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Monday, December 19, 2011

Niles Project ~ Signs of Destiny

Super Detailing Continued: Adding Dash Signs to the Niles Cars

A SCTC club member showed me a car that he had bought on which the dash signs were decaled right onto the front of the car. To me, that is what it looked like. Because it conformed with the curve of the front of the car, the sign looked painted on . But dash signs are flat. I prefer the 3d look of separate signs. So that's what I'm going to do. And its easy enough to do.

K+S Engineering offers a bag of Shim Brass of assorted sizes. Some of these are really thin. Much thinner than what can be achieved with plastic. And yet still be nice and rigid.

The brass is thin enough to be cut with an X-acto. I cut the brass to match the size of the decals that where made and printed at the same time as the rest of the cars decals.

Decals adhere to glossy paint best. So the decals were printed on clear decal paper and the brass painted the background color. White in this case. I used Floquil Antique White. Its cream color isn't as stark as Reefer White would be. So that the paint doesn't flake off, the brass has to be prepared before painting. I used the exact same technique as I did to prepare the brass models for painting. After the paint dried for a day, I gave it a coat of Floquil Gloss and another day to dry. Now the decals can be applied.

The dash signs are glued in place with good ol' Micro Kristal Kleer. Now these cars look like they got somewhere to go. Yes sir! Somewhere to go!


Monday, December 05, 2011

Module Spotlight ~ Burma-Shave

The first module to be featured here is a simple 1' x 4' module. SCTCs Module 971. Better known as the Burma-Shave module. 

In the beginning there were doubters. Yes sir! Doubters! Doubters and naysayers that claimed that modules with overhead or catenary wouldn't work. And rightly so. The tight tension of the overhead would be compromised when the modules were disassembled. And that could result in wires and poles becoming bent as everything is pulled towards the center of each module. So a quick proof of concept had to be built to see if modules featuring overhead wires could be built and maintained. Assembled and disassembled time and time again. 

That's where the 1' x 4' modules comes in. Mainline modular model  railroading has been around for decades now and developed the standard 2' x 4' module. But why waist time and expense on scenery when the concept might not work. So the first traction modules were 1' x 4'. Plenty of room for operational track, streets, poles, overhead, and even some scenic features.

SCTC Module #971 (built 1997 it was the 1st module built that year) wasn't the first module built, but its about as basic as modules get. A straight, double track mainline. Centered line poles. Private right-of-way between a divided highway. Its a good, hard working, reliable, proof-of-concept module.

 Despite its small size, it does feature some areas of interest. Here, the Caterpillar shows up just in time because Mac just broke his shovel. Don't ask me what Sam is doing! Though I think he used to have a jackhammer. These modules do take a beating. Maintenance is constant. But the real feature of this module are these:

 Anybody old enough to remember the old Burma-Shave signs on the side of the highways?
Click Pics to see the Rhymes

Click the pic to see the rhyme. In reality though, these signs are so small they are beyond the limits of detail. Visitors can't read them, so we have to tell them what they say. But they are a conversation piece. A lot of folk remember the old Burma-Shave signs.

Next month I'm featuring another 1' x 4' that gets a little fancier with the scenery. That's right. It is possible to do more with the 1x4. Yes sir! More with the 1x4!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Niles Project ~ The Cheap Seats. And the Expensive Ones Too.

Here come the paying passengers! Filling #107 with folks.

Funny that Preiser folks are pricey. Pricey Preiser. But truth is, Preiser offers some outstanding figures. Best on the market if you ask me. So I really like using them in my modeling. But averaging over $3 per folk and rising, and each Niles car requiring around 25 figures each, well I'm going to place them strategically.

The Preiser site has cool photos of models modeling for the figure modeler modeling figures. (as an interresting side note, Germans make a distinction between human "models" and miniature "modelles"). Check it out.

Not only are Preiser figures well done, they are also available in era specific costume. So I picked up their 1900 era figures for the 1908 vintage Niles trolleys. Here is #12136 Seated Persons (above, with parasols removed),

#12137 Seated Persons, (I don't know what I'm going to do with that cat.).

#12190 Seated Passengers, (my favorite. I think these are very nicely done).

#10351 Seated Industrial Workers. (The working class ride the trolley too).

#12191 Railway Personnel.(remove the shovels and we got our trolley crew).

Woodland Scenics (#A1908 Sixteen Passengers) on the other hand, aren't quite as sophisticated as Preisers, but they are full of character and somewhat "generic" enough that they can fit many eras. Considering that the closest we ever get to HO models is about a scale block away,  Woodland Scenic folks will work just fine. Especially at a third of the cost of Preisers, Woodland Scenics figures average about $1.25 per folk.

So here is the plan. The Niles cars are "California Cars" which means they have a glassed in center section and open air sections on the ends. So...

 The pricey Preicer figures will adorn the open end sections where they are more easily seen and appreciated, and the Woodland Scenic characters will ride in the enclosed center section behind the glass windows. The figures are glued in with good ol' Micro Kristal Kleer because of its rubbery characteristics. If a figure is accidentally bumped, its less likely to snap off.

Some of the seats couldn't be filled because of mountings for the motor and shell. But I did manage to fit 24 figures in there! 25 if you count the double figure of a man with a child on his lap.

This is where the bulkhead of the shell attaches to the floor. So only the seat backs are present.

Figures add so much to model. Look how much life is in that populated car! You'd think the line was turning a profit. Yes sir! Turning a profit!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Folks!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Module Spotlight ~ New Series!

A new series that will feature an in depth look at each module of the Southern California Traction Clubs (SCTC) HO scale modular layout.

My reasons for this are twofold. First, the SCTC modular layout is always a favorite at the train shows. So I thought I would share it with yous guys who don't live in our displaying area. Secondly, I'm an itchin' to build some modules for the SCTC layout. So I'm studying the intricacies of the clubs modules that mine would fit in with. So I might as well share that information with you guys.

The Southern California Traction Club
One of the outstanding features of the SCTC modular layout is that all the modules are designed to blend seamlessly from one module to the next. Some modular clubs claim that they never set up their layout the same way twice. Which is fine for variety. But what happens is that they end up with a mix and match look. Such as an authentic SoCal citrus packing scene situated next to a module featuring Dracula's castle with dragons. The SCTC on the other hand sets up their modules the same way every time. It is in essence a portable permanent layout. The modules are set up in a rectangle shape. Each side of the rectangle is "zoned". That is, we basically have the City side, Suburban side, Industrial side, and Country side of the layout. The individual modules are detailed according to what side they are situated in. And it is these modules that I thought I would showcase here.

The SCTC layout is themed as Anytown USA set about mid 20th century. And despite the layouts custom look, practically all of the models are built from kits with occasional kitbashing where needed. Very little in the way of scratch building. I don't know if its a club policy to use only commercially available kits (I'm sure its not, its more about practicality), but it goes a long way with promoting the hobby. When visitors see the level of authenticity achieved with just store bought models, well the hobby feels more accessible to them and they leave fired up about building their own layouts at home.

The track and overhead on the other hand are a different matter. They are very custom built. The track less so than the overhead. But the truth is, Traction Modeling is not for the entry level modeler. The beginner needs to cut his teeth and be comfortable with two rail railroading before adding the additional pain-in-the-aspirations of building and maintaining overhead. Fortunately, with the rise of the internet we have many resources available to aid us in building traction layouts. Websites such as Trolleyville, web groups such as HO Traction Modeling, HO Electric Traction Modeling, and Interurbans. Various blogs such as this one and organizations such as East Penn Traction Club, and of course, The Southern California Traction Club are each doing their part to advance this fascinating facet of the hobby.

So if you ever wondered what goes into building traction modules then stay tuned as I examine, analyze, and discuss each module and then hopefully build some of my own modules. Yes sir! Build some of my own traction modules!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Niles Project ~ Strategic Seating

Arranging seats around the motor so its not so conspicuous.

Additional seats are fabricated using the original seats as reference:

From Right to Left (above), the narrow brass bar stock is used for the seats and the wide bar stock for the base. The bar stock is measured, marked and cut. The wide bar stock is notched so that the tabs can be folded up as the seats legs. The wide center tab is ground off with a moto-tool. The narrow stock is bent matching the angle of the original seat backs. Then the seats and base are soldered together. Take care with soldering the seat assemblies to the floor. My seats are a tad too close to the sides and scrape when the body and floor come together.

Installed and painted. Some seats are right over the motor mounts. So seats were fabricated and then soldered to flat bar stock thick enough to get the seats to their proper height. Holes are drilled to accommodate the mounting screws for the motor. So what you see here is a sandwich of floor, mounting plate, insulation, motor tab, and then seats, all screwed together.

See? The motor is already disappearing into the background. If you look closely, the front seats of the center section (behind the figure) are seat backs only. You can see holes on the floor in front of them where the tabs on the bulkheads attach to the floor when the body and floor come together. Right where the seats are.
Alright, the seats are in and ready for paying passengers. Yes sir! Paying passengers!


Monday, October 03, 2011

Niles Project ~ Gates

Passenger gates make for a nifty little detail to add to these models.

 These gates in the doorways are included on all the San Diego Niles cars, so my models shall be so equipped. And why not? They are easy enough to add because...

...Cal Scale offers "Tailgates" for passenger cars that should fit the bill here just fine. They are available in brass (left) of plastic (right). I bought both to see which I preferred but forgot to add the brass gates during the soldering of brass details stage of construction. Soldering after the fact will ruin the paint on the cars. So #105, #107, and #109 will get the plastic gates. #110 will get the brass gates since it hasn't been painted yet.

Even though the plastic gates are black, I painted them with Floquil Engine Black paint anyway. Black plastic always looks like black plastic. Floquil paints are dead flat and kill the shine beautifully. A little bit of weathering chalks will help bring out the detail again.

A tad bit over sized, the Cal Scale gates achieve the desired effect anyway. The gates are glued in with good 'ol Micro Kristal Kleer.
The Passengers have found there seats and Conductor Carl has closed the gates. Were ready to roll. Yes Sir! Were ready to roll!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

5 Years and Still Going Strong!

Well... for the most part.

Welp! I've been making regular updates to this blog for 5 years now. And what do I have to show for it? Three superdetailed trolley models and $23.67 of ad revenue in an untouchable account. Hmmm... this must be one of them "labor of love" type of things.

This year was actually shaping up to be the most productive year for my modeling as well as blog posts. But this darned economy finally caught up to me and all but put a stop to my traction empire building. Seems that things like modeling have to take a back seat to making a living. Silly world we live in.

Surprisingly, its not so much the lack of funds that is the problem (though it is a big part) so much as it is the time factor. I don't have the time to model like I did when I was gainfully employed full time. I'm busier now than ever before. Go figure that one!

Now for what your really here for.... the stats!:
This blog entertained 3787 visitors these past 12 months. That works out to an average of 10.38 visitors per day.
The #1 page visited is my April Fools day photo trickery : My Old San Diego Trolley Layout. Followed by the much more useful post: Painting Brass Models. The Birney Project page rounds out the top three posts read.
And as I already mentioned, ad revenue is only $23.67. I wasn't expecting to get rich doing this, but I was hoping for some extra modeling funds. But 23 bucks in 5 years... I might do away with the ads. 

All right fellas, I have a streetcar model a year addiction to feed. So I got to hit the pavement and make some dough. Yes Sir! Gots to hit that pavement!


Friday, August 26, 2011

San Diego 1912

San Diego 1912, by David Lyman. Mixed traditional media.
Yes Sir!


Monday, August 08, 2011

Niles Project ~ Gurzelin'

Installing a Hollywood Foundry Gurzeler on Niles #105.
The Gurzeler is the second mechanism that I'm trying out on these Niles cars. #107 got the half floor which has worked out just fine. And now #105 will get the Gurzeler. Each mechanism has it advantages.

This is the city. Los Angeles, California. I belong to a club here. The Southern California Traction Club. I'm a traction modeler.
Sunday, 2011, a club member who goes by the name, interestingly enough, of Fred Gurzeler, approaches me. Fred, a man of a few words, reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small object. Its an etched plate. He hands it to me explaining that its a mounting plate for mounting the Gurzeler mechanism to Suydam PE 414 cars. No mention of where it came from, or what those mysterious markings mean. Just a well manufactured mounting plate. That's how Fred operates. Who am I to argue or ask questions? Its exactly what I need. Thanks Fred. I owe you one.

Exhibit A.
The mysterious Gurzeler mounting plate.

While soldering the mounting plate to the floor, I managed to unsolder one of the seats. And maybe some underbody details. No matter! Easily fixed.

I wasn't able to get the opening for the belt exactly centered because the plate has to fit between the interior bulkheads that the floor screws into. Even if I did, it later proved to be a problem. The opening needs to more towards one end or the other so that the motor is centered inside the car because the flywheel protruded into the interior bulkhead base. (Edit: Turns out that if I had ordered the Gurzeler Motor Package, I wouldn't have had this problem! DDS 10-11)

The Gurzeler is a simple yet brilliant design. The motor is mounted in place with double sided tape which also acts as a sound barrier. The belt (not an O ring, but an actual belt made to withstand the tension) replaces the noisy gear tower and also pulls down on the motor, helping to keep it in place.

Under floor view. I chose silicone tubes to transfer the power to the LowBoy trucks. Seems to me silicon tubes would be the easiest to replace should they fail after a while.

With no giant motors under the floor and those silicone drive shafts, these cars should be able to negotiate some crazy radius curves now!

This all went together easy-peasy (except for the off-centering of the motor. See below). The motor and silicone drive shafts are nice and level. I added a Miniatronics 2 pin Micro Mini Connector socket by soldering the leads to the motor and gluing the socket to the top of the motor. The other plug will connect to the decoder. This makes for a convenient way to separate the floor from the body for maintenance.

(Edit: Turns out that if I had ordered the Gurzeler Motor Package, I wouldn't have had this problem! DS 10-11) I had to cut a notch in the base of the bulkhead so that the flywheel on the motor will clear when attaching the floor to the model. For the folks who don't have their own mysterious Fred Gurzeler and have to fabricate their own mounting plate at home, the openings for the belt drive and screws need to be closer to the end of the mounting plate. We could all use a mysterious Fred Gurzeler in our lives, couldn't we? Yes sir! We could all use a mysterious Fred Gurzeler in our lives.

Its in there! The motor does sit slightly above window level. But models are very seldom viewed from this angle. All motors would be visible from regular viewing angles. So that's where populating the model comes in. Putting folks in the seats will take the attention away from the motor as was done with Birney #301. The only thing guests will notice about the motor after that is the smooth quiet operation of the model around the layout. Now if I could just get to building that layout. Yes sir! If I could just get to building that layout!!!