A Saturday Afternoon Boxcar Build

While the Liberty Village layout is reasonably small, it still needs a healthy fleet of freight cars to come on and off the layout, if only so it doesn’t look the same at every operating session.  While the Ready-to-Run and Resin kits out there make some fantastic looking cars, and I have plenty of them both built and unbuilt for the layout, I’ll also need enough cars that look decent to fill sidings and such.  A few weeks ago, I was at Credit Valley Model Railroad to pick up a few things, and my friend Roger Chrysler who works there pointed out the recently arrived Accurail CPR Fowler wooden box cars.  By the 1950’s these cars would have been a bit long in the tooth, with the 33,000 the CPR owned being built between 1909 and 1915, but they were still going.

An Accurail kit. Nothing fancy.  A great cost effective way to populate a layout, or a starting point if you want to super detail it.

These cars were used in all kinds of service, but were primarily used for hauling grain in the era before covered hoppers.  On the layout, the mill building at Standard Brands would have received grains for milling for use in making their yeast cakes and other products.  Given the affordable price of these cars (under $25 Canadian) per car, I can have a fleet of 4 or 5 for the cost of 2 Ready-to-Run on resin kits, and, they go together in a couple of hours.  They need some new wheels (the cheap plastic wheels in the kits are junk), and Kadee couplers, but that will add about $5/car to the cost.  Accurail even sells a decal set by mail to re-number the cars so you can have a fleet, as they all come with the same number from the factory.

IMG_6002.JPGThe underframe and brake rigging assembled. Simple, enough detail that its there, but not super detailed or fiddly.

While I love building detailed kits, and I have a few fantastic ones from Elgin Car Shops to build for the layout, there is something to be said for a simple kit.  I like many grew up with a layout full of Athearn “Blue Box” kits, which weren’t even as detailed as this car.  They were cheap and plentiful and allowed you to populate a layout with all kinds of different cars without going broke.  While I’m in the middle of building the layout, cheap and simple projects like this to give me something to do in between big spurts of layout action as just what I need to keep me going and provide distraction when construction inevitably gets bogged down for some reason.

IMG_6007.JPGAnd a finished car, if I had wheel sets and couplers, it would be done done and ready to weather in about an hour and a half.  I’ll be picking up a few more of these, re-numbering them, then making them dirty to be the backdrop cars in my fleet.

I have a resin kit for the same kind of car, but with narrower doors, so eventually I’ll have one super detailed car and a fleet of less detailed ones.  I’ll hold off on weathering this newest project until I have them all done and can give them treatment at the same time to make them look used, but not identical.

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Etched Brass Coach Door Hinges…Not for Me thanks

On the weekend I got out a project I started earlier this year, and sent back to the pile as other projects passed it by in my motivation to work on list.  Now that I’m back at it, I’m up against one of the reasons I set the kit aside, figuring out the etched brass door hinges for the car.  There are 18 of these to install (3 per door, 3 doors per side of the car).  It’s a lot, and they are, to be kind, tiny.

IMGP2602RawConvThe door hinges are the oblong parts with the raised bulb in the centre.

The kits instructions, are to be fair, probably sensible to someone whose built etched brass coaches before, but with no diagram explaining how to do what they say, and no previous experience, they are proving to be beyond me.  The instructions state “Using the new easy position hinge etch, insert all three hinges into the side from the outside face so that the hinges are just proud of the inside face, solder.  Snip off unused portion of etch and dress back to correct length with a file or disk in a mini drill.”  Seems to be English, might as well be Russian for all the sence I’ve made of it in months of looking at it, and now an evening of trying to do it.  I haven’t even managed to be 100% sure of whether the bulb is supposed to go inwards into the fully etched through opening or not.

IMGP2604RawConvThat little etch is supposed to go into the three oblong holes on the side of each door.

It’s pretty clear to me that I am not going to make sense of this, and any effort I’ve made to install the hinge has resulted in my dropping the tiny part, or feeling like I’m going to bend/warp the etched car side and do damage I’m not capable of undoing.  I’m not above admitting defeat on something, and moving on to Plan B.  In this case, Plan B is to use a material I know and create something that looks like I think the hinge is supposed to look like based on a Bachmann Mk1 coach in my collection.  I am going to use styrene or brass rod to create the appearance of their being hinges on the doors.  I quickly made up some hinge pieces with 0.025″ evergreen styrene rod to see how it looked, and to my eye, it will be passable when painted and detailed, other than being a bit too big.  I need some 0.020″ styrene or brass rod, something I am out of at the moment to make my hinges just a bit smaller looking, so I won’t be finishing this until the weekend and my next shopping trip to a hobby shop, but at least I have a path forward that I know I can achieve and be happy with the outcome of.

Door hinges on a ready to run Bachmann M1 on the left, and my first attempt at styrene replacements on the right.  The 0.025″ styrene is too big, i think 0.020″ will do better.  You can see how tiny the etched hing is to the right of the brass car side.

And yes, in case you were wondering, it was shooting door hinges across the floor that prompted my earlier post this evening about using the Workbench Apron I have to prevent me crawling around beneath my workbench.

Making Sense of a Mk1 Coach Underbody

While I wait on my seemingly never shipping order from Shapeways, which has both parts for new projects and my current active project building a model of 587 Yonge Street, I have pulled another project out that I’d worked on earlier this year, and set aside for a variety of reasons so I have something to work on.  I could have started one of the several kits in the queue, but decided to try to advance something I’ve started while I wait on parts arriving.

I pulled my Southern Pride Models kit of a British Railways Mk1 First Class coach back out.  I had set it aside as it wasn’t a project I was in a rush on, and other projects I was motivated on took priority for a few months.  When I had set the car aside, there were two paths for next steps, the injected plastic underframe, or the brass car sides.  When I pulled it back out, I decided the plastic underframe details would be the easier path to spend my Sunday afternoon on and make some progress.  Once I got started, maybe the brass and soldering/epoxy would have been easier…

The kit instructions are not the clearest in terms of how the truss structure that is the largest part of the detail, and then the various underbody mechanical bits go on, and this is on a car that has almost no underbody piping or detail in the kit when compared to the North American passenger car models I am used to building.  Fortunately, I had another ready-to-run Mk1 coach available to compare with, which, typical of British models also has almost no underbody detail, but has just enough to help me get everything into generally the right places on the kit.

IMGP2595RawConvUsing a Bachmann Mk1 Coach (rear) as a guide for constructing the underbody details on a Southern Pride Models Mk1 coach kit.  Not a lot of detail on either compared to North American models.

So, with the underbody detail such as it is done, I moved on to working to get the cars ride height to be roughly the same as the RTR coach it will run with.  This didn’t turn out to be straight forward either.  The kit uses a different mounting system for the trucks, but uses RTR Bachmann trucks.  This means having to drill out the mounting opening of the Bachmann truck, and fit an insert into it.  While doing this, it becomes quickly apparent that there is a reason the instructions say you have to remove some of the detail from the top of the trucks, they bind constantly when the car is set at the right ride hight.  I haven’t trimmed anything yet, as I want to take out some track and test to see how bad it binds on rails instead of my workbench, then I’ll trim off the detail if it remains an issue.  Its much easier to leave detail on and trim it off later, than find out I’ve missed an obvious fix for the height that doesn’t need me to cut away cast on detail.

A look at my progress at the end of the day.  All the underbody detail is fitted, and the trucks are test fitted for adjusting the ride height of the car.  Brings me perilously close to having to tackle the brass car sides and fiddly detail bits (door hinges and handles)

Again the rather thin instructions provided in the kit don’t make the next steps on how to assemble the brass car sides, or more specifically, how to install things like the door hinges and other separately etched details are going to slow this down, on top of my lack of experience soldering brass parts together.  I suspect I will wind up installing things like the hinges with epoxy or CA glue, and hoping that along with the coat of primer once installed will hold everything together.  Time will tell!!

IMGP2600RawConv.jpgThe brass etched car sides out for adding details and painting.  18 Door Hinges, 6 handles, 6 grab irons and 2 toilet vents to go.

That’s No Train Part 2!!!!

So, this post has nothing to do with Trains.  There, you’ve been warned, look away if you are only interested in my ramblings about model trains.

Anyone who knows me, will know that I like sports, and a lot of different sports.  I watch a lot of Hockey (Ice Hockey for my UK friends), Baseball, Football (of the Gridiron and Beautiful Game varieties), Rugby, Golf and Car Racing.  Yes, Car Racing…what’s that you say, not a sport? Maybe in some aspects, but the drivers are just as much athletes as those in the other sports I mentioned.  Is there an aspect of luck or having the best car that dictates who wins, some days in some series absolutely, but don’t tell me it’s easy to drive at speeds up to 300km/hr for 2-3 hours at a time with high g-forces and the level of attention needed to not turn the lump of metal and carbon fibre around you into a deadly weapon.  My only experience in a high performance race vehicle (a performance G0-Kart at a friends bachelor party at the Mosport Kartway) wound up with me upside down wearing a Go-kart in the middle of the track, not my finest hour!!

5053752399_40250603cc_o.jpgMe, shortly before experimenting with a new Go-Kart shaped hat at the Mosport Kartway in 2010.

So, with that said, the type of car racing that I pay the most attention to is what is generally lumped into the term “Sportscar Racing”.  This is endurance racing, long races with multiple types of cars on track at the same time.  There are two main series I watch, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), a series of 6 hour races around the globe which also includes the legendary Grand Prix D’endurance at Le Mans France, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  The second is the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship, the North American equivalent of the WEC which runs mostly 2hr 45 Minute Races, but with the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, 6 Hours of Watkins Glen and Petite Le Mans (10hours/1,000 miles) making up an extended length sub-series of the season.  The Cole’s Note version of an explanation for a beginner is that these series are composed of four classes of cars, two classes of “Prototypes”, or purpose designed and built race cars that look more like UFO’s than street cars; and, two classes of GT Cars, or cars which are based on high performance street cars (think Ferrari, Corvette, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, etc).  The two main groups are then further divided based on whether Manufacturers are involved or not, and whether the drivers are all Professional, or Pro-Ams, where some of the drivers are “amateurs” who have money and the desire to go racing.   It’s more complicated than that, but that’s enough for you as a model railroader to have a high-level understanding of what’s going on (assuming you’ve made it this far)!

IMGP1100RawConv.jpgMulti Class IMSA Sportscar Racing at Mosport outside Toronto.  A GTLM Porsche (Professional Factory Teams) , leads a PC Oreca (Pro-Am Open Top Prototype), in front of a GTD Acura (Pro-Am Independent Teams); in front of a P (Prototype/professional) Cadillac DPI car.  Four races in one.

So, to bring this long ramble back to modelling, I, like many I know, got into all kinds of different scale model making as a kid.  I talked about this a little on another project I recently finished here.  I’m in the midst of a little dalliance with building plastic kits again.  The project I’m about to talk about, is actually the last of the three, but I’m not quite ready to talk about the 2nd yet (that’s the next “Not About Trains” post).  My favourite team in the IMSA Series is Corvette Racing.  If I had all the money, my first purchase would be a Corvette (A 2017 GS would do nicely thanks).  Then, after a summer of suffering being barely able to get in and out of it (I am after all, a bit of a big kid size wise), it would be the first thing I’d sell too (but at least I’d have one summer of owning and driving an awesome sportscar!).

Last year, Revell, the main plastic kit maker in the North American market announced they were releasing a 1/25th scale Corvette C.7R, the race version of the current car.  This was a must buy for me.  When it finally came out, the kit was a bit of a mishmash.  The designers originally had access to the 2015 race car, but by the time the tooling was done and the car produced, they included decals for the 2016 #4 car, which is fine, as that car won the 24 Hours of Daytona, which gave me ideas for display.  The problem was, there are a lot of little details visible in the bodywork that changed between 2015 and 2016, so I had the choice of living with good enough, or making some effort to improve the model.

Working on the plastic kit, updating the body work and testing LED headlights on the left, and adding a resin driver figure on the right.

I settled on the obvious answer, if I’m going to do it, do it right.  The body changes involved extending the valances on the front and sides, creating a new rear diffuser (a series of wings under the car to create down-force to hold the car to the track).  I also hate that almost every model race car I’ve ever built lacks a driver figure.  When I was a kid, I had a shelf with probably 20 nascar models lined up, all of them without drivers.  Even before the kit for the car was available, I was on the search for a driver figure.  Fortunately, there are a number of options out there,  and one was perfect, a resin manufacturer named GF Models makes a range of sportscar and Formula car drivers and mechanics.  I found a retailer in Belgium who sells their products, and one was duly ordered.

I also wanted to have the headlights lit.  In sportscar racing, the headlights are a major feature, as they communicate information about the type of car coming up behind you.  White Headlights mean one of the prototype cars, which are faster, yellow lights, mean a GT, which is slower (relatively speaking).  Having the headlights be more than just static paint was something I wanted, and the advances in small LED’s and their availability, made that possible.  I ordered some 3mm sized yellow LED’s from Evan Designs (as a note for fellow Canadians, GLX Scale Models sells Evan LED’s in Canada, but he didn’t have what I needed so it was faster to order direct rather than through a middle man, I buy most of my LED’s through GLX whenever possible), these run on 3V, or a little flat cell watch battery.  The LED’s come pre-wired, so it was just an issue of making holes in the bodywork for them, and snaking the wiring around.

Closing in on the finished product.  The painted and decaled body without windows in, the interior with miniature Oliver Gavin, and the car on the partly painted display base testing everything looks ok.

With the model modified, the assembly was pretty much straight forward plastic kit, paint, assemble, follow instructions, add decals, etc.  While I was working on it, I knew I wanted to get it signed by the drivers.  The car itself is a bit small for being easily signed, so I decided to build a base that would double as a display stand on the shelf.  Using a birch plywood panel I had bought for another project, but wasn’t happy with (the board warped in our apartment), I bodged up a bit of racetrack for the car to sit on.  As the car is decaled to look like the 2016 Daytona Winning car, I painted a start-finish line for the car to be crossing.

The one visit of the year to Canada for either of the big series is mid-July at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport!!!).  The series is very fan friendly, with open pit walks before the race, super access to the cars and drivers, and an autograph session before the race.  I made sure I was at the front of the line Sunday morning at the Corvette Trucks to have Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin sign the model.  Unfortunately, they had a bad day, late in the race Tommy got bumped and most of the front end of the car was destroyed.  Fortunately, modern safety standards for both the car design and the walls of a racetrack meant that Tommy was OK and walked away from a scary crash.

At Mosport on the weekend, the model with the real No.4 Corvette behind, and being signed by two of the three drivers Tommy Milner (top) and Oliver Gavin (bottom).  The third driver only does the four long distance races, so if anyone knows when Marcel Fassler will be in Toronto on Vacation so i can stalk him (or even better, if someone wants to pay for me to go to Daytona in January or France in June!!)…

While none of these bits of modelling are identical to working on model trains, they are all the same skills, just being applied differently.  As I said earlier, I’ve been having a bit of a dalliance with building model kits over the past year.  It’s been good as it’s given me some variety in what’s on my workbench at home, and something different to look forward to and think about.  It’s not that I haven’t worked on trains while I’ve been doing these, but the option to say tonight I want to work on figuring out how to drill holes to fit the LEDs while not screwing up how the kit goes together has been nice.  I’m also finding that I’m now super motivated to get on with some railroad projects that have languished, which at the end of the day, may be the best reason of all for having taken a break to do other types of modelling.

Building a Mk1 Coach Part 1

I won’t do this whole process blow by blow.  But I talked about building a Southern Pride Models coach kit in a recent post here.  I did manage to get up the next day and do the detailing of the roof of the coach.  I’ve got a trip planned to my paint booth in the near future where I can hit it with some primer so I can see any spots that need better cleanup before painting down the road.  So with that, some progress on adding the roof details.

imgp5894rawconvUsing a copy of the instructions to get the right locations to drill holes for the roof ventilator castings.
imgp5896rawconvThe Roof Ventilators, cast in white metal/pewter
imgp5898rawconvOne end of the car with the roof ventilators installed.
imgp5899rawconvCompleted roof details back on the fishtank body.

With the roof complete, the next steps are to install the underbody details between the trucks, and to add the details to the brass sides.  Once the sub assemblies are complete, I can move on to

imgp5897rawconvThe brass car sides, cleaned up and ready to install details such as the door hinges, handles and bathroom window vents.

It feels good to make progress on a project.  The next step of doing the underbody looks straightforward, but on a first glance a few of the injection molded pieces are a bit warped.  The should hopefully come back to shape when put together to form the frame, but that’s another day’s post.

The Agony of Painting/Why Can’t I paint that Colour?

So, I don’t know if other modellers have this problem, I’ve never talked about it with anyone (asking questions like this feels embarassing), but do others have paint colours that you would describe as your “bane” when it comes to painting them?  I’ve been building scale models seriously starting with plastic kits probably since I was 10 years old and evolving to more complicated craftsmen kits as Model Railroading has become my focus, to designing my own models using 3D printed parts, and yet, over that give or take 27 year period of actively modelling, I have never, ever, managed to successfully paint things that are overall white, and rarely managed to successfully paint things yellow (though I’ve successfully painted yellow things in 2016, so maybe I’ve finally cracked that colour).

I bought a plastic model kit a couple of years ago, because I came across a decal set for a really cool little side project.  I touched on the project here talking about learning to use bare metal foil.  I’ve been working on the project on and off, but I have run into a serious block in actually getting it done.  I have now painted the fuselage of the 1/144 scale Boeing 737 aircraft kit three times, and had to strip the paint and start from scratch three times.  I didn’t think it was possible for a plane that’s less than 8 inches long to cause so much aggravation.  I’ve tried painting with both my airbrush, and rattle cans of white paints, and the results have been the same, I cannot get a good coat of paint.  It runs, it bubbles, it pools, some idiot manages to stick a thumbprint in it, something happens with every attempt.  I was so close on the last attempt.  One side was perfect, and as I attempted to put on thin coats, the paint started to bubble off on the second side.  Some of the problems are definitely user error, some may be climate issues from having my paint booth be located on our 12th floor balcony, but it’s clearly in my head on some level.  I’ve had no problems priming the model, but as soon as the white paint comes out, disaster.  I’m by no means an expert painter, but I know I’m at least competent, at least so long as whatever colour I’m spraying isn’t a shade of white apparently.

The kit is now sitting on the end of my workbench at home staring at me, waiting on me priming it again to take another run at painting the fuselage white.  I was really excited when I started this little project, and have put a lot of time, effort and money into it, but it’s really disheartening having the same thing happen again and again.  I almost wish I hadn’t started the project, but I’m also just stubborn enough to not give in.