Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday Fail: Masking Tape :^(

So, fresh off my self-admonition to Just Do It earlier this week, and full of motivation, I dove right in to masking and painting the chimney I'll be using alongside Stanley Chemical.

I'll try not to let the resulting failure discourage me from continuing to press on. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

You may have noticed in the painting photos from the last post that I had already painted the brick portion of the chimney with my rattle can of flat red primer. But there's also a stone block portion at the bottom, so I needed to mask off the brick and shoot that with some "stone block" color (full disclosure - it's the same flat khaki rattle can paint I used for the concrete. I figure I'll vary the color a little with weathering).

I used some blue painter's tape (supposedly a lot less sticky than regular masking tape) to create a sharp line at the top of the stone/concrete portion and then used a combination of regular masking tape and newspaper to mask off the rest of the stack.

Then I shot it with my rattle can of khaki. 10 minutes total, tops.

But later, it got interesting. You can see what happened. The supposedly "less sticky" blue painter's tape still removed some of the red paint.

Now, a couple of potential lessons occur to me right off the bat:

  • In my haste to "just do it," not only did I not bother with an airbrush (no problem there), but I didn't do my usual primer coat either (perhaps big problem there - especially since the chimney is a resin casting).
  • Again, in my haste, I may have neglected to let the paint dry fully before masking it. In my defense, I did wait 24 hours, but it may have needed longer.
  • Finally, I used blue painter's tape - great for household painting, but maybe not so great for masking models. Next time, I'll use Tamiya masking tape, made for modeling. Bonus: it's also narrower.
The reality is that what happened is probably a combination of a little bit of all the above.

But at least I did get a really nice, sharp dividing line between the brick and the concrete/stone. Now I just need to decide whether I want to try masking the concrete/stone and shoot the brick again with the rattle can, or decant the paint from the rattle can into a cup and brush paint the now-faded brick area.

What would you do? What would you have done differently?

"Happy" Friday!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tuesday Tip: Just DO it!

Fifty minutes. That's 5-0. As in, five-zero, as in 10 minutes less than an hour.

That's all the time it took me to paint Stanley Chemical, the stand-in for the East Berlin station, and a chimney - something I've been putting off for, what?, almost two months?!

I know I've had a few other things going on, but That Is Just Crazy.

So, what finally got me motivated to pull the trigger (or press the nozzle)? Today's Tuesday Tip. . .

"Just Do It" is probably a bit overdone (not to mention trademarked), but it's often the best advice for self-motivation in a variety of areas, from exercise to painting 1/87th scale buildings (apparently). But it's so overused it's become a bit hollow. It did however make me think about things in a way that's a bit more helpful, at least when it comes to painting models:

The painting is just the first step in finishing. Yup - pretty self-evident when you give it half a thought - but I can't tell you how often I see a great looking, finished building and think "Man! That guy just painted it and it looks GREAT!" Forgetting, of course, that all that variety of color, not to mention weathering, etc., didn't just come out of the spray can or airbrush like that. Painting is just the first step in a process that includes going over it again (and again and again, if necessary) in order to get the effect you're after.

You ain't gonna accomplish that with a shot of paint - no matter how long you wait and obsess over it. Best just to pick some good base colors (anything will be better than the molded plastic colors) and shoot'em. LATER you'll go back and add variety of shade, weathering, and all the other little things that will make the building "finished."

And the sooner you start, the sooner you'll get it to that state.

8pm - I picked out 4 colors of spray paint I had on-hand (didn't want to risk getting bogged down with the airbrush - I think rattle cans are usually fine enough for structures. We'll see.). Flat Red Primer for all the brick, Camouflage Khaki for all the concrete, flat black for the roofs (probably should have used a grimy black - but hey, I'll just lighten as needed with weathering/chalks. #NoObsessing #SeewhatImean?), dark green for the windows/doors/trim. Later I also grabbed a light gray for the roof vents.

Next, I gathered together parts that would be painted the same color and put them on scraps of cardboard so I could easily move them out of the booth for drying and to get them out of the way.

I stuck smaller pieces to masking tape to keep them upright and keep them from blowing away.

8:50 pm - After spraying all the different colors & moving the groups of parts aside for drying (all the while listening to my favorite podcast), I was done! Just couldn't resist an overall photo showing all the parts together.
Of course, as one of my favorite Winston Churchill sayings goes: "This is not The End, this is not even The Beginning of the End, but it IS The End of the Beginning" I'd always thought of painting these parts and this Big Deal when, in fact, it is only a first step in a whole process of finishing. Seeing it in that light - as one small, dare I say "easy"? step in the kit building process - makes it a lot less intimidating. If I can just remember that, maybe next time I won't put it off so much and I'll

Just Do It!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Modeling Monday - More East Berlin & Two Body Transplants

As I mentioned on Friday, I've had a few distractions lately, but I'm doin' my darnedest to get back in the swing of things. Today, I even moved beyond the labeler(!). But first I realize I need to catch up with East Berlin a bit.

Back when I tried a bunch of structure mock-ups for Stanley Chemical, I realized that I needed to do some more groundwork in the area to level things out a bit. So the next day, not having any Ground Goop on-hand (and not wanting to allow that to bog me down), I got out some lightweight spackle and used it as filler to smooth everything out . . .
This is where I thought I'd put a coal dump, to add another acceptable car type to this siding. But I think it'll look better more toward the turnout, so I filled in the pit and replaced the cork roadbed.

Here's the overall view in East Berlin. Stanley Chemical will go on the long siding on the right. On the old Berlin main - which is now stub-ended, as on the prototype (though of course the prototype doesn't stop at a wall!) - I plan to have a loading dock for brick loading primarily, as well as the coal dump I mentioned earlier. You can also see the tub of spackle I used.

The pics above and below show the downside of using the spackle - especially thick layers of it. No worries - not only will I cover it with a thick coat of latex paint, but there'll of course be ground cover on top of that too.


After going "Back to Berlin" and starting the StanChem structure a few weeks back (click here for that), I needed to cut the roof to match the base.

I started with the base, and then clamped the roof sections on top to mark them for cutting.

I was careful to make sure that the roof fit snug against the raised locating ridge on the base. I figured that'd give me the most accurate mirroring so I would locate the cut properly.

With the roof section against the base, I used a Sharpie to mark where to cut. As I mentioned in the previous post on this build, StanChem will fit at an angle against the wall. So I used a piece of strip styrene not only to mark where that falls, but it also provides some additional bracing. In this case, it also gave me a handy-dandy straightedge to mark against.

And here's the mark that resulted.

I did the same thing for the other roof section. But it was at this point that I realized . . . I'd made my mark against the WRONG side of the styrene strip! I'd forgotten to account for the fact that I was viewing the roof from the underside - and marking the underside. I needed to mark the bottom edge of the strip rather than the top.

Good thing I caught it before I cut it. "Measure twice, cut once" indeed.

When I made the second, proper, mark I decided to make it crystal clear where to actually cut and what the waste section would be.

See what I mean? Wow - major fail avoided...

Of course, I needed to go back and do the same thing to the other roof section.

Then I trimmed the base. Heh - it just occurred to me that if I'd trimmed sooner, my mistake probably would have been more obvious quite a bit earlier . . .

Changing gears, I've decided use a station kit I have on-hand to act as a stand-in for the abandoned station at East Berlin:

In a strange coincidence, it's a kit of a Rutland RR station in New Haven, VT. The actual passenger station at East Berlin was gone long before my modeling era, and the building that's there now - that most folks think is the station - is actually the old freight house. And it's very close to other freight houses on the Valley Line and made of wood. So using this kit is quite a departure, but it'll act as a nice stand-in until I scratchbuild something more accurate. And - bonus! - since I know out of the gate that it's not accurate, I won't obsess over it and can just build it. Yay!

It's a pretty simple kit, but it does have a lot of flash. So be sure to clean all of that off before you do any painting.

I decided to leave the parts on the sprues to make them easier to spray paint - but not until after cutting a few parts off(!) I just taped them back in place to keep everything together.

And here are all the parts of the two structures at East Berlin - Stanley Chemical and the station - divided up by color-to-be-painted: brick, concrete, black roof, green wood windows & trim.

So, since I'm still procrastinating on the painting <insert eyeroll here>, but wanted to keep making some progress, I moved over to something more left-brained: locomotive work!

Way back in October, 2017 (can't believe it's been that long already), I installed DCC in a couple of Frateschi/E&R Models FA locomotives (click here for the ESU/Loksound install). Since then - and especially since they got speed matched more closely by friend Roman - I've used them occasionally on Shoreline freight trains.

Well, as I went to return a couple other Frateschi FAs to friend Pieter (I didn't really need them, and didn't have decoders for them anyway), he reminded me that the delivery scheme on his FAs would be more accurate for my era than my green & gold units. So I decided to to a couple of body transplants:

Yup, it was simply a matter of removing the shells from my locos and swapping them for his shells. Certainly a lot easier and quicker than installing DCC in his units! And now I have a pair of era-correct FAs to use on Shoreline freights. Thanks Pieter!

So that's the state of things at the moment. I really need next to just get those structure parts painted so I can build the buildings. But one important lesson I'm relearning in this is to not let myself get bogged down in any one task or aspect of the hobby. There's always something else that you can do to continue progress - whether it's doing a little scenery, putting together a freight car kit, tuning a locomotive, or even writing a blog post to catch folks up on what you've been able to accomplish - no matter how much or little. It's still better than watching TV and making no progress at all.

Now if I can just really get that lesson through my thick skull, I'll be accomplishing something - and these posts will start being at least a little more frequent. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Fun - Throttle Labeling

One of the recurring questions during AML interviews is whether you ever took a hiatus from the hobby due to "cars and girls." Well, I've got a Missus (so no girl distractions, of course), but I will admit lately to a car distraction. Between that and my usual busy time at work, my modeling time has suffered a bit.

But with a long weekend coming up, I decided to get my feet wet again with something fun and quick - labeling my throttles!

Now, before you think me TOO crazy, just remember that for somebody with undiagnosed - but occasionally severe - OCD, labeling things is always a good time. Bonus if the labeling is actually helpful & useful.

Soooo..... since I'd noticed during my operating sessions that folks would often ask me how to turn on my NCE radio throttles (either because they're unfamiliar with NCE or they just forgot), I figured I'd just put the directions right on the back . . .

For a large "label" like this, I just typed up and printed out the instructions using Word, and then affixed it to the back with clear packing tape.

This is the back of the NCE Cab04pr radio throttle, outfitted with a handy-dandy on-off toggle that I installed myself when I removed the external whippy antenna and substituted an internal wire antenna. I also added a piece of Scotch tape to keep the back attached and make it easier to remove as well.

And here is a similar label on the back of an NCE ProCab throttle (actually, this one is the PowerCab, but the layout is the same). Craig Bisgeier gets the prize for being the first to ask "What Toggle?" when I posted this photo earlier today on the Valley Local Facebook Page (you do know that there's now a FB group for the layout, don't you? Be sure to check it out and join!).

Truth is that, in my eagerness to stick the label on the back of a dogbone throttle, I grabbed the first one on-hand, not realizing until afterwards that I'd grabbed the wired/tethered PowerCab throttle instead of the wireless ProCab. No worries - I just peeled off the label and put it on the correct throttle.

Speaking of which, here is the actual ProCab throttle with the noted toggle. Like with the Cab04pr, I removed the whippy antenna, installed an internal wire antenna, and also installed an on/off toggle to save battery life. Click here for that project.

And since my new instructions mentioned flipping the toggle to the "on"position - and since that's not entirely intuitive on the throttles themselves - I used my favoritist OCD tool to make some labels (thanks again to RomanD for the labeler loan!).

Love the Labeler!
Just a matter of typing out three labels together, cutting them out, an putting them on the throttles near the toggles.

Now that that fun is done, I've got a bit of motivation to make some more progress on my other layout projects. After my recent distraction, I discovered very quickly that model railroading is a lot less expensive than racing cars. Heck, for the price of a larger intercooler, I could treat myself to another brass steam locomotive . . . . Hmmmmm . . .

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Trains of Thought Tuesday

Long-time readers may recall that an essay by Tony Koester - describing a photograph by Kent Cochrane - was one of the primary inspirations for my modeling the Valley Line. The photo showed the southbound Valley Local, shot from "model railroader's perspective," entering Middletown. But it was Tony's prose that really brought the photo to life. Click here for that story.

The reason I mention this now is to provide just one example of how big a fan I am of Tony's long-running "Trains of Thought" column in Model Railroader magazine. He has a way of putting into words some of the more cerebral aspects of our hobby and, whether you agree with his perspectives or not, he never fails to make you think. I don't know exactly when he first started the column, but I can guarantee you that I've read & enjoyed every one. Heh - I've even attempted a (an?) homage to his idea on my website.

So imagine my surprise when I got the latest (May) issue of Model Railroader.

  As is my custom, I always start reading from the back - where "Trains of Thought" appears.

And there was a photo of Old Saybrook - from my layout! Even better, he relayed a conversation that he and I had a while ago talking about the so-called "debate" between Prototype Modeling & Freelancing (Spoiler Alert: There isn't as much difference as you think). Seeing my name in Model Railroader was a real treat, but seeing it in "Trains of Thought" was especially cool.

If you don't get MR, I hope you'll at least get this copy - even better if you chime in with YOUR train of thought on the topic of "Compromise vs. Opportunities." Whether you fancy yourself a freelancer or a "true" prototype modeler, there's lots here to mull over - and you might be surprised to discover that you're probably a little bit of both.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Modeling Monday - Back to Berlin

East Berlin, that is - and the Stanley Chemical building.

In keeping with the cruelty of April Fool's day, I just realized that I actually started this project way back on February 11 and still haven't finished it. I clearly have my priorities misplaced (and, due to some early spring-like weather, I've been distracted doing Mustang things).

Click here for the introduction to this project, where I set up different mockups and ultimately decided to go with Walthers Modulars. And now, it's time to bring you up to date with what I have been able to accomplish so far - despite the weather...

Here's where we ended up last time:

The mockup is in the background and I've assembled the walls to match, using liquid styrene cement applied on the back. Even before doing that though, I made certain any flash/parting lines were removed and I sanded off any blemishes left by removing the parts from the sprues.

In the pic above, you can see I already shrunk the right end wall down to just one wall width wide. And I'm test fitting the larger end wall to be sure that the corner cornice is perfectly square.

Next, I figured out what parts I needed for the foundations and put those together.

Then, the loading docks and stairways. Not working from any plan or photo, it took me a surprisingly long time to decide where I wanted the loading docks, doors, and stairways.

But I finally came up with an arrangement that I think makes sense. Since there's no longer any loading door the the right end wall, I contrived a third car spot by adding additional dock space by the front/office door on the left end wall. This loading dock will be able to serve trucks as well as rail cars.

Next, I turned my attention to the base. In order to accommodate such a long building, I had to splice on an additional "square" of base material. I just butted the ends of the addition to the edge of the other base and added liquid cement. But that alone wouldn't be a strong enough joint, so I added the triangle brace/splice you see above and, using my end walls as a guide/template, I figured out where the bottom of the back wall would be and added another long strip of styrene as an additional brace.

Figuring out the windows and doors was an easy matter of matching what I had to what I needed. The only note on these (other than the usual sanding away any sprue gate blemishes) was to carve off the part numbers from between the windows. This is the area that's glued to the back of the wall so I wanted to be sure it would mate perfectly.

I wanted to get as much done before painting as possible, putting things together in subassemblies and sorting them into different boxes by color - rusty red for the brick parts, black for the roofs and supports, green for the windows & doors, concrete color for the foundations/docks/stairs. One of those subassemblies was the loading dock roofs, supported by these cool triangular parts. They come with locating pins, but there are no holes pre-drilled on the walls and I didn't feel like drilling all those holes perfectly vertical and the perfect distance apart.

So I just removed the locating pins. I'll use some thicker, slower glue to attach these to the walls. That way, I can move them into perfect position when I attach them.

To actually assemble the loading dock roofs, and make sure the supports were as perfectly perpendicular as possible to begin with, I used my handy-dandy "Square Leveler (tm)" :^) In fact, it was this little step in the assembly that prompted the creation of that tool to begin with.

Assembling the chimney was pretty straightforward (four sides with beveled edges), but I did sand off the locating pins since they actually prevented the corners from fitting tightly. Then I cut out all the parts to do the exhaust fans and cleaned those up. Interestingly, those little buggers actually ended up being a bit frustrating to assemble.

But I'll save that little saga for next time. For now, I'm trying to get as much of this thing together as possible - if only because I'm procrastinating on painting %^)