Sunday, February 24, 2013

Red letter day

Progress had slowed down on the WBB build as I waited – and waited – for an order I had placed for plastic sheets at a local hobby store. Luckily, John found a piece of Evergreen #4625 ‘metal’ sheet on a trip to another hobby store on the other side of town, so I was able to get back to work on the sign. And I found some more brick sheeting I didn’t know I had after scrounging around my disorganized supplies box. 

Also, I was violating my guideline about striving for too much perfection that causes build progress paralysis and just decided to get on with the project even though it might not turn out to be completely perfect. In my mind it’s better to keep going instead of slowing to a crawl, and then stalling out, in order to get a perfect build. 

Before painting the letters I flipped them over and glued some squares cut from 0.010 inch styrene to back of each one. This was done so that the letters will stand off from the sign board just a little, and add a little bit of shadowing.

This is the long awaited for piece of plastic for the signboard. Can't really see the corrugations in the piece, but trust me, they're there. 

All the letters were taped to a stick prior to spray painting with Krylon Fusion red.

The signboard is glued up from 5, 6 inch by 67 mm pieces cut from that Evergreen plastic material - the raw stock piece of Evergreen styrene is 6 inches wide.

I clamped a metal metre stick to my workbench and used it to keep the signboard pieces square while they were glued together. I used Ambroid ProWeld for the job. Works well, but use sparingly. Also, John discovered that ProWeld will work very well at gluing styrene to masonite (probably due to the high glue content in masonite), so if your workbench has a masonite top like mine, be extra careful because you'll glue your sign to the bench - and believe me, it won't come off without lots of damage to both !

Here are the letters after spraying. I let them dry for a few days before proceeding with the rest of the signboard work.

While the signboard and letters were drying, I cut some 0.010 inch sheet styrene into 4 mm wide strips and painted them with Tamyia flat aluminum.

I added some 0.060 inch thick styrene strips to the back of the signboard for strength. They could be neater, but they do stiffen it quite a bit. One thing I should note if you're following along and thinking of building a similar structure, do it in reverse order to the way I'm doing it. That is, do the structure first, and the sign and entry doors later. I'm doing the build in this weird order because I wanted to see if I could build the pieces most challenging to me first, but now I'm going to be retrofitting the structure to those items, which means they probably won't be as good as they could be. 

Here the trim strips are being glued to the assembled sign. Prior to adding them I painted the sign with thin washes of flat back and Tamyia smoke, along with liberal applications of gunk from my brush cleaning water to give some colour highlights. This wash kills the pristine, pure white surface of the signboard and helps highlight the corrugations.

The signboard is translucent, so I'll need to paint the interior side black.

Once the trim was glued down, I brought the signboard upstairs for attaching the letters. Unfortunately, after a day in the warmer, drier upstairs environment, some of the trim came off and needed regluing - I used the glue a little too sparingly the first time. Also, with such a big structure, it's going to need careful internal bracing so it can resist changes in temperature and humidity.

Some light pencil lines were used to position the letters prior to gluing. Some careful erasing got rid of them - or at least lightened them significantly.

Once the dust had settled, I sat back and had a look. It's big: 30 inches long by 2 5/8 inches high. Debra asked me where this massive thing is going to sit on the layout. She's right, it doesn't fit. I've got a new layout in mind, which hopefully I can get started on in the next few months, and this thing should have a good home on it. For now, I think I can put the pedal-to-the-metal now that two of the most challenging pieces of this build - challenging for me anyway - are done.

Ottawa streetcar action in the 1950's

Ottawa, Canada's capital city, had a streetcar system up until April 1959 when it was shutdown. I came across this YouTube video last week that was published back in 2009 to mark the event. It's a fascinating collection of films of streetcars in operation on the streets of Ottawa in the 1950s.

Night escape

After the sun had set, and the late show had run its closing credits, and all the good citizens had brought in their dogs and let out their cats, and all the bad citizens had hidden from the accusatory moonlight, Leslie left her cabin through the basement window and made her way to the beach. She was carrying her backpack and had a plan to spend the rest of the night, and all of the next day, tucked away in a hidden coastal cave. She wasn’t sure if she’d wait out there until she was supposed to see Ryan again or just run for it like all the other times.

She couldn’t be sure if David had been followed when he came out to her cabin. Someone might be watching her; lurking in the woods waiting for the right moment. She took a risk leaving; she took a risk staying put. By sneaking away in the dark, maybe she could lose anybody who might be out there and dozing at this late hour. Maybe paranoia was getting the better of her, but even fugitives from the law like her have enemies. Especially fugitives from the law like her.

It was only 3 kilometres to the cave as the crow flies, but she travelled 5 since she couldn’t take the most direct route and still keep a low profile. And taking the InterTrack was definitely out. It took her a couple hours to get there, but it was, thankfully, still dark when she arrived. She’d slogged her way through the backcountry, and immediately fell asleep once she was cached away.

The next instalment can be found here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mysteries of the June 1941 issue of Model Railroader

[A snippet from an urban section of the June 1941 MR Layout of the Month]

{Put on your best Rod Serling impersonation before reading on} Presented for your consideration, a pleasant summer’s day in June of 1941, and the latest issue of Model Railroader magazine is arriving at mail boxes, drug stores and newsstands across America; its treasures calmly awaiting perusal by the stalwart model railroading fraternity. Fast forward to the snowy winter of February 2013: a user of Model Railroader’s 75-year collection enters that DVD time machine and stumbles upon the June 1941 issue. He searches on station, on layout, on trolley, but only finds his answers deep within The Twilight Zone. {You may resume your normal persona.}

As I mentioned back in my review of the Model Railroader 75-year collection, for me it’s an endless source of good entertainment and interesting ideas. Quite by accident I recently stumbled across a couple of mysteries in the June 1941 issue: one clearly a production glitch in the preparation of the collection, and the other a minor editorial oversight dating to the original publication.

There’s a good article on how to build a model of a modern train station - entitled A Modern Terminal Station - and the table-of-contents lists it as appearing on pages 289 to 294. It’s a rather graceful arch design that somewhat resembles a cathedral-style radio. The only problem is the scan of the issue is missing the introductory part of the article that appears on page 289. In fact it appears that all pages from the page after the opening editorial up to and including 289 are missing. Clearly, this is some sort of oversight in the preparation of the DVD. Hopefully it can be fixed up in a future release.

Although I like that station, the main thing that brought me to this issue was the Layout of the Month drawing and notes that appear on page 303. The layout itself hasn’t been named, but the author gives a succinct description that lets you figure out what the name should be, “The plan is that of a suburban and local transportation system running from Uniontown around Union Bay to Norfolk on the opposite side of the inlet. I’d say, The Union Bay Railway is as good a name as any.

This is an extraordinary layout from the perspective of the streetcar-oriented modeller.  It has lots of great features: extensive street running through several neighbourhoods, a substantial trolley barn, a harbour, countryside, farms, 'miles' of coastal terrain, hilly look-outs, light industry and a fairgrounds. It’s a good example of three strengths of a streetcar-oriented layout: omnivagant design (Mr. Westcott’s term for ‘goes everywhere’), some possible long twisty loops for uninterrupted running so you can sit back and watch things go, and it offers modelling opportunities for a wide variety of places and scenes. If I had a 16 foot by 24 foot room, and lots of time, this would be a strong candidate for my layout – maybe a little updated to bring it into a more modern era. 

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be an author associated with this article anywhere to be found, but given the drawing style, and it’s similarity to the layout design that I discussed in my post about the May 1940 Layout of the Month, my guess is that it was also developed and drawn by Linn Westcott. Given the release date of the issue, this is a mystery that may remain unsolved.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Letters, Metal and Brick for the World's Biggest Bookstore

I've been spending a lot of time sanding and smoothing the sign letters to try and remove their rough edges as best I can. I must admit it was rather a tedious job and I only worked on two or three letters at a time. I figured if I tried to complete too many at once, I'd start to rush, and that's when I'd do something really bad and have to start again. I'm pretty sure my friend Vince would tell me that cutting out these letters was a job best done by a laser cutter and I'd have to agree :-) With a laser cutter one could probably easily match the exact font, and turn a big cutting and sanding job into a light snack. Maybe next time I'll have to look into it.
I pulled out just about all the sanding tools and  files I had for this task. With all the different shapes and curves I figured I'd need a corresponding big set of smoothing tools. Probably the most useful for this job was the flex-i-file - the backwards C-shaped aluminum tool on the green cutting mat. It's basically a frame that holds taut a strip of sanding film. It was especially useful for sanding in tight corners such as those found on the letters r, k and d.
Once the letters were done, I worked on sizing up the metal sign board that they'll be attached to and the lower brick wall at street level. The brick wall is cut from a brick styrene sheet. The signboard is a 'metal' corrugated 0.040 inch styrene sheet from Evergreen plastics cut down to the approximate size for this building. I didn't have enough on hand and have ordered another piece to finish. This is going to be a big building - probably around 30 inches long. 

New lights for the The Noir cafe

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm continuing to update, repair and renovate some of the buildings on the Lost Ocean Line.
The cafe didn't have any interior lights. When I wanted to fake some lighting for staging photos, I'd just open the roof and drop in  a small LED connected to a battery. That was ok for background shots, but didn't allow for photos near or inside the building, so I built an overhead light fixture from some styrene scraps and two grain-of-wheat bulbs.
The bulbs aren't glued into place and can be removed if they burn out. The wiring snakes through the styrene trough that keeps the fixtures in place, goes down through the kitchen area, and pops out the bottom of the building for connection to the layout accessory power.
As well as lighting, I added a sign above the back door and a small garden for outside seating. It needs some tables, chairs, and people, but that's for another time.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

New signs for Moe’s

Over the Christmas holiday, as well as being able to do lots of train running, I also had the opportunity to look closely at my building inventory. It was clear that many would benefit from some further detailing, and others were in need of a little repair. That work seemed like a good job to undertake in the dead of winter, and since I’ve had to order some materials for the World’s Biggest Bookstore project that build is slowing down a little. I figured in the meantime I’d do a little building renovation. 

Last summer I bought this CD called Barbecue Any Old Time. While re-organizing the CDs recently, it struck me that its logo would make a good sign for Moe’ Barbecue. So, I scanned the box, printed, and cut-and-pasted some paper signs onto some backing material – plastic for the over the door signs and wood for the main roof sign. Voila, some nice signs for Moe’s.

 Those little signs are mounted on thin styrene and are for the end-walls. The main sign was bonded to some thin basswood.
I also noticed the roof section below the clerestory was badly warped. This likely happened because it is a laminate of two relatively thick styrene sheets, two different types of glue, and metal roofing. Temperature and humidity changes, combined with dissimilar material properties, have not been kind to it. When I had a similar problem with the McGregor Park Library roof, I replaced it with a single piece of textured material; however, on this one I just added some trim to the roof edges so one could no longer see how the roof didn’t attach to the walls properly. The curvature in the roof itself seems ok given the type of building this model is meant to represent. 
 Here I've added some facia cut from 0.012 inch styrene to hide the gap between the walls and the roof.
 I freelanced a support structure from styrene pieces for the main sign.
 Here it is with the signs installed. Now I need to work on the lighting.

AMTronic on my mind

A while back I mentioned that the AMTronic ranch build gets many hits as a result of it coming up a lot in Google searches of ‘AMTronic’ ( it turns out the post about that observation now gets a lot of hits for the same reason). And now the stats are showing that the AMTronic ranch post is the most accessed post on this blog. I had picked up another AMTronic kit – the 2012 re-issue by Round 2 – at Udisco back in November and was thinking that the dead of winter would be as good a time as any to start to build it. That, and I need a break from the same old stuff I’ve been doing. This all may seem weird for what is ostensibly a model train blog, but as it turns out, the AMTronic is a rail-guided vehicle as well as an automobile! I guess we all need a secret identity to remain sane in this world, and that is its.

According to the print material included with the kit, the AMTronic is a '60s vision of a 21th century vehicle. For driving around town, its got deployable wheels, and can even separate into two pieces so that you can motor around in just the sporty nose-cone and impress your friends :-) For serious long distance trips, the AMTronic morphs into a ducted-fan lifted, streamlined, aero-surface steered, computer-stabilized, high-speed missile guided on its journey by electro-magnetic side-rails – that is, ‘track’.

This kit is notoriously difficult to assemble. Its got lots of positionable parts, and from my experience with the L’il Aqua and AMTronic ranch builds, they seemed not too well shaped or precise. The previous release of this kit from 2003 or 2004 rated itself as a skill level-2 build, but now Round 2 has rated it a Level 3. I’m going to wimp out and build this model in its long-distance, or rail-ready, full flight configuration. That simplifies the build considerably, and I also rather like its streamlined shape. 

This is going to be a box-stock build. Most painting will be will brushes except for the outer surface of the fuselage. My plan is to build up the model, mask it, and then spray paint it.Hopefully by the time I'm ready to spray it, the weather will be better.
 Here are some of the foundational parts of the fuselage and interior. I'm finding that even using sprue cutters to free the parts, it's easy to tear the plastic. There's going to be a little filling and sanding to get things fairly smooth.
 Here are the lifting fans. I'm not a big fan of chrome, so I decided to strip them back to the styrene.
 Here are the fans dunked in SuperClean.
 After about 10 minutes, all the chrome was dissolved away. They were then washed in soap and water before painting.
 The fans were then brush painted with flat aluminum.
 The fans are held in the ducts with kit supplied rivets. I had to squeeze the rivet into the fan with a clamp in order to apply sufficient pressure, but once in place they will rotate.
 And here's one of the ducted fans installed in the forward fuselage. At this point I've also glued in the doors that cover the wheels when the AMTronic is in 'flight'. The doors take a bit of cleaning up with sanding sticks, and they are a finicky to get installed. I think they'll need a little more clean up before this thing is painted.
Once the fan was installed, the interior bucket was glued in place. I mainly used Ambroid ProWeld to assemble this thing. It sets up quickly and the resulting bonds are very solid; however, use it sparingly.