Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Extreme Weathering - CN CCF Snow Plow - Part 3

The third installment in this series is about applying the lessons learned by experiment on the model itself. It must be stressed using such unorthodox ways of painting a model isn't for the faint of heart and I felt, more than once, I was ruining the model.

First, I covered the entire model with a darck camouflage brown to create a contrasting underlayer. This provides depth for the later crackling effects.

After careful experimentation, I elected to use Citadel Egrellan Earth as my main texture paint to create chipping effects. Vallejo Crackle Medium would be only used sparingly on some spots were peeling wasn't that much present. Instead of covering the entire model and wishing for the best, I applied the crackle paint by small patches, generally 1 inch square, to control how the effect would develop. This gave me enough leeway to do touch up and learn how the paint was reacting to the model complex surface. By the end of the process, almost all the shell was covered with thick Citadel paint.

Since paint of the roof of the prototype is almost completely flaked off, I only applied the texture is a few spots using pictures to give some hints. The crackling paint was also applied to a few rods and railings, giving them a neat texture.

When everything was dry, I applied a custom faded CN orange mix consisting of Vallejo Clear Orange and Light Orange with a few drops of white. It would have been useless to waste prototypical paint on such a model because the real paint on the snow plow is almost 40 years old and has considerably shifted since the last repaint.

I made sure the airbrush was operating at a low pressure and I built up several light coats spraying them from a glancing angle. The goal was to not flood the crevices and hide the dark undercoat. It could have been to risky to paint with a thick coat and completely lose all the fine crackling effect.

Applying the pin wash around the details

Removing excess wash and feathering the effect

Then the paint was dry and hardened, a burnt umber oil wash was applied to flood the cracks and rejuvenate the effect a little bit. The same mix was also used to pin wash details, including access hatches, mechanical devices, hinges, rivets and other prominent features. I let it sit for a few minutes and came back with a clean soft brush wet with a tiny amount of odorless turpentine. Carefully, I cleaned up the mess where the wash was applied to create soft transitions and remove excess pigment from the mode.

I then let it dry overnight and coated the model with Dullcote. It will both protect the finish but also make sure the chipping effect won't start to flake off, which could be possible.

In the next installment, we will cover the weathering the model and adding decals.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Weathered Walthers CFC Forklift

An iconic and truly representative scene of CFC back in the days was the transloading yard in Wieland, Clermont. Among CFC innovations when they took over CN was this particular service geared toward lumber mills who wanted to ship their wood all over North America. For producers on the North Shore and Charlevoix, it was a good occasion to save on fuel and trucking fees in a mountainous area. Unsurprisingly, the queen of the yard was a Vallée forklift operated by CFC.

For such reason, Jérôme was extremely eager to replicate that particular scene and purchased a Walthers/Kibri Kalmar forklift. While not the correct prototype, it was the right size and captured the general vibe of what could be seen in Wieland.

The model was dry assembled years ago and sat on the layout undecorated until I picked it up a few days ago to finally paint it as it should have always been. Learning from my snow plow extreme weathering project, I was excited to try my hands on a vehicle seeing constant abuse in a yard. It didn't take me long to build up a gallery of prototype pictures, ready to take inspiration and move forward with my work.

The model was painted with a very faded yellow to replicate years under the sun, then various paint chipping effects were added. Custom decals were made and applied, then pin washes and finishing touches were added.

To replicate polished steel on the stair threads and forks, a HB pencil was used. I'm really starting to love this technique!

*** Edit: Someone pointed out the double wheels should be at front. I will reassemble them in the right position next time.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Small Roadside Details That Count

 As each passes, I can see how military modelling is slowly taking a hold on my approach to painting, detailing and texturing. I used to think like a railway guy: slap the accurate color on the model, wash some dirt over it and hope for the best. And truth to be told, it rarely works. Skilled train guys know layering effect is the only way and they do add a few other washes and layer to build up the effect. However, I feel we always miss the obvious: fading and applying filter to the color to get it closer to reality and not what was in the paint bucket back in 1978, and texture.

The snow plow project is a real eye opener and it changed a lot of thing for me, so when I went to the layout recently and saw my sad attempts at painting grade crossing protection gates in yellow, I thought it was time to revisit it.

After a careful examination of prototype pictures, the plastic gates were painted in a very faded yellow, Then, I drybrushed the edges with off white to give more of a 3D effect to the paint. With a very light white wash, I then dabbed some areas to create more fading.

Then, using a very fine brush, I added rust and dark brown spots here and there to replicate paint chipping. These must be kept as fine as possible to not look like a caricature. Very fine paint chipping goes a long way. When everything was dried, I used a thinned down dirty gray-brown wash and applied it lightly to blend everything together. With a fine brush, I picked up all the corners where dirt would accumulate. Finally, a light dusting of dark earth PanPastel was applied at the bottom of the posts to blend them with the surrounding ground.

The parking lot staircase was done in a similar fashion. However, with the help of real exterior staircases photographs, I dabbed several layers of brown and rust colors on the stair threads and walkway. It was followed with light gray washes to blend the effect with the rest of the staircase. Finally, using a HB pencil, I applied graphite all over the places where shoes and boots polish the metal. It is an extremely effective way to replicate bare metal. Much better than metallic paints and very subtle. I think this technique will be useful when weathering open hopper interiors.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Extreme Weathering - CN CCF Snow Plow - Part 2

In this second part, we will explore a few experimental and well-known techniques to replicate various distressing textures on our models. Before working on my model, I took a entire day to try various products to get accustomed to their particular application methods, drying times and effects. Most of these ideas were borrowed from the wargaming painters and army modellers who have a larger body of technical and artistic knowledge than what is generally discussed in railway modelling circles. As Martin Kovac (Night Shift on YouTube) loves to remind us, realistic modelling is all about adding texture before painting a model. This is a step I fear is too often overlooked in our corner of the hobby. Too often, we think from a technical point of view, which means we build a pristine model, paint it as it would look fresh out of the shop, then add weathering and texture in the most convoluted and inefficient way. I firmly believe, and Hunter Hughson would agree with me, that a lot of preparatory steps are mandatory before even thinking about decals. It may seems harder or more complicated, but in reality, it's much simpler and yields far superior results.

I experimented with three products, which all have their strengths and shortcomings: Vallejo Crackling Medium #70.598, Citadel Agrellan Earth crackling paint and plastic solvent. Keep in mind none of these products were formulated to crackle paint on scale models of vehicle but rather to create terrains and bases for figures in most cases. When used for their intended purpose, I can assure you their a fun to work with. But when dealing with steel vehicles with flat or riveted surfaces, a lot of experimentation is required and you can easily ruin your model. I've seen very little examples online of military guys using crackling mediums on tanks and trucks. Most of them, just like me, also consider these mediums to be amazing but extremely hard to control. Also, many art suppliers and store sell 

Thick layers create larger crackling effects and flake off

Thinner layers create a subtler effect

Vallejo Crackling Medium is versatile, but it is hard to get a consistent result because it depends on thickness. Apply it in light coats and you will get a very subtle effect, even none. Apply it on thick and it will crackle and peel, sometimes to the point it can flake off. Unfortunately, even if apply thick, it's hard to predict which surface will truly crack. In the course of my experiment, I came to the conclusion thickness and drying time were crucial. In a few case, I applied a thick coat, but the perimeter dried fast and didn't really crackle while the center would flake off tremendously. I'm not saying the product is unreliable, but that working with small surfaces and trying to replicate a very specific effect takes a lot of practice.

Vallejo Crakling Medium looks like broken glass

Vallejo Crackling Medium can be used in two ways. The first one is to simply apply the clear product on a surface. When drying, it will crackle, leaving a transparent crackled layer that can be keep as is, of later coated with paint. Use this is you want the texture, but not the drastic effect of contrasting cracks and flakes.

Acrylic paint airbrushed over wet crackling medium

It you want contrast between colors, paint the surface the desired color (often contrasting the topcoat) and let it dry completely. Then, add a generous coat of crackling medium. Before the medium is completely dry, airbrush your top color on the wet medium and let dry. Since crackling medium is made of two components that don't dry at the same speed (hence the crackling), it will provide also crackle the top coat. The effect can be extremely convincing and beautiful! However, airbrushing paint over a viscous liquid isn't extremely practical, particularly when dealing with intricate small scale models. I believe this multiple layer technique as a lot of potential, but it requires more experimentation.

Egrellan Earth makes beautiful chipping effects, but it's hard to control

The second product used was Citadel Egrellan Earth crackling paint sold by Games Workshop. This texture paint is well known within wargaming enthusiasts to create crackled desert soil on figure bases. As such, most people apply it sloppily and thickly on bases and leave it to dry. If applied thin, it will create multiple small cracks like Vallejo Crackling Medium. If applied thick, cracks are large and paint starts to flake off, creating a very convincing result. However, when dealing with a railway car, this sloppiness that is desirable on a base is no longer welcome.

A troweled thick layer gives the best results

To control thickness, I found out it was better to trowel the paint over the shell with a bit of styrene or cardboard. That way, you ensure the crackling effect will be regular and systematic on all the surface. If applied with a brush, it is likely to create zone with many cracks and others almost pristine. This can be used to our advantage because flaking will occur around details, window frames, structural members, etc., where flaking do happen in real life.

A very thick coat on small details produces drastic effects

Another advantage with Egrellan Earth is that it's so thick you can apply it precisely with a fine brush on certain details and it will crack exactly where you want it. Unfortunately, like Vallejo Crackling Medium, it is really hard to predict were crackling will happen and how. You need a lot of practice on various surfaces to get a hang of this technique. That said, you can always come back later and pick up some specific area where you add another layer. However, be advised this paint is extremely thick and will obscure some details. It could be a problem, but I found out on prototype pictures that where paint flakes, you generally loose completely the details because chipping obscure them.

Egrellan Earth over dried Vallejo Crackling Medium

A strange thing I discovered is you can apply Egrellan Earth over Vallejo Crackling Medium and it will produce an interesting crackling effect. It can be done days after Vallejo product is applied and the chemical reaction will still occur. But there is a big caveat: you must apply Egrellan Earth in one single pass with a brush or an airbrush because it will reactivate the Crackling Medium in a matter of a few seconds. If you continue to brush over the area, a thick gunk will start to form which, at this point, will completely ruin the surface.

Egrellan Earth must be painted if you want another colot

Unfortunately, there is a big problem with Citadel crackle paint; it comes only in two colors. Egrellan Earth is a clay color ideal for soil while Martian Ironearth is a reddish hue perfect for... Martian dioramas! It means if you want another color, you'll have to paint the surface when everything is dry, which means you will probably covered up the cracks, taking away a big part of the effect. In this regard, I found out it was advisable to airbrush the color at low pressure from an angle. That way, very little paint gets into the cracks. Also, apply thin coats, building up your color. You really don't want a wet coat that will run all over the cracks. 24 hours later, make a dark oil paint wash and apply it on the surface. The dark pigment will make the cracks pop out once again. You can use odorless solvent to clean the flakes surface for all pigment, which will stay into the recesses.

Plastic roof textured with solvent cement dabbed with a stiff brush

The last product is not exactly a crackling product, but rather a chemical reaction occurring when plastic solvent start to melt surfaces. Military modellers use this trick to add a cast iron texture to large plain surfaces. It's easy, use a stiff brush and soak it in solvent. Then dab the model surface with your brush until is starts melting. The brush hairs will imprint a finely granulated texture on the plastic which, if done correctly, will replicated a slightly imperfect cast steel surface. This is particularly useful for many cast parts on models, including truck sideframes (when they aren't made of Delrin). It can also be used to replicate car roof covered with roofing cement and other similar textured products.

Paint distressed with several light coats of solvent cement

Another option with solvent cement is simply to soak small surfaces that are already painted or primed. After about 3 seconds, most paints will start to wrinkle, creating a pattern that can be controlled as you wish. Simply accelarate the evaporation time and you can decide when the reaction stops. Unfortunately, this trick doesn't work the same with all paints and can be hard to predict. But once you know how the paint react, you can easily texture and entire model or simply some specific areas. Since it's not a paint, you don't add layer and it is possible to come back and touch up some areas to build up the effect.

Solvent wrinkles painted over with acrylics look great

As a side note, Chris Mears asked me if crackling medium could be used to replicate worn out asphalt roads and I believe it could. I think a coat of Vallejo Crackling medium on a road surface would create an interesting and subtle pattern that could then be painted and covered with a dark wash to make cracks pop out. It is certainly an idea I wouldn't mind trying on the Donohue access road in Clermont.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Extreme Weathering - CN CCF Snow Plow - Part 1

Snow plow CN 55550 at Wieland in 2017 (credit: Matthieu Lachance)

Most models are a matter of putting together standard parts, a good coat of paint, some decals and a subtle weathering job. And sometimes, you stumbled upon objects that completely throw your preconceptions by the window. In the case of Charlevoix Railway, it is the rusting hull of an old CN snow plow parked in Wieland.

Since as long as my train-related memories of Clermont can go back - circa 1998 - there always have been a rusted snow plow in there. Sometimes on the engine track at the shops or sitting, as it is still the case, on a MoW siding by Route 138. According to my pictures, it hasn't always been the same plow, but the the general state of disrepair associated with the said plow has now been ingrained into the CFC mythos for almost three decades now.

When I was in high school, it was common to see old ex-CN snow plows operated by Charlevoix Railway on Murray Bay subdivision. It was always a cool but unpredictable sight and it was the kind of unusual thing that would catch the attention of my young mind. On that faithful day I railfanned the line in 1998, I was able to shoot a picture of the snow plow sitting at Clermont's shop on the engine track. It was the first time I could admire it for what it was and not a blurry orange blob engulfed in snow.

Snow plow CN 55254 at Wieland in 1998 (credit: Matthieu Lachance)

Not long after, probably in the very late 1990s, my LHS got a beautiful HO scale snow plow perfectly weathered under a glass case. I never asked, but given the retail price somewhere near $300, it was probably a brass model. I've asked the shop owner if such model existed and he kindly shown me a Walthers Great Northern Russell snow plow, telling me I only had to shorten it and had a few details. It was that special era of my life I started to dabble in kitbashing and I probably thought it would be easy.

My rebuilt Walthers kit a decade ago.

Using a metal saw, crude files, grabirons made of staples, aluminium foil and a drill bit that was basically a needle, I ventured on that project. The result was crude and I quickly found out I hadn't the skills and materials required to make it work, thus it stayed in poor shape in its book. Much later, I reassembled the model as a Russell snow plow by splicing it back together. Using aluminium foil stripes, I hid the seams. A coat of Orange CN and decals based on the 1950s practice made it again a rail-worthy snow plow. Unfortunately, I had no use for it and was following with great interest the prototypical CCF plow True Line Trains were developing back then. When it became certain this project would never rise from the deads, I decided it was time to make a real CCF plow as intended many years ago. Fortunately, Steve Hunter now offer 3D replacement parts for Walthers plows on Shapeways.

With my enthusiasm for the layout revived, I started working on the plow once again after a two years hiatus. Basically, after stripping the paint, I disassembled the model yet again as I did 20 years ago. Parts were squared and reassembled carefully. All holes were plugged with styrene rods.

Many rivets and details were removed to laminate styrene sheets in several places. It was required to make sure the new doors would be perfectly aligned with the plow itself. The plow side had to be rebuilt so the model would be larger to accommodate the door thickness.

The plow "roof" was modified and extended forward with various styrene shapes like the prototype. Movable "teeth" were also fashioned in styrene at the bottom of the plow. These are controlled by a set of rods to clear grade crossings, turnouts and bridge guard rails in real life.

This meant I add to build from scratch a front knuckle, which is missing from the Walthers kit. I originally purchased a Custom Finishing white metal detail part for this, but it is useless. It looks nothing like the real thing and I'm not fan of gluing large metal parts to kits. Fitting a knuckle in it was also going to be a nightmare, so I built mine using a dummy coupler from an old Roundhouse 3-in-1 rotary snow plow kit. Looks much better if you ask me and all the linkages are now in place, giving more visual interest to this piece of rolling stock.

A new smokestack was fashioned with styrene sprues which I drilled out for more realism. Then, I added several riveted steel straps made of paper and cemented in place with solvent. This is one of my favourite trick. Other small details such as old roofwalk brackets, door locks and access hatches were added.

The roof railing was made of Tichy 0.32'' phosphore bronze wire. It is a little bit thick, but I preferred to make it sturdy as much as I could because it will suffer a lot of abuse when the car is handled. When painted in black, it shouldn't be that much obvious.

The last step was to spray a good coat of Tamiya primer and apply several rows of Archer's resin rivet heads. On the plain plow wings, rivets really add a realistic depth!

Now, the model is ready for the experimental part of this projects: creating a heavy paint flaking effect. This is by far one of the most challenging effect I ever tried to replicate. To be honest, it is such a signature feature for the layout, I had a hard time to decide how I would approach it. I barely found nothing of value about it on military modelling forums, most information coming from painting miniature wargaming figure bases and dioramas. But that's a long story for next time!