Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

Modeling Glass Cullet Loads

I think at one point we all come across a prototype freight load that begs to be modeled. In particular I can say there are many that lack a model, but a simple one that has been on my planning board for sometime is recycled glass otherwise known as "cullet". My intended goal will be to share the backstory and creation process so you can bring these loads to your layout. 

What is it? 
In simple enough terms it is crushed recycled glass. This material is used in numerous ways such as fiberglass insulation, glass beads (sandblasting), and road materials to name a few. 

           Potter's Industries north of Brownwood, TX. They make glass ball beads for many different uses. 
                   Photo courtesy of Google Maps. 

How is it transported?
Alot of times glass cullet is crushed and transported locally by truck from the recycling facility to end user, but there are cases where it moves by rail. I do not believe it will be one of those unit train type commodities found often like aggregate or coal, but as a one off load. Every prototype example I have seen or found shows use of dump trucks or open top hoppers, not to say an older covered hopper could be utilized. This is a heavier material as its raw material was sand and soda ash prior to becoming glass, so the car would not be loaded to the brim more around 3/4 full. The cars I have seen are marked EAMX (Everest Railcar Services). Due to the nature of the commodity these are probably in a captive service as cleaning would require something more abrasive then water like sandblasting. 

Besides seeing in person from an overpass, John Danielson over at has the best photo of these 3 bay hoppers carrying glass cullet at this link: EAMX 328 - John Danielson Collection 

How is is loaded/unloaded?
Loading at the crushing facility is as simple as a front end loader filling its bucket and dumping into the railcar. Unloading is just as easy. In this prototype example a small under track pit allows the transloader to empty from one gate at a time. The pit is shallow but deep enough for a front end loader to get a bucket full, back up, and then load the awaiting truck. The front end loader could also double as a car mover if multiple cars are to be unloaded. 

Photo courtesy Google Maps (Satellite View)
                         Glass cullet rail to truck transload in Brownwood, TX on Texas Rock Crusher Railroad

                                                        Photo courtesy Google Street View 

How is it modeled?
The easiest part about glass cullet is its "replication" on a model level. Sometimes making model loads are complex and require kitbashing or even scratchbuilding. In this case it is about simple cosmetics. Follow along as I walk you through creating a glass cullet load. In as little as a weekend you could have yours complete. 

Step 1: Materials
- Removable type open top hopper load (I used Motrak Models #81728)
       ** Side note the Motrak Models coal load is fantastic as purchased without changes **
- Rustoleum 2x (Gloss White) or any cheap white spray can 
- Dullcote
- Extra fine glitter (I used silver peacock which is blueish-green-silver)
- India Ink / Isopropyl Alcohol mix

Coal type loads work well with the sharp angles to provide a good texture for the paint / glitter to adhere on. 

Step 2: Base 
- Start by giving the drop in loads a generous coat of gloss white (Well ventilated area)
- Spray from all four angles to ensure you get a good coat in all the tight spots

Step 3: Glitter
- Giving the paint just about one minute to setup some then sprinkler your glitter
- Do not worry about being modest you want solid coverage 
- At this point let the load completely dry, do not touch or dump off excess glitter

Step 4: Glitter to Cullet
- Once dry, carefully pickup the load and tip it over to remove excess material.
- You should have good coverage with no load under showing through.
- In a well ventialiated area - spray the load with dull coat and let dry.
- The glitter provides the dull shine that you would find from crushed glass.  

                           This was my test plastic load before making the cullet loads from Motrak load. 

Step 5: Dull 
- Once dullcoat is dry use your fingernail to check around the edges of the load and remove any glitter stuck on the sides. Its important the sides are clear of glitter so it will sit properly in the railcar. 
- Airbrush load with a india ink / alcohol mix to get the desired dirty effect 
- Let dry, then place in railcar.

This technique worked well for plastic and hydrocal casting loads. Materials can be purchased for under $10 at your local craft store. 

I hope you enjoyed this fun post, showing you a quick and inexpensive way to add a one of a kind open top load to your layout. Everyone have a safe and happy Halloween.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Early October Update

Pumpkins, apple cider, fall colors, and model trains.....

Well all of those are true in Texas except the fall colors thing like they have up north. But lets get back to model railroading. October is well underway and the Michigan Interstate St. Clair has been a hive of activity as I prepare for a ops session in early November. Nothing like a set deadline to motivate getting those incomplete projects wrapped up. Lets take a look at what has been done since my last update.

While the town is fictional, my goal is capturing the essence and feel like that of Caro or Vassar. Early on in the planning I had decided to try out new products when constructing. One of the items I really wanted to try was the Woodland Scenics Just Plug lighting. I have seen all sorts of reviews, and yes while I could do this myself my time is limited and I am ok with the cost to help save time. When you have a young family time is very precious for working on your model railroad so W.S. makes it pretty dang easy. Drill a hole, insert a coffee straw, feed the wires through, glue light in place, and plug it in.... There are plenty of great reviews on the web, so I didn't want to take away from those, but instead show the product being used on a live layout. 

While night ops is still a dream, I found it much easier to plan and install the lighting as I built the city then trying to go back and add it later. Besides the lamp posts are all apart of the downtown detail. 

Currently Grays Lake hosts 16 lights:
- 3 facility lights at the Propane terminal
- 12 street lights in downtown
- 1 auxiliary light near the railroad diamond

When complete each building will have a lit interior and a few other auxiliary light posts near the fertilizer dealer and east of downtown. All in all it will be 25 to 26 lights operating off the Just Plug system. My local hobby lobby had the light film and block kit for $6.50 each so while again I could make my own for $6.50 I am cool buying the kit. For the interiors I will use a combination of the products in the photo and also try out new lightable interiors from City Classics. Stayed tuned for a future winter post on the install process and results. 

Along with lighting, I needed to finish around the grade crossing in town and overpass scene break between Grays Lake and Gerhard. 

Grays Lake filed a application for a Quiet Zone, and finally the public works contractor got the crossing complete. 
Using styrene I was able to complete a simple but effective quiet zone barrier for Main Street. After cutting the pieces with my NWSL Chopper I used a yellow sharpie to color the posts. These 4' posts were affixed to a curb on 3' spacing. The yellow was a good bright color for the new QZ. 

While work was done on getting the QZ barriers, the road contractor completed paving and striping work on Main Street past the fertilizer dealer. MCIS Signal Dept. lastly installed two new grade crossing gates The road needs a "weathering" still but overall great progress getting this area of the layout closer to completion. 

Having a smaller layout does not mean one should compromise on things like scene integrity or creating "breathing room" between scenes. One way I did this between the close towns of Grays Lake and Gerhard was by installing a highway overpass. Kits like these are great to "break" the scene. I ended up calling the naming the road "Cedarwood Road" in reference to a U2 song I heard and thought "Wow what a good name for that overpass."

The rest of the month will see the highway overpass get its deck complete along with filling in scenery on the cork areas in and around the town bringing everything together. 

Two new business were added downtown off of 1st and Railroad Streets. The unnamed store on the edge of the layout was an interesting build since I ended up cutting 2/3 of the building away. This should make for a interesting interior detail. Across the street is "G's Pizzeria in a former fruit warehouse. Anyone familiar with areas north of Saginaw on the Sunrise side of the state have probably heard of or eaten at a G's. Well what better way to bring modern day authenticity then having one of the layout. 

The back of the restaurant is along the right of way offering a great place to grab a slice of pie and watch trains roll on by. A parking lot will be developed along side of the restaurant and beings it at one time had a railroad spur that went alongside the former dock on the back, maybe I can find a way to bury tracks in the weeds or one the other side of the parking lot to provide historic value. 

A very detailed but brief early month update, check back later this month for more updates and a preview of new business that will be running the St. Clair Subdivision rails. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mid September Update (Railcar Fleet - Part 1)

Just like that summer is a few days away from being a memory. This time of year I know alot of you begin ramping up work on your model railroads. Around here work on the physical layout infrastructure was non-existent, however there are plenty of other items to address on a operating layout to keep it in good working order. This month I am going to take a different approach then my normal all things update and instead focus on the railcar fleet. Follow along as we look at part 1 of Fleet Management, Fleet Statistics, and Fleet Projects.

Operating a roster 226 cars take work.... literally. I don't know how the guys with 800+ cars do it. The past few months have seen quite a few cars added to the roster with a few leaving, it is important to maintain a good record of that change. Cars that were added needed inspections and a waybill holder with car information. Similarly cars that went to new homes whether trade or sold needed to be removed and their waybill card discarded.

Identification stickers printed using excel database of cars added. Each car notes reporting marks, car number, car type, and pool (if applicable). The stickers are affixed to the plastic card shown. These cards then hold the blocking waybill for each car while in operation. 

Not to bore anyone with numbers, but using all of the data from the master database i collected for the active fleet, I was able to look at different charts to tell a story about the mix on the layout. Lets take a look at a few graphs.

First and foremost our data is based on 226 active cars as of September 1st, 2017. We can see the mix of Home Road, Foreign Road, and Private car is roughly split in thirds. Of note the private fleet is the largest which makes sense with growing private owned cars on the rail network in 2017. 

The car type analysis should not be a surprise to anyone since the main commodities hauled are agricultural products (covered hoppers), aggregate/sugar beets (open hoppers), and paper/forest products (boxcars). The "Other" category includes centerbeams, airslides, and reefer type cars that are more "boutique" in the work they perform. 

Going forward what type of trends can we expect to see... 

  • Increase in private ownership cars. Very much a modern era trend. 
  • Decrease in foreign and home road boxcars as older Per Diem era cars age out.

We all that storage spot where good projects go to be put on hold.... Yep I have one of those as well. One Saturday at the end of August I took fifteen minutes to walk through each car and what was needed to restore it to service. All of these cars operationally could operate with metal wheels and good couplers, however their "story" needed to be changed before they were to operate. 

1. Foreign Road Freelance Boxcars:
First project was patching three 50' high cube boxcars for freelance model railroads of good friends that will roam the Michigan Interstate. 

  • NEKR (Northeast Kingdom - Mike McNamara)
  • NNE (Northern New England - Mike Thidemann)
  • WN (Washington Northern - Kevin Klettke)
Patching was done using brown or green sharpie paint pens. Easy to use and fast drying highly recommend. Reporting marks were done using Microscale Railroad Gothic / Compressed Gothic sets of different sizes. Reflective decals are by Microscale, and the grafitti decals are a mixture of Microscale and Blair Line. 

2. Utility Pole Bulkhead Flats
These two MDC kits had been painted by Fred Fogelsinger about two years ago. I had just discovered them one evening going through boxes of train stuff in the garage. Using the CN bulkhead decal set from Highball Graphics I was able to put together all the data required with MCTR reporting marks. The last thing left to add are the PC&F log bunks from Details West and utility pole load from JWD. 

3. 20,000 Gallon Tank Cars
At a train show a few years ago I picked up each of these Athearn R-T-R 20,000 gallon tank cars in the BNSF scheme for $10 each. No box and a little use.... works for me. Well not needing them in diesel fuel service I proceeded to change up the cars to fit geographical needs. Using a modellers license I used the Highball Graphics CGTX 23,000 gallon tank car set. Instead of using black paint or decal solution to remove the print, I instead used a hobby knife with a flat blade and pulled across the logo and marks giving appearance like it had been "sanded off" by the shop shown in photo below. 

4. Plastic Hoppers
The same train show where i found the tankcars also produced two Walthers plastic pellet cars. However the reporting marks on the cars were duplicate to what was already on the layout. In the interim this was not an issue since I would only keep one car on the layout at a time. But needing more pellet cars provided an opportunity to update the reporting marks. I selected Highball Graphics CCBX (Union Carbide) decal set. While I did follow some reference photos of cars close to the ones represented by the decals, some modelers license was used. Graffiti decals are from Microscale and Blair Line. Seeing plenty of examples from the prototype photos, I decided to give drybrushing a try for weathering. Using Andrea Color acrylic paints of various brown and gray, I was able to give the cars some needed character.  

As you can see quite a few fun projects adding nine more cars to the fleet in part 1. The graphs help paint an overall picture that not only provides a story of your operations, but can also help establish discipline when it comes to selling or acquiring equipment. If you have 90 boxcars for one industry but you are short 10 covered hoppers for three industries, then maybe your focus should not be on that $10 Athearn R-T-R FMC boxcar at the next train show but instead a Athearn R-T-R Pullman Standard 4750 covered hopper. 

Towards the end of September we will reflect and bid farewell to the Alco RS27, Alco C424, EMD GP15, and EMD CF7 fleets. Not wanting to leave out whats on the workbench right now, we will wrap up Part 2 of Fleet Management, Statistics, and Projects.

Thanks for stopping by.


Wordless Wednesday #97

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

Late July / Early August Update

The inevitable dog days of summer, 95 degrees by 11:00am here in Texas. I think for alot of modelers this time of the year finds little time for model railroading as they are tending to outdoor matters such as house chores, recreation, vacations, or that summer modeling slump. Luckily through channels like Facebook I can see plenty of model railroading on going through topics like Front End Friday and Run By Sunday. In this post we will not talk about social media, but we will look at a tasks accomplished in July. Find a comfortable spot and a cold drink as we walk through my update that I barely squeaked in for July, but on the flip side got a good start for August. 

You could say the power is out of proportion..... Both look sharp in new paint! 

Recently released from Fogelsinger Rail are Michigan Interstate's two business coaches "Lake Erie" / "Lake Huron" and a stunning EMD F7A / B set. I have to say the equipment turned out really nice and the time spent to develop a scheme for the F7s that was classy while consistent with the rest of the MCIS diesel fleet looks great. Believe I went through around 8 versions with alot of friend feedback before arriving on the final scheme. The equipment is expected to be released from contract shop in early August arriving via Lake State Railway transfer. From there the equipment will head to Mt. Pleasant MAC Shop for delivery inspection and placement into service. Company officials expect the equipment to be ready for fall festivities including Halloween, Thanksgiving, and ultimately Christmas. 

I can honestly say that I have attempted my first time at weathering railcars with a variety of mediums and overall impressed with the finished products. If the first five cars turned out this well, then there is only room to improve my skills and produce even more realistic effects. Up until now I have contracted out my weathering of locomotives and cars, but even with me getting into the art I still expect to continue to job out 3 cars for every one I complete because of one specific thing; "Uniqueness". Just like every car is unique, every person who has weathered for me also has a technique different then the next person. This in my opinion provides for a nice mix of cars that bring alot of character to the railroad. 

For my instruction I used the multiple instructional sources "Done In A Day" by Pelle Soeborg and various "How To" articles from Model Railroader. Future work I will try some of the techniques showcased by Matt Snell and others from MR, RMC, and MRH. With the web content out there, there is no shortage of great articles describing tips and tricks. My suggestion and like others have said, use a few test cars that you dont mind screwing up on. In my case I have 3 Accurail 4600 hoppers that will never see service again so they made for good test beds to perfect my technique.  

Materials used: 
- Various Modelmaster & Polly Scale Acrylic paints 
- Vallejo matte (for rust adherence)
- Pastels (earth tones and grays) and Bragdon dark rust
- Testors dullcote
- Microscale FRA224 yellow reflective striping / graffiti decals
- India ink / black craft paint (Asphalt spill on tank car)
- 70% isopropyl alcohol

All of the cars got a fade, some more than others and from there using photos from the book and online just enjoyed the art. One really neat effect is the rooftop rusting that has a neat texture. Enjoy photos of the completed work, mind you that I did this in my garage with the door open in the heat of a Texas afternoon. Not only did I weather, but lost some water weight as well..... model railroading can be a healthy habit!! 

 NS boxcar was my first car to try out the airbrush wash "fade"

 Patch out and roof rust. On the SRV boxcar I actually used a Q tip with window cleaner to remove the light fade over where the reflective tape is located. This gives the effect that someone cleaned the paint before applying the reflector.. I have seen this on many cars. 

Canadian Wheat Board car that has seen better days.... not many years left.

 Overall view of the five car batch completed last Friday

 Worn out railcar with a fresh tag..... Must have been transiting the DVE out east. 

 Load of asphalt enroute to Interstate Asphalt's Bay City Terminal.

The fade and rust effects turned out really nice. 

Earlier this summer I had shown you a few 89' flats wind wind blades that I had done for a friend as a model. Well beings I model modern day I felt there was a great opportunity to bring wind energy business to the MCIS. Since those comments I worked out the plan to build a wind blade unit train. For the layout the train will consist of 10 (68' flatcars). These shorter flatcars are a good selective compression with the shorter 102' blades, additionally for you guys with smaller layouts and tighter curves the shorter railcar truck centers and overall bolster to bolster length of the blade from root to tip fixture allow for better curve negotiating. With 10 cars that will allow for 5 blades to be hauled, beyond the 10 cars I may add hub / nacelle cars or an additional 2 blade cars for a total of 12. But for now we are focused on 10 cars for the late fall operating session. 

In modeling the 68' there were things that I wanted to capture. The first being a smooth steel deck, a side mounted hand brake, and a hodge podge fleet of cars with various pasts. Knowing how it can be to find a out of stock Atlas Trainman product I was lucky to come across a stock of seven 68' flats at Spring Creek Model Trains in Deshler, NE. Yep bought them all with 2 being DODX marks and 5 being ARR marks. I also recently purchased a TTJX on ebay and have a supplier for the last two cars. So hodge podge fleet.... check. The next item was the smooth steel deck and I had two different ways to complete this. One i sand the deck smooth or two I purchase one of the laser cut steel deck overlays on the market. I decided with the sanding option so lets take a look at how I got the smooth steel look and how the blades are setup on the car. 

First and foremost I build the root and tip fixtures in the kit to allow me to mock up the blade on the railcars. 

Once I was satisfied that the mockup would work, I then used my Dremel Oscillating sander to make quick work of the planked deck. Foreground before, background after a few passes. Ultimately took a couple minutes per car to get the smooth deck. 

With the deck sanded smooth it ended up being the molded gray color of the car. So after a quick coat of dullcote, I proceeded to weather up the deck to show some use but more or less cars had deck re-conditioned for wind service. 

 Satisfied with the base level of weather another coat of dullcote to seal the chalks. Additionally I used a black sharpie to mark out the reporting marks which will be replaced with "LHRX" marks in the near future using Railroad Gothic Alphabet sets. 

Finished product with root and tip fixture mounted to the railcars. The blade is removable, however once in service it will be temporarily secured in the root fixture with a small amount of white glue. 

With cars prepped and fixtured I spent a few evenings testing the blades clearance around the layout. If you decide to have this type of load on your layout, it will a trial and error testing to see what works best. To allow moving of fixtures if necessary I mount them to railcar using Elmers extreme glue stick. It holds well but can be removed with a knife if necessary. 

 Testing the blade just east of Bay Yard. For operation on the MCIS all blades will be configured root-tip-root-tip. So while the train is traversing forward the large square fixture will lead with end of blade following. 

Checking scale clearances, in this case in the curve we have 6' between the blade tip and signal mast

Look forward to seeing the unit wind train on the layout later this fall. Not only will it be something to see but for the operators, it will come with a HIWI bulletin to govern movement when meeting trains or passing lineside restrictions that are "close clearance".

Last item to note for this update are some changes made to better accomodate industries on the Bay Industrial Spur. Interstate Asphalt and Fort Mackinac Corrugated changes locations. This allows me to model half of asphalt storage tanks (with contents inside) and also creates a partial view block for the area. 

Interstate Asphalt will have three spots and Fort Mackinac will have four. While the industries have not been fully developed, the changes made will be tested out by the operator of the Y-BA04 "Bay Industrial Job" during my late fall session. 

 View east down Bay Industrial Spur (Interstate Asphalt on right, Fort Mackinac Corrugated to the left)

 Another view looking northwest toward Graystone Cement. Interstate Asphalt in the foreground. 

Checking reach in clearances to access switches for the three industries. I may end up cutting the tanks down some for better reach. However this job is handled by two operators so one would be on the inside of the layout left of the tanks and other operator right of the tanks. 

I think you can agree, the month produced great results in a host of areas. Another great way to help combat that summer modeling slump is having a host of different projects. In this case no scenery work at Grays Lake was complete, but progress was made in other areas. I hope to get back on scenery work at Grays Lake this month. Check back later in August to see what becomes of that task. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read my update. I hope everyone has a safe rest of summer.