Thing’s that go “POP” on the Workbench…

Sigh, so today was one of those days. I went from feeling ecstatic that something I was doing that I haven’t done before was working, to thinking “Trains are Stupid” and wanting to see how far an HO Scale locomotive can fly in the time it takes you to hear “POP!!”. I decided that I wanted a second Alco S-2 for my Canadian Pacific Railway operating fleet. These were the main Toronto diesel switchers in the 1950’s, so having two different ones along with eventually a steam locomotive would be appropriate. I bought a second Atlas S-2 and decoder supplies in the Credit Valley Boxing Day sale, and curbside picked up the order while out to go to the dentist yesterday morning. I then spent all afternoon into the evening last night starting the decoder installation process. I came back to it this morning to finish wiring the speakers, and after some messing around with software updates, I had a locomotive that responded properly on the test track, moved back and forth, and as you can hear in the video, had sounds.

30 Seconds of glory on the test track for my decoder installation.

Then, with me satisfied everything was working, I reassembled the body onto the locomotive, this, is where it all went sadly wrong. Something, somewhere in the wiring was shifted in this process, or came into contact. I still haven’t figured out where, largely because after I turned on power to test after putting the body on and heard the loud “POP”, most of what I had to say isn’t printable on a civilized internet, and I spent the next chunk of my day trying to calm down and not throw things around or smash things.

It is, at the end of the day, not fatal to the locomotive by any means, the decoder itself is likely shot. I will talk with ESU’s rep in the states and see what they suggest if it is even worth sending to them to look at, I expect, it will really come down to when someone local has the right decoder in stock again or placing an order for another new one, which frankly, having just blown up some cash, spending more is not in the cards for a bit, so back to other layout projects. For tonight, I have cleaned my workbench, worked on blog posts, and ran a train on the layout to remind myself that my hobby is fun, and I do enjoy it, just some days more than others!

Another Brass Locomotive arrives in Liberty Village

Almost two years ago, I bought my first Brass Locomotive, a 1976 vintage CNR O-18a 0-6-0, a small switching locomotive that would have been seen in Liberty Village before diesels took over. Brass locomotives are made in small runs in Korea and Japan, and for many years were the only way to get really accurate models of a lot of different types of equipment. They are however, notoriously bad runners, and require work to be useful on a modern Digital Command Control operated layout, but this is fine, that work is both a learning opportunity for me, and a chance to offer friends who are more skilled than me a chance to make some money to do the work for me! That is a bridge for another day.

Apparently the CBSA didn’t buy he declaration from and felt the need to open my package and confirm it was in fact a model train.

So what have I bought for my layout? I hadn’t planned on buying any more brass, but I came across a locomotive that was too perfect and too needed to pass up, a Canadian Pacific Railway U3e 0-6-0 steam switcher, imported by Van Hobbies and made by Samhongsa in Korea in 1975 for an outstanding price, and it is painted. That may or may not come to matter whenever it gets taken apart for a new motor/wiring and DCC&sound installs, but for now, it at least looks good in photographs!

Opening up my “new” CPR U-3e Switcher

After patiently waiting over three weeks from when the order shipped until it arrived at the post office for me to pay duty and collect it. Once I got it, as you can see, apparently the Canadian Border Services Agency didn’t believe that a large light box could contain a model train, they opened it up to take a closer look. Based on the taping at least though, they don’t appear to have gone into the locomotive, I guess once they got it opened the x-ray was clearer without the packing inside the big box to convince them the only thing I was getting was a toy train and not contraband!

Already looking at home in Liberty Village, even though I can’t run it on the layout as it doesn’t have DCC.

This is now my second U3e, Thanks to the generosity of a friend I have a Walthers Proto2000 USRA Standard 0-6-0 locomotive, and I found the right brass CPR tender at a flea market to kitbash it into a passable U3e. The first will need some work, and I see some dimensional differences more clearly now, but the Walthers conversion will still be a fun project some day to do the work of modifying it, but now it will mean that hopefully, I will end up with a pair of U3e’s that can run on the layout.

Comparing the Brass U3e with the Proto2000 USRA 0-6-0, and the CPR u3e with the CNR O-18-a.

With the comparisons and looking at it done, it was time to see if it actually runs at all. As I noted, brass locomotives are notoriously bad runners, and this one is no exception, it does run, but its power pickups appear to be terrible, as you can see from the video below, it needs some convincing to stay on the rails and draw power. There is nothing there that can’t be resolved, but clearly this will be a complete new motor/driveline/gearbox job as part of the conversion to allow DCC and sound. Not a big deal, just more work!

Brass CPR U3e testing on the stationary rollers.

A Number Plate for a Steam Locomotive

The Brant Railway Heritage Society is a recently formed group, working to raise funds to restore the Lake Erie & Northern station at Mount Pleasant Ontario and build a new museum there. As a fund raiser, they have cast resin replicas of Canadian National Railway steam locomotive number plates. I believe they have done all three of the northern’s preserved in southwestern Ontario, 6167 in Guelph, 6218 in Fort Erie, and now when I saw them at the Copetown Show two weeks ago, the Toronto Railway Museum’s 6213. Obviously, while I passed on the others previously, a donation to the museum for a resin 6213 number plate was a must.

The plates are provided unpainted, so I took this as an opportunity to see what I could achieve using cheap craft paints, not just because I didn’t want to search for complex or expensive hobby paints, but as an opportunity to learn on something that at the end of the day, didn’t cost me a lot of money, and doesn’t need to be perfect.

IMG_1835Cheap ($2-$3) artists paints from Michaels.

I decided that I would spray the brass base colour with my airbrush, and thin and run in the red to allow it to find its level inside the plate, much like how a real plate would be done, except with the real plate, paint was applied to the brass, then polished off the facing surface!

The cheap craft paints are not the best for airbrushing. They don’t have super fine pigment, so they didn’t want to spray well, despite a lot of thinning with water and upping my air pressure from my normal 30psi to 40psi. It did work, but it wasn’t my best painting experience. That said, part of the reason I did this this way way to learn. Its good to know what it takes to try and spray these paints, as you never know when a project will actually require a crazy paint choice like this.

Painting Process (clockwise from top left): Unpainted; in Tamiya fine grey surface primer; spraying the back; spraying the front; and dried brass finish.

After a day to cure, I thinned some red down so that it would flow, and used an miniature eye dropper to get the paint dropped into the plate. One advantage of this, is when I determined my first approach didn’t work, and I was getting paint in places I didn’t want and in ways I didn’t want, a quick run to the tap to rinse off the water soluble paint and start over happened. The second attempt, having learned from the first to work from one side and go across the plate so I could pick it up and tip it to get paint to flow into corners and it worked out much better.

With bright red run into the plate to surround the brass. With a shot of the real locomotives number plate on the right for reference.

The real 6213 at the Toronto Railway Museum has recently emerged from her chrysalis with a new paint job, though the detail work of painting the cab numbers or the CNR wafer on the tender isn’t done, and details like her number plates aren’t back, she looks light years better, as the paint she had been in was looking long in the tooth. My little number plate is for display with my True Line Trains CNR 6213 in HO Scale, I’m super happy with how the plate has turned out, and it makes a nice addition to the models on display in my layout room.

IMG_1834My HO Scale 6213 now with a larger replica numberplate as part of the display.

One thing I hate about Train Shows…

Is the inevitable repair list after a weekend away travelling with models. As I’ve written about before, many of my models are of the Toronto Railway Museum, and get used for train shows (here, here, and here).

IMG_1782My HO Scale CNR 4803 looking a bit ragged after the show.

This year, my victim of show wear and tear was my model of Canadian National GP7 number 4803. This is a Bachmann Trains locomotive that I have extensively detailed to accurately reflect the real 4803. Unfortunately, as you can see, a chunk of the “Canadian National” bar down the side came off, as near as I can tell, it happened in my travel container, not from someone touching it at the show.

IMG_1783New decal and looking good as new again.

I have plenty of spare decals, so taking off the existing and applying a new one wasn’t a big deal, other than spending a couple of hours after shows repairing things is time I’m not spending working on new projects.

Over the years I’ve had decals come off, parts get broken off, and a lot of nuisance problems. I’ve never had the big one (knock on wood), but every time I do a show I seriously debate if I want to keep doing them and exposing the models to the rigours of travel and potential handling by the overeager kids that I am often out trying to attract to visit the museum! Its a catch 22, but I suspect I will keep doing the 2-3 shows a year I do, if only as for every damaged model or painful interaction with someone whose off on a tangent, there are all the great interactions with excited families who want to come to the museum after you’ve met them at a show.

VIA Rail “Canada 150” P42 #916 Finished Gallery

A light coat of weathering, some mud on the pilot and underbody, and exhaust on the roof, and my VIA Rail Canada 150 wrapped P42 is done.

I like finishing projects, and this is the first time I’ve actually posed a finished project on my layout… ok. the pink foam scenery leaves a bit to be desired, but its a work in progress.

I haven’t done a lot of weathering, but will need to as my equipment for the layout shouldn’t look all clean and shiny, it should looked used. The weathering on the VIA Rail locomotive is limited, mostly around the bottom and the roof, but its still a chance to practice. I recently picked up some Com-Art weathering paints recommended by a friend, and this was my first chance to use them. The set linked was a way to get a range of colours to work with as I experiment and learn about weathering to build my skills.

Not a bad use of a snowy day off to end my weeks vacation, back to the work grind tomorrow, but for now, some more beauty shots of my finished locomotive. Off to the display case with her now!

More views of the VIA Rail P42 in the “Canada 150” vinyl wrap applied for 2017 by VIA Rail.

Decals for a VIA Rail P42, and a problem

IMG_0273Paint and Clear Coat have had lots of time to cure, ready for decals, what could possibly go wrong?

Nothing like a Friday night after a busy week where you actually get to go home and relax to make you feel like doing some modelling, at least not for me! Last night I decided I’d start the multi-day process of decalling my VIA Rail “Canada 150” P42 model. Its a multi day process as once each side is decaled, the decals need to be worked on with a pin and decal settling solution to make sure everything is fully adhered and down, before starting to apply decals on the other side so I don’t pull off decals on the done side in the foam cradle.

Everything went well at first, I started with the largest individual piece, the four City Names on one side. If I was going to run into a problem that would trigger the need for me to buy another set of decals, or get creative, I figured the bigest was is, so start there, if it went on, all should be fine.

This was my first chance to try my “Decal Hot Tub” as my friend Ryan whose idea this was calls is.

This was my first time working with my recently acquired coffee cup warmer..aka the “Decal Hot Tub”, an idea I can claim nothing for other than seeing my friend do it, and realizing how much nicer it would be if I could keep my decal water warm, rather than having it cool off and having to go get more from the tap!

End of the nights work, looking mostly good other than a too transparent red box…now to figure out how to fix that.

The last decal I was applying on the side was the large red box over the yellow “VIA” lettering, that then has the “Canada 150” art inserted in it, and as soon as I slid it off the backing onto the locomotive, I saw I have a problem. The decals by Highball Graphics (which are fantastic), are also super thin. Normally, thats a good thing, but when you are trying to cover two bright colours in the yellow and silver, it is less so. There are a few options, buy plain red decal sheet and cut out and add layers until it isn’t translucent, or mask and paint. I am going to go with mask and paint. I think it will look better in the long run, but poses short term challenges. I am going to have to let the decals set and finish getting them fully down, then spray a clear coat. Once that is done and the decals protected, I can use the see through red boxes as a mask to mask the shape and spray a new red box. Once that is done, I should be able to app;ly the final decal inside the box, do a final clear coat of everything, and get on with final assembly and eventually some weathering (mostly on the roof, the roof of VIA’s units are filthy!!). Nothing that can’t be fixed, but an important lesson and a minor setback. All part of the hobby process, so on we go!