Weathering a Flat Car

I wrote a few months back about a small project to add a load to an older Life-Like Proto 2000 flat car.  While I am not modelling the huge Massey-Harris (Massey-Ferguson) factory just to the northeast of my layout, I wanted to have a flat car with a load of new tractors on it that I could put in a consist to get in the way and be a nuisance from time to time.

IMG_5940.JPGBefore any weathering, nice plasticky shine on the 1990’s vintage model.

The car is perfectly good-looking in terms of detail, I bought it probably while I was in university or even before.  It’s maybe not as detailed as a modern RTR car, but with some weathering and a load of tractors on top, it will look just fine.  Not every piece of rolling stock needs to be super detailed and crazy to be effective.

I recently subscribed to, a paid online video site that is affiliated with Model Railroad Hobbyist, a free online magazine.  Trainmasters is a subscription service, but so far in a couple of weeks, I’ve picked up some great tips and tricks, including the weathering techniques I applied to the flat car.  I’m not affiliated, but after years of hearing about it from friends, I’m glad I finally subscribed.  The “minimalist” weathering techniques are demonstrated by Joe Fugate in the video, and an article in the magazine.

Weathering the Wheels, applying a coat of Vallejo model air earth, and then burnt sienna Pan Pastels into the damp paint.
Weathering the truck frames, shiny black plastic; a coat of Vallejo earth brown; black Pan Pastels over that when dry, and then some more burnt sienna pan pastel for rust and to pick out the details.  All sealed with a coat of Dullcote spray.

I liked the video and the technique, its simple, and mostly uses supplies I already owned.  I haven’t done a lot of weathering, and this seemed like a good opportunity to try some techniques on a car.  I wanted to weather the flat car and have it look like it’s been used a bit.  The tractors on the car for the load will be bright and shiny and new, so the car should look a bit road weary, but not ruined at the same time.

Using the Armor All Window Cleaner as thinner as recommended in the technique seemed to work well, I’ve always had trouble thinning paints and such for doing washes, but this seemed to work for me as described and demonstrated.  It’s nice to find simple techniques that I can now experiment with as I go knowing that it seems to work for me on the first attempt.

Trying to show the weathering on the side and on the deck, not my best pictures unfortunately.

I wanted the deck to look a bit more worn and beaten up.  The plastic deck didn’t look terrible, but I gave it a couple of washes with the thinned grey I used to weather the sides, and when dry, worked some black pan pastels thinly across the deck to make it look a bit dirtier and beaten up.  When sprayed with the Dullcoat, the brown shades of the original factory paint job that attempted to have different shades of grey/brown boards came through just enough to create the effect I was looking for.


The car on its own with the weathering sealed and reassembled, and with the load of factory fresh tractors sat in place to see how the look.

Next steps for this car are to start installing the tractors and the blocks/load chains to hold them in place.  A couple of nights fiddling with tiny chain and swearing are clearly in my future!

Walking into the Layout Room

IMG_5931.JPGThe view through the door into my office/layout room. What is that taped to the wall?

Doing some cleanup today in the layout room, I came across some print outs of things I had pulled together while initially researching the prototype for the layout and looking for information on Liberty Village.  One of them, was an HO Scale Printout of the Brunswick Balke Collender factory building.  This will be a prominent structure when you walk into the layout room as it will be right in front of you.  I am going to be able to accommodate the full south wall of the building to scale, though it will be more or less a flat against the wall (as most buildings on the layout will be).

IMG_5932A structure for the layout (I know, a stretch), but it’s to scale, and even more or less at the right height without the foam on the benchwork!

Another baby step forward in building the layout, and one that helps me immensely in figuring out how high the backdrop needs to be to work having a sense of building heights in place.

Taking a Break from Benchwork

Back in early 2017, I started on a small Ikea Shelf layout for narrow guage equipment, not based on any prototype or anything, just a shelf diorama to display some 009 Gauge models I have bought or customized.  Today, to break from working on the new layout, and to frankly, get it off my workbench where it was dominating the space, I finished wiring feeders to the track, and did some test running with Talyllyn.  The little shelf seems to run fine.  I’ll need to run it in more before balasting and doing some basic scenery, but a couple of hours this morning while watching car racing got it done and off the bench.

Bottom and top views of the narrow gauge diorama/layout on an Ikea Inreda shelf.

For now, since all the wire I’d cut weeks ago is now soldered into place, the shelf and its frame have gone away into the ever emptying closet (turns out building the benchwork has inspired me to finish the clear-out started before moving!).  With my workbench back and feeling like I’d accomplished something rather than just putting it away in shame, it was on to other layout projects and preparing for selling more surplus models in September at the Lakeshore Model Railroaders Flea Market on September 16th, but I’ll post more about that closer to the date.

Fascia Makes the Benchwork

This morning I went out to get a couple of things, and made the “mistake” of visiting Atlas Tool and Machinery‘s new location on Islington Road near my house.  I’d been in their old cramped and now closed Queen Street store downtown before, but never the new store.  The new store is like a toy store for adults. So many tools from so many brands!!

I was there to buy one specific item, an AtMac Countersink drill bit that Ryan Mendell had brought with him last weekend when we did the bulk of the benchwork.  Having seeing it in action, the nice clean holes it cut showed me another tool I didn’t own, but do now!  I needed it as one of my goals for weekend 2 of layout benchwork was to install the rough fascia beneath the benchwork and tidy up the installation of the shelf brackets and such that we did last week (and install the last bracket since I hadn’t bought enough!).

The first piece of the fascia clamped in place for drilling, and all screwed in place and secure.

The Fascia I am installing today is not the “finished” look, it’s a working fascia to give me something to help hold the benchwork square and level, and for installing pulls for switch machines and other controls to.  It will also supply the mounting point for one end of the layouts small peninsula when that eventually gets constructed.  Closer to the end of layout building (or at least when it reaches the point that scenery is happening and the benchwork and wiring is complete), I plan to skin the fascia with styrene sheet.  A nice black styrene skin will hide any holes and marks, along with the cut edge of the plywood and the foam layer to go above it.  For the next while, it will look rough, but much better than just the plywood looked.

IMG_5918A simple plastic mitre box and a hand saw were more than enough for this weekends woodworking adventures!

After last weekends power tool bonanza, I was back to the old school, an inexpensive plastic mitre box and a hand saw, but for cutting the pieces of 1″x3″ Pine to size, and angling the corners, anything more would have been overkill.  For simple cuts like this in something that’s eventually going to be invisible, if I couldn’t do it with a hand saw, something’s really wrong!!

IMG_5891IMG_5920Before and after, a few simple bits of 1″x3″ pine makes a huge difference in how the layout benchwork looks.  It actually looks like it belongs, rather than being a floating chunk of plywood.

Moving in logical order, the next thing I want to do is install the backdrop and get it painted with a first coat of sky blue paint.  I want to install the backdrop before doing the foam layer, as then I can blend the sky right into the scenery and hide any joint a bit easier.  I am looking at 1/8″ thick foamcore board for the backdrop, though I am also going back and forth with using styrene in my mind.  As the backdrop will almost entirely be mounted directly to the wall (likely with double-sided tape that can be scraped away when the time inevitably comes in many years to take the layout down).  I’m working at the research on the right material for me.  I’ve even considered painting the wall directly, But am less sure about that vs. something that has a smoother texture like foamcore or styrene.

IMG_5919I ordered the jigs from Fast Tracks this week for Code 70 Number 4 switches, so fettling the track plan commences next!

For track, I have decided to go with Code 70.  I like the look of it, and it fits both my era (1950’s) and the industrial switching district of Liberty Village that wouldn’t have had super heavy-duty rail.  I am going to be using hand-built switches with the Fast Tracks jigs and laser cut ties.  I’ve bought a couple of bundles of Micro Engineering Code 70 Flex Track for the regular track, and I think after a week of scouring the internet I’ve cleared out retailers in England and British Columbia of the last of the Shinohara Code 70 crossovers in 90, 60 and 30 degrees (Mr. Shinohara announced earlier this year that he was closing his factory and ending making model railroad track).  I spent a lot of time debating also buying the excellent jigs from Fast Tracks for the crossings, but decided my budget was better spent with the Shinohara’s even with the cost of shipping and exchange that brought all the working crossovers I need to me at the cost of one jig and filing tools.  It’s an expensive hobby, and I can always build my own crossovers for the next layout!! (and I’ll have to build two fake crossovers for tracks that cut across the layout but which are non operating).

IMG_5925.JPGThe last of the Shinohara? I cleared out Central Hobbies in Vancouver for these three, and two more from Scale Link in England!

At the end of my work day as I made lunch and got set to head downtown to the CNE and the Argonaut’s game just across the tracks from Liberty Village, I asked if I’d been too noisy with drilling and sawing.  I got asked “when my quiet hobby of building models was going to return”…. fortunately, there is one bit of fascia that I need a different drill to get into the space in the closet to do, and then, no drilling or sawing for a while!! It will be cutting foam and plastic and gluing and similar.  There won’t be much drilling till track laying and wiring starts!!  Having accomplished my Sunday goal of the fascia on Saturday (and even managing to write about it), I think a complete change of modelling activity is in the cards for Sunday.  If it goes well, I may even write about it!

Benchwork (or at least most of it) in a Day

Yesterday my friends Trevor Marshall, Ryan Mendell and Doug Currie came to visit, and more importantly, to help me build the first chunk of the benchwork for my layout.  My initial goal was to build a traverser and get benchwork out of the closet, with Trevor, Ryan and Doug’s help, we wound up building 26′ of benchwork including both traversers, or basically, all of it other than the peninsula.  Leaving the peninsula makes sense for a lot of reasons, I need it to be portable, or at least swing away to free up my workbench, and we need to replace the shutter on the skylight, which means having the middle of the room free for workers to remove the existing and install the new one.

Trevor was kind enough to offer to bring his portable setup of Festool’s to my townhouse, so we had a work table, Mitre Saw and Track Saw going to make building benchwork easy (Thanks to Trevor for picture of his loaded truck of tools!).

For background, my layout room is a 3rd floor bedroom with no windows, but a nice big skylight.  The closet is a walk-in, that can be accessed from both ends, and by removing a door, I can let the layout extend into the closet to gain some extra feet of room.

The last pre-layout shots showing the room, and the closet, and where there was a closet door before Friday!

We got started early afternoon, around 2pm, and got to work on trimming the plywood from Home Depot to get the various sizes of pieces we needed, and started with building the two traversers.  I spent what to me felt like a lot of time thinking through the design, and while we found ways to improve the design/construction as we went, the finished products definitely look like what I drew (you can tell the plans lead to the finished product), and more importantly, they seem to slide and move as intended.  I’ll need to take car when installing the foam layer and laying track to make sure it all aligns properly, but as a first installation, so far so good!!

Trevor making cuts on the Mitre Saw, the track saw set up for trimming, and Doug, Ryan and myself assembling a traverser (Thanks to Trevor for pictures again!)

The building session started mid-week with me being antsy to actually build something to start the layout, and discussing tool options to buy with Trevor, but the more we talked, the more it became even more apparent to me, that in our townhouse, I neither have space for storing a lot of tools, or more projects to do after doing the layout construction.  Buying tools would take a lot of money out of the layout construction budget.  Then Trevor offered to load up his tools and come to me to do the building.  We invited Ryan and Doug as well to have four sets of hands, and Ryan, like Trevor has far more construction experience than I do, so it provided another good set of eyes to consider what we were doing and make it work.

Installing the traversers, in the closet on the left, and in the main room on the right (thanks to Trevor again for right photo)

I don’t know what good fortune a few years back caused me to stumble across Trevor’s blog on his Port Rowan in S Scale layout, but thanks to stumbling across it, making a comment, and starting a friendship online (see, good things do happen on the Internet!!), I have made some wonderful friends and as a result, had people ready and willing to come and help me build benchwork.  With the way the day went, we didn’t have time to go out for dinner, but when next they are out, I’ll either be grilling on the BBQ or taking them for Fish and Chips at the fantastic local chippy around the corner (there’s something I didn’t expect to find moving from High Park to Mid-Etobicoke in Toronto!!).  Once upon a time not that many years ago, I didn’t get out and meet other modellers, go to events like RPM’s, or share my work.  I was too shy to step out and meet other modellers for fear of them judging my work. Turns out, I had nothing to be afraid of, all the judgement that always scared me isn’t there, and instead, I found people willing to take a day out of their lives to help me build. I look forward to opportunities to do the same when Ryan and Doug start new layouts in the near future, and Trevor eventually does once Port Rowan is complete and he’s ready for a new challenge.

But, back to the day, turns out the old axiom of many hands make light work was true.  While it took a couple of hours to build and sort out the traversers, everything else when together really fast and smooth.  I think, I was within an inch on the length of the room from my measurements, but being able to cut boards and adjust meant that everything more or less went together as I drew it up on the plans (what a terrifying thought!!).  It’s very simple construction outside the traversers.  A 1/2″ plywood base layer is mounted to shelf brackets, which are mounted into the wooden studs of the walls.  A 1″x3″ fascia piece will be undermounted along the front edge to provide some additional torsional stability, and somewhere to mount switch pulls to.  As the Liberty Village area has no topography to speak of, there is no need for changes of grade or anything else.  A 1/2″ layer of foam will be put on top of the plywood, mostly to give me something easy to carve for a bit of topography and to be easier to cut into to install buildings, trees, and other things into than having to drill into the plywood.  I’ll install cork roadbed right on the foam for the track.  I considered options like Homosote, but its hard to get and a bit messy, and for my first layout build, I’m trying to strike a balance of doing new things and building skills, but also making decisions that will hopefully keep my life simple in the longer run as I move forward with finishing the benchwork and moving on to tracklaying and wiring.

After a good 6 hours, it looks like a layout is starting to appear!!

It was still hot enough outside that even on one of the cooler days of the summer, we were all reaching the point of being gassed.  We had uncovered where I can’t count the right number of shelf brackets, or successfully buy the right types of screws on a late afternoon Home Depot run, which is the universally accepted sign that it is time to down tools before you make an expensive and stupid mistake.  I have many months of work ahead in finishing the benchwork and starting to lay track and scenery, no point in undoing a successful day with a stupid mistake late on when we were all tired and hungry!!

Next up, some finishing cleanup construction tasks on the benchwork, installing fascia to help hold it together and level out a few places, then backdrop and foam over the plywood.  I remain energized by this whole process, and for the first time since September 2015 when I tore my old free-lanced shelf layout in my parent’s basement down, I have a layout in progress (and for the first time since 2005 it’s actually in the house I live in!!!).