Many Shades of Boxcar Red

This weekend I’ve been busy painting freight cars. I have put four cars through the paint shop (that will be a future post). As part of it, I realized I have a lot of jars of Boxcar Red, Oxide Red, Freight Car Brown, etc that I don’t actually know what all of them look like. So I decided to make a paint spread card/chip reference for them. Sadly, some of these are colours that I won’t be able to replace as the are no longer manufactured (Testors Modelmaster, Polyscale), but while I have enough to do a couple of cars, I decided a quick and easy tool to compare colours was a good idea.

To make it, I took a strip of scrap 0.060″ thick styrene from my scraps supply, and laid out a grid of ten 1″ squares. I labelled where I wanted to put the paint first, then put on some primer to give a consistent base using my current primer of choice from Vallejo. After that, while doing other painting today, I ran through all the reds. It already proved its worth as for one of the cars I was painting, the red I used to have a redder colour wasn’t the one I was planning on using.

Making a quick reference card of all the various boxcar reds/browns oxide red colours I have while painting this weekend.

This will be handy for me, as there are different shades. I am not super worried about the “it must be 100% the absolute shade that railway XYZ used” people, but I do want to be in the right ballpark for weathering/etc. Different railways used different shades. Some were redder, some were browner. Having this gives me a tool that I can use to compare against other models on the layout, and pictures to see if I have a tone I like, or if I need to do some experimenting with mixing to create something else. I did some mixing (which is on the card) for a car. I’ve painted the car, but I am not 100% certain the more I look at it on the car compared to photos that I am happy with the colour, but it is a distinct shade from everything else on the layout, and I may be able to live with that, but that’s another post.

Making Trees for Canyon Road

I wrote in November about starting the scenery for Canyon Road. Back then, I was working to straighten Scenic Express SuperTrees material and getting ready to make trees. Yesterday, I took those armatures and started adding SuperLeaf material and actually turning them into trees. On the diorama, the trees form the majority of the background to transition between the ground and the backdrop, so I needed to get them done sometime so I can fill in the scenery around them and finish the scene.

Supplies for making trees, and tress drying before they are installed.

I wanted these trees to be as simple as possible, in part because the Super Trees tree material is quite fragile, so I didn’t want to mess around trying to add any polyfibre bulk to them. I used a tried and true method of spraying with a heavy hold hair spray, and dropping down leaf material onto the armatures. For my trees, I mixed a variety of colours to create different shades of green and orange trees as this is a fall scene I am modelling. There are four or five different tonal varieties of mix across the dozen or so trees and large shrubs I made. After the leaf scatter is on, another shot of hairspray over top, and then set them aside to dry.

While they were drying, I ran the “electrical wire” on the telegraph poles that remains to provide power to the signals, and got ready to plant the trees. To plant them, I used a pointed awl to make holes in my scenery. I’m finding a downside of the way I did the scenery with plaster sheets here, you can’t just poke things into the scenery, you need to punch/drill a real hole to get them in, and glue them in place. Good to know for future scenery on projects.

Getting the trees installed on Canyon Road. Such a simple project but it so advances the look of the diorama in a few short hours.

I am pretty pleased with how the trees came out. Every shot of the diorama looks a bit better when I make progress like this. I have a variety of long grasses and other materials to work into the undergrowth and hillside to hopefully finish the scene as it looks a bit barren under the trees now, but that is a project for another day.

Getting Better at Making Etched Ladders

Back what seemed like ages ago in March I wrote about my first experiments with building etched ladders for box car kits. I don’t think I am going to make it, but at the start of December, I set myself a mini “Goal” of getting three partly build Yarmouth Model Works boxcar kits finished, meaning built, and hopefully painted and decalled. Sadly, these are the same cars I was working on in March when I wrote about the ladders, I’ve been ignoring them on the workbench for a while! I have one done and ready for the paint shop, the second is very nearly there, and the subject of this quick post, and the 3rd, well, if it weren’t for some external factors I’ll talk about in my upcoming year end post, it would probably be further along and might get there. That’s OK though, this remains a hobby, and a way of relaxing. The real goal for me was to get going on projects I’ve started to make some workbench space, which I am well on the way to doing, and the difference between finishing these cars in December vs. January is precisely nil!

Improved process for folding ladder stiles. Get it clipped in the folding tool, then use a metal bar or block to make the fold reliably in one movement to avoid overworking the etch and it going banana shaped.

I had not been happy with the ladders I have done on the previous cars. They look fine by the time they are done, but if you look really closely, they look like they’ve been beaten on while in use. That maybe isn’t the end of the world, but having ladders that have wonky stiles and bend the wrong ways make them really hard to mount to the car sides and ends once they are done.

As can be seen in the pictures, looking back at a video Yarmouth’s owner Pierre Oliver made for Trainmasters TV, he folds his stiles using the technique of getting the etched part in, and using a metal block to make the fold in one movement. This is reasonably easy, it is a bit fiddly getting the part in and clamped, but once you figure out how that works for your, it is doable. I found that using tweezers to roughly get the part in, then using my finger nails on one hand, grab each end, and gently shift until the etched fold line is in place, then tighten the bending tool. Instead of using something on the tool, take the whole bender, line up the etch on the metal block, and twist the holder to make the fold while pressing against the block. One move, and a nice 90 degree bend that doesn’t cause the etched brass to curl can be achieved.

After that, its the basic assembly of adding rungs to make the ladders, leaving a couple of rungs empty to drill through into the car later and install rungs with longer legs to pin the ladder to the car, and they are done. I now have the four ladders for the next car ready to install, but doing that, and hopefully the B end details to get a 2nd of the 3 cars ready for the paint shop is tomorrow’s project.

Weathered and Unweathered

A pair of Rapido Trains Pennsylvania Railroad X31A Boxcars, one weathered on the left, and one not on the right. The car on the left carries an earlier paint scheme than the one on the right. The car has been weathered using quick and simple techniques learned from Pierre Oliver using Iwata ComArt Weathering set paints. Some light grime on the sides, some darker grim along the bottom of the car, then some super thin black on the roof to represent soot, and black crud at the bottom corners to create the sense of grime being thrown up by the wheels. I overcoated all of this with a flat finish. I am debating if I want to add more weathering using oils to this car or not.

Truth be told, now that I’ve seen the cars, I really wish I’d bought two in the earlier scheme, I like it better. That car should look more used than the one on the right, so the weathering on the car on the right will be less than the one on the left when I do it. Either way, these are nice cars. I’m glad I have them for the layout.

Getting some Scenery on Canyon Road

I’ve been working slowly but surely on a lot of projects, on the layout and on the Canyon Road Diorama. I have made a bunch of small projects on the diorama turn into visible progress in the past couple of days, and I’m writing this on Saturday morning with a day and a half to go on my weekend.

First up, adding some colour and grime and texture to the ballast. It was just too grey looking. To achieve this, I did two things, washed thinned Hunterline Brown stain over the ballast randomly in varied amounts to tint it down. Then, using PanPastels, a rub of black down the centre of the track to look like goop and grime coming off rolling stock. You can see it better in some of the overview photos later than the first test area below, but I find it to be satisfyingly effective and simple to apply.

First bit of weathering on the ballast. Using a brown weathering mix from Hunterline.

Next up, is some cleanup work. The open end of the diorama was very unfinished looking, with semi stained foam and roadbed. This was conceived as a “quick” project to give me something I can photograph models on and display equipment on that didn’t otherwise have a home. The end that would potentially be seen in low angle photos looked bad, and I’d been lazy about doing anything to fix it. I took care of that yesterday, with some painful trimming of the pink foam (lesson learned, do this kind of stuff first!), I was able to trim down a piece of 0.020″ styrene sheet to make a finish wall. I applied this using Silicone caulk to fill the gaps created and adhere the styrene. Once it was in place, I was able to bring the scenery into place and tidy up the scenery. In due course, the white styrene will be painted black to make it vanish in photographs.

Trimming the end, before (left) and after (right), even unpainted the styrene added looks much cleaner.

To provide a base on the hillsides along the line, I had previously applied dirt material. Next up, is a variety of fall static grass to base out the ground before adding trees, shrubs and scrubby growth as exists along the line. I used a variety of 2mm, 4mm and 6mm long WW Scenics static grass to create a variety of lengths and colours in the grasses. In the area at the top of the bridge where it enters the field, I used a brighter greener colour as this area appears very different when reviewing photos vs. the unkempt hillsides. Applying static grass is fairly straightforward. I made a conscious effort to not apply glue across the whole hillside as I wanted to have patchy areas, and be able to fill these in with other growth.

Mixing up a batch of mixed lengths and colours of Static Grass, and applying it as a base to the hillsides. Last shot shows the photo backdrop on the curved end glued in place.

Moving on to more dimensional scenery, I finally glued on the photo backdrop section along the curved backdrop that wraps the tracks on one end. This will be blended into the hill using 3D trees made using a variety of materials and techniques. The first is using Scenic Express Supertrees as the bases of the trees. This is a natural material, that can be painted and have scenery materials added to to create the look of trees. The material however, comes as a bit of a tangled mess. Once I found pieces that were the right shape/size, I needed to figure out how to straighten them out some. After a lot of reading online, the recommended technique seems to be soak them in boiling water for 5 minutes, then hang them with weights at the bottom to hold them straight. While they are hung, spray with isopropyl alcohol and scenic cement to effectively glue them straight. This seems to have worked, maybe not as well as I would have liked, but they are definitely straighter and I think I can work with them.

Home made hanging rack for Scenic Express Supertrees and soaked super trees hanging while getting glued to straighten them.

Last but not least, more messy foam work. Digging a hole in the back of the hillside for the Iowa Scaled Engineering Soundbyte. It will live behind the scenery under the bridge, and create a sound of the crossing gates just to the west of the area on the diorama. Next up for this is to tidy up the wiring and run the switch to an accessible point. This is another project that would have been much easier had it been a part of the plan when I started, but I didn’t even know these existed when I started the diorama!

Soundbyte in its little cave. Ready to shorten the wiring leads and fully install it.

Next up, making the trees and getting them installed along the backdrop, then filling in the lower parts of the hillside, and some wiring work to get the Soundbyte installed, and the electrical power for the signals fully installed. It had felt for a while like I wasn’t making any progress, at least not visibly, but as with so many of my projects, I find sometimes great lengths of time spent looking and thinking, lead to great bursts of visible progress in a short period of time.

Liberty Village’s current locomotive fleet all Kept Alive

Once I discovered the solution to why ESU Powerpacks were not working in older Rapido Trains locomotives for me last week, and got my SW-1200RS running reliably, it was time to do my last locomotive of the current “fleet” for the layout, my Rapido GMD1. Its longer wheelbase seemed to make it more reliable already, but why rely on that when now that I know that I am in fact capable of both making three very fine solder joints, and programming the decoder to use the Powerpack once its in!

Disassembling the Rapido GMD1, figuring out how to fit the ESU Powerpack into the cab (the only open space in the model, three wires soldered to the decoder to connect the Powerpack, and all re-assembled looking into the cab end at the Powerpack.

As with the SW-1200RS, the only open space in the locomotive to place the Powerpack is inside the cab. This does hide some of the interior detail, but you have to be so close to see it, it almost doesn’t matter, and unlike the SW-1200RS, the GMD1 does not have a cab light to turn on and show off the Powerpack. Despite that, I did put a bit of black heat shrink tube over the Powerpack to help hide it from the sides. The ends are still visible, but there are not really places on my layout where you can look end-on at a locomotive. To fit it in, I had to trim away a bit of the cab interior so the Powerpack would sit flat, and so the wires could be run into the body. Once the connections to the decoder were made, everything needs to be carefully fished together through the body into the cab, and re-assemble the cab and attach it to the body once the Powerpack is threaded into it. It was a bit fiddly, but there is more than enough wire to get it into place and ensure that they are routed safely inside the body shell. With everything back together, it was test time, and as you can see in the video below, it passes the tip test to keep running for a couple of seconds from the Powerpacks reserve of energy. Job done. Now I have four reliable locomotives on my layout. I can get back to focusing on scenery and buildings rather than trying to figure out why my trains wouldn’t run!