Modelling Fences, from Chain Link to Board to Corrugated Steel

I wrote some time back about my learning to and making my own HO Scale Chain Link Fence. I finally got around to finishing and installing the first two segments of it, and I am really pleased with how it is looking as the layout scenery starts to progress.

The first segments of my scratch built chain link fence in position on the layout.

The next two places I need fences are not however locations for chain link, so I get to build something different. The first is the south side of Liberty Street across from the Brunswick Balke Collender billiard table factory. This site from the information I have and the aerials was the lumber yard for the factory across the road. That makes sense, as its close, and the factory filled most of the block, and I suspect in its prime it went through a lot of lumber making billiard tables and bowling alleys and such.

The small triangle that is the north edge of the lumber yard serving the Brunswick plant across the street on my layout.

My first thought on this was to re-use some fence I had salvaged when I tore down my layout in my parents house in Georgetown when they moved out. Its a perfectly nice laser cut wood fence, maybe not super well painted by me when I made it a decade ago, but re-usable. The problem was, the longer I looked at it, the more it was clear it was not the right fence for the job. An industrial site would have had a taller fence (the one I had was 5′ in scale), and it would have been a heavy board privacy fence to keep people out. So after looking at it for what seemed like days, the old fence is on its way back to the recovered scenery tub, and I built a new fence on Friday night. An 8′ high heavy board wood fence, something that feels much more right for the space when I look at it on the layout now, even unpainted just getting it into position.

Recovered fence vs. scratch built. Even unpainted the scratch built stripwood looks better and tells a stronger story about the area than the other fence would.

The second place that I need to build a fence is for the Mercer Reformatory, the women’s prison that was in the centre of Liberty Village (and along with the men’s prison to the east, part of why Liberty Street got its name, not because of war production as many think, but because its where prisoners were released to, getting their “liberty” back). I am not modelling the prison building, it is too far to the north, all that appears on my layout is the south end of the yard, and the perimeter fence.

The Mercer Reformatory area on the left, and looking at how a 10′ tall corrugated metal (or styrene) fence will look. These are also the only two trees on my layout in the corner of the prison yard!

I haven’t built the prison fence yet, it’s in my weekend work program along with getting the ground cover down (its the largest grassy area on the layout, and most of it will be out of view behind the fence!!). I’m going to get the ground cover down this afternoon, and work on building the fence on the workbench. I’m happy with the appearance, and in going back and forth with a fellow modeller of the 1950’s, the heavy metal fence tells a story about the prison being somewhere people really don’t go vs a wood fence. I don’t know what the actual fence was, any pictures I’ve found are either too far away, the wrong end of the site, or aerials where all you can tell is that its a sold fence. Therefore, modellers license, I can build the style of fence I want, and should I discover I’m really wrong in the future, its easy to take it out and redo.

Quick Layout Progress/Status Update

I just wanted to write a quick update. I’m fine and working away on the layout or layout related projects, and even some projects that have nothing at all to do with trains. I just haven’t been sitting down to write about it. I’ve still been taking pictures, and hopefully at some point will catch up, but I just haven’t had the motivation to spend more time on the computer at home at my workbench after spending my whole work day here. I’ve been motivated to use the workbench time doing what it was meant for, making models. I realized my last few posts have mostly been Tuesday Train railfan shots, and I’ve lined up those until the end of June as I’m not out railfanning at the moment (but I’ve found some great stuff in boxes of old pictures I’ve now scanned to make up for that!).

I hope those who read my blog are well, and are finding ways to keep busy with whatever lets you unwind as we continue in varying degrees of lockdown to hopefully stay healthy and safe.

As proof of progress, a couple of pictures below of the resin cast manhole and storm drain covers being painted. The first of these are now installed in the roads on the layout, and I’ve got enough pre-painted to do all the roads, so I just need to find a night to get motivated and start the next chunk of road paving!

Resin cast manhole and storm drain covers taped down to a sheet of cardboard to be pre-shaded before installing in the roads.

Resin Casting on my Own

Almost a year ago I took my first tentative steps into the world of casting my own parts in Resin thanks to my friend Ryan and a Saturday at his place working on models together with him and Trevor. Sadly, Covid has caused this to become a more common thing, as a number of us now have a Saturday night zoom chat where we all sit at our workbenches in our home and work and chat and have a drink virtually. It’s easier than packing up and going to someone else’s place to work, but not quite the same.

IMG_2453A stack of new supplies from Sculpture Supply Canada for making molds and casting in resin.

I am starting this adventure with basic stuff, two part silicone for mold making, and resin, that doesn’t require anything more complicated than mixing equal parts of the two liquids in each kid. The mold material cures it says in half an hour (I’m finding better results at giving it 2 or 3, and the resin says it cures in 10 minutes (again, half an hour or more is better). The parts I am casting are basic parts, manhole covers and storm sewer drains for the streets on my layout. I have drawn the different styles that are on Toronto streets, they will be a subtle detail in the layout, but I will know they are there and not generic, and that means a lot to me.

My first mold made at home, from top left top row: The Mold Box, the Silicone parts, measured out & bottom row: gently pouring silicone, weighting down while curing to get a smooth back, ready to demold, and the cast part.

So, full disclosure, the first mold I poured in the picture above, failed, I didn’t give it enough curing time, and it was a goopy mess. Lesson learned, be patient, just let it sit and cure, there is no rush here other than my own urges to see if I have succeeded!

Subsequent molds, see how much nicer they look when you let them fully cure?

I have two styles of manhole covers (water/Sewer and Hydro), and storm drain covers. I need about 50 of each manhole, and about 70 of the storm drains, give or take. As I wasn’t sure I would get 10 of each from each mold (manholes I am, storm drains I’m getting 9 per mold from a couple of damaged prints. If I’d have been smart, I’d have made one mold box of 10 good parts, and made multiple molds from that, instead, I made two mold boxes and made 3 molds, each with one defective piece!

Mixing resin, settling the parts, and pulling out completed manhole covers.

The nice part about the fast setting resin, is that I’ve basically made all the parts I need now. I probably need to do one more run of the five molds to have extras, then I can sit down some evening and clean all the castings and prepare them for painting and installing onto the layout. I started the roads stamping spots for the covers, I’m not entirely happy with how that worked, as I’m going to need to go back and putty around them to fill gaps. I think it will work better if I pre-paint the parts, and sink them into the drywall compound roads as they are almost dry. It will let me blend them into the compound, and they can be painted around when I paint the roads/touched up later.

IMG_2528A manhole I 3D modelled, had printed, and cast in resin in the layout. Needs painted and you can see where the roads still need some cleanup!.

This is one of those weird ones. In theory, resin parts are cheaper than 3D printing, and if I did the math of going to shapeways and getting 75 storm drain covers cast, it probably winds up being more than the resin supplies, but what’s more important than the cost is the learning a new skill. I want to, no need to do a lot of custom windows for my layout, and at the cost of having them printed, shipped, and likely paying duties, having learned how to cast means that I can print a single window master for each different one, and cast as many as I need in resin. This is where the cost savings will come down the line, in doing bigger parts for my buildings, these small street details are really just my training wheels!

IMG_2537Five full molds. Yeah, you can see some nasty air bubbles on one mold. Most of the parts are actually ok, but learning as I go to be careful pouring and working to avoid wasting resin on failed parts.

For anyone still reading, this will be post 500 on this Blog since I started writing it in May 2016. I’ve come a long way and a lot has changed since my first post, but my love of the hobby hasn’t. I hope those of you who read enjoy my prattling on as I muddle through this adventure of building my prototype layout of Liberty Village.

Building Building Foundations

Any project that starts with a new tool has to be a good one right?

IMG_2421New Milwaukee M12 Cordless Jig Saw, clean, clearly not used yet!

Thanks to the kindness of friends in coming to my house with portable tools and access to the woodworking shop at The Toronto Railway Museum where I volunteer, I was able to build all of the benchwork for my layout without owning any power tools other than an Impact Driver/Drill combo set. That’s great for the heavy construction, but I still need the ability to do things myself at home, especially now in an era of Social Distancing where we can’t get together with friends and build benchwork together.

As I am building the layout, one of the first phases of the structures, is building foundations so that I can work on scenery, but have bases for the buildings to eventually get mounted on, these will largely be buried, but will be visible here and there, so I wanted to make them out of MDF using a technique I picked up from a friend.

Getting set to cut foundations for the buildings on the layout from 1/4″ and 5/8″ MDF fibreboard.

Basically, the MDF is cut to size, sanded, and sealed with a “Sanding Sealer”, basically a varnish. Because MDF can absorb moisture when it is cut because it is pressed board, you need to seal cut edges. I learned this mistake the hard way myself as one of my dioramas built on an MDF sheet cut to fit into a shelving unit has curled at the two cut corners. Nothing I can do to save it now, it is what it is, but I can’t have that on the layout.

I spent a Saturday a bit back drawing all the outlines for the foundations in preparation for this, with copies made and them all cut out and pieced together, they were transferred onto the MDF and away I went with the jig saw to cut out the pieces.

Pieces cut out, sanded, cleaned and painted with sanding sealer on the edges to keep the MDF from absorbing moisture and expanding on the layout.

With my new saw in hand, and a nice weekend last week, I got set up on my patio terrace, and spent an afternoon cutting, sanding and sealing pieces of 1/4 and 5/8 MDF for building foundations.

Checking the fit of foundations after cutting to see if they need any trimming before sealing them.

I’ve since painted all the the ones that are small enough to paint in my spray booth other than two pieces that need to be re-cut, and three pieces that are too big for my booth. These will get painted outside on the terrace when the chance presents itself. I am really happy with the look, now just need to get motivated to take the next step of gluing them down and starting scenery around some of them. Onwards we go.

The Hazards of Second Hand Kits

Sometimes you get a deal on something and it isn’t actually a deal. One of the fleet of freight cars I’ve been working on is a Kaslo Shops Canadian Pacific Railway 36′ Fowler Boxcar. Its actually a better kit than I’ve given it credit for, though the instructions aren’t the best I’ve ever had to work with.

A lot of the problems with the kit, have actually been because a previous owner (I bought the kit at a model railroad flea market, I have no idea if I bought mistakes from them, or passed on mistakes that they bought). As I’ve been working on the kit, I discovered that castings were missing, or damaged. At some point, parts of the car around the roof line that are actually part of the car, but could be mistaken for flash from the resin casting were partially cut away, So I’ve had to rebuild parts of the car, and source new parts. That said, the car is now about 98% ready for paint. I’m just waiting on an order of parts including door stops and supports to replace missing castings, then it will be off to paint.

Shots of the almost finished body of the Kaslo CPR Fowler kit.

The other part of my problem, is I hadn’t been planning on starting the freight car kits anytime soon, wasn’t really at the top of my to do pile, but given the extra amount of spare time with staying home and not commuting to work (gets me almost 3 hours a day to model I didn’t have before), so I didn’t have phosphor bronze wire in the sizes I needed to do brake lines and mechanisms and such. Those arrived last weekend, so all the levers and piping have now been done to provide underbody detail on the car.

IMG_2413Underbody details at pretty much the maximum amount of effort I’m willing to make on piping and such.

This will be one of several Fowler cars on the layout. I have a couple of CPR Accurail kits that while basic, look decent in the background (or will once I weather them), this car, and I have a Speedwitch Media Canadian National 5′ Door version on order. There were thousands of these 36′ boxcars built for CN and CP, and while they were nearing the end in the 1950’s era I model, they were still hard at work and earning their keep.

A gondola box and Finishing a Flatcar

As I’ve decided to build a small auxiliary train, with a crane, boom car and service car, I decided to turn the 40′ Tichy flat car kit I’m building as part of this, as there isn’t really an industry on the layout that used flat cars.

Building a box for the deck of the flatcar. Using the stake pockets in the car to support it.

To build the box, I dove into my strip wood drawer, and found appropriate sized pieces of scale lumber. 4×4’s for the supports, to be inserted into the stake pockets, and 2×6’s for the side panels. The box is a simple rectangle. I built it in place with the stake pocket supports, I wasn’t going for super accuracy, but a home built look as this would have been built by shop staff as needed.

Finished box, then staining and weathering the wood before painting the outside boxcar red to match the flat car.

With the box finished, I wanted it to look beaten up, but not as weathered as the car deck. I figure a box like this in the pictures I’ve seen would have been a later addition, so beaten up, but not as old and beaten up.

IMG_2402Decals for the flat car, using a random number in the series CNR service cars seemed to be in.

I weathered the box with a commercial stain, then a mix of Isopropyl Alcohol and India Ink I keep around for darkening and making things look grungy. I had decals for Canadian National Flat Cars from Black Cat Publishing. The set provides a range of decals for cars in different eras. I don’t have a specific prototype for this car, so I just made up a number in the range of CN Work Train cars from pictures I’ve found.

Finished build on the layout, just need to give it a dullcote then move onto weathering.

I’m quite happy with this car, for an older kit, the Tichy kit is really well designed and engineered. I’m going to weather this car more, but want to do all the cars in the auxiliary train together so they resemble cars that have been working together. For now, its another car down on the pile on the workbench to eventually have enough cars to operate the layout.