Painting A Four Pack of Freight Cars

Building freight car kits, seems like a never-ending string of them in my life. There isn’t actually, but I had wanted to try and finish the four I am now nearing the finish line on before the end of 2021 but some health issues got in the way. With those seemingly (knock on wood) in the rear-view mirror. I have gotten the four Yarmouth Model Works kits to the finish line of the paint shop, which means decals to come, then “done” pending weathering.

Four built kits ready to go for paint! Wabash, Norfolk & Western and Canadian National 40′ Boxcars, and a Semet-Solvay Tank Car. All are Yarmouth Model Works kits, the Wabash and Semet-Solvay are out of production and not available anymore.

While I can paint anytime I want (within reason as my paint booth gets set up in my wife’s office!), I like to do things in batches so the process of setting up, painting and cleaning doesn’t feel like its overwhelming the work.

But before that, the box car kits are all pretty standard, some variations on brake components and where things are, but effectively, box cars are box cars. The tank car kit, is a bit of a different beast. Strangely enough, the first resin freight car kit I ever built was a tank car, one widely regarded as one of the hardest resin kits to build, the Sunshine Vinegar Tank, which I followed up with a BGR Group Canadian Pacific J-Series Sleeper kit. Why start with easy things right? Truth be told, building the boxcar kits is reasonably easy now, its the motivation to do the things that I find fiddly and frustrating, like the under-body brake rigging on the B-End details of the brake wheel and piping. I can do them all, but every time I start a bunch of box cars, I bog down at the same spot. So of course, the antidote for that, something completely different, a tank car. Everything is a bit different on a tank car as you also have to build up the frame which is hanging in space instead of being beneath the floor.

Scenes from building a resin tank car kit. I even included a shot where I was super proud of my handrails before I realized I had installed all the hangers upside down so it was too high… sigh. The rails are fixed in the last shot with the platform being fitted.

The Semet-Solvay tank car kit is a joy to build. The couple of things that are off kilter (I noticed my tank isn’t quite mounted square despite all the efforts to avoid this, its skewed) are builder error not kit error. The tank is gorgeous, and the etchings, especially the loading platform frame are the nicest I’ve ever folded. The platform support is so smartly designed, the etch has 5 sides, two half etches, one on each end combine to form the fourth side when folded so that every side is the same width. Its a shame this car was a super limited run, as I feel guilty saying how good it is knowing no one reading this will likely ever but one unless you get real lucky and find one that was in someones kit stash.

Painting Yarmouth Model Works resin Boxcars. YMW-120 CNR 1937 10’6″ with 8′ Door, and a YMW-121.2 Norfolk and Western B-5 with interior carline roof in primer and painted. I think I made my attempt at the brown too taupe.

Along with some other projects both train and non-train, I’ve put in about 6 hours in the paint booth between Thursday and Saturday this week. Two hours mostly priming on Thursday, two more hours doing a mix of priming and painting Friday, and two hours painting on Saturday. Its really nice to see these cars starting to look like cars that could be on the layout operating. For the Norfolk & Western car, from pictures and my mental image I felt this car is more brown than red. I am not sure the custom mix paint I used captures the look the way I want. I need to get it under the layout lighting and see how lit looks. In the picture above, it feels too taupe and not reddish brown enough. It may be OK. I may be able to spray a darker tint, or maybe just through weathering I can pull it back, but it will challenge me. I do like that the colour is definitely different than every other red/brown boxcar on the layout, I’m just not sure its close enough to the real colour for me to live with it long term.

Painting the Yarmouth Model Works YM-108 Semet-Solvay Tank Car. The pre-cut styrene mask to paint the tank dome is really handy.

Next up, some gloss if needed to provide a good surface for the decals to settle on, then the decals. After that, only 8 box car kits in the stash…which I’m not starting to build untill all these cars have decals and dullcoat to leave them ready to weather!

Many Shades of Boxcar Red

This weekend I’ve been busy painting freight cars. I have put four cars through the paint shop (that will be a future post). As part of it, I realized I have a lot of jars of Boxcar Red, Oxide Red, Freight Car Brown, etc that I don’t actually know what all of them look like. So I decided to make a paint spread card/chip reference for them. Sadly, some of these are colours that I won’t be able to replace as the are no longer manufactured (Testors Modelmaster, Polyscale), but while I have enough to do a couple of cars, I decided a quick and easy tool to compare colours was a good idea.

To make it, I took a strip of scrap 0.060″ thick styrene from my scraps supply, and laid out a grid of ten 1″ squares. I labelled where I wanted to put the paint first, then put on some primer to give a consistent base using my current primer of choice from Vallejo. After that, while doing other painting today, I ran through all the reds. It already proved its worth as for one of the cars I was painting, the red I used to have a redder colour wasn’t the one I was planning on using.

Making a quick reference card of all the various boxcar reds/browns oxide red colours I have while painting this weekend.

This will be handy for me, as there are different shades. I am not super worried about the “it must be 100% the absolute shade that railway XYZ used” people, but I do want to be in the right ballpark for weathering/etc. Different railways used different shades. Some were redder, some were browner. Having this gives me a tool that I can use to compare against other models on the layout, and pictures to see if I have a tone I like, or if I need to do some experimenting with mixing to create something else. I did some mixing (which is on the card) for a car. I’ve painted the car, but I am not 100% certain the more I look at it on the car compared to photos that I am happy with the colour, but it is a distinct shade from everything else on the layout, and I may be able to live with that, but that’s another post.

Happy New Years (2022)

Happy New Years Friends! I hope you are well and that for all of us, that 2022 is a better year than the one before, and that it brings us all a much needed return to some normalcy where we can share our hobby and the wonderful social aspects of it together with less worry. I’m celebrating the new year by watching football and eventually getting back upstairs to work on building freight car kits. The three kits above are all Yarmouth Model Works, Kit YMW-113 West India Fruit Company ACF 40′ 50 Ton, YMW-104 Wabash 88200-88699 12 Panel Boxcar, and YMW-121-2 Norfolk & Western B-5 40′ with Interior Carline Roof. As you can see, the WIF car is painted and ready for weathering, the other two in the last week of the old year reached the point of being fully assembled. Painting and Decalling will mean these two cars will eventually be my first finished projects of 2022 (and I’ve already fixed the damaged door rail on the N&W car you can see in the picture that I bent in my panavise while building the car). The kits produced by Pierre Oliver who runs Yarmouth Model Works are fantastic, I have these three, one more partially built, and three more to build in 2022. All things being equal, I will be buying more of the kits he’s currently offering, and hopefully others in the future as he adds to his product line.

Here’s to a better 2022!

Getting Better at Making Etched Ladders

Back what seemed like ages ago in March I wrote about my first experiments with building etched ladders for box car kits. I don’t think I am going to make it, but at the start of December, I set myself a mini “Goal” of getting three partly build Yarmouth Model Works boxcar kits finished, meaning built, and hopefully painted and decalled. Sadly, these are the same cars I was working on in March when I wrote about the ladders, I’ve been ignoring them on the workbench for a while! I have one done and ready for the paint shop, the second is very nearly there, and the subject of this quick post, and the 3rd, well, if it weren’t for some external factors I’ll talk about in my upcoming year end post, it would probably be further along and might get there. That’s OK though, this remains a hobby, and a way of relaxing. The real goal for me was to get going on projects I’ve started to make some workbench space, which I am well on the way to doing, and the difference between finishing these cars in December vs. January is precisely nil!

Improved process for folding ladder stiles. Get it clipped in the folding tool, then use a metal bar or block to make the fold reliably in one movement to avoid overworking the etch and it going banana shaped.

I had not been happy with the ladders I have done on the previous cars. They look fine by the time they are done, but if you look really closely, they look like they’ve been beaten on while in use. That maybe isn’t the end of the world, but having ladders that have wonky stiles and bend the wrong ways make them really hard to mount to the car sides and ends once they are done.

As can be seen in the pictures, looking back at a video Yarmouth’s owner Pierre Oliver made for Trainmasters TV, he folds his stiles using the technique of getting the etched part in, and using a metal block to make the fold in one movement. This is reasonably easy, it is a bit fiddly getting the part in and clamped, but once you figure out how that works for your, it is doable. I found that using tweezers to roughly get the part in, then using my finger nails on one hand, grab each end, and gently shift until the etched fold line is in place, then tighten the bending tool. Instead of using something on the tool, take the whole bender, line up the etch on the metal block, and twist the holder to make the fold while pressing against the block. One move, and a nice 90 degree bend that doesn’t cause the etched brass to curl can be achieved.

After that, its the basic assembly of adding rungs to make the ladders, leaving a couple of rungs empty to drill through into the car later and install rungs with longer legs to pin the ladder to the car, and they are done. I now have the four ladders for the next car ready to install, but doing that, and hopefully the B end details to get a 2nd of the 3 cars ready for the paint shop is tomorrow’s project.

Weathered and Unweathered

A pair of Rapido Trains Pennsylvania Railroad X31A Boxcars, one weathered on the left, and one not on the right. The car on the left carries an earlier paint scheme than the one on the right. The car has been weathered using quick and simple techniques learned from Pierre Oliver using Iwata ComArt Weathering set paints. Some light grime on the sides, some darker grim along the bottom of the car, then some super thin black on the roof to represent soot, and black crud at the bottom corners to create the sense of grime being thrown up by the wheels. I overcoated all of this with a flat finish. I am debating if I want to add more weathering using oils to this car or not.

Truth be told, now that I’ve seen the cars, I really wish I’d bought two in the earlier scheme, I like it better. That car should look more used than the one on the right, so the weathering on the car on the right will be less than the one on the left when I do it. Either way, these are nice cars. I’m glad I have them for the layout.

A bit of Before and After on freight cars

As I have written about recently, I am starting to actually attempt to weather cars for my layout. Taking it slow and steady. Last night, I took four cars, and added some base grime with the airbrush and the Iwata Comair weathering set I’d written about in the earlier post. They are by no means done being weathered, but a few simple passes with some light and dark dirt, and some smokey black over the roofs, and even just in quick shots in the spray booth, the cars are much less plasticy looking for the three factory cars (2 Rapido and one Kadee), and more used for the Tichy flatcar kit.

Left-Right: Rapido TH&B USRA, Kadee Buffalo Creek, and Rapido Pennsylvania X31 before and after some light spray weathering.
Tichy flatcar before and after some road dirt is added.

There is still plenty more to do on these cars, but it is very satisfying to spend 20 minutes with the airbrush and have the cars start to pop with some life instead of being shiny and plasticy. Lots more learning to do, and still more will be done to these cars.