Avro Lancaster Mk.X “Vera” (That’s No Train Part 10)

Wow, double digits on things that are not a train, or even in HO Scale. Yes friends and readers, I can be easily distracted sometimes by the shiny side project. This is one of those things I’ve wanted to do for years, build a model of an Avro Lancaster. There are some amazing kits in 1/72, 1/48 and now 1/32!! scale, but I definitely don’t have room for them, so I went with the baby of the bunch, 1/144 scale. Which is smaller than my regular HO Scale 1/87, I must be mad, there is already a reason I don’t do N Scale trains at 1/160!! In any event, 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 and 9!

I didn’t take a lot of pictures through the assembly, but here are a couple of me getting started, and of the final stages of getting it up on its wheels, and checking the props fit before painting.

For this project, I bought one of the A-Model 1/144 scale Lancaster kits, along with decals from Kits World, Scale Aircraft World white metal landing gear and KV Models pre-cut masks for painting the windows. I ordered everything from Hannants models in London England as they had everything and carry a large supply of aircraft kits and parts.

I am modelling the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum‘s Lancaster Mk.X which flies out of the museum in Hamilton. She is known as “Vera”, or a phonetic sounding of her alpha code VRA. The decal sheet I ordered has decals for the two flight-worthy Lancaster’s, the one in Hamilton and the Battle of Britain Memorial Fund’s in England. The 3rd Lancaster in the decal set is a privately owned one in England which there is also hope to return to flight some day. 1/144 scale kits are small, so its an interesting challenge for me getting everything together. I would say the A-Model kit is not the best quality on fit and finish. Everything went together, but certainly not without some convincing to get the body halves and the wings together and aligned.

Painting a Lancaster. Prepping, primer, brown on the top side, and then green top side markings. Painted by hand without masking. Decided to challenge myself and not have hard separations which seem unrealistic to me on planes churned out fast in a war.

For paint, I bought a Vallejo Model Air set of Bomber Command I started laying down brown over-top as the base for the camouflage. I then sprayed the dark green stripes. I looked at masking, and decided I wanted to try and do this free hand. I’ve never painted free hand like this before. A World War 2 bomber is a good candidate, as while modern repaints have nice clean lines, my sense is that in WW2 they were being painted fast, and wouldn’t have had as perfect paint lines. I also like the look of the lines fading. At the end of the day, as with everything I do, I am most concerned with my happiness than others opinions, and I don’t generally enter contests, so its not like I’m going to get marked down by some judge. I masked the top of the winds and fuselage so I could spray the black on the underside.

Masked and underside painted, then back to the workbench to start adding canopies/turrets and propellers.

I haven’t done many aircraft in a long time. Painting the cockpit frames always used to cause me grief, as I didn’t really understand masking, and I’ve built only a couple of aircraft when I first got an airbrush years ago, and since I’ve been more actively building the odd kit in the past few years, I’ve only built one aircraft that had no clear windows but which used decals for them all!

Applying pre-cut canopy masks and the results of painting the canopies. I wish I had had these things years ago when I was building plastic kits a bit more seriously!

With the canopies and turrets painted and installed, the last thing to do was the decals. The Kitsworld decals are gorgeous, not a lot of carrier film, and easy to apply and settle. My biggest complaint is that they are so small some of them, it was hard to find the right ones and get them cut off the sheet with three planes worth of decals crammed onto one small sheet. The instructions could have been better as well, the decals are not keyed, and the diagrams are not super clear, but, in such a small scale, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Applying decals and then light weathering, the distinctive streaks of exhaust across the upper wings that collects on Lancaster’s.

All in all, as with many of my projects, this one proceeded in fits and starts, where I would get things done for a bit, then set it aside for many reasons, then all of a sudden seemingly get things done and find myself looking at a finished project. I have wanted to build a model of a Lancaster for a long time, but it’s just never happened, for many reasons. Now, I have a nice and reasonably small Lancaster model in my collection.

The dreaded side by side. VRA on the ramp at Hamilton International in 2012, and in my photo box in 1/144 scale in 2022!
1/144 Scale Vera (VRA) gallery, the flying Lancaster of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton. Complete and ready to find a home for display.

A quick fix for a Project Mistake

I wrote Friday about my first of two “frankenboxcar” builds. These came about because of an error in packing kits that were sold as being for 10′ high cars, when in fact while the doors and ends were 10′, the bodies were 10′-6″. Making the most of a bad situation, other changes allowed me to get the right bodies to build these cars, and to get kits to make something of the 10′-6″ cars, but, being a dope, I made modifications to the 10′-6″ bodies before discovering they were not the 10′ cars I needed. I had scrapped off the lower door track that was molded on with a chisel to allow me to install the etched brass lower rails for the different door hardware, or so I thought until I discovered I had the wrong car body height.

Fortunately, the bottom rail is basically a rectangular shape, which I could recreate with strip styrene. Using the body I hadn’t scraped the rail off, I was able to confirm the location and the size. A piece of 0.015″ x 0.040″ styrene strip was the perfect match. Two pieces were duly cut to length using the unmodified car as a guide, and carefully held in place while I touched some Tamiya Extra Thin solvent cement to the joint to wick along it and bond the styrene strip to the styrene car body.

Before and after of replacing the bottom rail on one side of the car. Fortunately this was a quick fix, but it pays to check everything is right before you start cutting up models or kits!

Important lesson I probably knew learned/relearned. Make sure everything is in a kit when you get it, and that it is actually what it says on the box! Packing mistakes and such happen at factories. In this case, there was a litany or errors made in packing these kits, but I’m going to come out ahead with 4 models instead of 2 from the bits in them at the end of the day!

A FrankenBoxcar Kit Build

I have written about my small (relative to some people’s) supply of freight car kits to build. It currently, including the one in the pictures/discussion below at 8 boxcar kits. Seven of these I have all the parts I need to build. One I need to source the accurate doors and decals for. For this summer after two years of all the worlds craziness, my in-laws have rented a giant cottage for a weeks get away with the extended family. I am planning on having the seven box cars I can have built and painted to take with me to the cottage so I can sit looking out over the lake and decal the cars while I am away. I have a portable work bench I built a few years ago that I can take which is perfect for this kind of get away work. It does two things, gives me something to do at the cottage to unwind (yes, I find working on models relaxing), and two, gives me motivation to keep on keeping on with building the kits to have them ready to go to the cottage in July!

Two views of a ready for painting boxcar project. A National Scale Car mini-kit of the doors, and a Yarmouth Model Works blank core with ends from a messed up Intermountain Kit.

This car is a model of a 1937 AAR (American Association of Railroads) standard box car, but with “Superior” doors. You can see in the pictures the etched lower door rail, recreating the Union Duplex door fixtures. Even unpainted the car looks quite different from a standard box car with this rail. This is Kit 102.1 with decals for Southern Pacific and Texas & New Orleans (an SP subsidiary). These have been an adventure thanks to the main source of undecorated kits, Intermountain Model Railroad basically seemingly having stopped producing undecorated kits. I thought I had found some a few months ago, but when they arrived, they had 10′-6″ bodies and 10″ ends. I needed the 10′ body and ends to do these cars! Suffice to say, one can’t install a 10′ tall door or car end on a 10’6″ body, it leaves a nasty gap!! Fortunately, another source in Yarmouth Model Works has recently stepped in to fill the void by selling “Boxcar Body” kits that come with a roof and doors, but no ends in the 10′ and 10′-6″ height of 40′ long AAR standard designs. With one of these, the mini kit doors, and the Intermountain Kit ends, I have been able to cobble together a complete car! The car has been finished with Yarmouth’s etched ladders & roof walk, Tichy AB Brakes, leftover etched bits from other kits, and a variety of grabs from Tichy & Kadee. I’ve started a second frankencar kit build using the same broad range of parts for a second version of the NSC mini kit featuring Youngstown Doors and Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) decals.

The bonus of this is, I have two Intermountain 10′-6″ kits without ends, so I was able to order a couple more of the National Scale Car CN and CP mini kits with Canadian ends, not the worst outcome from a failed kit purchase where Intermountain packed and sold 10′ height cars with 10′-6″ bodies in them! I’ve turned two mispacked kits into 4 cars, I’ll take that anyday!

Note: At the time of writing (March 4/2022), all the National Scale Car mini kits mentioned are out of stock, but you can subscribe to the NSC website to get notified of them being restocked in the future.

Another Tichy Boom Car, but with a National Scale Car Mini Kit addition

I am working my way though my kit supply, slowly but surely of late. In 2020 I built a Tichy Trains steam crane and boom car for Canadian National to have an auxiliary train. Its not something that I need for my layout, but its a kit I have wanted to build for years. So of course, why have one set of equipment you don’t need when you can have two? I’ve started a second crane and boom car, this time for the Canadian Pacific. The real prompt for this was my friend Ryan making a cast resin “Mini-Kit” of fishbelly side sills for the Tichy Boom car to quickly change its look. I figured, why not? The Tichy kits are relatively cheap, and fun, quick builds.

Preparing and installing the National Scale Car “fishbelly” side sill mini kit on the Tichy Boom Car.

The resin sides in the mini kit are designed to be straight replacements for the straight sides in the Tichy kit. The instructions suggest how to build extensions on the cross members to actually support the deeper sides. You can see the white styrene extensions in the pictures above. These were capped with a thin strip, then had Archer Rivet decals added before painting. Will anyone ever see this? Not Really, but it pleases me to have done it right. If you really didn’t want to do this, but wanted the look of the fishbelly sides, it isn’t necessary to give the car strength.

I ran into one problem on the underbody, for some reason, the kit only had one of the injection molded coupler box covers. To remedy this, thanks to the fact that I have learned to cast resin, I quickly used the part I had to make a mold, and cast replacement coupler box covers. The are not perfect, but they more than do the job, and certainly beat waiting months for a replacement part to come from Tichy.

Assembling and adding details to a boom car. I flipped the B end to the cabin, added windows, grab iron ladders and a tar paper roof with a wooden walk.

For the cabin, working from photos of CPR cars, I added a variety of windows. Maintenance cars like these were not really built to a set plan. They were converted as needed from old flat cars, and were modified as needed by crews when in use. I added two side windows, and two windows on the deck end using Tichy work car windows set. I also, to be perfectly honest, messed up installing the side sills, and got them on wrong sided. Why is this an issue? Under the car, my brake rigging was pointing the wrong way. Being solutions oriented, after a few minutes being annoyed, I set forth to change the brake configuration and add a tall stand on the cabin end extending to the roof. Not the most practical for the crew compared to a brake wheel on the deck end, but it adds visual interest to differentiate the car from my CN Boom Car. For ladders and grab irons, I went with a variety of wire grabs of different sizes, and set up differently on each side of the car to help add that jumbled look.

I scrapped off the roof detail, and laminated on 600 grit sandpaper, my fake tar-paper of choice. I made a new roof walk from strip wood, added a smoke jack chimney with braces made from brass wire, and painted it.

Scenes from Painting and Decalling, yeah, I did this backwards. I should have painted the steel then masked it, instead of the other way around, but once its weathered the difference will be gone.

Painting and decalling and finishing is pretty basic same same. I think I managed to use the same oxide red on the CP car as the earlier CN car looking at them together. Doesn’t matter. They will eventually be weathered and dirty and never be seen beside each other on the layout!

Yup, I have a half dozen shades of oxide/boxcar red and I painted the two boom cars with the same one. Whatever, doesn’t matter. Weathering will take care of that when its done! Comparing the differences between the CN and CP cars.

The build is done. As with so many of my freight car kits, it will now inevitably sit around until a mood to do a bunch of weathering strikes me, but that’s OK by me, I’m quite happy to move things along and take one more thing from the kit pile to the tracks. I’ve made a start on the crane to go with this. Haven’t gotten very far, but its on the work bench moving along slowly but surely. Still need to figure out how much I am going to do on the crane in creating a fully enclosed cab like on the CN crane, but that is for another day.

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!

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!