Thursday, August 31, 2017

All Set Up . . .

All prepped and ready for the next ops session! Really have to work on streamlining & automating the set-up process - takes far more time than it should.

But no matter how long it takes, it's really cool when everything is staged and ready to go!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Thankful Thursday on Tuesday: Valley Coal Company Office & Details

One of the joys of prototype modeling is that there are probably some folks that are familiar with your prototype. You don't really have to explain what you're doing - they automatically "get it." If you're modeling some time in the past, you're even more blessed if those folks remember the time as well as the place you're modeling.

I've often mentioned John Wallace as a great source of inspiration for this layout project. His articles on the Valley Line in the NHRHTA's Shoreliner magazine, based on his personal memories, were the initial impetus for modeling the Valley Local. He even grew up in one of the towns I'm modeling.

Unfortunately, while he's been an avid railfan since his teen years (and his photos of the line from the late 1940s are priceless references), he's not a modeler. Fortunately, there's another fella that grew up in Wethersfield - just a few years after John - who IS a modeler. I've mentioned Dave Messer before and he's been contributing some amazing models and details to help this project.

This past weekend, the postman delivered his latest contributions - and they've hit a new level. . .

Pictured above are a billboard for a builder whose houses were prolific in Wethersfield during my era, some additional details for the Wethersfield station, and assorted other details, including mailboxes, crates, barrels, a gas pump, car, and forklift.

But that building in the background is the office and scale for the Valley Coal Company. Dave's an excellent modeler, so I knew his model of the office would be spot-on.

The only known photo of the Valley Coal Co. office (that's not an aerial photo)
And as you can tell from the prototype photo above, it is. But nothing really prepared me for what else is going on in the model . . .

I'd seen through the main window that there was a little bit of an interior - a desk with a lamp on it. But it wasn't until I turned on the lights that I saw all the other cool things inside!

You can see the desk and lamp pretty easily, but check out the beadboard wall and the delivery schedule board!

There's also a full closet and door inside, and above you can see a wall calendar hanging on the side of the partition wall.

Here's a better view of the closet - and a wall clock on the far wall(?!)

Better view of the clock. All of these pics were shot with my iPhone peeking through the windows. The roof isn't removable and I couldn't even see these things with my glasses on (too far away - I couldn't get close enough to look inside!) So it wasn't until I went "exploring" with the phone that I could fully appreciate all the amazing interior detail.

Looks like I'll be installing a lighting bus soon :^) - but in the meantime, like with the tower that Bill made (click here for photos of that interior!), I'll take temporary power off the track bus. And I'll be turning down the room lights too - there's no way I'm going to keep folks from seeing this incredible work.

It's so cool to have folks that not only get what I'm trying to accomplish, but are enthusiastic about contributing their own time and talent to help it along in such an amazing way. Most of the time, that happens on-site, but Dave's two states away and - with a little help from the postal service - can participate as well. Thanks again Dave!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Farmhouse Finish: Weathering the Goff Brook Farmhouse

After an even dozen posts about my building of the farmhouse at Goff Brook, I think I'm just about ready to call it done. Having finally ginned up the courage to weather it, all that's left to do is plant it in the layout - which I'll hopefully get around to soon. Just want to build a garage for it first and see how the scene will lay. And like the layout generally, in one sense it'll never be "done" - there will always be more detail I can add (figures, stuff in the yard, etc) - but it is now at least at a "level of done-ness" that I'm comfortable moving on to other things.

So, speaking of the weathering . . .

After my conduit calamity, I consulted the prototype photo much more closely to help guide my weathering effort. I wanted to depict a decently-maintained rural house (i.e. no peeling paint effects, etc.) that happens to be right next to the railroad during the Steam Era (in my case, Autumn 1948).

Given that the prototype photo was just taken a couple weeks ago though (i.e. not the steam era), I used it primarily as a guide for weathering the roof. I weathered the rest of the house assuming that, with it being white, coal soot from home heating and passing locomotives would make the paint a bit dingy, with some streaking from rainfall.

Having never weathered a building before, I didn't know whether to use chalks, pan pastels, or washes. I've gravitated towards dry media for my freight car weathering and weathering the one bridge I've done so far, but Bill wisely suggested I practice on a scrap piece of clapboard first.

It may have been the unpainted (raw plastic) nature of the scrap I used, but the chalks and pastels didn't really give me the effect I was looking for, so I tried the traditional india ink wash. Good thing I was working on scrap - it came out WAY too dark. I then opened a bottle of Hunterline Weathering Mix I'd picked up at Springfield a few years ago but hadn't used yet, figuring the light gray would give a subtler effect.

I used a soft-bristled brush to streak the wash vertically on the walls - holding the house upside down so that the wash would tend to collect a little under the clapboards, highlighting them. Like with most weathering, I'm discovering that you really need to be patient and not do too much at once. While you can wipe off some of the excess, it's much better to build up the effect gradually. The key is to know when even "just a little bit more" would be too much. And that 6th sense only comes with practice.

So I practiced on the side of the house that will face the backdrop :) and worked my way around to the other, more visible sides. I also used the wash around the stone foundation to make it "pop" a bit more.

After getting the walls about where I wanted them with the wash (and I still wondered whether I went just a bit too heavy), I decided to add some powders and pastels - especially on the roof.

The three main pastels I used were Black, Neutral Gray, and Raw Umber. The black went on pretty heavily as soot around the top of the chimney, and as mold & soot streaks down the roof and walls. I used the gray to "sun beat" (lighten) the roofs a bit and add some contrast (and also lighten any black that was too black). The raw umber was just used sparingly here and there for some additional contrast & mud splatters. I also used it with the gray to weather the "wood" porch floor.

And here's the finished product - suitably sooty, but hopefully not as bad as a coal country company house...

And here it is (temporarily) in place on the layout . . .

Unfortunately, the bright lights reflect a bit off the roof, but that's easily remedied. Fortunately, while the weathering looked a little heavy at the bench, under layout lighting conditions it looks much better.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I still have a bit more I want to do here: "plant" the house, add a walkway, mailbox, power lines, garage, and such (not to mention the dog!) - and I gotta figure out how to "mow" the lawn . . . . But I'm ready to move on to other projects. Need to go "north" to work on the Valley Coal Co. scene as well as get back to the Rt. 15 overpass.

For now though, I think I'll take a little bit of time to enjoy having completed my first house, with weathering and everything!

Friday Fun - More Booty

ARRRHHH! With apologies to Talk Like a Pirate Day (which isn't until Sept. 19) I'll just mention here that I snagged me some more booty. One of the fun things about finally completing a model past the plywood/track/wiring stage is that I finally get to wander around all those cool scenic details bins.

To wit:

  • Dog house and dog (for, you know, The Dog)
  • Some already-painted dogs and cats (in case I can't paint the unpainted dog convincingly)
  • Mailboxes (also for the Goff Brook Farmhouse)
  • Pot-belly stove (because: love)
  • Bag of rocks (to try for "typical New England" stone walls)
  • Oh, and some more Grumbacher turpentine. Yeah, I already have a little 2 oz jar (which I'm almost through, quickly) and an 8 oz plastic bottle, but I really wanted the can. IMO, turpentine should always come in a can. Besides, I'm sure I'll use it all. Eventually.
So, have you any recent acquisitions? Share with the group and let us get the vicarious thrill of the purchase without actually having to spend any money!

Happy Friday!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Manic Monday

Just got back from vacation and am just starting to catch up on stuff. But during my travels, I picked up a few odds & ends for upcoming modeling projects . . .

Finally got a bit of styrene rod, some Weldbond (for laminating styrene to foamcore), a restock of #17 blades, some Woodland Scenics Water Effects to try (with "murky" dye!), and - since I was inspired at Cape Cod - some "cedar" shingles and picket fence, for my next house project.

After getting home and unpacking, we went out to dinner at the old Saybrook freight house and saw these sitting out in back . . .

I don't know whether ConnDOT has purchased these P&W units for Shoreline East service, or Hartford-Springfield service, or something else - but the engineer said: "They told us to take these to New Haven, so we're taking them to New Haven."

Since Amtrak owns & operates this section of railroad, it's their power and crew doing the hauling.

That was all last night - apparently they did their job since the Amtrak SW1500s(?) are sitting back on track 5 well west of the station when we went grocery shopping tonight.

While I of course am not looking forward to getting back to work (already put in a part day today, but took the rest of the day to view what we could of the eclipse), I'm looking forward to getting back to some modeling and using some of the stuff I bought while I was away!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Fun? Goff Brook Garage

Now that it's all done but the weathering, the Goff Brook Farmhouse needs a neat little one car garage. Fortunately, there's a kit for that . . .
Much thanks to PeteL for the kit!
 According to the instructions, "this kit was designed to be quick and easy to assemble" and the "unboxing" (well, "unbagging") photo shows all the parts that are included. . .

Unfortunately, that may not be all the parts that are needed. My first clue to this came when I dry-fit the door . . .

Uh oh
I wasn't sure whether the wall was too short (though the mismatch between the top of the back wall next to the side wall should have been a clue), or if the door opening had to be extended up.

So, I took out my handy caliper and started comparing parts . . .

Height of the "door side wall"

Compared to the other/"window" side wall
Note that they're not the same height (off by a couple of clapboards). So I started to check the other parts. . .
Front end wall

Back end wall
 Another mismatch :^(

Corner where front and "door" side wall must meet

Compared to "door" side wall
 And finally (inevitably and most clearly) . . .

I'm pretty sure the corner of the side wall and the corner of the end wall must match - and of course the end walls and side walls must match each other. I'm not being sarcastic - this will/would have been my first laser-cut wood kit. BEST has a great reputation and I've seen their displays at Springfield and such and always wanted to try one of their kits, but this one - the one that was supposed to be an easy introduction - has me flummoxed.

Am I missing something here? Have any of you built one of these kits before? Maybe I just got a mistake-in-production dud?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Few Words About Wordless Wednesday #183 - A Conduit Tale

As I was wrapping up the final construction post for the Goff Brook Farmhouse and posting the "finish pic" above, I mentioned that I could just "visit the prototype and see what it looks like" to get a guide on how to weather it.

Well, I clicked over to review the prototype shot I'd taken - and got a bit of a shock. See what I did there? A hint is in the title to this post - as well as in the pun.

Yup, I'd inexplicably poked the electrical service conduit through the roof(!) Now, in my defense, I had consulted a very thorough clinic on how to model electrical service, and coulda swore that's how it was supposed to be done. But when I went back to check, it looks like the conduit only goes through the roof when it's necessary to get the weather head at least 10' above ground (low sheds roofs, etc). Otherwise, it's safest to have it under the eave - and less chance of someone on the roof coming into direct contact with the weather head & wires.

I should have reviewed my prototype photo earlier.

Now, I was going to see if anybody would notice - but the problem with me is that now I had noticed. And I've been down this road often enough to know that the hemming/hawing/vacillating about whether or not to fix it often takes longer than actually just fixing it. 

So I decided right away to go ahead and fix it. Here are the steps I took (in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation which - hopefully now that you have the benefit of my experience here - you won't):
  • Carefully pry the conduit out of the side of the wall. Cushioned tweezers will prevent chipping the paint.
  • Clip off the old bent end of the wire (the "weather head"), pull the conduit through the hole and set it aside.
  • Fill hole with Squadron Green Putty (I really need to get myself some stryrene rod, which would have worked better here).
  • Sand lightly when dry (I use a variety of sanding sticks, from "coarse" down to "extra fine"
  • Apply another coat of putty and sand when dry.
  • Decant the same color spray paint used for the roof into an old bottle cap and use a microbrush to replace the paint in this area and cover everything up.
  • Cut the conduit to a shorter length (based on the prototype photo!) and bend a new weather head.
  • Add a styrene 2x4x12 to the wall for mounting the weather head end of the conduit.
  • Replace conduit, gluing in place with CA
  • Realize that the repaint you did looks a little rough and takes the light differently.
  • Decide to respray the roof . . .

I think it looks MUCH better - and it's hard almost impossible to tell where the hole in the roof was. Unfortunately, I had a bit of stray masking tape around the chimney which caused a little flare of spray on the roof. And yes, that bugs me. Not enough to RE-respray the roof - but enough to encourage me to get to weathering, which covers a multitude of sins.

I've certainly learned a lot through this build and have built up my confidence that I can recover from most mistakes. But if I'm doing it right, I'm only making new mistakes - so the learning continues . . .

Hopefully my sharing all the fun and folly along the way has been at least a little entertaining, if not super educational!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Tips: Goff Brook Farmhouse - Final Details, Final(?) Fails

Well, after almost a week, I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel on this project - unfortunately, while the light wasn't an on-coming train, there was a pretty annoying motor hand car on the track in the form of a couple more fails. But first, a few tips . . .

The next step was to install the porch and main roofs. The porch roof went on the same way as the roof on the addition - add glue to the top of the porch roof frame, and the beveled edge of the roof, center carefully, and press to fit.

Speaking of glue, a quick sidebar on the glues I used on this project:

For any styrene joints I could clamp tightly ahead of time, I used Tenax applied with a superfine microbrush. It welds the joint together and cures almost instantly.

For styrene joints that don't fit quite so tightly and/or if I need a little more working time, I really like the Testors/Model Masters liquid cement - it has a higher viscosity (it's thicker) so has some gap-filling properties and a slower (though still quick) cure rate. The needlepoint applicator is also handy.

For joints between styrene and something else (metal or wood, as you'll see later), I used Zap CAs - the viscosity depending on the application. Since the joints on this project were relatively tight, I used the thin CA to get in and bond.

So for the main roof - like with the other roofs - I used the Testors with the needlepoint applicator, applying the glue on tops of the side and end walls. But the angle of the roof was slightly off, not matching the gable peaks exactly. Instead of pressing it down and holding it in place by hand while waiting for the glue to dry, I came up with another tip: 

I used a bag of ballast, formed to conform to the roof, to weigh it down while the glue cured.

With that, the house itself was "finished" according to the instructions (except for the chimney), but I thought adding some additional stacks/vents and and electrical service would add some additional interest and look more authentic.

Typically, you could make a stack/vent (for a bathroom, for example) from styrene rod. But I didn't have any on-hand, so I improvised using a toothpick (which is approx. 4"diameter scale) "painted" with my black Sharpie.

The electrical service was a bit more involved. I started to search the google on the internet machine to see if anybody had scratchbuilt one of these before. There are commercial parts available (and a bunch on Shapeways) and I may use those for future projects, but I didn't want to wait.

My search teetered on the brink of another rabbit hole and I found this really cool clinic on modeling electrical and phone service, but no details or instructions for scratchbuilding what I needed.

Then it occurred to me - I could just go outside and measure MY electrical service. The meter box is 8.5" wide, 14" tall, and 4.5" deep. The dial is about 5.5" in diameter. Here's what I came up with:

  • Service Box: a piece of .060x.188" styrene strip, cut to 4.5" wide
  • Dial: .060" dia styrene rod (didn't have this on-hand, so used a bit out of my scrap box)
  • Conduit: 20 gauge solid wire with the insulation stripped off

I applied a drop of the Testor's to the box and added the dial . . .

. . . then routed out the back with an .060" drill bit in my Dremel, being careful not to break through the front (a foot/speed pedal really helps here). I bent the wire and clipped it so that most of the curve was gone (that way it'd fit into the wall more easily). Then I used my thin CA to glue the box to the wire.

Unfortunately, as I was moving the house around trying to figure out where to locate the conduit, I accidentally hit the back stairs and part of them broke off. ARGH!!!!

Fortunately, they broke off at the glue joints. A smarter man may have just glued the part back on. But no - I took this opportunity to level the stairs. So - yup - I decided to take them all the way off and redo them.

As if I'd forgotten what pain these were the first time I built them -  and they still didn't want to behave. You can see above what I contrived to keep the right side down and level while the glue dried overnight.

And the positioning that had caused the accident in the first place ended up being wrong. When I placed the conduit on the side of the house, it wasn't perfectly vertical. And anybody that knows me personally knows that would really really bother me. So, out came the Squadron Green Putty, applied with the smallest of screwdrivers for a "palette knife," and every so gently sanded later. Then I drilled another hole.

Fortunately, a little white paint hides the mistake. And while I was down in the paint room, I sprayed the conduit/meter assembly with gray primer.

While that was all drying, I located and drilled holes for the bathroom stacks/vents and where the electric conduit goes through the main roof. Then it was just a matter of gluing on the chimney with the Testor's and press-fitting the toothpick stacks in the holes, secured with thin CA.

Once the electrical conduit was dry, I threaded it through the roof, marked how tall it should go, and bent/snipped the wire that that point for a weather head. Then I pressed the bottom of the conduit in the hole in the wall, secured with thin CA.

And just like that - I dub the Goff Brook Farmhouse DONE! Though not "finished" - I still have to gin myself up to add the weathering which will really cause it to pop. ANY AND ALL advice you might have on how best to do this would be MUCH appreciated. My left-brain is pretty comfortable with building, but my right-brain is pretty weak. I need all the artistic help I can get!

It's only been a little over a week, but this build seems to have taken much longer - maybe since I've been reliving it along the way by posting about it here. Thankfully, based on the comments (as well as direct emails), many of you are enjoying the journey. As I've mentioned before, I really appreciate the camaraderie and the feedback is especially appreciated.

I think I'll put this aside now for a bit in order to do some weathering research. But that may be as easy as just visiting the prototype and seeing what it looks like!