Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Southern New England Boxcars

A few months ago, the South Shore Model Railway Club in Hingham, Mass., contacted me about doing a special run of Southern New England Railway boxcars. I provided them with the artwork I'd developed for the SNE a few years ago and I just found out the special run cars are available. There are two different paint schemes available on the Kadee 40-foot PS-1s. One of them is obviously inspired by the Canadian National Maple Leaf scheme. The green wafer scheme is inspired by a similar class of Grand Trunk Western cars. 
The cars are $34.95 each + shipping  ($5 for one and $6 for a pair by Priority Mail).
Dave Clinton of the South Shore Club tells me they will be available for sale at the Springfield show this coming weekend. Or you can order them through the club website.
Thanks to Dave and John Sheridan of the South Shore Model Railway Club for doing such a great job on these! 
If you've ever wanted to own a SNE car, here's your chance!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A glimpse into my modeling past

Both models in the lead photo are posed on the layout I had in my parent’s basement. This is also the only picture I have of that layout, which remained in my folks basement for many years after I moved out.
I stumbled across this photo (actually, a 35mm slide that I scanned) the other day when searching for some other images. The two cars in the foreground are nothing to write home about except they represent several “firsts” in my modeling and writing careers.
As a rule I don't get emotionally attached to models that no longer meet my needs or those I feel don’t live up to my current standards. Years of frequent moves have made me pretty brutal when it comes to deciding whether to keep, sell, or even pitch old models. But for some reason I’ve kept both the NH boxcar and the milkcar. I doubt I’ll run them on the layout in regular service,  but I couldn't resist taking them out of the display case and posing them on the current layout. 
About those "firsts." The New Haven boxcar, most likely a New Haven Historical Society kit made by Funaro & Camerlengo, was the first resin house car kit I’d built. Interestingly, F&C has just recently re-released these cars, this time with one-piece bodies. When I built this one I didn’t realize you should always verify the lengths of the two sides are the same, and sand them if necessary – so the car is somewhat out of kilter. Also, I didn’t quite get the grab irons on straight. Finally, since I didn’t brace the inside of the car over time one of the side walls has developed a slight bow along its length.
The Central Vermont milkcar is also a first. It’s the first piece of rolling stock I ever scratchbuilt. I’m not positive, but I believe I built this model when home for the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college. I based the model on measurements I took of a car sitting outside Barre, Vermont. The underframe is from a cut-down Athearn express reefer that I shortened by cutting 10 or so feet out of the center and gluing back together. The car body is constructed entirely of styrene. The roof is tissue paper held in place using a heavy coat of Floquil paint. It melted the paper into the plastic. I’m not sure, but I believe the hardware came from a Grandt Line – likely a narrow gauge reefer set. The car was brush-painted using SMP Accu-paint since I didn't have an airbrush at the time. Accu-paint was as thin as printers ink, so it probably took 10 coats to get decent coverage, although there are still some "holidays" visible in the paint finish. 
The trickiest part of the milk car was the lettering – I used a New England Rail Service steam locomotive and milk car decal set for most of the car, although the “Milk” lettering in the NERS decal sheet didn’t match the prototype photo I followed. So I pieced the “Milk” lettering together from an alphabet set of dry transfers.
Both models in the lead photo are posed on the layout I had in my parent’s basement. This is also the only picture I have of that layout, which remained in my folks basement for many years after I moved out. The backdrop was hand-painted, and the trees (I was modeling autumn even then!) were made using several types of weeds with ground foam applied and colored using some of the tips and techniques in an RMC article by Les Jordan that appeared in the October 1979 issue of RMC. 
About that publishing first… I wrote an article on how I built the milkcar and submitted it to RMC. Editor Bill Schamburg, a good friend to this day, expressed an interest in it, but said I needed better photos.  Believe it or not, the photo at the top of this post represented my best effort at the time.  Bill looked it over and sent it,and the article, back to me. My old camera and equipment weren't up to the task of taking publishable model photos. 
In looking at the old photo, I’d give the technical aspects of the picture a D-. However, the scenery, although crude, wasn’t that bad. Say a C+. I won’t attempt to grade my efforts at the two cars, but it sure was fun finding this photo. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Tweaking" the White River Junction Coaling Tower - Follow Up

Bernie posted a note asking why I didn't include a picture of the completed, modified White River Junction coaling tower in my post on that topic. I meant to, and even took the pictures, but I forgot to include them in the post! 
After we pulled the assembled model out of the laser it needed some touch up painting - but once that was complete there was no evidence of the "surgery" that changed the rectangular CV herald into the correct square one. (Again, this was only an issue with my pre-production sample model that Bernie built - the production run kits are all correct OR you can build the tower without a CV logo since it's a standard Roberts & Schaefer design.)
Here's the tower positioned in White River Junction yard.
And, a closeup of the herald:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Tweaking" the White River Junction coaling tower

Many of you know my friend Bernie Kempinski’s Alkem Scale Models made a very nice model of the Central Vermont’s coaling tower that once stood at White River Junction.  Bernie made kits for the model in both N and HO scales. If you missed the first run, he’s done a very, very limited second run of the HO scale kit.  During a big “clear out” of his basement he gave me the display model and diorama to use on my layout.  That was great, but one thing bothered me about Bernie’s sample model.  Somehow, during the drawing process, he managed to get the Central Vermont’s square logo etched on the acrylic tower as a rectangle.  (The production kits do not have this problem).  So he ended up with a very nice model of the tower with an incorrect logo. 
So, before I took delivery of the model he decided to do a little experiment and see if the rectangular logo could be filled smooth and then replaced with the proper square one.  Once the logo was filled with body putty and sanded smooth, we did a test etch by placing masking tape in the approximate position of the herald, and then loading the assembled coaling tower into the laser and lightly etched it to be sure the herald ended up in the correct spot.  Once all looked good we removed the tape and cranked the laser up!  
I made a video of the laser cutter at work.  
This whole process caused some damage to the tower (we had to remove the ladders and platform), but it survived the "procedure" remarkably well, though it needed some repairs and touch up paint (a task Bernie took care of during a work session several months later!). The coaling tower looks pretty good and is now the centerpiece of the under-construction engine servicing area at White River Junction.
While I don't recommend chucking a finished, detailed model into a laser engraver, if you feel you must, well, we know it works!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wordless Wednesday #2

Berry Machine - Main Mill Building

I took advantage of the relatively light work schedule at the office, and the fact that we didn’t travel or have house guests for the holidays to spend some time at the workbench.  First up was the Berry Machine main building. I blogged about issues I’d had with two smaller structures that make up this three-building complex in this post and this one last year. The main mill building had no issues with fit and finish and went together very easily.
The look I was going for with this building was “old, but well-maintained.” I did “lift” some of the clapboards (the technique is easy: Start by cutting the board vertically to define the end of the board. Then gently slice the underside of the clapboard with a sharp X-acto, then use a no. 17 chisel blade to pry the board up. You can see how this looks in some of the photos. 
After I added a lot of 1/8” square bracing to the inside walls, I stained the clapboard with Hunterline “Creosote” stain. I have a number of these Hunterline stains, and I use them for all kinds of applications.
While waiting for the walls to dry I prepped the windows and doors. They were all painted white, and then glazed using Canopy glue to add the “glass” to the windows. I painted three  walls Polly Scale Antique White. The front wall was painted with Barn Red craft paint.
After assembling the basic walls, installing the doors and windows, and adding the sub roof panels, I turned my attention to the foundation. This building will sit alongside the mill stream, meaning more of the foundation will be exposed on one side and along the rear than in the front. The kit includes a lot of small plaster blocks for the foundation. To make installing them easier I added a wall of 3/64” basswood sheet glued to the inside of the bracing and extending the full height of the foundation. Then I used a selection of the Hunterline stains (Medium Brown, Sepia Brown, Blue Gray, and Driftwood) to color the individual stone blocks. This was hardly scientific; my main goal was to make the coloration subtle and somewhat varied by staining each stone with the “base” of one color, and then adding variety by dabbing on the other stains to each stone.
Then it was simply a matter of gluing the individual stones to that bass wood foundation subwall.
Once completed, I started carving the foamboard riverbed and bank to shape to accommodate the Berry Machine building. The partially assembled shell is the Ben Thresher mill building. You can also see the start of the mill falls. 
Next step for Berry?: Corrugated roofing.