Sunday, March 18, 2018

Black Out

Who said you need electricity when assembling miniature trains?

During yesterday layout session, an impromptu black out happened in the middle of the night. Normally, we would have called it a night, but our boxcar chain assembly was quite efficient. Why waste such good mood?

Thus, we quickly resumed assembling our fleet of 12 LBF Hi-cube boxcars under dim candle light. Later, a LED strip was taped on the ceiling and connected to a 12V battery.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Custom Display Cabinet

Over the years, I have acquired many models and customized quite a lot, to the point our rolling stock and motive power drawers are quite clogged. Most of them have very little to no use on the layout and I could simply put them back in there boxes, However, it would be a waste to do so and instead, it was decided to build a set of custom display shelves to be installed over the doorway separating both layout rooms.

Using readily available plastic laminate planks from the local home improvement center and a few custom made glass plate, it only took about one evening to make these cabinets. Both cheap yet fairly decent, they make a good spot to display extra locomotives.

Now, we will be able to better organize the drawers when newer CFQ locomotives are acquired later this month.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Spraybooth & New Perspectives

Since around 2003, I've been contemplating acquiring an airbrush and a spraybooth. Back then, I was a student with little money to spare. By 2007, I acquired an old Badger 250 airbrush. Not a bad product, but the previous owner didn't care about his tool and whatever careful I was, nothing good came out of using that airbrush. At the point I thought I was talentless. Then, about 3-4 years ago, I finally invested in a better tool which brought far superior results. However, I didn't purchase a spraybooth. I was a little bit puzzled by the high prices requested for good ones. I continued airbrushing in the enclosed porch of my house, which was far to be the best option. By last December, I simply decided to no longer airbrush until I got a spraybooth...

Finally, the day has come and a new home build booth, following profesionnal instruction is now ready for use. A big thanks to Louis-Marie for building it on such a short notice of time. With the new booth, I'll be able to take care of my health... and my backlog!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

More Lumber Loads & Another RS18

After countless hours making individual bundles, three lumber loads are complete. A fourth one, made as partial load have been done with excess material. It will be used to represent half-loaded cars, adding interest during operation.

Meanwhile, I also decided to complete my seventh and last RS18 as a RS18u. This locomotive is a Frankenstein made of Atlas RS11 and RS32 parts, an old Kato drive and a heavily Life-Like RS11 shell. I'm trying to reproduce ex-NBEC 1816 RS18s which pull trains over Murray Bay Subdivision circa 2006. Jérôme always wanted me to make a RS18u and I thought it was a good thing to do one relevant with our layout theme.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Modelling MMA St-Guillaume Subdivion - A Layout Project

I've recently been commissioned by Jérôme to build him a small switching layout that will be installed in his 13' x 11' office/spare bedroom.

Some of you will remember I mentioned last summer I had explored yet another layotu design based on Quebec South Shore. I didn't have the occasion to share it since then but Jérôme thought it would make a neat little project can be followed on my Quebec South Shore Railway blog.

The project is all about modelling a single station with minimal compression, short grain trains and that unmistakable ragtag MMA look that used to be charming though Lac-Mégantic events more than enough shown us the disastrous results of negligence.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bulkhead Flatcar Wrapped Lumber Loads

Finding suitable wrapped lumber loads for your flatcars used to be a little bit tricky... until Chris van der Heide provided us with relevant information and several genuine Canadian lumber wraps a few years ago.

This project was high on my list, but I got sidetracked more than once before I decided to actually tackle it once for all. However, I was mistaken thinking such a project was something you can in one evening. Wrapped lumber loads are a true labor of love that requires several hours to complete. Cutting the wood, wrapping each bundle and finally assembling and adding steel bands is quite taxing in term of time. And while I generally don't care about Olympic Games, it made for a good background noise while building the loads.

However, I must confess the first batch of wood blocks were sawn on Louis-Marie table saw which is now nearing the end of its revenue life. The unreliable tool yielded less than consistent results, which I learned too soon would have a serious impact on the final result. My word of advice is quite simple, make sure your wood blocks are exactly the same height and width with perfectly square angles. Anything short of that should be scrapped.

Anyway, I still assembled my first load with the crooked bundles. The result was better than I thought, but I'm actually in the process of building a second and third load, each one being better than the first one. As always, practice makes perfect and takes times. Yep, just like Olympic athletes who must repeat again and again the same set of motions to ensure they master their sports.

Once again, a big thanks for Chris to have provided useful information to Canadian modellers.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Modelling 122th Street - Part 4

Another productive club meeting yestarday. Among many other things, we managed to decide how the working class housing area will come together. Interestingly, we found out that we didn't need 11 structures to make it works. As you can see, this is quite enough to get the feeling right.

We added some mockups to see how it would look with more houses and the scene composition was starting to crumble apart. It was decided two other houses will be added on the other side of the road, but we won't expand the scene longitudinally.

As you can see, our trains now have a quite interesting backdrop in front of which they can operate.

Also, Jérôme decided to install the cement plant mockup once again to operate this part of the layout. I'd say it was a good decision because the room felt empty and it was a little bit depressing. Given I don't expect the model to be built before the end of the year, it's a more sensible decision.

I'm quite happy how the ballasted and weed-infested Villeneuve yard looks like the real thing since the cement plant is now back on the layout.

We also worked on menu details about Henri-Bourrasa overpass. Safety railing are almost ready to assemble. Oil piping connecting the pumphouse and oil reservoirs were also kitbashed from two Walthers oil loading platform. The scene is coming along well, but more on that later.

It was also decided trees in Villeneuve will have leaves (with a tender green tint characteristic of springtime). The reason is simple, we found out many of our scenes require trees to hide seems, awkward building transition with backdrop, etc. This can hardly be done with leafless deciduous trees. But be afraid, we are not changing the season. In fact, when studying the Clermont backdrop, it was clear many trees had already leaves. Since there is about a one to two week seasonal lag between Quebec City and Charlevoix, it makes sense indeed to have trees fully covered in leaves in Villeneuve.

And finally, I performed a operation session for the first time in many months. In fact, I don't recall the last time I was in charge of a train! I was quite surprised it took me more than two hours to do a full run and I wasn't following prototypical practices like setting handbrake and other such things... Once again, it's crazy how little track is required to sustain long operating sessions. If one was more prototypical and switched every industries as CFQ did, it would probably require about 3 hours to model the job. Quite impressive.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

CN Woodchip Cars - A Follow Up

The CN woodchip car project is still going on. Given it is the only set of cars missing on the layout before calling the rolling stock roster complete, I’ve decided to work again on it as information will be available. I won’t stress enough the help Justin Babcock has already provided and which insure these models to be as accurate as one can be. This is even more important since these cars have not visited Quebec City area since many years.

This is a sketch, not a scale drawing

One of the reason why I started the project again was Julien Boily’s interest in acquiring a few of these woodchip cars. A few years ago, printing one car in Shapeways Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) material was expensive… really expensive. Well over 160$ (Canadian dollars) per car and mind you, I worked a lot to make sure to trim down any excess material I could to drop down the price. A recent visit on my Shapeways account shown these cars could be printed in FUD for about 72$, which is quite high, but an impressive improvement. Given the price halved over a few years is a testimony to this technology becoming more mainstream.

In the best of worlds, I would print prototypes, make a few silicon molds and recast them happily. The truth behind this is I’m not equipped to do so and know very well it would cost me a sweet amount of money just to get started, experiment and get comfortable enough with the process to handle it with confidence. I’m always happy to learn new things, but I’m no super hero and I still have plenty of stuff on my benchwork (highway overpass, roads and streets, several structures including very large ones). However, I’m open to work with anybody wanting to push it forward.

This is a sketch, not a scale drawing

In the case of Hedley Junction, we need about 10 cars. Given series 878 000 had 300 cars and series 879 000 had 500 cars; the ratio is 3:5.  In our case, having four 878 000 cars and six 879 000 cars would be plenty enough for our needs.

As thing are standing now, series 878 000 (of CN Rail fame) 3D model is complete. I still want to refine a few details, but I would call it almost ready for printing. For series 879 000, nothing has been done yet. However, both cars have similar features, meaning what I’ve learned on the 878 000 can be adapted to 879 000. It is my goal that both models can be available on Shapeways at some point.

Another step will be to create accurate decals for these cars… That could be tricky…

Monday, February 5, 2018

Modelling 122th Street - Part 3

As you can see, some of my projects are lagging a little bit. Mainly due to seasonal health issues but also because I'm in the process of building a new spray booth. It means many projects are stuck at the primer/paint step until the new device is up and running. It's why the Henri-Bourassa overpass project is now on hiatus.

Meanwhile, I continue assembling structures for 122th Street. So far, two garages and two houses are built. They are ready for paint and will require some additional detailing to bring life to them.

While they are quite mundane, I do take time to replicate as best as I can some features in a realistic manner. This is particularly true about roof. I probably won't surprise anybody, but flat roofs aren't flat, except if you want problems. They are generally shaped like a large rectangular funnel with a central drain. The roof slope about 2 degrees, generally more on older structures. When the roof is very large, multiple draining bassins are required.

That kind of detail is generally overlooked by most modellers and manufacturers. A flat slab being much easier to build than intricate facetted surfaces. However, since these small houses are low and their roofs are in plain sight when operating, I felt it was better to replicate this detail.

And don't believe it is hard to model. Here's how I do it. First, I glue a real "flat" roof about 2 mm lower than the walls top. This is for structural integrity. Then, I cut another piece of flat styrene and score it so it divide the rectangle in four triangles. Applying a light pressure on styrene, I bend each triangle to create the funnel shape. However, be careful, the goal isn't to separate the styrene parts, just bending them a little bit. You don't want them to break off. When this part is correctly shaped, I then glue it on the walls top making sure the middle touch the subroof. If required, I'll add some styrene supports along the wall perimeter to make sure the roof sits at the right height. For overhanging roofs, this isn't required.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Full Throttle & More Scenery

Well, not only we almost completed the overpass last Saturday, but also Julien Boily paid us a nice visit. Julien is probably one of the most serious operator I know and it's always a pleasure to see him fully take advantage of the layout and making it runs like the real thing. Under such circumstances, I'm satisfied to see my modelling efforts paying off in terms of enjoyment.

Julien and Jérôme watching the eastbound train leaving d'Estimauville

The social aspect aside, it was also a good occasion to finally try a well-programmed Loksound Full Throttle decoder on a locomotive. Julien brought his Central Vermont Atlas geep to give a demonstration. This is hardly breaking news, but it was nice to see how the thing performed on our layout. I guess it was a success since Jérôme and Julien switched Donohue three or four times in a row!

Simple tasks such as spotting a single car take another dimension when done right

I didn't try it myself, but I could clearly hear the sound modulation and the notches according to where the locomotive was and what move were performed. I must admit I'm curious to see this decoder coupled with the new Proto Throttle.

How much effort and time required to pull out that boxcar...

Also, I made a few mockups to see how the repair garage scene would look at D'Estimauville Avenue. After a few tries, I came with this satisfying arrangement. I still have plenty of time until we fully scenic that area.

D'Estimauville's repair garage... in foamcboard.

It was also time to see if the new structures built for the residential area were up their game. So far, so good. It looks almost exactly like the real thing. However, thought I thought I could have as much as eleven structures, I think I'll trim it down to 9 structures to keep the scene pleasant to the eyes. It is one of these moments one must use his artistic sensibilities to alter reality. Blindly following the prototype here wouldn't have paid off at all, breaking the balance between structures and scenery.

A new apartment building now grace the layout. Six more to build.

What Matters?

Since the last holidays, I’ve been participating in a discussion on MRH forums started by James Six, a well-known modeller from the Midwest. The conversation – centered on one-town layouts – quickly raised fundamental questions about our relation with our hobby and why we do it. James is an accomplished modeller by most standards and built layouts and scrupulously detailed cars for years until he hit a wall and started to put in perspective what he was doing, trying to understand the “why” behind it all. The discussion could have been about sharing success recipes (which incidentally would be too handy to exist), but it became evident that as modellers, we too often prefer to discuss “how to” instead of asking why.

Interestingly enough, fellow modeller Mike Cougill just released a new blog entry about similar subjects. It is well worth a read since and it sums up quite well the topics explored my discussion with James Six in a more readable format.

At the end of the day, isn't it strange that most of us never take the time to ask ourselves what matters for us in this hobby? Blinded by our genuine passion - often fueled by happy-go-lucky consumerism - we often completely forgot what we actually like about trains and the mythos around them... 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Henri-Bourassa Overpass - Part 2

Work resumed on Henri-Bourassa overpass yesterday. Louis-Marie and I probably put another 4 hours in a row working on it and completing the structural members. Useless to say we are really pleased at how it is slowly taking shape.

Most people would think such details as small cross members are not required since they are invisible, but I think they matter. In fact, if you look at this picture, you'll see they are indeed visible and add a layr of realism to the scene. It is certainly not a waste of time replicating them as they should be.

The model will now be ready for primer, paint and weathering. Asphalt roads, streetlights, railings and drain pipes will be added later to minimize risk to knock these details off during handling.

Jérôme also pointed out we will have to add some lighting to the scene. The overpass cast a shadow on the backdrop that isn't very realistic. The entire city of Quebec is in the dark while the sun shines. We made a little mock and here are the results.



I think we have an answer! You can see how a well lighted backdrop helps to create an impression of depth. It seems the city is about a mile away, just like it should be. We also found out it takes our attention away from the staging entrance.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Modelling 122th Street - Part 2

Work on 122th Street is progressing well. After drawing the lots on a sheet of fiberboard, I found out I could represent 7 properties out of 10 that are located along the mainline. Not bad when you take in account I use no compression to recreate this scene.

The first structure I built was a small garage that was recently torn down and replaced by a larger structure. While I don't intend to agonize over prototype with this project, I still want my models to set the mood. Here's the real structure.

And here's the model made of styrene. I still have to decide if I'll add the gutters and downspouts.

The next structure is another garage, this time larger.

Once again, there are some variations in details, but overall the building is quite a decent approximation of the real thing.

As you can see, I put substantial effort in modelling correct fascia, soffite and clapboard corner trims. These details are often overlooked by most modellers even if they take very little time and material to implement. Why I bother with them is because they improve realism by looking like the real thing. That may seem obvious, but such details makes models look larger and more delicate. The key being to use material with correct cross section. If done with thicker material, they are bound to look out of place and clunky.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Maizerets Pump House - Part 1

Among the many structures I have to scratchbuild for the layout, the most non descript one is a small 14 ft x 20 ft concrete block pump house located by Henri-Bourassa Boulevard overpass. Far to be interesting, this building nevertheless tells us a story about the industrial nature of the area. In my case, this diminutive building reminds me of deep industrial sounds typical of the area and locomotives idling in Limoilou yard.

Putting together this structure was a matter of a few hours and painting too. Not that I rushed the project, but it was simply easy to do. But beware, this time, instead of painting with straight from the bottle colors, I toned down every color I used by adding roof brown, white or black. It was the best way to get a faded effect without having to resort to overkill weathering.

A few dabs of PanPastel helped to add dirt along the footing and bring some depth to this gray-painted structure. Then, I airbrushed a light coat of Dullcote to fix and seal the pigments. The next step will be to add a few signs on the door and a red-colored cabinet on the right wall according to prototype.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Modelling 122th Street - Part 1

An entire city block to be modelled here.

Among the many tasks to complete in Villeneuve is a small residential area located by the cement plant made of a few streets, mainly 122th Street. This area is relatively large and densely built, mainly two storey apartment buildings and no commercial kits are available that could reasonably replicate the real thing. For this reason, I'll have to scratchbuilt everything in styrene. While I'm not trying to create a perfect copy, I'll try as much as I can to be close enough without going crazy.

As you can see, about 9 structures will have to be built. The yellow line shows the area I'll have to build to fit the layout. To make thing easiers, I've decided to build this area on a separate plank on my benchwork. This way, it will be easier to design, build and apply scenery. When done, the plank will be permanently attached to the layout.

Most structures are extremely mundane, being clapboard cubes with porchs and verandas built in the 1930s and 1940s. But it doesn't deter me taking the subject matter seriously. While I would loathe such buildings in real life, I believe replicating them in a prototypical manner is the only way to truly capture how the area looks. The gritty working class borough is a nice addition to this part of the layout and I won't cut corners.

So far, I've bought all the supplies and started building structure #1 which is a small garage. My goal is to build the structures in order, place them on the plank then apply scenery. I have no idea how much time it will take, but this is a relatively relaxing job I'll do when I'm motivated. My main focus will remain on completing key structures like the overpass, D'Estimauville Avenue grade crossing and the automobile repair garage there. As for the cement plant, it will likely be the last piece since I'm still gathering data and drawing it.