Monday, December 31, 2018

Allis-Chalmers HD 21 Crawler/Dozer

Wheels of Time recently introduced HO and N scale models of the Allis-Chalmers HD 21 Crawlers with optional dozer blades. The HD 21 was introduced in 1954 and became the best selling crawler in the company's history. Obviously, given the quantities produced and the time period covered (manufactured through the 1960s), they are an optimal subject for freight car loads and any number of scenes. There is a wealth of information available online to help add even more detail and understand the nuances covering the production variants over the years.

The Wheels of Time models are fairly simple. They consist of high-quality resin castings that appear to have been mastered using CAD and 3D printing. There is a minimum of parts: single "body" casting plus left and right treads and exhaust. An optional blade and hydraulic cylinders are available as a separate enhancement. I opted for just the dozers as even those push my late 1951 era by a few years, but they looked too good to pass up (I am hoping that when the prototype police visit, they aren't as well-versed in dozers as freight cars!) The hydraulic blades weren't adopted until 1960 (the blades were operated by cable and winch prior to the adoption of hydraulics.)

I paid $22.50 each and also ordered one decal set for $7.00. They were ordered via a pre-order program. Wheels of Time is currently accepting names for a wait list for follow-on orders.

I will build up the pair that I purchased and provide details here. Stay tuned (it may take awhile, though, as I have no shortage of projects...)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Down by the Feed Mill by David Hanks

There are many things in railroading, both prototype and model, that are dripping with character and nostalgia. Right at the top of the list are the elevators and mills that to this day generate carloads and revenue for the railroads. Many towns had elevators and even more towns had mills, either to process grain for various forms of human consumption or to provide feed for the livestock that was present on seemingly every farm, regardless of size, either for production for consumption or just to have a few animals on hand for eggs, milk, and meat.

I like to have more than a cursory understanding of the things I am attempting to model. To educate myself about the grain industry, I purchased Jeff Wilson's The Model Railroader's Guide to Grain (2015, Kalmbach Books,) part of the excellent Guide to Industries Series from Kalmbach (all authored by Jeff Wilson, as far as I know.) In my online research, I also stumbled across Down by the Feed Mill by David Hanks. I had my local independent book shop order a copy, although it may be ordered directly from the link (and Amazon, as well, although I prefer to support the publishers and local book shops whenever possible.)

I knew as soon as I opened the book that it was money well spent. It is a gorgeous homage to the ubiquitous feed mill. Granted, Mr. Hanks focused on mills located in the southern half of Michigan's lower peninsula. However, that in no way diminishes this book's value. It includes beautifully reproduced art quality images of mills as well as many photos of the inner workings of these interesting structures, providing an education in the function of the mills.

The book is broken into a few sections. The first focuses on three old mills, the second profiles four repurposed mill structures, and there is a gallery section with an incredible number of images, followed by an informative section with a wealth of general information about mills.

I highly recommend this book not because it will help my (and your) prototype railroading pursuits, but because it is a beautiful dedication to one of the foundational elements of our communal history. It is simply a fantastic book to have present on a coffee table.

Down by the Feed Mill: The Past and Present of America’s Feed Mills and Grain Elevators

by David Hanks
208 pages, hardcover with dust jacket
copyright 2017, David Hanks
published by Schiffer Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-7643-5293-5
240 images, color and black & white

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Prototype Rails 2019

Two weekends from now, the 2019 iteration of Prototype Rails or "Cocoa Beach" as it's known in the RPM community, will be held on January 10 through 12. I am extremely excited as I was unable to attend last year's festivities because of the whims of Ma Nature. The event has a flavor all its own, with a relaxed atmosphere, good (or better) weather than what most attendees are dealing with in early January, excellent clinics, diverse restaurant options, a wonderful hotel, and numerous other attractions in the area if you're seeking to make a vacation out of the trip.

I will be presenting a clinic on kitbashing and also co-presenting a photography clinic with Bill Welch. The photo included here will feature prominently in both clinics; I will be discussing how I kitbashed this 45' Missouri Pacific flat car and will also discuss how I photographed it (hint: depth of field can be a challenge when photographing subjects in miniature.)

I hope to see you there. If not, I will be posting my clinic files here after the meet...

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Kadee Lake Superior & Ishpeming 40' PS-1 Box Car LS&I 2236... or my latest "ready-to-run" project

I was so satisfied with the results of my Santa Fe Kadee PS-1 that I thought I would add another that, excepting weathering, would be a more ready-to-run project than the Bx-57 proved to be. I had seen photos of LS&I PS-1s from Kadee and liked the look of the black ends and red and white diamond emblem. Although they are no longer available, I easily tracked one down on ebay. As soon as I received the car, I opened the plastic box and compared it to the one prototype photo in my collection (which I had not really looked at too closely until that moment.) Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had another "not-so" ready-to-run project on my hands! Time to make more lemonade out of lemons...

The sides require some detailing changes. I must add roping staples, that look to have been welded to the bolster tabs rather than riveted, although that must be confirmed. I also need to add tab sections at the lower corners. The placard boards on the model are in a different location than they were on the prototype so I will repeat my efforts as on the Santa Fe car, with Southwest Scale doors and new placard boards.

On the ends, I will have to make a few changes, as well. There were push pole pockets at the lower corners that will be scratchbuilt. The uncoupling rod bracket was different on the LS&I cars. Finally, the lower portion of the right ladder stile had a "jog" in a different location. I am hopeful the new early PS-1 cars from Kadee have ladders with this feature. If not, I will ignore that subtlety. 

Stay tuned as I modify this otherwise beautiful model.

Are we having fun yet and when will I have an actual ready-to-run car???

Monday, December 24, 2018

Finishing NP 10975 - Rapido Northern Pacific 10000-series Double Sheathed Box Cars, Part 2

I posted a brief writeup of the Rapido Northern Pacific 10000-series double sheathed box car almost two months ago (link to that post here). Since that time, I have made a few upgrades to that model and painted, lettered, and weathered it. This post describes the details associated with all of that. As I stated in the original post, it is an extremely fine model right out of the box. The changes highlighted here are ones that simply suit my tastes.

Most of the upgrades were performed on the ends, with the majority of those specifically on the B end. I replaced the running board supports with styrene to create more realistic details. I replaced the original retainer with a Precision Scale retainer valve with 0.008" wire "pipe". The brake staff was secured to a pivot support. Finally, I reworked the push pole pockets to create a more dished, stamped look, as on the prototype.

On the A end and the doors, I replaced the handles with ones fashioned from 0.010" wire, filed flat on the outer surface. The last upgrade was the replacement of the stock wheelsets with 0.088" tread width sets with 1.005" long axles.

The preparation and painting of the model followed my normal regimen. All metal and engineering plastic surfaces were lightly blasted with 200-grit aluminum oxide. I primed all surfaces, using Tamiya surface primer for the first time (link to my thoughts on it here). I painted the sides Rust (no. 4675) from the Model Master Acrylic line of paints. I masked the sides and painted the roof, ends, underframe, truck sideframes, and wheelsets Tamiya acrylic flat black. In preparation for decaling, I applied a light coat of Future (now Pledge) floor wax, creating a glossy surface.

I lettered the car* using decals I created myself and had printed by PDC of Canada specifically for this model. I reserved part of the capacity data, the reweigh location, the brake test, and repack stencils to be added during the weathering process. I also added a few chalkmarks prior to weathering.

I weathered the model using PanPastel and Bragdon powders. On the roof, ends, and underframe, I used brown, light grey, and Payne's grey. On the roof, I also interspersed this with some "blobs" of light grey paint applied with a Q-tip to simulate the beginnings of paint failure on some of the panels. I used the same powders on the sides, but applied them progressively: first, I applied small pieces of masking tape over the stencil areas referenced in the previous paragraph followed by powders that were then sealed with clear flat. I removed the masking from capacity, reweigh, and brake test stencils and added those along with more chalkmarks, another clear flat coat, followed by more weathering and yet another clear flat coat. Lastly, I added the repack stencils and more chalkmarks. Everything was sealed with a final flat coat.

Rapido has produced a beautiful model of a very significant prototype that belongs on most layouts. Bravo and I can't wait to see what is next from north of the border!

*the lettering layout doesn't exactly follow the standards for this car. The arched Northern Pacific and capacity data are slightly shifted to reflect photos of car NP 10975. Variations in the layout of lettering on actual equipment are not uncommon... remember, the shop crews were humans, not robots!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Airbrushing - getting started

Airbrushing is one of the tools at the gateway to advanced modeling. However, many of us who have never experimented with using an airbrush look at it as a skill shrouded in mystery, requiring some innate talent and/or voodoo. Nothing could be further from the truth, particularly for the painting most model railroaders do, with single (or maybe two) colors with minimal masking and no real embellishments (if you really want to be impressed, look at some of the World War II aircraft schemes, including Luftwaffe schemes with various blotches/mottling or the Italian scheme with green “smoke ring” camouflage - link to decal for the less adventurous who don’t want to airbrush these devils, but illustrates what military modelers can do!) For what we as railroad modelers do it is simply a matter of spraying paint.

First, the intent of this post is to recommend a quality, but reasonably priced airbrush. I own and use an Iwata Medea N4500 Neo Gravity Feed airbrush. New ones can be found on eBay for approximately $50. It is extremely well-made and uses metal parts rather than plastic (an important consideration for me). It is a “double action” airbrush, meaning that the “trigger” controls both air and paint flow. This is a little more complicated than a single action airbrush, but I started using a double action airbrush when I was 10 years old and never felt like it was too difficult. I am certain you can learn to use it easily too. The one other thing I will say that is attractive to me about this model is that it disassembles easily, allowing the entire mechanism to be cleaned hassle-free. This is important because airbrush longevity and smooth operation requires a good cleaning regimen after each use. It takes only a few moments, but the impacts on operation are worth the diligence. One note: I have owned more expensive airbrushes, including the Iwata Revolution and Eclipse models and they are more difficult to clean and offer no advantages for the type of painting we do. My recommendation: buy the Neo and use the savings to invest in a quality airbrush compressor (buy an airbrush compressor and you won’t need earplugs because you’re trying to airbrush with that Campbell-Hausfield 100 HP compressor that you use to power your nail gun!)

If you’re read this far and are still curious, then take the plunge. All that’s required to learn is some paint (I recommend either Model Master acrylic or Tamiya acrylic paints,) thinner (most paints are too viscous out of the bottle; I thin these two brands using the manufacturers’ thinners at about 60% paint to 40% thinner,) an air source (I recommend this compressor,) and something to paint. To learn I suggest practicing on plain sheets of 0.040” white styrene. The point is to understand air pressure settings, distance from the object being painted, paint flow relative to the trigger, and how slowly or quickly to move the airbrush to avoid adding too much paint to one area at once. That’s it. I will post more in future on this topic, but it’s one of those things where it’s easier to learn by doing than reading.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wordy Wednesday - Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Postwar AAR Box Car CMO 37836

In 1945, Chicago and North Western subsidiary Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha purchased 400 AAR-design box cars of the postwar iteration from American Car & Foundry. The cars were assigned to series 37500-38298, even numbers. At first blush, the cars hewed closely to the design, with 10-panel riveted sides, Murphy rectangular panel roofs, 4/4 Improved Dreadnaught ends, and Youngstown corrugated (first 200 cars, shown here) or Superior panel steel doors (last 200 cars) and riding on ASF A-3 Ride Control trucks. Their most distinguishing characteristic was the Duryea Cushion underframe, with deep crossbearers that are visible in this photo, and Universal brake adjuster, a portion of which is also visible just to the right of the AB valve. However, the most interesting detail to me is the extreme compression of the truck springs (see below), no doubt due to a heavy load. It’s not something one sees often, let alone notices.

The photo is yet another low-angle, late-in-the-day flat light gem from Col. Chet McCoid that quite literally sheds light on so many details. Also note the gas storage tanks at both left and right. San Diego, California, November 19, 1954, Bob’s Photo