Just plugging away on Projects

February has been a bit of a blah month. I haven’t had a lot of motivation. I’ve been working on things as evidenced by finishing my POP Selfie, but I don’t feel like, and in fact I know I haven’t made much progress on the layout, and that’s OK. 12 months ago I was just starting to think about scenery having just gotten my DCC system up and running and finding the worst of the electrical gremlins that were shorting it out when I first powered it up.

February 2021 Things, two decaled and dullcoated CN AAR 10′-6″ with NSC3 End boxcars ready for weathering, using one of them as a guide for two CPR versions of the cars, and an octagonal chimney arrived via Ebay for Canadian General Electric.

“Finishing” the first two of many box car kit projects I have on the go felt really good earlier this month. I use quotations, as they need to be weathered, not heavily, but to look used. Both cars are 3-4 years old, and I model an era before rampant grafitti and rustbucket cars. They don’t need to be beaten to death, just used looking, some dirt and grime. I am also using them as guides for a pair of CPR box cars brake and underbody detail. This isn’t my favourite part of freight cars, and if I’m honest, close enough is good enough. My layout is close to eye level, so you do see the underbody a bit more, but its still largely hidden. I also, received something I’ve been trying to buy for at least two years, a Cibolo Crossing cast hydrocal octagonal chimney. The Canadian General Electric factory has a distinctive octagonal chimney, and building one from scratch was daunting me, but I knew there was this one out there from a now defunct company, I just had to be patient, and then win an auction. In the end, I got it, for a price I was happy to pay, and which was less than the cost of shipping to Canada! I now have all four large chimneys, and each is a different shape/height, look, as they should be as I move my buildings forward.

Gremlin hunting of a different kind. I discovered that one of my hydro poles was too close to the spur across Liberty Street. Easily moved and the scenery in progress touched up to hide the old hole.

As I’ve been puttering around, I also discovered I managed to mount a hydro pole in a position where it cleared the mainline, but not the siding. This would mean all my equipment would be rubbing up against it, not a great situation. Fortunately, one that was easily remedied by drilling a new hole about an inch to the left, and moving the pole. It took half an hour to do including re-scenerying the area I’d messed up. It felt good to find and fix a problem.

I am still making good progress on the layout, and I’m very happy with how it looks, when I wasn’t in the mood on the weekend, and when I’m mopey of late, I just put on the layout lights and turn off the other lights and look at how things are looking. It makes me happy.

This makes me happy, unfinished as so many things are, it is looking like I envisioned it when I started down this path of building the layout.

POP! Goes the Selfie (That’s No Train Part 7)

So, sometime before Covid, I decided I was going to do a Funko POP! Vinyl Selfie of myself. I did one years ago for my better half, and thought I should do one for myself. Yes, this is another That’s No Train project, past ones can be read about here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6!

After some time trying to figure out how I wanted to immortalize myself, I settled on something I don’t do anymore, for many years from my mid-teens to late 20’s I Umpired Baseball. I like to think I was quite good, I was a Baseball Ontario Level 3, which was the highest level I could achieve without having to go through lengthy assessment processes and even more involved training. I enjoyed it, but eventually, my knees and back told me that it was time to stop doing it if I wanted to be able to walk in the future.

Pictures of my Umpiring Baseball around 2006ish. I have precious few photographs of me actually doing this.

Making the custom POP starts with a “Blank DIY” pop that Funko sells. They sell male and female versions, they can be hard to find, I got mine from Amazon to be perfectly honest. In terms of how to create, I use Air Dry Clay for it, you can make shapes, its got a decent working time, and will stick on its own if you want, but that can also he helped with a thin coat of Weldbond Glue once you have the clay formed to shape if it doesn’t want to stay stuck on its own.

Various work in progress photographs. Applying clay and working out the mask and glasses.

Making the Umpire POP Selfie, I wanted my right fist up making an out sign (my favourite thing to do was ring people up when they were out), and holding my face mask. The arm move was easy, carefully cut off the arm with a jewellers saw, drill in either side for a pin, and re-position/glue. The clothes from clay would hide the worst of the cut. The mask, was tougher. My first try in the pictures was done with rolling out clay. It, frankly looked kludgey and didn’t stay together. With a spark of inspiration, I realized that aluminum armature wire used for making figures would be perfect, it is easily shaped, keeps its shape, and can be glued. I actually wound up using my favourite “non-glue” Bondic, a UV cured adhesive. I also out of the blue recently got an email from a fellow modeller Ric De Candido who I haven’t talked with in a while about a product he had been introduced to from Tamiya, a metal primer. I had picked some up for train projects, but painting the mask was the first time I put it to use. A couple of coats with the built in brush in the cap and it took a coat of spray glossy black from the airbrush perfectly. Sometimes, things just work out where you get a helpful tip from a friend you haven’t talked to just when you need it!

The Air Dry Clay Mask, it was not a success. I sadly seem to have not taken any pictures of the work in progress armature wire mask.

Painting on this was pretty straightforward. Base coated it in the pinky flesh tone similar to what POP uses, then brush paint the rest of the colours and details. I realize looking at the pictures above, I painted the ball bags on my hips for storing baseballs navy instead of grey. In the haze of recollection, I think at some point I was using two, one navy and one grey. I also used Microscale Kristal Klear to make the glass lenses. If I was doing it again, one area where I “cheeped” on this was making the glasses myself instead of buying a set from one of the numerous POP customizers on Etsy who 3D print glasses. Frankly, that may be an area I revisit in the future

It’s me, in POP! Vinyl form!

So with that, other than some touchups, another project off the workbench! The last time I wrote about a non-train project, I said I was gathering pieces for another project. This one isn’t that, so there is another That’s No Train on my workbench for another day.

I Blame Mears for this…

I lay the blame for this post squarely on the shoulders of my friend in Nova Scotia Chris Mears. He posted a gorgeous drawing by James Hilton of the mini layout of Coy Paper in New Hampshire that Chris is Building (you really should check out his blog on what he’s doing, its going to be great!). I sent Chris an email about something for his mini layout, and the observant sort he is, he commented on something I said in the email and pushed for more info.

My response, was that I am not nearly the artist that James is, and I didn’t think I could do a sketch nearly as nice as his of what I have been noodling around in my mind as a possible side diorama project, which, I note, I don’t really need, I’m building a layout, and I don’t model modern…or own the equipment for the diorama…yet here we are…

Pre-visualization is an important tool in painting, sketching, drawing, architecture, movie making, and, yes, Model Railroading. Sketching things out, looking at how the pieces fit together, can you achieve what you want, and yes, inspiration on the look of what you are doing. Despite my education and professional background as an Urban Planner, I was not strong in drawing, never was. I am decent on a computer in CAD or 3D modelling, but in my life I have never been particularly good with pen, pencil, marker and paper.

So, inspite of my better judgement to continue to not entertain the ideas rattling around in my empty head, in response to Mears’ email (coming back to he who shall be blamed), I pulled out the drawing supplies, and off we went sketching the “Modern” diorama shelf that has been brewing in my mind.

Stages of sketching, from blank paper to pencil lined and ready for ink and colour.
EDIT: Adding this sketch from Anyrail just to try and help visualize my initial thoughts on the track alignment in response to James’ comment. This is really a project where I would need to build the bridge at least in high quality mockup to see what the angles and spacing are.

So what am I thinking of? A tiny compressed slice of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Galt Subdivision in Milton. Using my usual diorama base of Ikea shelves, I can re-arrange the two wide Billy’s I have under the layout to get a 30″ by 10″ shelf, wide enough for a compressed version of the view east from Canyon Road (note my spelling error in the draft work above..d’oh!). This is a stretch of double track, with a slight incline from east to west, where there are a pair of signals to the east of the road, past an old private crossing wooden farm bridge (which is still in use as the only way to access some fields between the CPR tracks and Highway 401!). This is a gorgeous spot, and I became quite smitten with it after finally taking a day and making sure I got some trains there with the bridge framing them. Lets be honest, private crossings like this, especially old timber ones are rare, and it would be all to easy for it to be gone tomorrow and I’d spend years regretting not getting the shot!

The view east from Canyon Road as a CPR train climbs towards Campbelville passing beneath the wooden farm bridge, and my sketch of what I’d like to create. Room for a modern locomotive and an autorack to create the feel of this for photography.

The actual length from the farm bridge to the signals is a lot more than could be modelled in 30″, but, I could create the feel of the location, and it would give me an excuse to buy an Athearn Genesis SD70ACu when they do a second run including the D-Day Tribute locomotive 6644 (I love it, some of my friends think I’m nuts, either way) and a nicely detailed modern autorack like those from ScaleTrains. Do I need any of this? Hell No! But I kind of want it, and I’ve been spending an undue amount of time of late thinking about what supplies I’d need, how I would lay track (even contemplating handlaying it…gasp), and how I would create the sense of the view from the road in HO scale. I guess watch this space dear readers…and Mears….this is for you…