Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A really good tool

Like any hobbyist, I am a bit of a tool freak/geek, especially when the tool I am using is lacking. I have been using a Paasche Air Eraser for years and for the same amount of time have been cursing its tiny capacity (volume of abrasive it can hold) and ability to constantly clog. I had been vowing to fix that situation and I did so within the past couple years. I am here to report the results. Enter the MicroEtcher ER Sandblaster. Yes, full disclosure... it's relatively expensive. However, it performs. It's designed for professional use by dentists and I can register zero complaints. It holds a decent amount of abrasive (enough to blast a couple cars, trucks, etc.) That's the entire post. I love it and if you are a blaster of models prior to painting, you'll love it too.

The "business" end of the etcher

Side note: I also ordered this California Air Tools compressor to run the sandblaster. It is sooooooo much quieter than the loud annoying Campbell Hausfeld compressor I had been using. Again, another satisfying purchase.

The various connectors to get from the compressor to the etcher

The fine print: it took me several tries (orders!) from McMaster-Carr to get the various combinations of linkages to connect the tiny hose of the etcher to the rather large quick connect of the compressor. What you see is one main male quick connector, plus three "reducers" to get to the hose. If you're really interested, I can scour my order history and advise the various parts. Leave a comment to inquire and I can answer here....

One other note: I highly recommend limiting your abrasive to 240 grit or smaller (larger grit number) aluminum oxide. This etcher is a little more aggressive than the Paasche tool and can remove material quickly if you're not careful and paying attention. That said, I've used it on delicate parts (Kadee PS-1 ladders) with no ill results.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Update on McKeesport Connecting Railroad Gondola

I was combing through Adobe Lightroom looking at photos as I worked on the McKeesport Connecting Railroad gondola (first and second posts linked) when I realized I never posted these images. The model is now painted and decaled and I am working on the load and weathering. I will post that info soon, but I thought I would share this interim update. The main image (above) shows the car after I had sandblasted it, but prior to priming and painting.

I made several changes to the stock Funaro & Camerlengo kit. The side and end grabs were modified using 0.003" sheet brass to replicate the prototype's highly unusual mounting arrangement. I added small 0.005" styrene discs and rivets harvested from an Athearn snowplow to complete the detailing. The hand brake is a Universal type, "robbed" from a Kadee New Haven PS-1, with an Intermountain hand wheel. The pressure retaining valve is from Precision Scale with a sheet brass mount. The angle cock/air hose is from Hi-Tech. The uncoupling device was bent from brass wire.

The sill steps are etched parts from Yarmouth Model Works. The towing loop (visible below the side sill under the first pressed steel side member) is an etched part from the scrap bin, as well as the route card holder (not visible in this photo, although I will highlight in the finished model posting.) Lastly, I fashioned the top corner gussets from 0.005" styrene.

I will bring this finished model to the upcoming NERPM meet in June.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

USAX (ex-US Quartermaster's) USG-A 'Emergency' Tank Cars


In 1942-3, American Car & Foundry built Emergency-design, designation USG-A tank cars for SHPX leasing services as well as for the US War Department, Office of the Chief of Transportation (US Quartermaster) under USQX reporting marks, series 11168-11178, 11200-11309, and 11311-11475 (four cars in 11168-11178 had two domes/two compartments). The cars used contemporary underframes with World War One era tank designs. The late Richard Hendrickson authored an article about the cars in the October, 1990, RailModel Journal, available online via this link.

Modelers are fortunate to have excellent HO scale versions of the tanks from Tichy (originally Gould.) Many (if not all) of the SHPX tanks were scrapped/recycled in the postwar era, with the underframes being re-used, but the USQX cars soldiered on under USAX reporting marks (there were also Canadian prototypes, profiled by Russ Pinchbeck, including modeling, in the July, 2002, Railroad Model Craftsman.) There was also an article about the USAX cars by Thornton Waite in the January, 2006, Mainline Modeler. That is the inspiration for this project.

I have a seemingly great number of freight car projects nearing completion, so in between those painting, decaling, and weathering duties, I have dabbled a little in this project. I started with a Tichy tank car kit with a 54-inch dome width. There are several modifications to arrive at a USAX prototype, including modification of:

  • the location of the safety valves (I added other details, too)
  • the tank anchor
  • the tank bolsters
  • the underframe

Thus far, I have made changes to the dome. The overlap of the tank shell on the dome is quite simple, to the point that it seems to be almost missing. I removed the rivets and added a strip of 0.005 thousand styrene, blending it into the face of the dome at left, and leaving a sharp edge at right, as shown in the photo directly above. I will (re)apply rivets to the dome in the appropriate locations.

I also removed the safety valve locations, reserving the "center" of the valve locations. I puttied and sanded the old locations and then added discs to the top of the dome for the new locations, as shown. I then added the valve "centers" that had been salvaged, being careful to orient them so the top was "level" as these had gently sloped (actually curved) bottoms so that the top would be level. Somewhere in all of this, I added the dome to the tank and secured it with solvent cement.

Next up in this series: the tank anchors and body bolsters. I have been working on artwork for USAX/US Army Transportation Corps lettering...