Another Mini Diorama

So, I teased in a couple of posts (here & here) that I am building another stand alone diorama, I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I am going to show a bit of detail. It is another 12×12 project panel model of a specific real world building, much like the Diorama of Bar Volo’s original location I built several years ago. It will have two buildings, one of them is the focus, the second which you’ve seen is background. It will have lights and some other things to make it hopefully, a dynamic feeling mini-scene.

My chosen road material, Lepage Thick Hole Repair drywall compound, tinted with grey acryllic paint so if it gets dented in the future it isn’t gleaming white.

I have started as I do with these small project, a lot of time collecting parts and supplies and doing small side projects that become a part of the bigger whole when assembled. The past couple of weeks these smaller projects are hitting my motivation sweet spot, as I am not doing a lot of new things, but using skills I am pretty comfortable with to putter and visualize and test assemble and look to see how things are going to work. This makes it a good project for work days. When I need my 15 minute breaks in the morning or the afternoon, I can quickly turn to the bench and feel I’ve accomplished something. This is one of the problems I am having with my current main layout project of the never ending windows of Hinde & Dauch paper, I need to be in the right mindset, and have time. A rushed effort in a work break to cut out some windows will inevitably lead to a mistake, and swearing, and trains are stupid… and its summer time, I don’t want to be grumpy with my hobby, I want to enjoy it!!

Scratch Built Traffic Signal

I posted earlier this week about a new side project in discussing brass fire escapes for a building. It does tie to the layout in some skill-building as I will need fire escapes for one building on the layout, and learning to solder brass is a useful modelling skill.

This post, is another related to the diorama, but where the skills being used can be applied to my layout. I don’t have traffic signals on the layout, but I do want to have working streetlights, and there are something like a dozen of my hydro poles that will have street light arms added. Figuring out how to make the lights work is important. For my previous Bar Volo model, I drew up the Toronto Style “Acorn” lamp heads, but they were a bit oversized, and Shapeways does not print the translucent material anymore. I am at some point going to at least get some static versions printed so I can “finish” the hydro poles on the layout, as long as I am smart about how I add the arms, revisiting them to add working lights later is something I can do at some future date, but for now, on with what I was doing this past week, making a traffic light.

Scratch built light standard using K&S Aluminum tubes, some Tichy Phosphor Bronze wire, and the D5 DEM Modelsmiths LED Traffic Light.

For this diorama, I need a single traffic light, in a very specific style of design for the location of the building being modelled. I spent a lot of time searching online, and then, found on Etsy of all places, Modelsmiths Designs. They have a stand alone website too. When I first found them, neither site offered shipping to Canada, which is something I find too often that places won’t ship here, or ask exorbitant rates. Fortunately, the owner was very friendly when I contacted them, and looked into it with their shipping services, and was able to add affordable shipping to Canada, so I ordered two hanging 3 light traffic signals. They sell a range of traffic signals, streetlights, railroad signals and other details in HO, O and S Scales. They also sell electronic controllers for them. I didn’t buy a controller, as I expect I will just static wire the light to a single colour for the diorama, but as I build who knows, I think I have a three way switch somewhere that I could wire in to manually change the light aspect. My initial response to testing the lights now months after I bought them, and fishing the wires through the tubes, is that I am very very happy with them, and hopefully down the road I will have use for other of their projects, I like to support people who make good products, and who go out of their way to be fair in shipping to Canada, as its much easier as a small producer to just saw “naw, the effort for a handful of sales isn’t worth it.”

In terms of construction, I had some different gauges of K&S Metals Aluminum Tube kicking around. I thought about using styrene tube initially, but I think the aluminum does two things, it bends a bit better for the extension arm, and is a little bit stronger for long term handling. I was able to find the specification drawing for the light online, so I had rough dimensions to make sure I built it roughly to scale (as close as my eyesight allows, and I don’t tend to get too worked up about an inch here or there on scale dimensions!).

Working Streetlights. Red, yellow and green LED’s in the lamp housing.

I have some cleanup work to do, and filling in the open ends of tubes, but once I am happy with it, and have fabricated a base, it will be off to the paintshop to provide a cleanish look for the pole and hide the different materials. All in all, a good quick project to get the core work done and see if what I thought actually worked in terms of how to realize this part of the project.

Etched Brass Fire Escapes

I am working on yet another side project/diorama, though at least this time it is in HO Scale like the layout, and is giving me a chance to experiment with something I will need on one of the keystone buildings on the layout, the “Castle” of the Gillette Company at 135 Fraser Ave. This building had multiple fire escapes over the loading dock, so I am going to need a lot of them. I am not 100% sure these are a perfect match for what I need, but they are really really nice, and worked for the side project, so it was a chance to stretch my legs and try to build a new skill-set, soldering etched brass parts.

Etched brass fire escapes for a side project. I actually soldered the parts rather than gluing them, pushing myself for something I’d never had any luck at before.

I bought the Gold Medal Models etched fire escape main set, and the add on set to do the 4 storeys needed. Gold Medal Models are primarily a model ship etched manufacturer, but they offer limited sets of N Scale and HO Scale items, including two styles of fire escape, “regular” and “fancy”. I chose the regular ones.

I have been wanting for a while, to try and solder brass etched parts together. This is most assuredly baby steps into working with Brass Etched kits. My friend Trevor has been building complicated full brass etched locomotive kits of late, and reading his blog posts and trading messages was making me really feel the need to push myself. It also didn’t hurt that I could ask him for advice on how to solder brass, and then go and try to apply his suggestions while making my own mistakes and finding out what worked for me.

These were, admittedly simple to form and solder. The ladders don’t appear to need any solder at all, just fold the sides up, then twist the stairs so they are level. This made me very happy to have bought a good etch bender a couple of years ago. Good tools continue to pay off. The platforms are also simple, fold up the sides and then solder to the deck, a single part with three folds. They then only needed two solder joints, one on each side to form the box. The etches are quite thick, so one of the problems Trevor warned me about in applying too much heat and warping the parts was almost impossible, but I very gently made my best bad effort at tinning both sides of the joints, I then brought the parts together and successfully soldered the four platforms.

Installing the fire escape, with modifications to look a bit more like the real building. This isn’t even the main event for the site project, this is the scenery next door.

The kits included a drilling jig for the three holes needed on each side, so I marked and slowly worked my way up from the 2nd floor to the top drilling holes and adjusting ladders. I even used a spare ladder for access to the ground floor cut into pieces to lengthen the upper ladders to reach between the floor spacing on the building. I even managed to solder the extensions to my ladders. With the etched parts done, I used some styrene to make channels for the ground ladder to look like it is in a slider, and then assembled everything onto the temporarily sticky tacked together walls. Before I assemble everything, I will need to paint it all, but I will at some point likely throw some primer and paint at the fire escape, but for now, I am enjoying the shiny brass as I look at the escapes while I work on the building and the rest of this diorama.

What is the diorama? That’s for some other day, down the road. I do like my secrets, but people may eventually figure out from various side projects I am working on as I post about them. There are a lot of sub components and things I am playing with and experimenting with for this one.

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.