Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rusty Spike Ceremony

Friday was the Rusty Spike ceremony. The tracks and locos were cleaned and readied for showing off. The layout board was hauled up from the basement to the living room. During the course of the evening many trains were run, stories told and drinks drunk. So, with that final event, this year's train season comes to a happy end, and this will be the last post for the year. Hopefully I'll be back next year for more. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Paving the streets

I'm working on 'paving' the streets. That is, inserting styrene pieces in the track to simulate streetcar track in the streets. I'm using a combination of Walthers street inserts and styrene sheets cut to fit.

Years ago at the beach

As I make progress on the layout, scenes start to come to mind.

Friday, December 9, 2011

President’s Choice Organics Caboose

I liked this little P.C. Organics caboose, and wanted to run it on the layout, but I thought it needed a little sprucing up first. I should mention before getting into the details of the upgrade that this thing is more a toy than a model for serious model railroaders, so it doesn’t have the basic detail that is commonplace on today’s model equipment. Several years ago the Loblaws grocery chain sold HO-scale train sets around Christmastime. One year they featured a set that contained cars printed with logos and advertisements from their then new Organics line of products that featured, you guessed it, organic foods. Well, we eat lots of organic vegetables, so it seemed like a natural match and I bought one. Most of the cars aren’t anything special, and are rather bland, but I’ve always thought the design of this caboose was well done. And as luck would have it, while I was thinking about how to upgrade the caboose I had from the set, I saw another one for sale in the used items bin at my local hobby store for $2.99, which I immediately bought so I’d have a spare in case I messed up - which is my code for accidently broke ! - the one I had on hand.

Basically all I did was a little painting, changed out the horn-and-hook couplers, and added some window glazing. Not a lot. It didn’t change it into a highly detailed, prototypically accurate prize-winner, but it cranked up its look a bit to make it somewhat more believable, and a little more interesting to look at. These simple changes can improve many older resale items and cast-offs into more interesting models, but one can’t expect miracle transformations.

The first step is to pry it apart and separate all the pieces. Nothing is glued to together, so this step is fairly easy. Turns out that is the hardest part, and the rest is even easier (in no particular order):
  1. Paint the inside of the body flat black. This reduces the translucency of the body giving it a little more solid appearance as well as obscuring lines of sight into the interior space.
  2. Paint the doors, window frames, chimney, and end hand-rail assemblies flat aluminum.
  3. Paint the body-mounted hand rails and rear platform safety chains flat yellow.
  4. Paint the roof-top walkway flat aluminum, and wash it with thinned flat black to make the grid stand-out a bit.
  5. Paint the underside of the floor assembly with a loose mixture of flat aluminum, flat black and brown.
  6. Pop out the horn-and-hook couplers and replace them with Kadee knuckle couplers.
  7. Put a thin plastic backing behind the molded holes – inside the body – to form the red end lights, paint the resulting cup bright red and then fill with Micro Krystal Klear to form the light.
  8. So, I lied a little, there is one tricky part to this conversion. The fore and aft windows on the cupola don’t have ledges. Meaning, any glazing added won’t have the affect of sealing off the body to the elements. I had to cut some styrene pieces and glue them in to serve that purpose; however, I cheated and didn’t fit them so they’d be level and seamless with the top of the roof. I merely inset them. This seals things off, but in a prototype this would create an artificial tray where rain and snow would collect.
  9. Cut and glue clear plastic glazing into the window openings.
  10. Add black cardboard view blockers to the interior so viewers can’t see right through the body. This, along with the inside walls painted black and glazing added to the windows gives it a little more solid appearance.
  11. After snapping all the parts back together, I applied some loose weathering washes to the body and undercarriage to make it look like it has been in service for awhile.
That’s it. It’s not a perfect model, but it’s interesting. To wrap up, I thought I’d end with this ode to vegetables by Brian Wilson from his Smile album.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fair weather excursion car

In the fall of last year I accompanied Debra to a conference in Orange County. While she conferred, I went to the beach and visited some model train stores. I think I visited a total of three and they were all good. I saw the Bachmann Excursion Car at one. It was one of those things that spoke to me even though I didn’t have a specific plan for it, so I went ahead and bought one - and they were on sale too, so all was good.

This conversion was dead simple and all it involved was cutting off the part I didn’t like all that much: the roof. Its molding seemed too simplistic, and it was so large it blocked the view of the interior as well as casting it in a perpetual gloom. It was easily severed with sprue cutters in a few satisfying seconds. My dremel and some sanding sticks made easy work of cleaning up the stubby remains on the main body.

After the surgery I did a little painting. Green on the passenger bench to match the green of the diesels in my fleet; a loose brown and black wash on the floor boards and externals; and some rusty red and black wash on the undercarriage. The undercarriage might get a little more weathering in the future depending how it looks in photos.

The only addition I made was an advertising sign-board on both sides of the body. It’s made from 0.012 inch styrene. The Highlander decal came from a 1/24 scale car kit, and the 4 is from a 1/72 scale model airplane kit.

All it needs are some paying passengers and a sunny day.

Friday, December 2, 2011