Adventures in Airbrushing

Well, I took a big step tonight.  I bought a new airbrush a few days ago, and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to try it out.  Finally, this evening, I loaded it with paint and went to town on a piece of paper.

A few things I’m learning:

  • Compressed air cans are for the birds.  No control over the pressure, and they run empty very fast.  This will end up being a very expensive way of airbrushing, despite the up-front cost of a compressor.
  • It takes a steady hand to keep control of the brush, but it’s not as hard as it seems.
  • This isn’t as hard as it looks, but it does take some practice.
  • I need a compressor.
  • It’s a bit awkward brushing straight down on something.  Shooting straight ahead would probably work better.
  • Purple is a nice color.
  • Did I mention I need a compressor?

Well, I’m still totally horrible at this, but at least I can see a path toward not being quite so horrible, then only moderately terrible, and maybe, some day, many, many moons from now, possibly being remotely close to mediocre at this…

No pics this time.  Maybe next time.

A Friend’s Layout

Musicman's Layout Version 7
Middletown, Version 7

I’ve made a lot of new friends on the website.  Recently, my friend David – “Musicman” – began an ambitious small-scale layout project.  He’s a meticulous planner, but more of a “hands-on” sort of guy.  So he worked out the whole design 1:1 on paper on his benchwork.  As a favor, he asked me to convert his drawings and scenery ideas into a concept drawing that he could share online.  I was more than happy to oblige, and above you can see the result.

The layout is based on the fictional town of Middletown in Nova Scotia, Canada.  The town has passenger service via a single-unit RDC3, and freight service with short switching trains.  The centerpiece of the town is Acadia Square, a Victorian style multi-business square with underground parking.  Other interesting points include a railroad museum with a steamer parked outside, a tunnel under the residential area, and several custom built industries.

David found himself with a problem common to small layouts.  He needed a way to turn his locomotives, but no space to include a reverse loop, wye, or turntable.  He found the solution in some micro-layouts: a “sector table”.  This is a segment of track on a bridge that pivots on one end.  By connecting to either of two track segments leading up to the arc part of the table, a locomotive can be turned in the same fashion as a wye, but without the turnouts and long tail required of a wye.

Construction of Middletown is well underway, and is documented on David’s website.  Have a look, and follow his progress!!

Replacing Trucks

My N scale starter set was a Bachmann Thunder Valley set.  It came with a GP 40 locomotive, a refrigerated boxcar, a 3-dome tank car and a caboose.  I also have a few other Bachmann cars, none of which have caused me any problems.  Except the boxcar.  It has at least one coupler (maybe both) that tends to dangle a little bit, and that makes this car couple poorly with the other cars.

Unfortunately, it can be hard (nay, impossible) to find an exact replacement (well, upgrade) for these cars.  Fortunately, with the help of user Absnut on and Mike Fifer of Fifer Hobby Supply, I found a solution.

First, I purchased a set of MicroTrains #1030 short-shank Barber roller-bearing trucks from Fifer Hobby.  Then I dove into the repair job.

I apologize for the lack of photos.  I will try to provide some later, if I can.

This boxcar has a two-piece design, with a floor and the rest of the shell.  I removed the shell from the floor of the car, and then removed the Bachmann trucks from the floor.  There is a bolster at each truck location.  It has a larger base and then a narrower part that fits into the hole in the truck and accepts the mounting screw.

Next step is to cut off the narrower part of the bolster flush to the wider part, and sand the surface smooth.  That is easily done with a fine-tooth saw like the Atlas Super-Saw.

Now, the Micro-trains trucks have a plastic pin that needs to fit into the hole you just discovered in the bolster.  Unfortunately, the hole is not big enough for the pin, so you’re going to need to open it up a little.  I used a 5/64″ drill bit in my Dremel tool.  The fit was a bit tight, even though I hogged it out a little, so a 3/32″ bit might have been OK.  But I figured a little tight was better than too loose.

Once you have the hole widened, all you need to do is position the trucks over the bolsters, press-fit the pins, and replaced the boxcar shell.  A quick check to make sure the coupler is at the right height (mine was), and you’re done.

It’s so simple, I’m considering upgrading the whole fleet.  Well, at least the rest of the Bachmann cars.

Pax Railroadium

I believe I once heard it said that watching a model train go about its business can be a lot like watching a fish tank.  Very relaxing and pacifying.

Sitting here at the table watching my little Consolidation pull a long mixed freight endlessly about my little oval as I wind down after a long, hard day…

… I must agree!

Peace, y’all!

My 2-8-0 Consolidation in B&W

Scratchbuilt Oil Storage

Recently I was honored with a “Random Award” for my participation on the website.  Apparently, they were amused with my ramblings.

The gift was a 22,500 gallon standard tank car, ACFX #83123, with the GAF coporate logo.  A particularly thoughtful gift, since my planned layout includes a chemical plant as a primary feature.  Unfortunately, my current layout has no place to park a tank car (even though I already own two…).  So, I decided to build one.

Never having scratchbuilt a structure before, I was entirely in the dark, but I think it worked out OK.  I made the tanks out of 1.5″ dowel, and the the piping from 14 gauge household wire.  A little paint, and a sign made from styrene and an image laser printed on paper, and voila!  I have a petroleum facility!

ACFX 83123 at NSN Group Petrochemicals
ACFX 83123 at NSN Group Petrochemicals