Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ladders... arrrggghhhh!

The "completed" ladder prior to trimming the top and bottom to length. but with all other detailing added
One of the great frustrations of marketing resin kits is trying to maintain consistency even as the components that are needed to produce kits come and go. Perhaps the ultimate manifestation of this is ladders. There have only been a few choices for ladders even in the best of times. However, with the unavailability of the Branchline parts and the demise of the Details West 8-rung ladder, a huge void has opened in the ladder aftermarket. When you design a kit with a specific ladder in mind, it can be crushing to be unable to obtain that part.
The basic ladder frame with grooves and spacers, awaiting the addition of the rungs
Etched ladders are an option, but I intensely dislike the two-dimensional look of them, for both the rungs and the hardware to attach the rungs to the stiles. The rungs look flat and the hardware is either flat or absent. (Note: etched stiles with grabs are a great way to replicate Wine ladders, so etchings are not without some applications, in my opinion.)
After the addition of the first rung, but prior to the removal of the first spacer
With these obstacles in mind, I have decided to try a new approach. My next kit incorporates cast resin ladder parts with grooves for the rungs. The rungs are created using either 0.010" or 0.012" wire that is glued in the grooves. The ladders are "pre-spaced" so that the only necessity is to cut away the spacers as the rungs are added. Once the basic structure of the ladder is complete, a "face" with the appropriate detail is added to finish it off.
Three rungs in place and one spacer removed
Yes, this entails extra work. That's the downside, although it takes less than ten minutes to make a ladder and about five once you get the hang of it. The upside is that the detail looks good, the rungs are durable, and the spacing is exactly correct for the prototype.
After removal of the second spacer
I'd love to hear others' thoughts either in theory or after you have a chance to give it a try. These will debut with the Ann Arbor single sheathed box and auto cars.
Fourth rung added and third spacer removed

Six rungs down, one rung and one spacer to go!
All seven rungs in place, spacers removed, awaiting the addition of there "face"

Thursday, March 10, 2016

It's still magical

Pacific Fruit Express R-30-14 32983 from the Michael Urac Collection
I spent most of today in a darkroom, printing photos from the Michael Urac Collection as I am diligently working to get another volume of Focus on Freight Cars put together. It is the first time I have printed photos from negatives since my last year of high school. In a word, it was magical. I had forgotten about how exciting it is to put the paper into a tray of developer and wait in anticipation until that blank sheet springs to life as a photo. 

How you may ask, did I do it, given that I am smack dab in the middle of moving? I joined a community photography center - PhotosynthesisCT. If you have old negatives, be they of freight cars or anything else, I urge you to see if you have such a resource in your community. Alternatively, you could also break out that old Nikon and throw a roll of Tri-X into it and see what magic you can create. Go for it; it's a lot of fun...

P.S. as a little teaser, I'll let slip that the photo shown above will be in Volume 3 of Focus on Freight Cars.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


That familiar harvest yellow reminds you of another brand, huh?
Many of us have come to love using Tamiya's masking tape. When used for masking paint, it creates crisp edges yet it doesn't pull up paint like many other masking tapes. It has a well-deserved reputation among modelers for getting the job done. Unfortunately, like many specialty items that we use, particularly those from Tamiya, its price carries a premium compared to the diminutive size of the rolls.

There is an excellent alternative that costs a fraction of what Tamiya does and performs just as effectively. Frankly, I think it is the same stuff. I found mine at a Sherwin-Williams paint shop, but I am sure it can be purchased elsewhere. It's called Frogtape and is marketed to interior house painters as, you guessed it, a superior masking tape that doesn't pull up the paint underneath it. I have rolls that are 24mm (0.94 in) and 36mm (1.41 in) wide, both in 60 yard lengths. That might be a lifetime supply for modeling. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Some progress

Decal artwork for SP/T&NO F-70-6 & -7 flat cars
I had posted awhile back on the SP F-70-6/F-70-7 flat car kit from Espee Models and the PRR F29 depressed center flat car from Funaro & Camerlengo. Progress has been somewhat slowed by an impending move that is now in the process of happening. However, I did manage to get the artwork for the decals sent off to be printed. That gives me some motivation to have the cars painted and ready to be lettered when the decals arrive.

Decal artwork for PRR F29 & F33 flat cars
I also managed to get the boiler load finished and I will post that progress in the near future. It will be loaded on the F29.

Enjoy the artwork until next time. Note: these decals will be available from Speedwitch.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Starrett Tools

One of the things that can be either maddeningly frustrating or joyously satisfying is doing something that requires a tool. Cheap knockoffs of hand tools that are manufactured in Pakistan and sold at train shows for about 1/20th the price of their American, Swiss, Japanese, German, etc., counterparts are good cases in point. Yes, they are bargains, but sometimes you get exactly the price you pay. I generally steer clear of these items as the lack of quality makes their use frustrating, unless I know that it is a tool where quality is not the primary consideration.

When I am measuring or cutting and precision of the edges is paramount, I thank my lucky stars that I have these small Starrett squares. Yes, they are more expensive than most comparable items. However, they are machinist's quality and I know that the edges are straight and they line up exactly perpendicular to the edge against which they rest. It's as simple as that. No more explanation needed.

Another Starett tool that I own is the pin vise pictured here. I don't know the model number, but I believe the current equivalent in their line is the 162A pin vise. Most of us who build and detail model railroad items use small drill bits. I have and use ones that are sub-no. 80, down to about 0.0065". Ever try to put one of these or even a no. 80 bit into one of the hobby shop pin vises or a supposed jeweler's pin vise? You already know what happens. The collet can't close down enough and the bit isn't secure (or it may appear to be secure and then start to disappear into the collet once you start to drill). This pin vise securely holds even the smallest bits that I use. The other great thing is that it is extremely well-balanced and easy to use.

Give Starrett Tools a look. Having the right tool for a job can make it joyously satisfying...