Skillbuilding – Bare-Metal Foil

I’m a model railroader, that’s the hobby of construction that gets me going and in which my core interest lies.  But, growing up as a child and into my teenage years, I built a lot (hundreds) of Revell, Monogram, AMC and other brands of scale model kits.  Cars, planes, jets, ships, space ships, all manner of models.  Over the years, most have been consigned to the dustbin as they’ve been damaged by house moves, cats, and the passage of time on kits that were never gloss coated or sealed to protect the paint and decals.  I learned a lot of skills building these kits though, many of which are transferable to and have been transferred to my model railroading.  Recently, I’ve been working on the first plastic kit model that isn’t a railroad car or structure that I’ve bought in the past 15 years.  I honestly don’t think I’ve bought a plastic kit since I was on my first co-op work term from university in the summer of 2000.  I’m working on a model of a Boeing 737-200, for a Canadian airline with a really cool one-off promotional paint scheme. I’ll probably post about it at some point when it’s done, but so far so good on the build (its been a slow burn project, bought the decal set in March 2015, eventually picked up the kit, and started building it a couple of months ago between railroad projects).  As part of the project though, I wanted to learn a new technique or skill.  I chose using Bare-Metal Foil to create chrome/silver parts.  There isn’t a lot on a 1/144 scale airliner, but enough to see if I can do it to good effect, and practice some technique.  This isn’t something I’ll need a lot of for model railroading, but, it’s a new skill.

So, after work today I dutifully went off to one of the Hobby Shops that is still in operation in Toronto, Wheels and Wings Hobbies, as the name implies, it’s not a model railroad store.  But, they are a full on hobby shop, which means that for a short walk from the Subway, I can get tools, paints, supplies, and talk general techniques.  I don’t think they get a lot of model railroad business from people like me, and I’m sure my small paint purchases drive them up the wall as I’m not the customer type whose going to keep them in business, but I am nevertheless, a customer!!

IMGP6658Bare-Metal Foil and the wings, tail planes, and one engine cowling for a Boeing 737-200 model in 1/144th scale.  Foil has been applied to the leading edges of the tail planes, and one wing, and I’ve been playing with learning to apply to the complex shape of the engine cowl.  Even as a first attempt though, the look is far better than any I’d achieved before with paint.

The foil comes in a number of colours.  The Real Copper would potentially be quite useful for modellers of British Steam (or at least of the Great Western Railway) to get the copper capped look.  I’m certainly going to think of ways to use it in a model railroad setting now that I’ve experimented on a more traditional use of it.  Now, back to the workbench to keep on applying foil to the engine cowls until I get a nice smooth application around those fiddly curves!

Selling Stuff? Worth the Effort or Not?

So, in the never-ending fight to balance available space and future modelling, it seems you inevitably wind up with more stuff than you need or can use.  I see this from many out there.  In the past year or so, as my parents readied to downsize their house and move, I donated, sold, recycled and sadly garbaged a lot of stuff that no longer had a place in my life.  Old clothes, VHS tapes, DVD’s, books and magazines, furniture, and toys all made their way out.  We also have a regular rolling “Goodwill” or charity donation box in our apartment where my wife and I put things that we’ve determined we no longer need or want.  Something I firmly believe in is that the things i bought or acquired brought me happiness, and that I’d rather pay it forward by giving the things a chance to bring someone else happiness rather than send them to the dump, but there are inevitably limits to everything.  Everything Model Railroad related however, survived the purge.

For the stuff from my parent’s basement, some of it got turned into money (made a few hundred dollars on old movie, star wars and similar action figures selling to comic stores; CD’s/Movies to used stores; books to used book stores; Transformers toys at a recent convention with a friend who was liquidating his collection), but it’s nothing life altering.  For instance, the money I made at the Transformers Convention, after costs lets me buy a new Weller Soldering Station and have about the cost of that again left over.   Better than a kick in the teeth, but not world altering for a 13 hour day from leaving for the show, setup, the show, packing up and getting home.  At the end of the day, there is still some stuff in tubs in our locker, but it’s been downsized to a manageable collection that i can deal with in our annual storage locker clean-out at the apartment where we go through and try to be ruthless with things to give away or sell.

TFConSelling Transformers Robot Toys at TFCon 2016 in Mississauga, I tagged on my stuff being downsized with a friend clearing out their collection to turn them into money for model railroading!

So where am i going with this?  I’m curious if any of those who read my blog have ever braved buying a table at one of the various shows in southern Ontario to sell?  I’m considering getting a table at the Lakeshore Model Railroaders Flea Market in September or the next one in early 2017.  Another option is the TH&B Flea Markets in Ancaster in November and January, but I haven’t found any source for table costs, and the Lakeshore seems to be $40 for a table, which is probably manageable to at least ensure that in the worst case, i cover the cost of the table (and its much closer to home).

Part of my dilemma, is that I have eight tubs plus a full A-line tote of locomotives, freight cars, structures, scenery and all manner of model railroad stuff to sort through.  Some of it is “core” that I have no interest in getting rid of because it’s what i think i want to model, or has sentimental value.  Some of it is things I’d like to keep, but are realistically only display pieces (a lot of British models).  Some of it, are things that I’m unlikely to ever model and could potentially create value from (why did i buy 2 Rapido coaches in VIA Blue and an FP9A in Via Blue?  I have no interest in modelling the early 1980’s when i was between 2&6 years old!!).

IMGP0157RawConvThe trains from Georgetown packed up, there are two more (i think) of the same tubs that were already at the apartment, and another cardboard tray for the A-line tote full of equipment without boxes.

I don’t really “want” to sell anything, but there is a part of me that realizes that selling some stuff is the responsible decision to ease some pressure on our storage locker.  I don’t expect to get back what I paid, but deep inside there is a part of me going if I take a day, and sell stuff that may have cost $2,000, but wind up with $1,000 in cash in hand instead of having a pile of models I can’t display, run, or do anything with, am I better off?  But it’s tough to figure out what to part with, and how to fairly price it.  I have great visions of winding up selling the two Rapido Via Blue Coaches at say $50 each, and then not selling the FP9A which originally sold for around $225 for the non DCC version I have, and being stuck with a loco I’m trying to sell for $150 but no coaches for it anymore.  I’m torn as to whether doing a table at a show or making a list and circulating it to friends/online forums is a better approach.  I don’t really want to deal with having to mail stuff to people far afield, but I’m not sure a show would be effective, or if it would leave me with a parted out collection that is more of a pain in the long run.

Hopefully someone reading this has some insight/experience to help me point myself in the right direction with more knowledge than I have at present!

Tuesday Train #12


Dow Chemicals SW1200 #1007 switching Vidal Street Industrial Park in chemical valley at the south end of Sarnia Ontario in 2009.  This is at the crossing of what is known as “Imperial Avenue”, though it isn’t really a public road.  This is however, industrial railroading at its finest, a small switcher constantly moving tanks to and from the various refineries and chemical plants for loading/unloading of petroleum products.

A bookshelf of an idea

So, in one of my last posts on modelling in apartments, I made a comment that as I talked, I was having an idea hatch.  I’ve spent a few days mulling on the idea, and looking at others who have done similar things.  I’ve for some time been trying to crack the code and find a way to be able to run trains in the apartment, nothing fancy, but something where I can do some simple switching, and have some of the large collection of equipment which is currently packed away out for use and display.  But, living in a two bedroom apartment, it needs to be compact, and theoretically easily taken down and safely packed away.

The answer to this, is something modular, whether is a single sceniced module and a staging/fiddle yard, or something else.  The idea that came into my head while talking about Ikea bookcases falls deep in the “something else” category.  One of the problems I have, is being indecisive in what i want to model.  I have interests in Canadian Railroads and modelling, and British Railways and modelling (to the point where instead of going prototype when i build a layout, i’ve contemplated a double deck freelance layout with Canada on one level and the UK on the other).  But, in a small space, you can’t have your cake and eat it to…or can I?  Realistically, the maximum space in our apartment that might become available when we replace the double bed in the office with a futon is 8′ long.  Width is a bit more flexible, but I don’t want something that’s so large its unwieldy to move or take down when people need to use the futon.

July 12 16 - Ikea Billy Module Concept 1Initial Concept of an Ikea Billy Layout with a replaceable scenic section on a Billy Shelf

Using the Ikea Billy bookcase system, the shelves on the wide unit are 30″ wide by 10″ deep, just enough room to be useful if you have off-scene fiddle yards or staging at either end.  The 3D sketch above shows a 3 part unit, two end units with a billy shelf on drawer rails that can align with tracks to be a fiddle yard, and a centre section with a permanent backdrop, that a shelf can be dropped into to create the visible trackwork and sceniced area.  The result, a layout where you can change the scene by popping out the bookcase shelf, and putting it back into the bookcase as a diorama, and putting in a different shelf for a different scene.  One day its a gritty inner city industrial area, next day, it’s the end of the platforms at a busy British station.  The day after that, it’s a wayside stop on a rural line and so on.

Plans1Early Concept Track Plans, 5 Track sliding fiddle yards, three fixed possible entrance points to the scene, then the removable scene on the Billy Shelf.

The initial concept as I’ve visualized it has a five track fiddle yard on either end, mounted on drawer sliders, that can align with one of three fixed points on either end of the central frame that holds a replaceable Billy shelf.  On the Billy Shelf, is a sceniced section, that aligns with one or more of the three fixed tracks.

Obviously, this is a very high level first conceptualization of this.  If I actually go with bringing it forward to be an actual thing, it will clearly evolve and change.  There are lots of technical challenges to make something like this work, from ensuring track alignments, making power routing work, and all kinds of other issues.  It would obviously need to have legs and be self-supporting, but that also offers opportunities to make provisions for a screen around the staging to take the layout to shows and run trains.  Take a Canadian Scene to the Barrie-Allandale Show, take a British scene to the Great British Train Show, take a prototype scene to Copetown and so on.

July 12 16 - Ikea Billy Module Concept 2Concept with a View Block around the staging/fiddle yard and a name board across the view window to create a portable/changeable exhibit layout.

There are some big limitations on making trackwork work in this space in HO, this may be better for my N-Scale or narrow gauge friends, but its an idea that I’m going to keep exploring and see where we wind up in the coming months.

Tuesday Train #11


Now that’s a station canopy!  A National Express East Coast HST125 set calls at York England in 2009.  The East Coast passenger franchise has changed hands so many times, it feels like its a different operator every time i go to the UK!!

In matter of fact, it almost has been.  When i used the east coast services in 2002 and 2004, it was Great North Eastern Railway (GNER), in 2009 it was National Express East Coast, and by 2014, it was just East Coast (aka the government) when i rode the east coast services.  To top it off, since 2015 it’s Virgin Trains who i haven’t been over to ride with yet.

“Model Railroading is …

Fun“ Frustrating!!!  I think a famous magazines tag line, while often accurate, also sometimes hides the frustrations that come from this hobby.  I wrote a post previously about a pair of Labatt’s leased General American Pfaudler Reefers I was working on for my non-existent railway.  Both cars should in fact be done now, and to be fair, one of them is.  The other, has been a victim of the Model Railroading equivalent of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  If i could find a way to screw up this project and finishing it, I seem to have done so.  It’s times like this I’m glad the only person I build stuff for is myself.  I don’t know how people like Pierre Oliver run a business building kits for other people, I’d lose my mind!! Even to get to the point of one finished car, and one that I’ve run out of supplies to finish without going back to the wallet to buy things over again.  Hence, Model Railroading is Frustrating!!!

So, to go back to the start of this project, it’s seemingly had gremlins from the start.  Even before I managed to screw anything up, someone at the Intermountain Factory did.  I bought two identical kits at the same time, but somewhere in the factory, someone at some point had the injection mold slides messed up, as after I started construction, I discovered that the underframe details on the two kits pointed two different directions.  Effectively, this means that the underside and brake rigging on the two cars points different directions.  I mulled whether i would try to fix it, and decided that i could live with it, and make the necessary fixes so that parts that didn’t have proper mounting points anymore could be attached.

IMGP2203RawConvOne of these cars underbody was molded the wrong way around, the brake platforms are at the same place, but all the details beneath point opposite ways.

The next great failventure was the etched roof walks from the kit.  I had serious issues folding them, and never was truly happy with them, fortunately, the next problem solved that.  The first attempt at painting the cars using a Pullman Green paint, which while probably accurate at 1:1, looked too dark/black to me on the model, and to compound my problems, my coats of paint didn’t go on evenly, and ran all over the place.  I’d never used the brand of paint I was using before, and am not likely to again after this experience.  The upside of this, was once i stripped the car down, when i re-primed it, i managed to clog the etched roof walks so badly, the only recourse was to rip them off and buy new walks.

New walks were ordered, and when received, these ones folded much better, attached nicely, and even managed to be primed without mucking them up.  This was followed up with a coat of Testors Model Master Green Drab.  To my eye, it looks so much more like the dark green colour I would expect of an express/head end car such as a milk/beer reefer, and it went on really nicely.

IMGP2549RawConvTwo painted reefers and two sets of decals from Black Cat Publishing.  After all the earlier problems, decals should be a no brainer…

So, decaling, doing two identical cars, I set up as an assembly line.  I’d do one side of the first car, then the same side of the second car, to make sure i was doing them approximately the same.  Things got off to a bad start before I’d even put on decal one when i managed to drip water onto the uncut sheet of decals.  This, despite my best efforts to scramble and save them wound up costing me one of the “General” wordmarks for one side of a car.  A problem, but one i could hopefully overcome.  After this first misadventure, i switched to just trying to get one car finished, which i did.  I even managed to clear coat with a dullcoate to protect the decals without any further misadventure.  At some future point, I’ll lightly weather the car (that future point being when i finally get comfortable weathering models, need a lot of practice  on that before moving on to good models).  So, moving on to the second car, knowing i was at least a single word short, i checked my sets of individual letters, none of them matched the font from the Black Cat decals, but i was placing an order for some parts, from a company that had Pfaudler Reefer decals, so i bought a set, and hoped.  In the mean time, i started to do the first side of the 2nd car, and i ran into all kinds of problems.  I managed to ruin the 2nd “General” decal for this car, not while applying it, but while putting on Microsol to get it to bed down and into the details of the car.  I knew the film on the decals was thin (which is a good thing), as I’d had some minor problems doing the first car, but this time the second the Microsol touched the decal, it shriveled up and melted into nothing.  Same thing happened with the data panel, though I managed to save most of it.

IMGP2204RawConvSuccessfully decaled GPEX923 in the back, and the cursed GPEX924 in the front.

After this misadventure, the parts order and decal set came in, and the font and size of the “General American Pfaudler Corporation” text is drastically different from that in the Black Cat set.  This means that I can’t just use these decals as I’d hoped i could, as the cars won’t look right.  So that leaves me with what you see above, one finished car that i am quite happy with, and one at a crossroads.  Strip off the decals on it and do a generic Pfaudler car, or set it aside until the next time I’m ordering from Black Cat and get another set of Labatt’s decals.  My gut instinct is to persevere and get another set of Labatt’s and finish the project, though there have been a few moments where finding out how far across the apartment a HO Scale reefer can fly has crossed my mind as well!!

IMGP2200RawConvGPEX 923 as Leased to Labatt’s Breweries.  One car successfully completed.