Modeling on the Road

hotelmodellingWe spent the recent long weekend exploring the area around Owen Sound, Ontario. Owen Sound is a small (20k) city on the south shore of Georgian Bay and the seat of Grey County as in the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway. More on what I discovered in succeeding posts but I wanted to cover the bit I planned in advance. Being away from home prevents any direct work on the layout but with a little foresight I was able to make some indirect progress.

One of the recurring minor tasks I have to do in support of track laying is nipping tie plates off of sprues with my sprue nippers. Pack up the box of sprues, nippers and the container to put them in and I was ready to go. I also took along my stock of brass rail brace castings in need of cleanup with a file, micro-drill and/or micro broach. All in all, I probably got about two hours of work done which is not monumental but two hours progress is two hours progress.


Freehand Rail Filing

Stephen Gardiner was kind enough to complement the quality of my incorrect filed angle and although I think he was just trying to make me feel better I did consider that perhaps describing my technique might be useful to someone. Having never done an instructional type of post, it will be a good exercise for me. All are encourage to ask questions if I have left something out!

So, you’ve got a piece of rail and you want to file the end to a particular angle.filingstart

I start by marking the angle on the top of the rail. I also sometimes mark the bottom as well or just the bottom depending on what seems necessary. If you are prone to getting an unwanted vertical angle as you file, do both so you can catch yourself at it. Machinists typically use a blue marking die which one either paints or sprays on. It is lacquer based so it smells and it takes a solvent to get it off again. For small jobs, I use a big Sharpie maker; an alternative I learned about in Simon Bolton’s books. The marker will do a 4″x10″ sheet of brass in less than a minute of vigorous scribbling if you need to.filingmarking

I then use an engineer’s protractor to get the proper angle and a machinist’s scriber to make a mark in the blacked area on the rail.filinglayout

The marker makes the scratch from the scriber easy to see.filingmarked

After that, we get to the actual filing. I use a 12″ single cut file for most of my filing. This is less aggressive than default double cut file you get at the hardware store. You can usually find the single cut ones if you look. As far as actual technique, I grip the rail in my fingers and rub it back and forth on the file which I either lay on the bench or my lap. I find it easier to see and check the angle mark as opposed to clamping the rail and moving the file.filinggrip

I check every dozen strokes or so to see how I am doing and adjust as necessary to try and keep the filing parallel to the mark on the rail. Eventually, I usually get down to the mark. If I mess it up, I either remark the end and take some more off or start on a new piece if I can’t spare any more length.filingfinished

Diamond Ho!

This weekend I kept up the momentum created by getting the first turnout servo installed and started in on the only bit of Comstock Road’s trackwork that requires hand made frogs, the diamond crossing. Through the miracle of Templot, the diamond is asymmetrical with one leg being on a transition curve. Not something you are going to get off the shelf but a feature that let me squeeze things in the way I wanted. Now I just have to build it.

I started by re-reading the relevant sections of Trackwork Handbook for Model Railroaders by Paul Mallery since I have never built a diamond and haven’t built a turnout frog a very long time and not many of them then. Including the diamond in the trackplan was a deliberate creation of an opportunity to do something a bit challenging.

I printed off a copy of the crossing template, found a suitable bit of pine 1×4 and my file and dove in. Much bending, filing and fitting later, I was ready to apply some solder.firstfrog.jpg

Once I figured out that my piddling little 80W digital iron wasn’t going to cut it, I broke out the big 120W Weller and things started flowing. I soldered things into a blob and then spent more time than I like cleaning it up. Nevertheless, a result was achieved that compared well with the paper version.templatevsreality.jpg

The second frog aka V-crossing went considerably faster as I applied my learning from the first one. It was necessary to redraw the reference lines before I started since the wood block got a little singed.secondfrog.jpg

At the end of the evening, I have both V-crossings built and am looking forward to doing the K-crossings. I have not applied any detailing to the frogs and may not do so prior to installation. I will probably regret this decision. Here are both pieces posed in situ on the layout.vcrossings.jpg

Beginner Brass Bodging

I have previously mentioned some books on model related metal work by Simon Bolton and Kenneth C. Foran. My soldering and brass shaping skills are rudimentary at best and I did not feel comfortable plunging directly into rolling stock construction so I set out to find a simpler project. While walking past a construction site, I hit upon the answer, a roll off waste bin. These ubiquitous items of the modern era are locally sourced and constructed from metal sheet and structural shapes. Just like those in the metal rack at the hobby shop!

I cast about for a suitable example and discovered that most waste disposal companies provide overall dimensions for their bins as well as photos thereof. Just the thing for the modeler in need. Subject identified, I prepared a basic dimensioned drawing and set about acquiring the necessary brass square tube sizes and sheets.

I made good progress but there was an issue. My Hakko FX888 digital soldering iron is not quite up to the job of soldering a joint where one or both halves is a big sheet of brass aka a heat sink. Cold joints were the order of the day and I put things aside while I mail ordered a big 120 watt iron in hopes of solving that problem.

Today I dusted things off and had a go, big iron and all. The thing is a monster with a half inch tip on it. Not for detail work but boy howdy, does it heat things up. Maybe too much. I managed to avoid desoldering everything previously attached but that wouldn’t be hard to do. Perhaps a finer tip is in order if I can get one.

Anyway, here are the two competing irons, the Hakkohakkoiron.jpg

And the 120 watt Weller old school iron (not so old school as to involve fire but still)bigiron

And here is the project to date. Todays progress was putting the sides, end and bottom together.binprogressjpg

Jeweler Saw Practice

Having just finished the electronic part of installing a DCC decoder in Comstock Road’s lone Atlas O SW-8, I set out to finish the job by making sure everything was correctly insulated, taped down and able to fit inside the diecast metal shell. Perceptive readers might wonder why I mention the shell material. That is part of the fun!

Getting the wires all tucked in was not too much of a challenge but I then discovered that my estimation of clearance between speaker top and shell was, er, optimistic. The issue was the speaker mounting lugs cast into the inside of the shell. They are almost a fit for the chosen TCS speaker but only almost. I have also elected to not attach the speaker to the shell to give more clearance for a future detailed grill.

Here is what the inside looked like when I started.sw8mountlugs

Since the lugs had to go anyway, I resolved to “daylight” the opening back to something akin to the prototype rectangle. This would give plenty of room for the speaker to shoot upwards.

I got out my trusty jeweler’s saw and my excessive supply of #0 blades. Back in the day, I bought a gross of this blade size in a fit of enthusiasm and only afterwards discovered that #0 is too coarse for .015″ material. I have despaired of every finding a use for all those blades but no longer!

Even the relatively heavy #0 blades are fragile and do not tolerate careless use. You can turn corners in a cut but you have to carefully saw in place while rotating cautiously. If you push to hard you can jam the blade and snap it. Letting the work twist on the blade while repositioning can break a blade… You get the idea. Fortunately, I have about 12 dozen blades for just such an emergency. Or I did. I am now better at sawing and have less blades.expendovblades

Eventually, I got the opening cut out to my satisfaction. Here is the view from above with the shell on. (Apologies for the bad focus.)speakerhole

And here is the top view with the stock screens and grills back in place. All being black, the speaker is not visible unless you get up close and look straight.sw8postsurgery


With the traverser and two of the approach tracks laid and wired, I have reached a point where I can “operate” part of the layout. Nothing exciting but schematically an Inglenook. The open spaces between the tracks make me nervous. If I misalign the traverser or an undetected flaw in the track causes a derailment, it is a long way down to the concrete floor. To mitigate that worry, I have started adding some of the foam for the  scenery base.

Here is are the first bits in place.firstfoam

I am doing things a little differently in that I am inlaying pieces between the tracks rather than laying the tracks on the foam. This results in quieter operation but requires considerably more fiddling and fitting. I lay some foam over the space to be filled, trace the edges from below and then cut out the shape using either a utility knife or my hot wire foam cutter.

I am also trying a new adhesive, Hot Wire Foam Factory’s Foam Fusion. It is a thin white glue especially formulated for foam. I will report further when we see how it works. It is supposed to work with most porous surfaces but I am concerned that there is not enough mating surface on the rough edges of the trackbed. I may have to resort to stacking layers up from the frames.

Water Mixable Oils

watermixableoilsI had been considering taking the plunge and trying out artist oil paints for weathering and painting structures as described by David Wright in his book. I like the texturing capability and the long drying times. More time to fiddle with things is a plus in my book. However, I have been hesitating for a couple of reasons.

Traditional oil paints use mineral spirits, turpentine and similar nasty stuff for thinners. I really was not keen on having to deal with the smell, disposal or what a flux spiller such as myself might accomplish with turpentine around models.

Oil paints seem expensive. Itty bitty tube of paint is how much?!? On the other hand, in the quantities required for dry brushing and washes a 37ml tube will likely last for years. It would last even longer if the whole idea is a bust.

I am no artist. Maybe I won’t be able to achieve decent results. There is that perfectionist paralysis threatening again. I clubbed that over the head and stuffed it into the trunk. I may not manage it but I certainly won’t if I don’t have a go.

The solution to the thinner issue is something I discovered as I was researching (aka Google) the subject, water mixable oils. These are oil paints in which the oil has been chemically altered to make it mixable, not soluble with water. You can thin and clean with water, use regular oil mediums (no idea what those are for yet) and get the long drying time, colour stability and imperviousness to water when dry of traditional oils. Or so I am led to understand.

On the cost front, water mixable oils are even more expensive than regular ones by, at lest locally, about 30%. On the other hand, they are readily available at art supply stores as well as my local arts and crafts chain behemoth so I can acquire them incrementally.

I picked a few tubes up today along with a couple of brushes and a remarkably inexpensive plastic pallet (27 cents!) and dove right in with a test. I had previously prepared a short length of ties on Homasote and sprayed them with Rustoleum camouflage brown. The basic strategy is to paint the track structure and weather from there. The initial brown is definitely too dark and even for my little industrial spur.

Initial results are not too discouraging. I mucked about with a couple of dabs of raw umber, titanium white and yellow ochre. I definitely need more practice with mixing proportions, diluting, and so on but I can believe in the possibility. Note to self, less white next time.firsttryoils