs into the wall mounting holes.

I’ve done some initial painting on the sign, but it still needs to be cleaned up and weathered a little.

The 70’s Files: The widow Hatley’s house

This is another project that started from a set of drawings published in Model Railroader during the 70’s. I was one lazy builder on this project. It’s basically just Bristol board cut into the basic shapes, glued together with balsa reinforcement, painted, and tarted up a bit with some balsa details. But with the widow herself standing on the front porch, the crude, wonky details, and the chintzy curtains in the windows, it has a certain melancholy charm.

These days if I wanted to make some simple row housing in bulk based on this design I might try photographing some real siding and using printouts of it as the wall material. Supplemented with some commercial plastic castings for the windows, doors, chimneys and other details, a serviceable little model might result that could be useful as a background detail.