Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reaching Your Goals

As you know, I'm actually working on recreating Erie's 149th Street Harlem Station in HO scale. That project was a departure from my habitual work and a challenge to myself. Would it be a real achievable layout or just another bitter false start?

I gave myself two weeks to "complete" this project. The deadline was my own vacations. I'm glad to tell you I reach this step in a week. At a rate of 8 to 12 hours per day, it moved at a steady pace.

I consider I have now completed all the messy basic stuff including painting track and roads in basic colors. To me, this is a true achievement. Thought I started to build many layouts in my life - probably over 20 - this is the second time I reach that point where only building structures, scenery and detail cars remain. The first time was when I was 7 years old and I built my first 4' x 4' train layout with my father, sister and brother. Good to be back on track after a 25 years hiatus! Seriously, never reaching some level of achievement can be quite distressing at some point.

I've learned a few things bout myself while doing this project. I didn't over design the project, but took a decent amount of time to plan carefully the project. When I started to rip wood, I knew there was no turning point and decided to address issues as they appeared. I didn't let small things stop the project and thought about alternate way to get the job done in due time. I was ready to sacrifice my obsession for perfection which had always been my most major pitfall. Funnily, I can't say I cut corners on quality as the final product is quite good. Finally, I didn't set a real schedule but each time I started a job, I made a point I would complete it on the same day if possible. That was particularly important to get over boring or painstaking work.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Kitbashing Bachmann 50ft Boxcars - Part 1

A few months ago, I stumbled upon an old Ciment St-Laurent picture from the 80s (or very early 90s). I knew the plant was served by boxcars back in the 60s, but imagine my surprise when I found out such traffic was still in existence a few decades later.

The picture showed a pair of CN insulated boxcars from 280000 series and thus I knew I need HO scale models to fit the bill. Unfortunately, no exact replica of these NSC cars exists. Insulated boxcars had several features including fuel tank, heater, temperature control devices and other specific details. I had two choices. Start with a P1K NSC 50ft boxcar or try a kitbash. Since the first are harder to find and cost nowadays an arm and a leg, I felt the kitbashing way was the best.

I quickly found out old Bachmann 50ft boxcars could be used as a starting point. They are 100% accurate, but can easily be modified without too much pain into a believable model. Better, if you only want to build a regular NSC newsprint boxcar, it would be easier to do so and with less prototype compromises.

The main problem with the Bachmann shell is the moulded on details. I once tried to scrape off a moulded roofwalk and quickly found out it was no way to go. Also, the boxcar ends are quite wrong for the NSC prototype. I also didn’t want to remove the ladder details, too much pain for a passable result.

My idea was to use Intermountain spare parts to rebuild the model. I would only keep the Bachmann underframe and side walls. IM parts are cheap and high quality. For 2.50$, I could improve drastically the model. I used their 50ft PS roof and PS boxcar ends since they are close to NSC practice (5/4 rib pattern).

Roof panels didn’t align perfectly with Bachmann side panel rivet rows, but I found out later NSC insulated boxcar roof panels weren’t aligned too.  I also altered the boxcar end. The upper rib was removed including rivets and other details.  The next step was to bevel the rib ends with a file according to NSC practice. I puttied the holes with automotive glazing.

The various temperature control devices were built using phosphore bronze wire, pieces of styrene sheet and paper. New ladders, grabirons and brake apparatus are Tichy with Kadee brakewheel. Stirrups are metal A-line ones. When done, the car was ready to get primed in brown Krylon primer before getting a final coat of Model Master Acryl boxcar brown and a Future Floor Finish (Pledge) gloss coat for decals. More about painting and decaling later.

A big thanks to Glen and Wayne who were kind enough to send me old decals and dry transfers of CN insulated boxcars. These are discontinued Beavercraft and C-D-S lettering products. Let’s hope they have withstood the years well!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Revisiting Harlem Station

Over the last months, I wondered what woudl be my next personal layout project. There was talk to resume working on my Quebec South Shore Railway shelf layout, but finally Jérôme had the last word. His request was simple: rebuild the Harlem Station layout and make it modular so he can move it back to his home when he feels like operating trains.

I took his challenge and decided to make it a benchwork to learn new skills: waffle frame module construction, experimenting with radio-controlled/battery powered locomotives and building ship models for the first time since my high school days. I remember sculpting wood hulls and building ships in bottle in my late elementary school days before building 3 sail ships from Lindberg. Well, I also started building a Santa Maria with a long lost friend of mine, but we never completed the project... life is always full of surprise!

I'm not sure if I'll document this project as much as Hedley Junction, but I rebooted my old Harlem Station blog.

By the way, Harlem Station was an Erie Railroad freight terminal in Bronx, NY. Not the most famous rail-marine terminal located on Harlem River, but probably the most easiest to build since you don't need intricate track work but only many, many #4 right hand turnouts.I'm not sure if it can qualify as an Achievable layout, but it has everything needed to keep someone busy.

It shoud be a nice project to handle during the upcoming vacations. Some travel... personally, I prefer to stay home and immerse myself into serious craftmanship! Oh, and I'll find a second life to many US cars I didn't know what to do with them.

Enjoy the ride!