Golden, er, Tie Bar?

The summer months can be a slow time for modelling. In my case, some combination of being away from homes on weekends and inertia have combined to reduce progress of significance. While standing on the dock, waiting for the dog to bring the stick back and hide it in the woods, again, I formulated some goals.

First off was getting the rest of the turnout tie bars prepared (trimmed to length, glued together with insulating layer of paper, holes drilled out) and installed. I am pleased to report that goal has been achieved. Here is the last of four.finaltiebar

I did have to take out and redo one bar that was not, in fact, insulated. Happily, it was the first one I removed after I detected a short. New preparation step: test for short in the bar prior to installation! (Duh)

A positive aspect of the cut down straight pins I am using to fix points to bars is that they are easy to replace if, say, one slips out of the tweezers and goes shooting off to unknown parts.

A downside of a small layout constructed slowly is that you only get a skill up to speed and then you are done with it. I have worked out my process for doing tie bars but I will likely forget something by the time I need to do it again. Maybe I should write it all down or something. Next post!



Airbrushing Upgrades


Leading off is a shot of my first practice session with my new airbrushing capability. This is just ink on newsprint as a cheap way of working on the basic skills. I got the idea and a list of practice drills off of Youtube. I clearly need to work on the basics before I cut loose on a model.

As I mentioned previously, reading the first of George Dent’s weathering books hardened my resolve to get my airbrushing act together. I had a spray booth (not exhausted outside), a venerable Paasche Model H single action airbrush and a little diaphragm compressor bought used over 30 years ago. All of this needed some upgrading.

The airbrush techniques George describes in his book require a double action airbrush (or a talent with a single action brush I could never achieve). Additionally, the model H is a siphon feed that has a long path from bottle/cup to nozzle that makes cleaning a challenge that discourages undertaking small jobs. I have seen demonstrations of gravity feed brushes that used a drop or two of paint and got plenty done with that. So, first on the list was a good quality, gravity feed double action airbrush. After much deliberation, I took the plunge on a Harder & Steenbeck Infinity CR. I liked that it comes with two sizes of nozzle (.2 and .4mm). (I am a bit of a Teutonophile when it comes to tools. And cars.)

I have been hankering after a better compressor for years. The old semi-reliable could manage 18 PSI on a good day, has no tank or auto-on/off, not even an on/off switch. Working on the theory that this would probably be the compressor I had for the rest of my life, I splurged on an Iwata Power Jet Pro which has both auto on/off and a tank. On a happy note, I was able to buy locally at Wheels and Wings Hobbies for the same price offered by Canadian suppliers online. Supporting the local store and instant gratification is hard to beat!

I purchase an under counter light a few years back with the intent of lighting the spray booth. With that light, the compressor and the booth fan, I was up to three cords and counting. There are not as yet any outlets handy to the airbrushing station location so I needed some way of distributing power. I also wander to avoid fishing about for switches behind (booth fan), in (light) and under (compressor) every time I started and stopped a session. I therefore made up a switchable outlet box with two outlets to plug things into. I used two switches, one for each outlet because sometimes you just want to spray bomb and don’t need to start the compressor. I attached the box to the side of the stand that holds up the spray booth.airbrushpower.jpg

With all that done, I am open for business albeit with some temporary measures.sprayboothasis.jpg

Still to do:

  • Exhaust the booth outside. I have a 3″ hole for a vent drilled but the booth is 4″. Am dithering on whether to enlarge hole or reduce vent. (Am leaning towards bigger hole to avoid back pressure.
  • Wire a permanent outlet nearby so I can stop running an extension cord from the next room.
  • Permanently attach that light so I can have my clamps back. 🙂
  • Install a couple of shelves underneath for paint and supply storage. The compressor is currently sitting on an unattached piece of plywood.
  • Holders for both airbrushes at booth level. The compressor has two holders but with it sitting far enough forward so that I can see the gauges, the brushes stick out far enough to possibly get knocked.


Weekend Reading: Weathering for Railway Modellers Volume 1 – Locomotives and Rolling Stock


As the various non-modelling pressures ease up, I am regaining some momentum on the hobby front. I have not done much of note in the shop but I have been keeping up with my reading. The current book queued up on my phone is Weathering For Railway Modellers Volume 1 – Locomotives and Rolling Stock by George Dent. As previously noted, I have done little weathering in my modelling career but am actively working to correct that. George Dent’s book looks to be going to correct gaps in my knowledge if not my talent.

The book is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs as one would expect for so visual an art. George starts off with the why then goes into materials (paints, washes and dry pigments) and tools. Airbrushing is covered quite well in a separate chapter (George has also authored an entire modeller targeted book on the subject) after simple starter projects are covered.

After the various techniques are covered with examples, there are three! chapters specifically on simulating rust then a chapter each on timber and shading.

The balance of the book covers weathering specifics for coaches, diesels and steam locomotives through example projects combining the foundation techniques as appropriate.

I have not finished the book but I certainly will! I also intend to roll right into the companion volume on weathering structures and scenery with possibly a detour for that airbrushing book. (More on my nascent airbrushing adventures to follow). Weathering for Railway Modellers, volumes 1 and 2 are currently in print and available in paper and e-book form from the excellent Crowood Press which is getting a lot of my money these days.

Traces of Past Layouts

I have not been getting much time in the workshop as my energy has been going into finalizing the sale of my father’s house and wrapping up the estate. One of the inevitable tasks in selling a house is cleaning it out. In this case, the house was mostly vacant but needed to have the remains taken away.

You learn something about someone when you clean out their house. My dad has at least eight wooden yardsticks in stock as well as an assortment of wood offcuts accumulated over a lifetime of do-it-yourselfing everything from wood turning to masonry and plumbing.

Of particular note are several sections of open grid benchwork dating back to my first ambitions layout attempt when I was twelve and this:HOn30?

I think this was going to be HOn30 but it certainly never saw rails. I can’t remember much about this project but I was probably about fourteen at the time. The assembly of short cork roadbed sections suggest the frugality of a hobby funded by delivering newspapers.

Try as I might, I could not convince my dad that I had moved on and he was free to dispose of these layout ghosts as he saw fit. I guess it is only fitting that I should get rid of my own leftovers.

I also had more time to be organized in those days, too. Here is the edge of a shelf unit unearthed at the back of the shop.organized!

Trust in the Rust

I was at the Ontario Narrow Gauge Show last Saturday and while I did do a turn in the ticket booth, I managed to get out enough to attend a couple of clinics. My major motivation for plotting my escape was a promised talk on simulating rust by  George Dutka. I enjoy following George’s blog and one of the things I admire is his mastery of weathering. Having not weathered anything beyond the odd ink wash, I need all the help I can get.

George did not disappoint and presented a basic method of applying “rust” using acrylics and powders. Even better, he brought supplies and encouraged attendees to have a go on a small piece of material. I tentatively waded in and here is the result of a few minutes work:NoobWeathering

Not a contest winner by any means but I am encouraged nontheless. Things I learned in this brief exercise include:

  • less is more on the paint, the areas around the patch on the left are the first bits I did and I gobbed it on too heavy
  • I need to work from prototype examples. I am not convinced I rusted the right parts.
  • applying a light grey chalk as a final finish blended and muted things nicely.

I am looking forward to practicing on some of my more inexpensive rolling stock once I obtain suitable confidence and source photos.

As something to aim for, here is one of the structures George brought along as an example.NotNoobWeathering

A New Set of Shoes

The Weaver RS-3 has been sitting on the shelf awaiting replacement wheelsets from Northwest Short Line. That arrived while I was out of town and I got started on the installation.


I got as far as removing the drivetrain from the chassis. (That foam cradle is sure coming in handy.)weaveroverall

The next challenge is one I am still wrestling with: getting the sideframes off the bolsters. These trucks have sideframes which hold the wheelsets in via the axle ends so this is a mandatory step as far as I can tell. There is a semi-circular “pivot” projecting into the bolster from the sideframe that one is apparently supposed to “pry gently” to allow the frame to be pulled away from the bolster. I suspect this is old hat to those who have received the lore but it makes me nervous to do experimental prying…

Here is the problem site:weavertruck

Servos Wired

Over the last few days, I have worked my way along to completing the servo installations for Comstock Road. There was a bunch of other wiring tasks required that got done while I procrastinated on the servos themselves. When I actually got around to them, things went reasonably well although I did have to get out the multimeter at one point to debug what turned out to be an insufficiently inserted Anderson connector lug.

More or less in order, I did the following:

  • installed the board that holds the Octopus board and relays
  • connected the control panel to above. (OK, order did matter here)
  • ran wires from the relays to frog feeders
  • ran a servo cable from the controller to the runaround turnout which is the only servo not on the center baseboard section
  • applied Anderson Powerpole connectors to the runaround servo cable to span the gap between baseboards and jumper connectors to both ends
  • ran a cable and jumpered the other servo run which is not right next to the control board
  • bent up the link wires and installed them through 1/16th” brass tubes
  • actually installed the servos
  • tested everything, (multimeter comes in here)

The next step will be to make up the throw bars and link them up so I can align the servos and run some trains.

Here is the control board wired up. I used some small wire wraps to tidy things up a bit. Without the wraps, the y-cables connecting control panel, relay and controller made a bit of a rats nest.wiredcontrolboard.jpg

At the other end of the center section, I created a “cable” by wrapping all the wires going into the Anderson plugs with electrical tape. This makes it less likely that the smaller gauge wires will get damaged when the connection is made and unmade.wiringharness.jpg

Note that only the white and grey DCC bus wires look like they need these robust connectors. In fact, I had to solder the servo and frog wire to the lugs before crimping them since the crimp isn’t tight enough to grab the small gauge wires.