Tuesday Train #65 “Attention 2 Trains”

IMG_4064“Attention 2 Trains” Note the important message, two trains could be here! Always be safe around railway lines. There are lots of safe locations to take photos from, and just because one train has moved off a crossing, if the lights are still on, there could be another coming you can’t see!

Two Sides of the Same Crossing.  The Goderich and Exeter Railway switches in downtown Kitchener, blocking St. Leger Street with the head end power as cars are uncoupled and dropped in the sidings at the station for the local train to shunt.   This crew was working hard to clear the main line as a VIA Rail passenger train was due to arrive in less than 15 minutes.  I had to leave to get to an appointment before the VIA arrived unfortunately and couldn’t catch the trains together.

IMG_4074The other side of the crossing after I had circled around where the streets were blocked.  A bonus shot of all three units in the train is below.  And yes railfans, that is an Ex-Southern Pacific SD45T-2 “tunnel motor” #3054 (ex-9392) in the middle of the consist.


Model Railroading in 1:1 Scale…aka Volunteering at the Toronto Railway Museum

I know what you’re thinking, is it really modelling if you are doing it in full scale?  Maybe not, but this post is a bit of a push for many like me who spent a long time going to museums and preserved railroads, and never doing anything to help create those places for others to go and enjoy.  You don’t need any railroad skills (or any skills really), there are opportunities for all sorts, even model makers!!!  You don’t even need to commit a lot of time to be really helpful to making something happen either, just a few hours when you have them spare can make the difference between a small museum staying open or closing.

P1050595.jpgMe working the TRHA/TRM Booth at the Barrie-Allandale Train Show, a chance to meet the public and introduce them to the museum.  No skills other than being personable required!!  An example of the range of tasks that a volunteer can be a part of.

I had never been a part of any preservation group or museum prior to me joining the Toronto Railway Historical Association in 2009.  The TRHA is the volunteer group that has constructed and operates the Toronto Railway Museum in the former Canadian Pacific Railway John Street Roundhouse in Roundhouse Park, Downtown Toronto.  I had visited the roundhouse at Doors Open, and seen the TRHA at train shows, and truthfully didn’t pay them much attention until June 2009 when I saw that they were having Canadian National 6213 moved from its long time home at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds to Roundhouse Park.  After this, I took a look at what they were doing, and said hey, these folks are right in my backyard and actually getting things done, I should get up of my rear end and do something to be helpful!  I had alsways wanted to be a part of a museum/restoration group.  I was always very jealous of my friends in the United Kingdom who have a wealth of preserved railways and museums for people to pick and choose from.  Here, there are several good museums and groups around the GTA, but most for me mean hour long drives each way to get there, which limited my motivation to be active.

3613951306_3a56bffb4e_oCN 6213 loaded up at the CNE Grounds, and starting the overnight move to her new home at the Toronto Railway Museum, just under the CN Tower in the distance.

When I started volunteering at the roundhouse with the TRHA, I met some fantastic people who were volunteers, who I am now friends with and see both at and away from the museum.  When I started, my first tasks included scraping rust off two big air tanks and painting them aluminum, and getting right at it in the cab of 6213 and repairing the wiring that had been cut when the locomotive was moved from the CNE.  Trust me, no skills were required to scrape off the rust with a metal wire brush or slap on aluminum paint on the tanks.  It was must definitely grunt work!!  When I started, the museum was in the “Construction Phase”, restoring buildings, preparing our three stalls, and building the 7.5” Gauge Miniature Railway in the park.  It wasn’t open to the public, and the historic railway vehicles in the collection were all tarped over for their protection.

A picture from my first weekend at the TRM, cleaning and painting the air reservoir tanks from the Machine Shop.  Me working in the cab of CNR 6213 to repair the wiring, and a Goal Achieved, making the first runs on the complete loop of the Miniature Railway on New Years Eve 2009.

After the museum opened in May 2010, I did some work operating the miniature railway, but focused on getting involved in restoring historic vehicles, as that was where most of my fellow volunteers attention went after the big push for construction.  Our first project was a four year long restoration of Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway caboose No.70.  I also worked regularly on restoring the interior of the cab of Canadian National Railway F7A 9159 (only the cab remains of this locomotive). I am neither an expert woodworker or metal worker, or any other kind of handyman, but I can work with all these materials under supervision, and take direction to be helpful to those who have the serious skills.  I can definitely say that the skilled people who make up the regular Thursday/Saturday volunteer restoration team at the museum are friendly and willing to help new volunteers learn how to safely use the tools and learn the skills to help with restoration of historic vehicles if that is your interest.  Similarly, if your interest is in dealing with people and operating the miniature railway, there are opportunities for that as well.  It all starts with coming out and volunteering to help however you can, and building trust to get given the opportunities to do the things you want to do!!

Me working on the Cab of CN 9159 on the left, and drilling a part for something (I have no recollection of what I was working on) on the right.

As time went on, I found I was having less time to get down regularly, and work on restoration, but the museum had continued to grow, and following a production of The Railway Children play in the park in 2013, the museum was able to convert space that had been rented by the show into our initial display of historic artifacts.  This space which takes up about half of Stall 17 and a third of Stall 16 is our initial museum, until a future project to fund raise and build a permanent building is launched.  After several years, the initial displays in the Stalls were getting a bit tired, and left opportunities to improve our visitor experience by working on new displays.  As I was having less time to go get dirty on restoration/maintenance, and the Museum Manager and executive knew I had interests in display, I wound up getting involved in the ongoing process to create new displays and update older ones.  This worked as it also allowed me to leverage skills I have from my day job in designing displays and graphic materials for the museum space.

Partially installed exhibit on The Canadian on the left, and updated board on the CPR 3100 Northern Locomotives on the right.  Both new/updated exhibits now on display in the Toronto Railway Museum.

While I know not everyone has the desire to go out and volunteer, if you have even a tiny bit of interest, go out and meet your local museum or historical society.  If they are anything like any museum or group I’ve ever met, they always need willing and motivated people, and any organization worth being a part of will work with you to find out what you are interested/able to do, and help to get you involved in that part of their operations if they can.  I can speak from experience that you will meet plenty of good people in doing so.  The past 8 plus years have been very rewarding (though not without their challenges as with anything else in life), and I am definitely proud of  whatever small contribution I have made to preserving and protecting Toronto’s railway heritage for future generations.

Tuesday Train #64

IMGP9467RawConvCN Train 305 is lead Westbound at Newcastle Ontario by Locomotive 2446, a C40-8M built by GE in 1992. 


CN 305 west is a manifest freight, made up of all kinds of different freight cars.  The early part of the train was mostly oil tanks, with a mix of box cars, lumber cars and autorack cars further back.

IMGP9480RawConvCN 3094, an ET44AC also built by GE in 2015 is found mid-train as a radio controlled Distributed Power Unit (DPU). 


The tail end of CN305 trundles away.  The Rear End Device mounted to the coupler isn’t quite as romantic as the caboose of yesteryear, but it gets the job done of communicating by Radio that the train is still connected, and being a visual red light at night.

That’s No Train Part 3 – Transform and Roll Out!

So, at heart, I’m a big geek/nerd whatever term you deem appropriate (shock and horror across the faces of anyone who knows me at that revelation).  I’m also, unfortunately, someone who grew up mostly in the 1980’s, which is when most of my childhood memories are from. So this is the point where I say if you aren’t interested in my non-train ramblings, you should look away at some other corner of the internets for a bit.

My favourite Christmas present as a kid was Christmas 1985, when I got Optimus Prime, the leader of the Heroic Autobots from the cartoon The Transformers.  He was cool, he was a big rig that transformed into a Robot, and had a repair station and scout in his trailer to help him out.  He was also one of the hot toys that Christmas, and a lot of my friends didn’t get an Optimus Prime under the tree, which made me feel special.

IMGP1258RawConvNot a Train Part 3 in the back, and my G1 Optimus Prime from 1985 (though not really mine, I let mine be sold in a yard sale when i wasn’t interested in toys in my early teens, and eventually regretting it spent a fair bit of money re-acquiring one)

So, every summer, I attend TFCon in Mississauga with friends, it’s a fan run convention for Transformers fans.  Along with several of my close friends, we collect Transformers toys still and read the ongoing Comic Book series.  Last year at TFCon, I helped one of my friends who was liquidating his collection, as he’d realized he had bought stuff without any focus, so he got a dealer table and cleared out a ton of stuff to better homes to help him focus his collection.  I used it as an opportunity to thin the herd and get rid of some duplicates or figures I had decided I didn’t want.

At the show last year, I was looking at the Art Contest Entries, and was thinking to myself, I could do well enough to compete in this.  And I say that as someone who generally hates having their work judged, or even thinking that someone might judge their work if you take it out or let them see it.

After the show in July, a long time thought about building a really nice model of Optimus Prime that I’ve had over the years returned to me.  By luck, in August 2016, I came across the AMT Retro kit of a 1970’s White Freightliner Cabover, the same style of truck that was used for the animation and toys that would become Optimus Prime.  I duly acquired one from my regular source at Wheels and Wings here in Toronto, and set to work (The trailer kit and Italian Military Personnel Carrier were also bought here to support my local, the Hasegawa Kit from Japan was ordered through Ebay as by the time I’d settled on it, timing precluded W&W being sure they could get it into stock).

1/25th Scale AMT White Freightliner Cab Kit, with customization for Optimus Prime

The injection moulded parts are showing the age of the tooling in some spaces, especially in their fit and finish.  The cab in particular is moulded in three pieces, the front, a “U’ shaped middle, and the back wall.  Once they were aligned, they took a lot of filling to hide the ugly seam on the roof, while sanding and fileing to not lose the rivet detail.  Some parts of the kit were also, frankly, just garbage looking and the chrome was so thick on the chromed parts it shattered leaving ugly marks whenever you removed a part from the sprue.  To improve the look with a minimum of effort, I focused on replacing a few key parts to get the look right.  I chose to replace the exhaust stacks, horns, roof lights and rearview mirrors.  The turned aluminum horns and exhausts in the above photos are from MCA Model Accessories in England.  The new mirrors and roof light castings are pewter/white metal from American Industrial Truck Models in New Jersey.  I had never built a big rig model in my youth when I built a lot of plastic kits, so it was a new experience, but as with most things, I have discovered there is a huge community of enthusiasts manufacturing aftermarket parts and details to improve the starting point of a commercial kit.  I didn’t want to go crazy, as I also wanted to achieve a somewhat toylike look for the model, but also do enough to get the kit to look better than its age.

In a move that I know will cause horror for some, all my painting on the truck and trailer were done using Testors Enamel Rattle Cans (bought using the convenient Michaels 50% One Item Coupons, yeah, I’m cheap too!!).  This paint isn’t the greatest in the world for colour match, or achieving an even coat, but it hit the price point I wanted.   It also does work so long as you are super careful in your application to not put too much on, which is very easy with the cans. I used a Bright Gloss Red and Metallic Blue for the Cab, and Graphite Grey Metallic and Flat Black for the exterior of the trailer.  The trailer interior was left in Grey Primer.  The diamond plate was painted flat black, then covered with  Testors Chrome spray (again from the rattle can).  On the exterior of the cab, I used Bare Metal Foil for the silver stripe, and to chrome the front bumper steps, handrails, and fuel tanks.  There is also a bit of foil on the rear mudflaps.

The trailer graphics are vinyl material, meant for a Cricut machine or similar.  I sketched up in CAD the shapes I needed, printed out templates, traced the shapes onto the material and cut the material by hand to apply in two stages.  The first level was the silver base, then the blue stripes.  The Autobot head logo is a pre-cut vinyl decal from Reprolabels. For the Autobot Symbols and license plates, a variety of 2D and 3D stickers from Toyhax/Reprolabels were used.  They make replacement labels for 1980’s vintage Transformers, and add-on sets for newer toys.  The 3D labels were applied in a variety of places including on the fenders and mud flaps, back of the trailer chassis, and engine air intake before painting, then primed and painted over to become subtle hints that this truck was “more than meets the eye”.

Italeri 1/24 Scale Refrigerated Trailer Kit, modified to have a folding down rear ramp as the Toy has, and showing the interior modifications for the Battle Station/Repair Bay, Roller (the scout car) and to hold weapons for Optimus.

To mimic the toy, I wanted the rear doors of the trailer to open, but they toy had a fold down ramp, so once I’d figured out how to create a single piece from the two-part rear doors, I added a tube at the bottom, and worked up clips on the trailer body to run a piece of aluminum bar through, allowing the rear doors to fold down.  Inside the rear doors, I created two extension ramps as the door looked wrong folded down without an extension.  The ramps slide in and out and are held in place by a combination of friction and the styrene frame around them.  I also left the trailer roof separate to allow access to the interior for the other vehicles.  For beneath the trailer, I added a pair of resin tool boxes with white metal handles from M&G Mouldings to look like the feet for the toy trailer.

I also did some work to improve the interior, adding a diamond plate floor, complete with a raised section with gates to hide the tracks on the Battle Station, and a weapons rack for primes laser canon when he transforms into a robot.

Roller, a 1/35 scale Trumpeter Models Italian Puma 6×6, and the Battle Station/Repair Bay, a Hasegawa 1/35 Hitachi Double Arm NEO Excavator.  Both with varying degrees of modification.

For roller, I spent a lot of time looking at various options for military 6×6 vehicles that I could use.  There were a lot of options out there, with very different looks.  Roller, the little six wheeled car in the toy was described as a “scout”.  So i wanted something that didn’t have heavy armaments or cannons, but which looked like something you could deploy to sneak about.  I settled on the Trumpeter Models Italian Puma 6×6, because it was the right size and had the look of something stealthy.  The only real upgrade I did was to order a set of brass radio mounts and wire whip antenna for the rear (from a random ebay seller).

For the Battle Station/Repair Bay as its variously described, I wanted something that had two arms as the toy inside the trailer had.  I wasn’t worried about replicating the toys weird extending/fold out neck, as my goal on the project was to create what Optimus Prime would have looked like if he’d been a real truck in the 1980’s.  I came across the Hasegawa Science World Hitachi Astro Neo Double Arm Excavator kit, and knew it was perfect.  I think the only other Hasegawa kit I’ve ever built was a Sikorsky Sea King helicopter, but it was a joy to build.  The parts went together so well, that even the instructions in Japanese weren’t an impediment!  I only made a couple of modifications to the kit, installing two 3D printed canons on the sides, and making a radio antenna from scrap styrene, a wood dowel cap, and etched brass SD40-2 Locomotive Grills (bringing the trains back for anyone who kept reading!).

Both Roller and the Excavator were airbrushed with old stock Pollyscale C&O Enchantment Blue that I got dirt cheap at the Barrie Train Show.  It has a nice matte sheen to it when sprayed over Tamiya Fine Grey primer.  The claws and some of the details on the excavator were chromed with the Testors rattle cans.

TF Con 2017 3D Art Contest Entries, and the Trophies, custom-made from Transformers Toys for 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

At the show, the entries are all displayed on a table, in the 2D and 3D Art Competitions so the public can see them, and the judges can judge them.  It was my first time entering a contest, other entries were more traditional TF Customs, where someone takes toys and re-paint/detail them to create other characters or unique characters.  All told, there were 12 entries in the 3D Art Contest based on my looking at the table and the entry sign in sheet, so a 1 in 4 chance of coming away with something.  One thing I learned, that I probably should have known, was that because they couldn’t see all sides, or move the models, details could be missed.  Some of the other competitors had framed detail photos or work-in-progress info with their entries to aid the judges.  In my heart, I probably knew I needed to spend some of my final prep time putting something together, but I also felt it looked so good, that it would stand well enough on its own.

So the big reveal, I won 3rd prize!  I didn’t come away empty-handed from almost a years worth of work in building the model specifically to enter the contest.  I received a lot of positive comments and feedback, and when I was packing it up, people pointed out that some of the details were probably missed by the judges because you just couldn’t see them until you were really close or they were pointed out.  I got feedback as much from at least one person who I suspect was a judge.  I was a bit disappointed if I’m perfectly honest when they announced 3rd Prize as being “Real Prime by Stephen Gardiner” in the speakers room at the convention, but then, I got past that and made my way up to collect the trophy, I realized I had achieved my goal of getting recognition and winning one of the three prizes on offer in my first attempt to do so.

IMGP1213RawConvMy model and the 3rd Place Trophy.  The Trophies were made out of Transformers Toys, painted Gold, Silver and Bronze.

I learned a lot from this, despite the fact that I generally hate contests and judging models.  Fear of judgment (either in general or via a contest) has traditionally been one of the things that kept me from being more social in the Model Railroad hobby and showing off my work to others.  By specifically setting out to do a project with the intention of entering it in a competition, I don’t think I did anything different to if I was doing it just for myself, but I did cross a hurdle in my own mind about letting others judge my work and being alright with the outcome.  Maybe I could have gotten 1st or 2nd if I’d written this post or similar to point out the details and brought it with me, but at the end of the day, I won 3rd place and a bit of pride in my work.  I can honestly say that the numbers of medals or trophies I’ve won for any competition I’ve taken part in, or sport I’ve played is small, so I’m going to revel in this for a bit, even if no one in their right mind pays attention to the outcome of the Art Contest at a Transformers Fan Convention!!  Will I do a custom Transformers themed model again? Absolutely, but probably not in the next year or two.  I need to decide what I would want to do, and make sure it doesn’t take away from the important business of model railroading!!

IMGP1263RawConvShortage of Space in the apartment.  For now, I don’t have a shelf even remotely close to big enough to display the model I named “Real Prime” for the purposes of the contest entry, along with my 3rd Place Trophy.

A Mid Year Inventory

I realize that I am a bit past half way through the year, but I hadn’t thought about taking stock of where I am with projects that I’ve been working on.  This is as much an exercise for myself in keeping track of what I’m doing, but since I needed to do it for my own sanity, I figured others might enjoy the read.  I teed up my year in a New Years Day post here.

Updating the list from January, I can advise as follows:

Projects Underway

  • Dominion of Canada Shipment – Complete!!  See HereIMGP8620RawConv
  • DAR “Nova Scotia” – Externally Complete.  I have still not got enough information to do more than an educated guess for the interior layout, so I’ve held off on doing anything on the interior.  I never did a post about the finished car really, closest is here.  If you happen to have ridden in Nova Scotia in her DAR or UCRS days and have pictures of plans of the interior, I’d love to talk to you!! imgp6269rawconv
  • Talyllyn – Complete! See Hereimgp6094rawconv
  • Railway Village Diorama – Complete enough to Show.  There are little bits of paint and detail touchup, and things I’m working on.  The most obvious thing needing done is to may ridge caps for the roof of Don Station, but it’s low on my to do list.imgp6225rawconv
  • CNR D-1 – Ready to do interior of C-1/C-2 Coaches, just haven’t felt like working on it.
  • Test Track Scenery – Haven’t touched
  • Mystery Narrow Gauge Locomotive #1 – Plymouth Cordage No.1 3D print, Complete! See Hereimgp6036rawconv
  • Mystery Rail Vehicle #2 – Nothing to say about this.  I honestly haven’t worked on it!

Projects to Start

  • Freight Car Kits – Haven’t started, now have four kits in hand to build.  These will be great for down the road when I am at a crossroads on some other project and need to get away from it.
  • 587 Yonge Street/Bar Volo – Made a lot of progress on this.  A little bit stalled at the moment working on non-train models I’m now done, just need to work up the motivation to the very slow task of cutting out windows in the brick sheet for the walls.IMGP8935RawConv
  • British Railways Mark 1 First Open (FO) Diagram 73 – Made decent initial progress.  Petered out a bit looking at etched brass car sides and details to insert into the brass sides (The roof’s been painted since the below picture, but otherwise, it’s still a big rolling fish tank).  imgp5898rawconv
  • Narrow Gauge Layout – Track laid and tested.  At the point of wiring for electrical and haven’t had the right diameter wire or soldering supplies.  I have them in stock now, just haven’t gotten back to work on it (track is all laid down now, this was most recent photo I have).IMGP6452RawConv


  • Weathering – I’m really happy with my weathering efforts on the Dominion of Canada model.  I realized I have a number of old freight cars that I’m likely going to consider selling off in our storage locker.  At some point, I’m going to bring them up and experiment with weathering on them.
  • Soldering – No progress in really learning.  I did have a good chat with a friend about soldering and we’re going to look for a date sometime this fall to work on both soldering and building track as they have lots of experience at both.
  • Track Building – See Soldering

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in Stores or Order

  • Rapido Trains Royal Hudson – Looking like 2018 for these, not a problem as its going straight to the Display Case Central whenever it does arrive.
  • Heljan Lynton & Barnstaple OO9 2-6-2 – The initial partial delivery has had a some problems.  Heljan has indicated the balance of production was due in July 2017, but it looks and feels more like these will be delayed again.  Mine is in the part that wasn’t delivered, so I continue to wait patiently
  • RealTrack Class 156 DMU – Looks like the version I’ve ordered should be reaching the manufacturer in the UK in September.
  • Rapido Trains New Look Buses – TTC modern should be delivered in September/October, TTC maroon later in year.  The samples I’ve seen at Rapido events look amazing.
  • Mike McGrattan Memorial Gondola – Delivered, and has a place of honour amongst my displayed models. More on the car & Mike at this link.

It’s not a sport, so I’m not keeping score on anything, but I’m pleased to have ticked a couple of projects off as complete and made progress on others.  In between this, I’ve completed three non-railroad scale model projects as well.

In another necessary fight, I have only added a couple of projects to my list, and have been working to maintain focus on the things I am working on, rather than adding more.  That said, a couple of projects have been added to the list since January:

  • Mystery Rail Vehicle #3 – Anyone who knows me can probably figure out what this is, but I can say its a passenger car, If I can successfully 3D model the car, it has the potential to actually be a seller as there is definitely demand out there for it and no manufacturers are seriously looking at tooling it for RTR production that I know of.
  • S-Scale Speeder.  Most of the requests from people on Shapeways that I get for re-sizing models I politely decline.  It takes too much time to be worth it given I do the 3D modelling for fun and don’t try to really make any money at it.  Despite that, a request to re-scale one of my speeders to S did get my interest, and I’m looking at how much work it actually needs since the price of the model remains reasonable that the person who approached me sounds like they would actually buy it.

So that’s a brief ish review of the first half of 2017.  It feels good to write the word “completed” on some things.  Makes me feel like I’m winning the battle with my habit of starting lots of projects but not getting them finished.

That’s No Train Part 2!!!!

So, this post has nothing to do with Trains.  There, you’ve been warned, look away if you are only interested in my ramblings about model trains.

Anyone who knows me, will know that I like sports, and a lot of different sports.  I watch a lot of Hockey (Ice Hockey for my UK friends), Baseball, Football (of the Gridiron and Beautiful Game varieties), Rugby, Golf and Car Racing.  Yes, Car Racing…what’s that you say, not a sport? Maybe in some aspects, but the drivers are just as much athletes as those in the other sports I mentioned.  Is there an aspect of luck or having the best car that dictates who wins, some days in some series absolutely, but don’t tell me it’s easy to drive at speeds up to 300km/hr for 2-3 hours at a time with high g-forces and the level of attention needed to not turn the lump of metal and carbon fibre around you into a deadly weapon.  My only experience in a high performance race vehicle (a performance G0-Kart at a friends bachelor party at the Mosport Kartway) wound up with me upside down wearing a Go-kart in the middle of the track, not my finest hour!!

5053752399_40250603cc_o.jpgMe, shortly before experimenting with a new Go-Kart shaped hat at the Mosport Kartway in 2010.

So, with that said, the type of car racing that I pay the most attention to is what is generally lumped into the term “Sportscar Racing”.  This is endurance racing, long races with multiple types of cars on track at the same time.  There are two main series I watch, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), a series of 6 hour races around the globe which also includes the legendary Grand Prix D’endurance at Le Mans France, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  The second is the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship, the North American equivalent of the WEC which runs mostly 2hr 45 Minute Races, but with the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, 6 Hours of Watkins Glen and Petite Le Mans (10hours/1,000 miles) making up an extended length sub-series of the season.  The Cole’s Note version of an explanation for a beginner is that these series are composed of four classes of cars, two classes of “Prototypes”, or purpose designed and built race cars that look more like UFO’s than street cars; and, two classes of GT Cars, or cars which are based on high performance street cars (think Ferrari, Corvette, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, etc).  The two main groups are then further divided based on whether Manufacturers are involved or not, and whether the drivers are all Professional, or Pro-Ams, where some of the drivers are “amateurs” who have money and the desire to go racing.   It’s more complicated than that, but that’s enough for you as a model railroader to have a high-level understanding of what’s going on (assuming you’ve made it this far)!

IMGP1100RawConv.jpgMulti Class IMSA Sportscar Racing at Mosport outside Toronto.  A GTLM Porsche (Professional Factory Teams) , leads a PC Oreca (Pro-Am Open Top Prototype), in front of a GTD Acura (Pro-Am Independent Teams); in front of a P (Prototype/professional) Cadillac DPI car.  Four races in one.

So, to bring this long ramble back to modelling, I, like many I know, got into all kinds of different scale model making as a kid.  I talked about this a little on another project I recently finished here.  I’m in the midst of a little dalliance with building plastic kits again.  The project I’m about to talk about, is actually the last of the three, but I’m not quite ready to talk about the 2nd yet (that’s the next “Not About Trains” post).  My favourite team in the IMSA Series is Corvette Racing.  If I had all the money, my first purchase would be a Corvette (A 2017 GS would do nicely thanks).  Then, after a summer of suffering being barely able to get in and out of it (I am after all, a bit of a big kid size wise), it would be the first thing I’d sell too (but at least I’d have one summer of owning and driving an awesome sportscar!).

Last year, Revell, the main plastic kit maker in the North American market announced they were releasing a 1/25th scale Corvette C.7R, the race version of the current car.  This was a must buy for me.  When it finally came out, the kit was a bit of a mishmash.  The designers originally had access to the 2015 race car, but by the time the tooling was done and the car produced, they included decals for the 2016 #4 car, which is fine, as that car won the 24 Hours of Daytona, which gave me ideas for display.  The problem was, there are a lot of little details visible in the bodywork that changed between 2015 and 2016, so I had the choice of living with good enough, or making some effort to improve the model.

Working on the plastic kit, updating the body work and testing LED headlights on the left, and adding a resin driver figure on the right.

I settled on the obvious answer, if I’m going to do it, do it right.  The body changes involved extending the valances on the front and sides, creating a new rear diffuser (a series of wings under the car to create down-force to hold the car to the track).  I also hate that almost every model race car I’ve ever built lacks a driver figure.  When I was a kid, I had a shelf with probably 20 nascar models lined up, all of them without drivers.  Even before the kit for the car was available, I was on the search for a driver figure.  Fortunately, there are a number of options out there,  and one was perfect, a resin manufacturer named GF Models makes a range of sportscar and Formula car drivers and mechanics.  I found a retailer in Belgium who sells their products, and one was duly ordered.

I also wanted to have the headlights lit.  In sportscar racing, the headlights are a major feature, as they communicate information about the type of car coming up behind you.  White Headlights mean one of the prototype cars, which are faster, yellow lights, mean a GT, which is slower (relatively speaking).  Having the headlights be more than just static paint was something I wanted, and the advances in small LED’s and their availability, made that possible.  I ordered some 3mm sized yellow LED’s from Evan Designs (as a note for fellow Canadians, GLX Scale Models sells Evan LED’s in Canada, but he didn’t have what I needed so it was faster to order direct rather than through a middle man, I buy most of my LED’s through GLX whenever possible), these run on 3V, or a little flat cell watch battery.  The LED’s come pre-wired, so it was just an issue of making holes in the bodywork for them, and snaking the wiring around.

Closing in on the finished product.  The painted and decaled body without windows in, the interior with miniature Oliver Gavin, and the car on the partly painted display base testing everything looks ok.

With the model modified, the assembly was pretty much straight forward plastic kit, paint, assemble, follow instructions, add decals, etc.  While I was working on it, I knew I wanted to get it signed by the drivers.  The car itself is a bit small for being easily signed, so I decided to build a base that would double as a display stand on the shelf.  Using a birch plywood panel I had bought for another project, but wasn’t happy with (the board warped in our apartment), I bodged up a bit of racetrack for the car to sit on.  As the car is decaled to look like the 2016 Daytona Winning car, I painted a start-finish line for the car to be crossing.

The one visit of the year to Canada for either of the big series is mid-July at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport!!!).  The series is very fan friendly, with open pit walks before the race, super access to the cars and drivers, and an autograph session before the race.  I made sure I was at the front of the line Sunday morning at the Corvette Trucks to have Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin sign the model.  Unfortunately, they had a bad day, late in the race Tommy got bumped and most of the front end of the car was destroyed.  Fortunately, modern safety standards for both the car design and the walls of a racetrack meant that Tommy was OK and walked away from a scary crash.

At Mosport on the weekend, the model with the real No.4 Corvette behind, and being signed by two of the three drivers Tommy Milner (top) and Oliver Gavin (bottom).  The third driver only does the four long distance races, so if anyone knows when Marcel Fassler will be in Toronto on Vacation so i can stalk him (or even better, if someone wants to pay for me to go to Daytona in January or France in June!!)…

While none of these bits of modelling are identical to working on model trains, they are all the same skills, just being applied differently.  As I said earlier, I’ve been having a bit of a dalliance with building model kits over the past year.  It’s been good as it’s given me some variety in what’s on my workbench at home, and something different to look forward to and think about.  It’s not that I haven’t worked on trains while I’ve been doing these, but the option to say tonight I want to work on figuring out how to drill holes to fit the LEDs while not screwing up how the kit goes together has been nice.  I’m also finding that I’m now super motivated to get on with some railroad projects that have languished, which at the end of the day, may be the best reason of all for having taken a break to do other types of modelling.