Saturday, November 22, 2014

Interim truck support blocks

I’m not sure my title for this post is very clear. What I mean is, blocks which can be temporarily attached to a model, in place of its trucks, during construction and painting. The blocks then support the model instead of trucks. In the past, I have often used old or discarded pairs of trucks for this purpose, but that isn’t always a good approach. So here I describe something I learned from Richard Hendrickson, a very effective little trick to solve this problem.
     The idea is to make a block which has a screw hole for the truck screw, enabling it to be attached just one would attach the trucks, and with dimensions about as tall or a little taller than the final truck dimension would be. These can certainly be wood, and my first one was indeed made from basswood, but styrene is easier, quicker, and more durable.
     Shown here are a couple of ways to shape them, details not at all important, though the approximate dimensions should be observed. Mine are about 1.25 inches long (car body width), which is the long dimension here, and about one-fourth of an inch high as well as wide.

Note that one pair is notched at the appropriate distance for the handbrake rod to pass above the block, for models on which that detail is included.
     One advantage of using these during assembly of a model, is that couplers can be installed, yet these blocks allow the model to be set upright, and neither the couplers nor sill steps nor any underbody brake rigging will touch the work surface. You can see that in this photo. The car can rest on the blocks, keeping the couplers and detail parts up out of the way.

     I have used these also during airbrushing of models, when all the car except the trucks is supposed to be one color. (And maybe you have already painted wheel surfaces an appropriate grimy or rusty color, which you don’t want to overspray with the car body color.) Here’s an angle view of a Branchline model in progress with these blocks installed. Couplers will be added after painting.

I should emphasize again that I did not invent these blocks. I saw them in use in Richard Hendrickson’s shop, liked them, and made some copies for myself. There are additional views of these blocks in use on models still in work, in Part 9 of  my series on weathering freight cars (you can see those views at: ).
     Though a simple part to make, these blocks have proven very handy for my modeling, including painting. You might give them a try.
Tony Thompson

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A summary of my acrylic weathering method

I have had a couple of readers contact me and ask if there might be a way to make available an integrated or overview document, describing my method of weathering with acrylic washes, other than having to search through and read serially all the separate posts I have published on this topic. I thought this was a good suggestion, so I explored how to do that.
     It turns out that Google’s Blogger application has a feature permitting “permanent” reference pages to be appended to a blog. I have taken advantage of that, and have pulled all the 10 separate posts making up my presentation into two documents, one on the basic method, and the other on specific car types and other details. Essentially nothing is omitted from the original posts, except repetitive or duplicative material, along with the now-redundant links to individual posts in the series.
     You will now find these pages available under “Reference pages” in the upper right corner of the blog page, and either document can be accessed by simply clicking on its title. The two documents have these titles:

Weathering with acrylic washes: basic technique
Weathering with acrylic washes: specific car types

These correspond to blog posts in the series, as follows. The first document is drawn from posts 1 through 4, and the second is from posts 5 through 10. Both documents can of course be downloaded, printed, or otherwise used as desired by the reader.
     For completeness, it seemed appropriate to include in the first document the handout Richard Hendrickson and I developed when we first presented our joint clinic on weathering. That has been done, and it is also shown below, for those who may not have seen it. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

I hope these two “Reference page” documents are helpful to those interested in the acrylic wash method of weathering.
Tony Thompson

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My acrylic weathering method, Part 10, conclusion

I have now completed my individual descriptions of aspects of the method I use with acrylic washes to weather rolling stock. Links to the first five segments, in which the basic method was presented, were given in Part 6 (which is at this link: ). Parts 6 through 9 covered special problems and details of the method, and links to parts 6 through 8 were provided in my Part 9: .
     The present Part 10 is an effort to summarize all this material, and show comparative examples of some of the work. In Parts 2, 3 and 4, I showed work in progress on a Red Caboose box car, lettered for Southern Pacific, and I have had some viewers observe that the car does not look very weathered to them. Here is that car as completed, including a paint patch for the reweigh date.

But though it may look like little has been done, here is that same car at right, alongside an unweathered box car from the same source.

This photo illustrates one strength of the acrylic wash method, that it can provide an overall “dirt” level and create a faded look. The level of dirtiness is something you can choose during application, and if it turns out not to be as much as you wanted, you can always repeat the application. The car shown above at right, SP 96606, has a post-1946 paint scheme though built early in 1942, and accordingly is not represented as terribly dirty.
     That brings up an important point. For nearly all freight cars, the level of dirt seen on a particular car would scale with the time in service since it was last painted. It is thus necessary to recognize a car which has been repainted, even one of considerable age. Here is another comparison; you can click on the image to enlarge it.

The car on the left is a Class A-50-14 automobile car, built in 1941, and still has its original paint scheme, with the SP initials as reporting mark. On the right is a Class B-50-15 box car, built back in 1925 but with a post-1946 paint scheme. So even though the car on the right is 16 years older than the car on the left, its paint scheme is actually newer, and thus a little less dirty, than is the auto car at left.
     Another example of moderate weathering is the car on the left in this next image, a model of one of the 100 box cars the NWP obtained from the USRA. Photos document that NWP tended to keep its equipment painted and in good repair (evidenced also by the fact that 98 of those 100 cars remained in service by the time I model, 1953). Both models are the Accurail double-sheathed USRA car, with the one on the right unweathered.

Finally, I will show the three models I have built of SP’s famous black Overnight box cars. The prototype cars did not seem to show dirt too badly, though as this photo from the late 1950s shows, eventually they got dingy. (Photo from the Bruce Petty collection) That’s an EXPLOSIVES placard on the door, reflecting the car’s assignment to ammunition service.

Here are my three models, varying in amount of dirt from right to left, but none of them terribly dirty.

     These examples illustrate some of the ways I want my model freight cars to look (of course, previous parts of this thread did so also). These four cases are not extensive, but I think they illustrate the general results of my weathering method. I will add comments on additional specific points as they come along in future modeling.
Tony Thompson

Friday, November 14, 2014

The SPH&TS meeting, San Luis Obispo, Part 2

I described some of the features of this annual meeting of the SP Society in a previous post, concentrating on the model display (here’s a link: ). In this Part 2, I will describe some things ourside of the meeting.
     On the way down to San Luis Obispo, my wife and I enjoyed one of the really pleasant lunch spots at Paso Robles, the Firestone Walker brewery. They have a nice Tap Room and a good, diverse menu, along with some excellent beer varieties. This was not my first visit and I hope far from my last.

     A highlight at San Luis Obispo was a visit to the newly opened Railroad Museum in the old SP freight station. They have done a superb job of retaining much of the look of the old interior, while placing exhibits which convey the story of SP’s place in town history. Of course there was also at one time another railroad, the Pacific Coast narrow gauge, and they have not neglected it. In fact, right outside the museum is a preserved PC box car, shown here with me in the foreground.

     A real highlight inside is an HO scale layout, still in the early stages but progressing very nicely. Already completed is a fine version of the PC pier at Avila (just a few miles from San Luis), as shown here. Andrew Merriam has done much of the backdrop work as well as contributing to the modeling.

Incidentally, the prototype of this pier still stands, though repaired and modified over the years, and one evening a group of us went there to the restaurant which now stands on the outer end of the pier (under the roof you see above) and had an excellent meal.
     The layout naturally does not neglect the Southern Pacific, though to date there is only the beginnings of familiar San Luis scenes. What is present, though, is of very good quality, as you can see in this view.

     The visit to San Luis Obispo had, as you can see, many attractions beyond just the headquarters hotel for the convention. It’s a very pleasant place to visit. I emphasized the same point in describing my attendance at the spring 2014 convention of the Pacific Coast Region of NMRA in the same city (you can see it at: ).
Tony Thompson

Monday, November 10, 2014

An excellent book on weathering

One of the discoveries of my visit to the marvelous National Railway Museum in York, England (see my description and photos of the museum itself at: ), while in the museum shop and naturally in the section on modeling, was an outstanding book on weathering of rolling stock. I purchased it at once, and want to pass on the information about it.
     The book is by Tim Shackleton, and is recent; the book was published by Ian Allan Publishing of Harsham, Surrey in 2013. Here is the book cover:

This is a 96-page soft-cover book, on heavyweight glossy paper with superb photo reproduction, so the book is a pleasure to use, whether just to browse or to study the individual projects. The cover does feature two passenger cars, but the interior is evenly divided between freight and passenger equipment. But it’s all British, I hear you say. True. More on that below.
     As it happens, Shackleton has also written a book on locomotive weathering, which looked every bit as nice, but I chose the one of more interest to me. This is the cover of that book:

Each of the books cost £16 (which is currently about $25, an extremely reasonable price for these well-made books). They and a whole bunch of others in the current Ian Allan series on modeling topics, can be purchased on line from their site, at: . The books can be delivered by surface post or air mail; the charges vary with package weight but charges start at £5 or £8, respectively, and they will calculate the cost for you (read the section on “Postage” on their site). They are quite experienced in worldwide shipping and you can trust the arrangements.
     What is inside? As mentioned, the prototypes are of course British, and some details of weathering patterns or freight car hardware are naturally different from U.S. experience. Many other details, however, are universal and apply perfectly well to U.S. modeling. But the key point is the clear demonstration of how to achieve the various weathering effects shown. Here is just one example of the results, on a group of wood and steel coal gondolas after long service.

     The illustrations of how the work was done are extremely clear and well photographed. I have not seen better illustrations of this kind, and Kalmbach’s model railroad books, to name one source of this kind of material, rarely come close to this standard. Here is one of the photos:

     I realize many people may shy away from a book about different prototypes. But I can assure you that you will find dozens of excellent weathering tips and techniques in this book that can help with any project. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Tony Thompson

Friday, November 7, 2014

The SPH&TS meeting, San Luis Obispo, Part 1

The SPH&TS (Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society) has just concluded its 34th National Convention at San Luis Obispo, California, covering October 29 through November 1. It is the second meeting we have held there, and both have been well organized, well run, and fun to attend. An extra highlight was visiting the new Railroad Museum, located in the old SP freight station at San Luis. A superb job has been done with exhibits and with a marvelous model railroad display too, and I will say more about that in Part 2.
     One of the activities I had been asked to help with was the long-traditional “Wall of Trains” exhibit which is almost always displayed at the annual meeting. (I have mentioned and shown this exhibit before, in describing the 2012 meeting; see it at: .) It’s a stair-stepped set of display tracks, about 16 feet long, and containing 11 tracks. At table height, it is indeed an imposing sight. I had been asked to bring a train for one of these tracks, namely a reefer train with traditional 2-10-2 power (fitting the conference theme this year, “Decks over Cuesta”) that would fill a track.
     This turned out to require 25 reefers, along with the Westside model of a Class F-5 locomotive and a brass caboose. It was tough to photograph the entire thing, but here is the head end. The train is the fifth track up from the bottom.

The rest of the consist can be seen below, showing all 25 reefers but not quite reaching the locomotive. I inserted five foreign reefers into this train, in accord with the fact that PFE used that many foreigns in peak harvest season. I chose an ART, a BAR, an FGE, an MDT, and a URTX Milwaukee car. See if you can spot them in the train (you can click on the image to enlarge.)

Three tracks above my reefer train is Andrew Merriam’s very nice beet train, with all gondolas depicted before the days when side extensions were added (that’s my era too).
     The contest room in which the “Wall of Trains” was displayed was also where quite a few fine models were exhibited in the contest. Because of the conference theme about Decks, there was a special contest category for such engines, and a whole bunch of fine locomotives was on display, including the diorama at right.

     As part of the “display only” part of the contest room, Dick Harley showed a number of his in-progress PFE models, to accompany the talk he gave on modeling the PFE wood-sheathed ice reefers. It was interesting to see the models in this form, and they perfectly complemented his presentation. Note the Microscale decal sheet shown — Dick did the artwork for the recent re-issue of Microscale set 501 (both 87-501 and 60-501).

     There is also a traditional contest category at SPH&TS meetings, the “What If” category, in which we have had everything from cab-forwards with F-unit fronts, to AC4400 locomotives in Black Widow paint, to Alco PA engines in Two-Tone Gray paint. This year the winning entry was Jim Elliott’s diorama of what would have happened if PMT had continued into the container era. In this intermodal terminal, we see both containers and trailers in Daylight colors, and even the stack cars are so painted. It was a popular winner.

     It was a fine meeting, most enjoyable for me and I think most others. I just wish all the cities to which we go with our convention were as pleasant and interesting as San Luis Obispo.
Tony Thompson

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New grade crossing, Ballard —Part 3

In my previous post on this topic, I had completed the rough paving, along with the ties and paving between the rails. You can read that post here: .
     My next task was to complete soldering of all rail joints which required solder, and to drop and solder feeders to the ends of the two sidings. I used to rely on rail joiners for electrical transmission in many locations, but have since learned the lesson of the “subtle open circuit” which can develop at such locations, and now solder most joints. Also, as most modelers know by now, DCC power is more demanding of consistent voltages, so voltage drops through a series of rail joiners can be bad.

     With the soldering done and all rail sides painted brown, and electrical continuity verified throughout with a multi-meter, I used the same dirt to ballast the new track which was used elsewhere in Ballard. This dirt had been collected around home plate of a softball diamond, and much of it was very fine, just what I wanted. I screened out the oversize bits and was left with a (former) peanut butter jar of good, natural dirt. That’s the ballast in this area.
     My personal ballasting method is to apply the ballast material dry, spreading it just as I want it to be arranged. Here is how the area looked at that point.

     Once the ballast distribution looks good to me, I wet it thoroughly, using a misting sprayer with “wet water,” containing a few drops of dish detergent, and take the time to make sure that all areas are truly wet and that the water penetrates deep into the ballast. Then I use an eye dropper to apply a mixture of two-thirds water with one-third matte medium, the results of which I have found I like best. Tedious? Yep, but my philosophy is that I don’t mind tasks like that, as long as they only have to be done once.
     With that done, I could come back with acrylic paints to make the replaced paving a better color (the raw paper mache look is visible in the photo above). As I mentioned in Part 2 of this series, I wanted this new paving to differ in appearance from the rest of the roadway, to suggest a repaired and repaved area. I also used acrylic washes of brownish and grayish colors to give some variation to the color of ballast and ties.
     Once that was complete, the area looked like this. The ground throw for the switch at left has not been installed yet. The one at lower right is for a switch in an upper track, operating a long throw wire through a brass tube buried in the scenery.

I still need to dirty the paving in the traffic lanes, but overall this grade crossing is pretty much what I set out to accomplish.
Tony Thompson