I Am Iron Man… Graffiti for an Autorack…and That’s no Train Part 11!!

Lookit me go, combining things. Home made Graffiti for an autorack for Canyon Road based on a tag I saw in the real world, and a 75mm resin figure of Iron Man. This is most definitely crossing things up, with trains and not trains covering the same territory. Its that time again, another “That’s No Train” project, past ones can be read about here: 1, 2, 3 (& 3.5), 4, 5, 6, 7 8, 9 and 10!

I was never the biggest comic book person growing up. I read some here and there, watched the various cartoons of comic book characters, but they were just not my main thing (see That’s not Train Part 3 and Transformers!). When the original Iron Man movie came out in 2008, I remember being interested in it, and looking forward to seeing it, but had no idea where the Marvel movies would go, and how all in on them and the notion of a connected ongoing universe of movies and TV shows would suck me in. In full disclosure, I saw the first Iron Man movie in 2008 high as a kite. I don’t now, and never have used pot with any kind of regularity, as with most I experimented here and there in University, and every now and then over the years at parties with friends. One of my roommates at the time the movie came out in 2008 had made a big batch of pot brownies, I think I missed the part about them being loaded, and had a couple with ice cream before going to see the movie! I was… quite mellow, so it blew me away. To this day I don’t think you could have cast Tony Stark better than Robert Downey Jr., his own history of issues, and his demeanour just scream Tony Stark, and his long run playing the role seems to support my sense that he was perfect for the role.

My inspiration for the Graffiti for my autorack for Canyon Road. Seen in a CPR train at Royal York Road in 2021.

Since the graffiti i saw was not on a CPR autorack like the one I had bought, I wanted to do a tag inspired by the one I saw, not a 100% recreation. I also decided that I would tag one corner of the car, on one side, so I have the option to display a “clean” side as well. I didn’t want this to be a completely tagged and destroyed rack, but modern cars are almost all tagged in some way, so something was appropriate.

Painting the purple backdrop on the autorack, and attempt 1 at the custom printed decal…the clear decal paper did not work!

Having found art I liked, and playing around with it to size and appearance, I started into working on the autorack. First up, I sprayed some purple to be the base of the graffiti, as there was no way the printer could render anything that resembled this. When I initially did the decals on clear sheet, I then made a mask and sprayed the areas that were white for eyes and thrusters. The clear decal didn’t work at all. It basically disappeared completely. Once it was clear the decal had to be largely printed on white decal paper to help the colours show, I made some adjustments and tried again. With a careful trim the fade in the print and the white looked enough like spray that I was happy to apply it and see how it went. Fortunately, this version worked, and once blended with weathering to have some road grime, and healthy applications of Microsol to get it to blend into the car, it was good to go.

Attempt 2 on white decal paper went much better for the main part of the tag, with the text still on clear paper.

The “That’s No Train” part of this post is a 75mm scale resin 3D printed Iron Man i bought online from Ali Express. This is almost certainly a knock off of someone else’s model, but I had been looking for an Iron Man of some sort, either figure, toy or model kit for a while, and haven’t been able to find one I liked.

Resin Iron Man being painted. Assembled, with a post added, in primer, with some attempts at pre-shading and with gold base.

This was a pretty basic item, no instructions, and only two low quality pictures on the website to figure out what it looked like. On top of that, no amount of cleaning seemed to make the resin behave well with any form of adhesive. Eventually, though some brute force and patience, it rounded into shape. I used Microscale MicroMask, even though I paint with Acrylics and it isn’t really compatible with them, it works, but I find it can be tricky to get off with clean lines, definitely some care was needed removing the masking after spraying the red on. After painting, I tried another new technique to me, well known to figure painters, a colour tone wash, in this case, red to match the body, this brought out the colour and collected in the nooks and crannies to give some depth to the figure.

Later Stages of painting, spraying red with the gold masked, pulling off the liquid mask, and adding blue highlights to the eyes, arc reactor and hand thrusters. Then evaluating the two base options and prepping one for painting.

The final part of the project was a suitable base. I settled on a 55mm circular base of the two I bought. It was duly painted with three different shades, two straight from the bottle steels, and leftovers of the custom mix I made for the Bandai K-2SO Model I built previously that I still had leftover of. A single hole drilled in the base to fit the post I installed on Iron Man’s foot to hold for painting made for a nice solid connection between the figure and the base.

Beauty Shots of the finished Autorack with Iron Man graffiti and the resin Iron Man figure.

So with that, both a train and a non-train project are done and off the workbench!

Cutting Vinyl with the Cricut

Well, two weeks into being a Cricut owner, and it seemed like time to try and use it for things list most normal people who own them do, as opposed to being me and leaping in immediately to cut styrene for model buildings! So, with that in mind, I ordered a bunch of sheets of Vinyl and the transfer paper to apply them, and have gotten to messing around with art for various logos I may want to apply in different places.

Two years ago now, we all got our lives tossed asunder thanks to the Pandemic. Among my modelling friends, for a while we used Zoom to get together from afar and have a drink and talk trains. It lasted a few months, but “Train Night in Canada” served its purpose in the darkest times to keep us together and help us figure out how we were all going to cope. Me, being a hopeless nerd made up two logos using the old school CBC Hockey Night in Canada logo as a base, one with a steam locomotive outline, and one with a diesel.

Creating a Train Night In Canada cut vinyl logo for the end of my workbench hutch as you enter my layout room/workshop/home office. I did the diesel as the steam one did not want to work nicely with the Cricut software to be cuttable.

Why start simple when you can leap in head over feet? Why make my first vinyl a single layer/single colour, no, I needed to do a three layer/three colour transfer. It worked, maybe not as well as I’d like it to, there are a couple of air bubbles and some misalignment, but its pretty damn good in my opinion, and the end of my bench no longer looks quite so barren!

The second vinyl attempt was positively pedestrian, a single colour cutout to add a label to my Bar Volo diorama. I still had the artwork for the door sign of the original location the owners had kindly provided me when I was working on the model, so I was able to import it into the Cricut software and make a vinyl decal for the wood frame that holds the model.

The HO Scale Model of Bar Volo now has a sign.

Now that we are maybe hopefully emerging, and Bar Volo has reopened at a new location, I really need to keep the promise I made to the owners well before the pandemic to actually bring the model down to the bar some time.

There is definitely a knack to applying the vinyl, but I see a lot of opportunities for it in decorating the layout room, and on the layout itself. I love my laser cut wood wayfinding signs, but I am afraid to paint them to make them more visible. I am thinking now that a vinyl streetsign will be a much better option on the finished valance. I have one sign ready to go and will maybe cut it this weekend to apply and do a comparison with the wood ones.

I’m Calling the Canyon Road diorama finished

Today is a good day, I am calling a project I started basically a year ago complete. There are still some minor things I could or need to do, mostly wiring (I am waiting on wiring harness connectors to connect it to my DCC system to be able to run locomotives on the diorama), and insofar as any model is ever “finished”, I am at a point with it where I am happy and and ready to live with it for a while before I decide if I want to adjust any scenery or add any more grass/details. The nice thing about projects like this, is they are kind of alive, they can grow and evolve over time. Who knows what new scenery technique I may learn and want to apply to this to improve it down the road?

How it Started..How it’s Going.. February 7/2021 to February 12/2022

I teasingly when I started this project “blamed” my friend Chris Mears for the inspiration to build it. I’m glad I found the inspiration. This project for the past year as an aside from the layout has made me happy, and helped me at time find motivation to work on it when my motivation on the layout maybe had flagged or when I needed a change of pace. The scenery on this is very different from the layout, and I think that it was really good for me to have this as a foil to the scenery on the layout, especially given some recent issues on the layout, that kinda motivated me to get this kicked across the “finish line” as it were.

Scene…Created. I am quite pleased with how this has turned out. It definitely captures the “feel” of Canyon Road in Campbellville and the wooden farm bridge.

This was built specifically to fit into an IKEA Billy bookcase, it was built on a Billy Shelf as a base. It is now safely slid into the bookcase it will live in. Now while I am at work on my workbench for my day job when I turn to my left, I will see the diorama and whatever equipment I have out on it.

Just an overview before it was slid away to give a sense of the diorama. This is not the intended viewing angle!
And slid home in the bookcase. Still need to weather the SD70ACu. Struggling to build up to spray grime on something so shiny!

2022 has started really well for me in terms of advancing or finishing projects, hopefully I can keep this momentum up. It feels good to be making progress. I’m not going to lie, it also feels good to get this into the bookcase for a while, I think I was growing weary of it taking up space in the centre of my layout room. Even in just the hour or so since I put it away, the room feels bigger without this sitting out on my tool cart as an active project. I have plenty more on the go, and more to write about on the Diorama before I’m done with it, but I need to get some of those things finally polished off to actually write about them.

Something Shiny, Red and Modern

I got an email from the Credit Valley Model Railroad shop on Friday, that something I had ordered last year had arrived. I had some other previous orders sitting out there waiting on being picked up, so once I’d paid, I went out on Saturday to do a curbside pickup at the hobby shop. When I started the Canyon Road diorama, it was a “modern” diorama, to depict the railway as it is today. To do that, I needed a modern locomotive and rolling stock. Over the past year, I have picked up a modern autorack and container well car, but did not have a modern locomotive. Athearn announced some time ago that they would be doing the EMD SD70ACu rebuilds that CPR has been receiving, which include the ten heritage (5 script lettering, 5 block lettering in Maroon and Grey) and the 5 Military Units. While all modern locomotives have some degree of sameness to them, I actually quite like the SD70ACu’s. That may just be that they haven’t been out long enough to become perma-dirty like most CPR locomotives! In any event, I ordered a CPR Red version for the diorama. If I was going to order a heritage version, I think it would be 6644, the D-Day Commemorative unit, but that was not done as part of this run. Who knows, maybe someday in the future.

Unboxing and checking out CPR 7000 on the Canyon Road diorama.

I haven’t had a chance to put the locomotive on the test track connected to DCC to check out the lights and sound. That will hopefully be a today thing. I spent most of my day yesterday on Saturday doing nothing, and when I did start to do something, it was to start re-organizing the closet in my layout room to better organize things as I need to move some things around in the near future on the bookcases in the layout room so I actually have somewhere to put Canyon Road when it’s done. It can’t sit on top of the IKEA cart I use for tools forever!

The nice part about a newish locomotive, is that it won’t need heavy weathering. Just a bit of road grime along the bottom, and exhaust smoke along the roof. Enough to look used, which means I won’t be taking the nice bright shine off of it. Athearn also, to their credit made the cab roof easily removable. It is held on by two magnets. I have some modern crew figures I ordered from ModelU 3D in the UK, I need to get these painted, but will then be able to crew up the cab easily. I’m even more motivated now to figure out the last of the scenery on the diorama so I can actually take the time to take some good model photographs on it, and mark a project complete!

EDIT: Quick static test video, my programming track is not really long enough for it to move!

2021 Year in Review

Its that time of year again, the end, where we look back at what we’ve done, and think about what is to come in the new year. Sadly again, 2021 has been a year dominated outside the modelsphere by the ongoing bad news of the pandemic. Fortunately, we have given the pandemic a pass and remain mostly cloistered at home and have not gotten sick with Covid (knock on wood). I have however, had the second half of my year impacted by illness, leading to a slowdown in progress on model making from August on when I was diagnosed with Kidney Stones. Initially, my illness didn’t impact me much, but as the months rolled on without getting any progress into November and December, my work rate definitely slowed down as all my energy was needed to stay on top of work for my day job, leaving not a lot of energy or motivation for modelling. By a couple of weeks before Christmas, I found myself in the ER in absolute agony, followed by surgery to remove a massive kidney stone two days before Christmas. The up side of this, is that I am feeling so much better than I have the past few months. Still some slow recovery time to go here into January and the requisite follow ups, but it is really nice to feel well again, its the little things. I don’t think I’ve been taking my health for granted, but clearly there is room for improvement given the past few months.

In the hospital waiting on going in for my surgery to remove a very large kidney stone. I am feeling much better but almost 5 months of dealing with the stones before surgery became the only option wasn’t great for my 2021.

Despite having been unwell in varying degrees for about half the year, it was a good year. A lot of the progress on the layout is incremental. Sometimes I don’t even notice it when an hour here or 15 minutes there add up to things getting done, but they do. As such, my review bellow really is a high level of big things, where so many things just sort of add up to make a whole.

Liberty Village Layout Panorama, December 30, 2021. It really does make me happy to see how it looks, even in a half finished state!
Looking along Liberty Street at Atlantic Avenue. Buildings and Scenery here are nearing completion. Still some weathering on the buildings and work on the road to paint/weather to go.
Canyon Road Diorama. I pulled out my Rapido Canadian to get the FP9’s, and pulled some equipment off the layout for a quick photo shoot of its progress. It is definitely starting to give me the feel I was aiming for as a photo diorama for models.

Projects Completed in 2021

  • Switch/Turnout Controls – As of July, all 12 of the turnouts on my layout now have Bullfrog Manual Turnout throws installed. They still need some minor adjusting as I use them, and eventually the grabs on the end of the control rods will need upgrading, but this means that not only is all the track on the layout laid, its all operational.
  • Freight Cars – I actually did finish some kit builds this year. At least 7 freight car kits for the layout were finished in 2021. Some have received some weathering, some haven’t, but they are all presentable and operable.
  • Non Train Things – Pop Vinyl Selfie, Darth Vader Diorama, Lego Batmobile

Projects In Progress

  • Building Liberty Village Layout – Did lots on this!! See page here. This whole post could really be a look at the layout, and I decided for this year, I didn’t want it to be. I want to touch on some highlights and things that mostly make me feel good in a year where feel good has been in short supply at times.
  • Canyon Road Diorama – A new project, a chance to work on something different and scratch some itches for scenery skills and things I don’t need for Liberty Village. Made good progress. Might have even finished it in a year had it not been for my August on slowing down of work progress on models. See this page for all my posts on the project.
  • Freight Car Kits – I did actually finish some this year, and even get to first attempts at weathering. I had set a mini-goal in early December when I thought I was feeling better to get the three partially built kits finished by new years, I don’t think I will, but such is life. Once those three are done early in the new year, I have 8 more kits sitting in the pile waiting to be started. Plenty to keep me busy in 2022 even if I don’t buy any more kits!


  • Weathering – I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, but it was finally time to actually get on with doing it. I re-created weathering on a container well car from prototype photos, along with applying basic fleet techniques to cars on the layout to start making the equipment look used instead of fresh from the factory.
  • Scenery – Lots of progress on this, both on the Liberty Village layout and on the Canyon Road Diorama. I’ve gotten confident at Static Grass, creating basic topography, and even worked on making trees again.
  • DCC/Electronics – After starting the year with a bang (literal not proverbial sadly), I did make some progress with my wiring. I successfully installed keep alive capacitors in all my layout locomotives, and worked out a bunch of other little electrical gremlins and shorts on the layout that were causing problems.
  • Operations – I don’t know if this is a skill, or a project in progress, but someday I intend to operate the layout, both on my own and with friends over (visitors, what?). I took some tentative steps into this world, mocking up car cards, setting up a session and running some trains. I need to do it again along with start the work of making car cards for all the equipment on the layout.

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in Stores in 2022 (This list doesn’t seem to move some years)

  • Rails of Sheffield Caledonian Railway No. 828 – See Here
  • Bachmann LMS Patriot “The Unknown Warrior” – See Here
  • Rapido Trains GO Transit F59 & Bombardier Bi-Level Coaches – See Here
  • Athearn Genersis Canadian Pacific SD70ACu – See Here
  • Accurascale British Railways Class 37 “Loch Lomond” – See Here

Strangely, none of those have anything at all to do with or on a layout set in Liberty Village in the 1950’s, but that’s what display cases are for!

So, this wasn’t the year I thought it would be, I had been feeling really good the first half or so, making progress, then, health issues started to get in the way. A lot of the pandemic related and work related stresses I had been dealing with in 2020 got resolved early in 2021, so for a while I was in a real good space. Hopefully, as I write this and am slowly feeling better from the surgery last week, 2022 can slowly pick up speed as I continue to recover and be a good year, and a year that brings us to the point where we have gotten on top of Covid, and things like travelling to see friends, or friends travelling to visit us can happen again. It will be two years in February since anyone saw the layout in person other than me, I think by then it will be tidied up enough in the layout room that I could even have people over to operate. I don’t know if it will happen that early in the year, but I am going to be positive with the hope it does happen next year.

In terms of where I am going, I won’t be doing a 2022 Preview, its pretty obvious what the big goals are, finish the Canyon Road Diorama, and keep on plugging away on the Liberty Village Layout. I really want to finish the large Hinde & Dauch Paper company in 2022, that I had hoped to finish in 2021. I have made progress, but it’s one of those projects that has kept getting pushed aside. I think my 2022 goal will be to try and stay more focused on the core projects, rather than looking for side projects (he says knowing he has another side project he is collecting stuff to build next year…).

So, with that, I hope you have a wonderful New Years Eve. We are ordering all the Chinese Food for dinner and I am going to torture myself watching the US NCAA College Football playoff games (Go Blue!), because that seems as good as anything else to do on a Friday night! Stay well friends.

Stephen Gardiner
December 31, 2021

Making Trees for Canyon Road

I wrote in November about starting the scenery for Canyon Road. Back then, I was working to straighten Scenic Express SuperTrees material and getting ready to make trees. Yesterday, I took those armatures and started adding SuperLeaf material and actually turning them into trees. On the diorama, the trees form the majority of the background to transition between the ground and the backdrop, so I needed to get them done sometime so I can fill in the scenery around them and finish the scene.

Supplies for making trees, and tress drying before they are installed.

I wanted these trees to be as simple as possible, in part because the Super Trees tree material is quite fragile, so I didn’t want to mess around trying to add any polyfibre bulk to them. I used a tried and true method of spraying with a heavy hold hair spray, and dropping down leaf material onto the armatures. For my trees, I mixed a variety of colours to create different shades of green and orange trees as this is a fall scene I am modelling. There are four or five different tonal varieties of mix across the dozen or so trees and large shrubs I made. After the leaf scatter is on, another shot of hairspray over top, and then set them aside to dry.

While they were drying, I ran the “electrical wire” on the telegraph poles that remains to provide power to the signals, and got ready to plant the trees. To plant them, I used a pointed awl to make holes in my scenery. I’m finding a downside of the way I did the scenery with plaster sheets here, you can’t just poke things into the scenery, you need to punch/drill a real hole to get them in, and glue them in place. Good to know for future scenery on projects.

Getting the trees installed on Canyon Road. Such a simple project but it so advances the look of the diorama in a few short hours.

I am pretty pleased with how the trees came out. Every shot of the diorama looks a bit better when I make progress like this. I have a variety of long grasses and other materials to work into the undergrowth and hillside to hopefully finish the scene as it looks a bit barren under the trees now, but that is a project for another day.