That’s no Train 3.75? Lego Optimus Prime joins the party

For the second time in 2022, I am writing about another Optimus Prime in my collection, this time, the LEGO Version released in June. I had been saving it for a rainy day when I didn’t feel like working on trains, but instead, I built it yesterday on a Hot and Humid Toronto Summer Sunday, where it was over 30 plus Humidity for feeling like over 40. To be fair, I did some trains too working on paperwork for operations and preparing car waybills, but most of my day was spent enjoying the Air Conditioning watching Soccer, car racing and baseball, and building LEGO!! My previous Optimus Prime builds are here and here. Not a lot to say honestly, its LEGO, I love LEGO, I find building it really soothing, no mucking about, you never ever are missing a part when you open them up. It’s just good times for a big kid at heart!

Unboxing and working my way through the ten steps (each individually bagged) of building Lego Optimus Prime.
Optimus Prime Family Galleries, in truck mode and robot mode (the left and right most cabs don’t transform, so some non-transforming robots are in the 3rd shot. My Generation One original 1984 Optimus Prime has been through the battles of being played with. I think I have the hands and gun somewhere, couldn’t figure out where for pictures.
LEGO and Transformers Shelves in my cabinet.

I’m H-a-p-p-y…Go Like Hell…1966 Ford GT40 MkII Number 1 – That’s No Train Part 12!

Another day, another post about not trains…but this was one I’ve been looking forward to building for a bit, and after the past two years of disruptions, the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race returned to its traditional June date last weekend. With that motivation, building my 1/24th Scale model of a 1966 Ford GT40 MkII finally came to the top of the pile, it gave me something to do while watching the race on the weekend, and during the week before to motivate me to get things done on the build to be able to finish it while I watched, but before the whole story…Yes, It’s That’s No Train Part 12!!! Previous ones here.. 1, 2, 3 (& 3.5), 4, 5, 6, 7 8, 9,10, and 11!

I have previously built a modern Ford GTLM car from a Revell kit, I’ve wanted to do a 1966 GT40, that car’s predecessor for a while, but the kits that were out there were not available, and rather dated. In 2020, Meng Models, a Chinese company released a 1/12th large scale version, then announced in 2021 that a 1/24th version was coming as well. My local plastic model (and paint/tool supply) at Wheels and Wings had it in (as I write it appears to be out of stock), so I dutifully ordered it and set to thinking about which of the two cars I might build, that I would build. I was torn between the winning #2 of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, or the “losing” #1 of Ken Miles and Denny Hulme. If you’re not a racing fan, here is an article on the long standing controversy of the fixed finish by Ford of the race and the potential fix by Ford to make sure the car of theirs they wanted to win, did so. There is also a great book on this history of Ford at Le Mans, Go Like Hell, well worth a borrow from your local library or an addition to your library. I finally decided that I wanted to model the blue Mikes/Hulme 1 car, even though my 2016 car is the one that won on the 50th anniversary of Ford’s first win in 1966. While a diorama of the two winners would be nice, I decided I just like the look of the blue car better than the black and silver number 1.

Early stages of work on the GT40, test fitting and checking out, getting sub components of the engine painted and assembled.

The Meng kit is, in some ways a “snap together” kit, a lot of parts are designed in the way that Bandai Star Wars/Gundam style kits, where you could assemble them without glue. It’s not entirely that way, but the way it is designed allows for a lot of easy test assemblies and building sub assemblies to understand how the kit goes together, which is really nice to me, as I was able to think ahead of how I was going to need to modify the driver figure I bought to fit, and if any major changes would be needed to add lighting.

Painting and assembling the kit, working out modifications to the driver figure to fit inside.

I decided that this was going to be my Le Mans week project this year, I needed a break and a mental cleanse from doing the same old things on model train projects, the timing worked out that I was able to set the spray booth up the weekend before, and leave it up for a couple of days, and use my breaks and lunch early in the week to get through painting and masking and repainting different colours so by the time the race started on Saturday morning, I was well advanced and into final assembly and details during the first few hours of the race. By the 1/3 way through the 24 Hours, I had the project mostly done other than some detail touch-ups and could put my feed up and enjoy the race.

Painting the driver figure add on from Le Mans Miniatures and painting interior details/assembling the interior.

I like adding drivers to car models. When I was a teenager and building a lot of model kits, I hated that manufacturers didn’t include drivers, especially in race cars, as it made any attempt to display them dramatically look wrong as there was no one driving. That continues to this day, but unlike 30 (gulp) years ago, thanks to the internet, it is much easier to find after market third party detail kits for models and driver figures. For this one, I found Le Mans Miniatures who makes figures in a variety of scales, including the 1960-1970’s style drive figure I used for this one.

Tinting headlight and taillight lenses, and using the window masks included in the kit to paint the window frames.

One of the challenges of a project like this, is paint colour. There are “accurate match” paints out there, and I used paints from Zero Paints on the modern GTLM, but these are “hot” lacquer paints, that stink and require harsher chemicals for cleaning, which I don’t really like using. I much prefer acrylics that can clean with water and much milder cleaning products, so it took me a while to figure out the “right” blue for the pale Gulf Blue the car wore. I eventually settled on a Vallejo Model Air “Sky Blue”, Number 71306 which to my eyes captures the pale blue right. Is it a perfect match? I don’t know, I know that it looks to my eyes when I look at the car how I feel a Gulf Blue Ford should look, and that is good enough for me!

The Decal Hot Tub makes an appearance. The decals in this kit were really nicely printed with thin film. The red teardrops around the headlights reacted well to MicroSol and settled nicely to the body curves with several patient applications of it.

The final part was to add LED lights. I have a good supply, so was able to just take from my bin of electronics, but I realized that I I don’t have any battery clips and switches left. This car has headlights and taillights wired for lights. I will need to at some point place an order for more switches and battery clips from my usual supplier of Evan Designs, but I will wait until I need a bunch of stuff to make it cost effective, for now, the project can do without the battery and switch. I love the look of the lights in a model, especially when I turn them on in the evening and my office/layout room is dark, the little sparkle and glint just makes models feel alive to me.

All in all, I am really happy with how this turned out, building a kit in a week is pretty fast by my standards, but I don’t feel I cut any corners, I just used a bit of the wind of motivation to get it done, rather than falling into my usual traps of losing motivation or not making time. I need to get back to some layout projects, but as with all my puttering I find if the motivation has flagged even a little, its best to not do things than push them, as pushing is when I make silly mistakes and frustrate myself instead of enjoying the break and positive feelings the hobby is supposed to generate. Pictures of the finished model and some video links to learn more about this car below. Circling back to the title of this post… I’m H A P P Y…

Endurance Racing means racing at night. My models of endurance cars have lights, and they come to life when it gets dark.
The recently completed 1966 GT40 MkII alongside my previously completed 2016 Ford GTLM car on my “Le Mans” diorama base for them.

Below are the trailer to the movie Ford v. Ferrari (Le Mans 1966 outside North America) and to a video of actual footage of Le Mans 1966 with members of Carroll Shelby’s team and Ford speaking about the race.

I Am Iron Man… Graffiti for an Autorack…and That’s no Train Part 11!!

Lookit me go, combining things. Home made Graffiti for an autorack for Canyon Road based on a tag I saw in the real world, and a 75mm resin figure of Iron Man. This is most definitely crossing things up, with trains and not trains covering the same territory. 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, 9 and 10!

I was never the biggest comic book person growing up. I read some here and there, watched the various cartoons of comic book characters, but they were just not my main thing (see That’s not Train Part 3 and Transformers!). When the original Iron Man movie came out in 2008, I remember being interested in it, and looking forward to seeing it, but had no idea where the Marvel movies would go, and how all in on them and the notion of a connected ongoing universe of movies and TV shows would suck me in. In full disclosure, I saw the first Iron Man movie in 2008 high as a kite. I don’t now, and never have used pot with any kind of regularity, as with most I experimented here and there in University, and every now and then over the years at parties with friends. One of my roommates at the time the movie came out in 2008 had made a big batch of pot brownies, I think I missed the part about them being loaded, and had a couple with ice cream before going to see the movie! I was… quite mellow, so it blew me away. To this day I don’t think you could have cast Tony Stark better than Robert Downey Jr., his own history of issues, and his demeanour just scream Tony Stark, and his long run playing the role seems to support my sense that he was perfect for the role.

My inspiration for the Graffiti for my autorack for Canyon Road. Seen in a CPR train at Royal York Road in 2021.

Since the graffiti i saw was not on a CPR autorack like the one I had bought, I wanted to do a tag inspired by the one I saw, not a 100% recreation. I also decided that I would tag one corner of the car, on one side, so I have the option to display a “clean” side as well. I didn’t want this to be a completely tagged and destroyed rack, but modern cars are almost all tagged in some way, so something was appropriate.

Painting the purple backdrop on the autorack, and attempt 1 at the custom printed decal…the clear decal paper did not work!

Having found art I liked, and playing around with it to size and appearance, I started into working on the autorack. First up, I sprayed some purple to be the base of the graffiti, as there was no way the printer could render anything that resembled this. When I initially did the decals on clear sheet, I then made a mask and sprayed the areas that were white for eyes and thrusters. The clear decal didn’t work at all. It basically disappeared completely. Once it was clear the decal had to be largely printed on white decal paper to help the colours show, I made some adjustments and tried again. With a careful trim the fade in the print and the white looked enough like spray that I was happy to apply it and see how it went. Fortunately, this version worked, and once blended with weathering to have some road grime, and healthy applications of Microsol to get it to blend into the car, it was good to go.

Attempt 2 on white decal paper went much better for the main part of the tag, with the text still on clear paper.

The “That’s No Train” part of this post is a 75mm scale resin 3D printed Iron Man i bought online from Ali Express. This is almost certainly a knock off of someone else’s model, but I had been looking for an Iron Man of some sort, either figure, toy or model kit for a while, and haven’t been able to find one I liked.

Resin Iron Man being painted. Assembled, with a post added, in primer, with some attempts at pre-shading and with gold base.

This was a pretty basic item, no instructions, and only two low quality pictures on the website to figure out what it looked like. On top of that, no amount of cleaning seemed to make the resin behave well with any form of adhesive. Eventually, though some brute force and patience, it rounded into shape. I used Microscale MicroMask, even though I paint with Acrylics and it isn’t really compatible with them, it works, but I find it can be tricky to get off with clean lines, definitely some care was needed removing the masking after spraying the red on. After painting, I tried another new technique to me, well known to figure painters, a colour tone wash, in this case, red to match the body, this brought out the colour and collected in the nooks and crannies to give some depth to the figure.

Later Stages of painting, spraying red with the gold masked, pulling off the liquid mask, and adding blue highlights to the eyes, arc reactor and hand thrusters. Then evaluating the two base options and prepping one for painting.

The final part of the project was a suitable base. I settled on a 55mm circular base of the two I bought. It was duly painted with three different shades, two straight from the bottle steels, and leftovers of the custom mix I made for the Bandai K-2SO Model I built previously that I still had leftover of. A single hole drilled in the base to fit the post I installed on Iron Man’s foot to hold for painting made for a nice solid connection between the figure and the base.

Beauty Shots of the finished Autorack with Iron Man graffiti and the resin Iron Man figure.

So with that, both a train and a non-train project are done and off the workbench!

Cameras Cameras Cameras

A non-modelling, but definitely train related post, call it a bonus Tuesday Train about the tools I’ve used over the years to capture those pictures of trains. Having seen the post from Steve Boyko on his blog the other day about his history of cameras and railfanning, it inspired me to go through my own camera history. I have had plenty, and am kind of in the market for a new one (which I will get to eventually).

The first camera I used regularly was a Pentax SuperProgram 35mm SLR Camera. This was my dad’s camera, and I used it in high school and university for a bit, before I bought my first autofocus camera. My sister took it for a while, then, at some point in a bit of cleverness, I got it back from my parents and have hung onto it. It is now still my travelling companion when the mood to shoot black and white film takes me (usually when in the UK chasing steam if I’m honest).

Pentax SuperProgram and a shot taken with it at Carrog on the Llangollen Railway.

The first camera I bought myself was another Pentax, so I could in theory use the couple of lenses my dad owned and that I had from the SuperProgram. I bought this in the summer of 2000, when I was working in my first job in my field, a University of Waterloo Co-op position with the Town of Richmond Hill Parks department. I haven’t used this camera in years, but it was well used when I was using it. It is still somewhere in a tub in the closet of the layout room

A Pentax MZ-30 autofocus 35mm SLR and a shot of a de-powered CPR cab unit at Campbellville taken with it.

I bought my first digital camera in late 2002, a point and shoot Panasonic Lumix LC-20. This was a great little camera, ran on two rechargeable double A batteries, so as long as you could find AA’s you were never out of juice when out and about. I used it for a while. Didn’t do a lot of railfanning with it, but did some. This may even still be in a tub in the closet too!

Panasonic Lumix LC20 and at the time, Rail America 1400, now one of Ontario Southland’s famous FP9’s.

I upgraded in the summer of 2004, to a Panasonic Lumix FZ10 super zoom all in one. This was a gift to myself in advance of the first vacation I took as a working stiff in 2004, two whole weeks off work chasing and riding trains in the UK. My first visits to places I love to visit like the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the Severn Valley Railway. This was a great camera for a lot of things I like, railfanning and sports. The 12x optical zoom made it a great “little” camera for travelling with. I say little, but it wasn’t that small!

Panasonic FZ10 and a shot of LNER/British Railways A4 Union of South Africa on the Severn Valley Railway.

Two years later, I upgraded to the newer version of the same camera, the FZ20. Better image sensor and stabilization than the FZ10 had. I used this camera for a couple of years until the desire to have a digital SLR finally overcame me.

Panasonic Lumix FZ20 and a CN freight at Bayview Junction (with BNSF Pumpkin and Santa Fe blue units)

As a Christmas present to myself in 2006, I bought my first DSLR, a Pentax K10D. I also splurged and didn’t buy the kit with the kinda crappy lens in it, but got the more expensive 16-45 f4.0 lens. This is still a lens I use all the time, and was my primary lens from 2006 to 2020 when I bought a 55-300 Pentax Telephoto with a built in focus motor to replace a 100-300 Sigma cheap lens I bought in 2002.

My first Digital SLR, a Pentax K10D and one of the first railway shots I took with it of the Goderich & Exeter in Kitchener.

My next camera, wasn’t even one I bought. My office was moving in 2007, and as we cleaned out years of debris, we found a Sony Mavica MVC-FD73, a 0.3megapixel digital camera that writes to 1.44″ floppy disks. My boss was going to throw it out, so I asked if I could take it. he said yes. I’ve used it a couple of times for laughs, but never seriously used it. I do however still have it, and the batteries will still hold a charge, so who knows what crazy mood may strike me.

My office was just going to throw this out in 2007 when we were moving offices. It was the offices first digital camera..unlimited storage on floppy disks.

The next camera in my collection was a small pocket camera, that I could take with me when I went out to parties, and to take to the roundhouse to take pictures of ongoing restoration work at the Toronto Railway Museum. This little camera served me well for several years as a pocket camera, and even got a little bit of railfanning use either while travelling to Montreal on the train, or from the museum at Union Station.

Fuji FinepixJ12, just an interim point and shoot I used mostly for shots at the Toronto Railway Museum doing restoration work. A shot during a lunch break of GO and VIA at Union Station.

By the end of 2008, I had put a ton of abuse on the K10D in only a couple of years, and I was noticing that the shutter and electronics were already going flakey, so I upgraded to the next generation K20D. Another Christmas present to myself, I got a lot more life out of this one, lasting until mid-2016!

My second DSLR, a Pentax K20D, a direct replacement for the K10D after I work out it’s shutter!

In late 2010, in advance of a trip to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, I was in the market for a replacement pocket camera. With the trip and knowing we would be using it in the pool and while snorkelling in the Pacific, I sought out a weather sealed and drop proof camera. The Pentax W90 fit the bill. This was a great little camera, and after the trip it gave years of use at the museum, and as a good camera for use when the SLR wasn’t appropriate to drag around.

Another interim point and shoot, weatherproof/waterproof, bought for snorkelling on the pacific coast of Mexico, and then used at the museum where dirt and crud couldn’t get in it.

By 2016, the K20D was showing some age, and I felt it was time for another upgrade. Cameras had advanced a lot, and it was time for another upgrade to my current SLR, a Pentax K-3II. I still use this camera for all my photography, It is rugged, fully weather sealed so rain and snow don’t effect the electronics as they can’t get in.

My current camera since 2016, a Pentax K-3II and a recent shot of CN racing downhill on the Halton Subdivision taken with it.

The last of my regular cameras is another point and shoot. I started using this camera to take pictures at concerts, as its small enough and point and shots are still allowed. I’ve been using the camera for going to football matches on trips to England as well, which is where most of the railfanning pictures taken with this camera happened, in London Underground and rail stations getting to stadiums.

Canon SX220IS. Nice little camera. It was my wife’s, started using it for Concerts, its now my Video Camera when I’m out chasing trains. Takes fine videos, but really needs replacing with a dedicated video camera as the batteries lose their ability to hold a charge.

I have for the past year or so as I’ve started taking more videos of the trains I am out watching, been looking for an actual dedicated video camera. I have been struggling with the dual debate of how much do I actually want this, vs. how much am I willing to spend. I haven’t come up with answers to either of these questions. I am certainly not by any means an excellent videographer, my videos are more record captures of what I see, but adding video to my activity has helped me with new motivation and focus on my setup when I am out, and looking for new angles on the action.

The last cameras on my list are my Cell Phones. Over the years I have had a variety of Nokia and later Apple iPhones with cameras in them. They certainly aren’t my regular use tools, but on transit to and from work, or as a quick capture if I’m out without my camera and see something, they are a an invaluable tool for a quick snap of something that would otherwise be missed. Frankly, most of the pictures on this blog of work in progress are taken with the iPhone these days, its always with me and has a great camera, quick snaps of work in progress as I go are a lot easier than having out a big bulky SLR while I’m working on the layout.

A TTC Streetcar from a Nokia 5310, freezing to grab a snap of a Loram Grinder in -too much outside Weyburn Saskatchewan during 2013 Grey Cup Week on an iPhone 5, and just a few weeks ago, a trackmobile being delivered in North Toronto on my current iPhone12.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramble through my camera gear. Before I am in the market for another camera body, I suspect I will be looking to upgrade lenses again. My much loved 16-45 f4.0 is showing some age, and my 50mm fixed has been abused within an inch of its admittedly cheap (its a super affordable Pentax lens the old 50mm I have). I have also at times considered a macro lens, though I am not sure I am willing to subject my models to the cruel eye of a macro! Since I am not sure what I want to upgrade first in my lens department, it is kind of just in limbo right now where every now and then I look at prices and decide to think about it some more!

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.

That’s No Train Part 3.5? – A Really Small Version of the same thing…

Yes, more not about trains, but I will keep this one short, I promise! Back late in 2021, I ordered a couple of 3D printed vehicles from Shapeways Marketplace Seller Madaboutcars. This is one of them, the other is for a post somewhere well down the line as its for a future side-project.

The bare 3D print and working its way through the painting process.

I have been a Transformers fan for basically as long as I can remember along with trains. I very much remember how excited I was getting the original Optimus Prime toy as a Christmas Present. Several years ago, I built a Giant 1/24th scale version. Now I have a tiny 1/87th HO Scale version to go with it. Why? Why not? Sometimes you just want to do things, and it was available.

Finished HO Scale Optimus Prime cab, and seen with the G1 toy from 1985 and my 1/24th “That’s no Train Part 3” model.