One Down, Six (and probably more) to Go

Well, that is one more car out of the reasonably manageable pile of kits in my collection. This is the first Yarmouth Model Works resin kit that I have finished. I have three more started, and three more safely in boxes to follow them, and there is at least one car recently released (Kit YMW-130, an 8′ door box with Pacific Great Eastern Decals) I will probably buy, and I am reliably informed there are more new kits coming that will likely interest me based on my prototype and era. This post however, is about one of the kits I have, and have now finished, Kit YMW-113, an ACF (American Car & Foundry) built 40′ boxcar, owned by the West India Fruit and Steamship Company. The WIF operated rail ferries between Palm Beach Florida and Havana Cuba between 1946 and 1961. They owned 150 of the cars represented in this kit. The cars operated all over North America bringing goods to and from Cuba. I have pictures of them as far away as Vancouver British Colombia, so it is entirely plausible that one would have brought goods to Toronto, then been loaded with something from Liberty Village going back to Cuba. That is my story, and I’m sticking to it, it also gives me at least one boxcar that can show up occasionally that isn’t a variation of oxide red/boxcar brown!

Scenes from building a resin kit. My first attempt at building the Yarmouth etched brass ladders, not perfect, but passable.

The Yarmouth Model Works kits are really quite nice to build. The fact that Pierre Oliver who owns the company and his pattern makers are modellers shows, as they understand kit building, and instruction writing. I take my time and regularly look at the reference photos included therein for where parts and lines go. The result, with some time put into it and the usual careful sanding and cleaning needed for resin kits, is a really nice looking model. As you can see in the pictures, the patterns for this car were done in a way that recreates the “oil canning” effect, or the wavy sides from welding the exterior sheeting to the interior support. The masters were drawn in CAD and 3D printed to get that effect, which makes sense as trying to create the effect otherwise to then create a mold to cast from would be a nightmare.

I’m not one for blow by blows of kit building, so I wont go into that, but as with all things, every kit you build, every time you do things again, they become that little bit easier to do, and every issue I ran into (which were mostly user error) will help me with the next car off the shelf to work on.

I’ve mentioned it before, but be aware of your lighting. This is the same car and paint, but in the lighting in my paint booth, you can’t trust the colour, the LED’s do a great job of lighting the workspace, but a terrible job of showing what the colour actually is.

Paint and pictures are as always, your best friend and worst enemy. As you can see above, the roof walk is not connected on one end when I painted the car. In between primer and finished colour, I dropped the car. I thought I hadn’t damaged anything when I checked, then I sprayed the paint, and found the walk was a mess. This was entirely fixable without damaging the paint, and any minor glue marks under the walk will vanish when the car is weathered, but its another important lesson/reminder to not rush when working on models.

Decalled and done and on the layout. Just needs to be flat coated and weathered to be truly finished.

The decals included in this kit are some of the nicest I have ever worked with. They went on super smooth, conformed nicely to the not flat car sides, and just melted away with a tiny bit of Microsol to blend the carrier film. It can make anyone, even a hack like me look good when you have good products to work with!

All in all, I am very happy with how this project has turned out, and it will add a pop of colour among the red/brown boxcar fleet.

Tuesday Night Paintshop Whoopise, the camera be harsh on your mistakes

Painting whoopsie, it looked fine before I painted, but after, some damage to the roof walk on the left side of the picture becomes apparent.

A quick trip to the paint booth tonight to get two projects advanced, one a project I am sending to a friend for a DCC install, to do a quick initial weathering on a CPR S-2 locomotive. While I had the paint booth set up, I wanted to get colour onto a Yarmouth Model Works West India Fruit Company ACF 40′ Boxcar. In my setup, I dropped/knocked it over, and it hit the floor. It looked fine after a check, all the detail parts survived and were where they were supposed to be, or so I thought. after hitting it with green paint on the body, it became apparent that the roof walk was both mangled and half separated from the roof. Sigh, nothing that can’t be fixed, but annoying none the less. Important lesson, after something goes wrong, maybe take more time to go back and check everything is ok.

And for those wondering, the green is less bright under normal lighting conditions on the layout, the LED lights in my paint booth are not good for assessing colour tone, they may everything look brighter than it is. Good for seeing where you’ve missed paint, not great for deciding if you are happy with a colour or not.

An April Sunday Night Omnibus Update

I realized I haven’t written about anything I’ve done or been working on for over two weeks, and while that’s not really all that long, its been a weird, though productive couple of weeks, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like that to me. So with that in mind, here is a kind of “month end” omnibus edition post on most everything I’ve been working on (there is one thing with a post upcoming I’ve spent a lot of time on that is not for this post), as I’m not feeling motivated to write a lot of words on one thing, but some pictures and a few words on a bunch of things feels good and again drives home that sometimes, you are making progress even when you don’t always see it! A lot of my writing is not just to share the joy model making gives me, or to share techniques, but to keep me motivated by looking at what I am doing and seeing concrete progress by putting it in words and pictures.

First up, a project that came so close to being “finished” in March, but dragged into April for decals and dull-coating. A pair of Canadian Pacific 10′-6″ interior height NSC AAR box cars. Similar to the two CNR ones I finished other than weathering in January, these are Intermountain undecorated kits built with National Scale Car mini-kits to get the correct doors and ends for Canadian built cars. These are all done other than weathering and any adjustments to make them good runners on the layout. Of course, no sooner do I finish two kits than two more from Yarmouth Model Works arrive to go in the queue. I see a pattern here!!

A pair of CPR Box Cars in final decaling and then dullcoated and on the layout.

Next up, another quick project that has happened on a whim in April! Way back in 2004, I took my first vacation from work, I’d been working for about a year and half after finishing university, and took two weeks to go to England and just do railway stuff. On that trip, I bought a 1/4 scale replica nameplate at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway of LNER/BR B17 61648 Arsenal. This class of locomotive was known as “Footballers” because they were named after English football teams. Early in April, I saw a crazy sale on a Hornby B17, but with the wrong name/number. That is a situation easily fixed. On a Sunday I ordered a locomotive and then replacement etched nameplates and number decals from Fox Transfers, and a couple of weeks later they both arrived across the ocean. A couple of hours of work with isopropyl alcohol and a toothpick to remove the wrong numbers, prying off the factory nameplates, and some carefully gluing, and a quick project I’ve wanted for years, a model of Arsenal to go with my nameplate was done. Didn’t advance the layout one iota (though as you can see, the layout doesn’t do too badly for photographing British Models!)

Voila, from 61665 “Leicester City” to 61648 “Arsenal” in a couple of hours. The replica nameplate can be seen in the background.

Another non-layout project is what started as a”Blank Canvas“, aka an Ikea shelf! I have been busy on this too, working on other scenery skills I don’t necessarily need for the layout, but which are good and where I felt I needed something different to work on to break up working on the layout scenery which is very much samey across the layout. Since I last posted, I have been working on learning to use a Hot Wire Foam Cutter to cut and trim the foam base for the terrain on either side of the tracks, along with laying and painting the track, and building the signals. I have gotten it to the point where the track and roadbed is down, the foam is carved to shape and glued in, and the signals are built and almost finished being painted and assembled. The Hot Wire Cutter probably deserves a post of its own, and I may take some pictures of me cutting a mock-up pieces to do that. Its definitely one of those things I’ve seen people write about over the years, and while I haven’t built much scenery, the difference between my rough carving the block of foam and the mess that made vs. using the Hot Wire is immense. Now I get it!

Going from a 3″ thick chunk of foam to formed terrain for along the tracks and to support the wooden bridge (currently in fancy cardboard mockup form). The GO Bi-Levels are the closest I have to AAR Plate C modern freight cars in size, so not quite tall enough, but they are a great help for making sure I have clearance. As always, any available heavy items including a “Heritage” Don Valley Brickworks brick are used to weight down track when its glued!

My layout has no signalling, but the diorama kind of needs them to make the scene I am building an homage to. Now, having built two signals that don’t even change aspect (I’ve built them with single colour aspects showing for photography), re-affirms that I don’t have the patience or wiring skills to do more than that! I ordered the kits from a company called Showcase Miniatures, and they are awesome, even if I’m no good at wiring. If you are looking for signals, I can highly recommend their kits based on my experiences thus far. What they have also illuminated, is how lucky we were pre-pandemic to just pop out to the hobby shop. I am constantly finding things I don’t have, that will then take weeks to get potentially, like the discovery that I don’t in fact have a sheet of black lettering for the signal ID boards, so I’m kinda ground to a halt, though luckily one of my local suppliers TMR Distributing had them and some other bits and pieces I need for various projects, so I may have what I need this week if the post office cooperates at all (not that I have much faith in Canada Post).

Images of signal building. Multiple aspects of this probably deserve their own post, and who knows, maybe I will get motivated to do that! Simple things, like tiny balls of blue sticky tack in the light openings while painting to protect the LED’s. Sometimes the simpliest things get the best results.

Back in December, I was briefly super excited by my progress in wiring a decoder and programming it into a second Alco S-2 for the CPR side of my loco fleet, then, I blew up the decoder with a wiring short. I managed to not throw the loco, and this weekend made some progress on painting and decalling. This locomotive is going to be in CP’s early maroon and grey “Block” lettering scheme. I have been offered by a friend to do the 2nd go round of the DCC install for me, and I am going to send the locomotive to them in a few weeks once the shell is finished, so that they can do the installation, and when it comes back to me, hopefully I won’t have to take the shell off anytime soon, and won’t risk shorting it out again!

Masking and painting the maroon parts of a CPR Also S-2 switcher. Needs a quick shot of clear coat for the decals, then I can apply lettering.

Just to prove that not everything I’ve been doing is not advancing the layout scenery itself, the last few things have been small, but important painting and learning on the buildings.

Continuing work on painting buildings. Masked and painted windows on Brunswick Balke, working on some “Natural” red sandstone details on 60 Atlantic, and testing Roberts Brick Mortar on the Brunswick power house. The super salmon pink colour on 60 Atlantic will be, toned down! The brick mortar looks better in pictures than I think it does in person. I haven’t quite got the application technique down yet for it to be subtle. Hopefully when I apply some pan pastel weathering it tones it down to the sweet spot in person and in pictures!

So, as its been said before, probably even by me, a little bit of time every day turns into big progress. I have lots of things on the go, things I am working on, things I could be working on, things I think about working on, things I should be working on instead of coming up with new distractions, but all put together, some of that scatterbrained projects all over the place is a part of my hobby as much as making progress is. I don’t know about others, but for me, hitting a point of “oh hey, that worked and looks really good” just seems to sneak up on me from periods of not feeling like I am actually doing anything.

Building Etched Boxcar Ladders

In recent years, as I have become a more prototype focused modeller, I have been collecting kits that are now getting built for my layout. I have also been very lucky to get to know some of the amazing modellers in southern Ontario who are like minded, and who produce kits and parts who I can both buy from, but ask questions for when I run into problems. I currently have a growing collection of Pierre Oliver’s Yarmouth Model Works kits partially built on my workbench, and there are more coming my way in the future! There are currently 4 partly built boxcar kits in varying states of advancement, and one tank car kit I really need to get a start on in the collection. As with all things as you grow and advance in the hobby, you run into new challenges and things to learn. Pierre’s kits are the first ones I have built with etched brass ladders instead of plastic that are just ready to glue on. That means, a whole bunch of new challenges.

Work in progress and tools for making etched brass boxcar ladders in HO Scale.

I had, to be perfectly blunt been dreading building these ladders. I had bought “The Small Shop” photo etch bending tool last year, and its been amazing for a lot of the etched parts on resin freight cars I’d have mangled before. That said, I was dreading building the ladders, as the instructions were to make a styrene spacer with a specific size to hold the folded stiles apart while you put in the rungs. Then, obviously in response to other builders comments, back in December Pierre announced he was now selling a laser cut jig for his ladders. I had a bunch of parts ordered and I was waiting on some back-ordered stuff arriving, and I got a pleasant surprise last week when my order showed up unannounced with a boxcar kit and a bunch of detail parts, and the ladder jig!

I went out now that stores are open again, and got the right sized bolt and wingnut to hold the jig together, and this past weekend, I built my first four etched ladders for a West India Fruit American Car & Foundry (ACF) 40′ Box Car kit. I did still find it fiddly, and I managed a couple of times to CA parts to the jig, but each ladder got a bit better than the one before, and with 3 more cars worth of ladders in hand, and more kits inevitably on the way, I will get plenty of practice. For now, I am using CA as I know (ish) what I am doing. Long term, these will be an improve my soldering skills project to actually solder the rungs in, but to make sure I can keep these cars inching along on the workbench, glue it is.

I won’t win any awards (if such a thing existed) for building scale ladders, but they look good to me and I am proud that I can say I built them! The missing rungs are so I can drill into the carside and install longer legged rungs once the ladders are mounted to make them stronger and less likely to break off.

I’m not quite ready to install the ladders on this kit yet, but having the jig made me switch up my order of building as I wanted to have that feeling of achievement from building the ladders. Now I am motivated to get going with the underbody details and the rest of this car so I can install the ladders, then move onto the other kits so I can build the ladders for them too. Everything adds to everything to make me a better modeller. The same applies to anyone. If you’d told me 5 years ago I’d be starting to feel even remotely comfortable about working with tiny photoetched parts, I’d have laughed at you, yet here we are and I’m looking forward to the next batch of ladders and them being even better looking!

February Boxcar Builds become March Paintshop Projects

A cycle through my painting process in my paint booth as described below showing primer to paint, and how I hold freight car kits while I am painting them.

On Saturday, both the 10’6″ interior height Canadian Pacific Boxcars I wrote about yesterday got a coat of primer. Of late, I have been using Vallejo Surface Primer. I used to use Tamiya Fine Surface Primer in rattle cans. I know there is a jar version of the Tamiya available as well for airbrushing, but thus far I haven’t experimented with it. I have friends who swear by it, so at some point I probably will try it.

In terms of process, I do the same order for primer and painting. First I paint the underside while holding the car by hand so I can manoeuvre to get into fiddly areas of the underside. Once it is ready for the rest, I have a block of wood with holes cut at the truck spacing for 36′ and 40′ cars, and I can drill more holes for other lengths of cars as needed. With it on the wooden block, I can spin the car inside my paint booth, lift it up to get different angles, tip it to get at the top, etc. Once it is painted, I lift it by the two cut down bamboo skewers that fit in the holes in the piece of wood, and move it to a drying rack (actually a Tamiya painting rack, but it works better for freight cars as a holder post painting!).

With that, I now have a pair of CPR boxcars in mineral red. I used Rapido Trains Protopaint on this, as it is drying, I suspect I am going to need a coat of clear gloss before I apply decals so they go down well. That will happen sometime later this week once the paint has cured and I have an evening where I feel like pulling out the paint booth again.

February Boxcars

In January when I “finished” (they still need to be weathered, weathering is future Stephen’s problem!) the pair of Canadian National version National Scale Car mini-kit conversions of Intermountain 10′-6″ 1937 AAR boxcars to be Canadian 1950’s built clones, I had two more of the same kit, except with Canadian Pacific Railway decals. I thought there was no reason I wouldn’t be able to finish them in February as they were well under way. For a variety of reasons, they kept getting set aside as I find I need to be in the right state of mind to do underbody brake rigging and the fiddly details that go on boxcars. In the last week of the month, I finally found some motivation to do that work, and as expected, within a few days of a couple of hours an evening, the two cars were ready for paint by the end of February 28th, just sneaking in under the wire if I don’t count painting as part of building!

Adding Details to the underbody, roof and ends of Boxcars. It always looks great when done, but I find it Need to be in the right mental space to do this kind of fiddly work, but when I am, it comes to me easily.

The Intermountain kits are a nice base to work with, and the National Scale Car mini-kits give you correct NSC3 Canadian style ends and doors for the Canadian Built cars. With the correct style of roof added as well, they build quickly into nice looking cars. As I said, I had hoped to finish them in February, and they are at least built. They are now sitting waiting on me setting up my paintbooth. I have a bunch of things to paint and primer, so hopefully this weekend I will be able to get them primed, and in the next few days after that, sprayed with CPR mineral brown and ready for decals.

Two CPR 1937 AAR 10′-6″ clones ready for painting (almost, after taking these I noticed I had missed a part of the brake rigging, glad I added it before I painted!)

It feels good to at least have these in the “to paint” pile instead of taunting me partly finished from my workbench as I work from home on the other side of the bench every day. Now I can bring down one of the various Yarmouth Model Works kits that have been sitting half built on the layout to do some work on in the coming weeks! Slow and steady wins the race!