Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Latest photos show the completion of three walls. In a prior post on the shed, I mentioned that I used Chooch flex wall and Micro-Mark Factory Red Brick adhesive paper. These were formed over the base wall made from a double layer of plywood to get a good thickness for strength. You will notice one wall has the limestone pillars painted a light gray. This was a test that I found very satisfactory. It is a medium wash using a craft paint named FOG from Michaels art supply. 

Next was to create a jig to build the trusses / roof supports as seen below. I used the upper edge of the end wall as the guide to place #18x5/8" wire brads. The jig base is  left over piece of pine. The trusses are Pastruct #90655. First was to cut off the one beam in order to get it to flex then removed one of the remaining V sections from each end. So far I have 8 completed with two more to build. Next will be constructing the roof; I plan on using Evergreen sheet styrene, part #4250, V groove .040" thick. Each section is 6"x12". Amazingly, the foot print I made was perfect such that I did not need to cut to fit any section. Four sections laid side to side fit perfect!
Fast forward... creating the jig is usually the biggest challenge and that was no different for the roof. But how to get the .040 styrene to bend and hold its bend was a conundrum. A few conversations later with friends, they suggested a heat gun. But I needed a solid base to allow the styrene a solid base to reform.  So a small jig was built. Scrap 3/4" particle board was cut into arches in line with the ends of the car shed to accommodate one section of styrene. Aluminum flashing was to be the solid base and secured to the arches. 

Anchoring one end of the styrene with clamps, I moved the heat gun over the surface until the plastic began to relax. One great idea from Ray Russel to help hold the new shape was to place a cold towel immediately onto the styrene to lock the position. In the end and although it came out reasonably well, the problem was that I could not count on each styrene section to remold itself into an exact position so that all 5 sections would line up cleanly. I need to be bale to have a solid even arch base to shape these .040 sections. Why .040? Because they have the V grooves far enough apart to replicate the solder joints shown in the photos!
Sharing my dilemma with club members, Steve Lang suggested taking two .020 sheets, glue them in the shape of the arch and that could serve as a sub roof to hold the .040 sections in the arched position. "But Evergreen doesn't make them 1'x2'." Steve did have sheets that size - exactly! Love how a plan can come together.
Starting with old 3/4" plywood you can see I cut 8 arches and secured to a base. 
I was unsure how to clamp the roof and then the duh moment... 
add spacers.
 JB Weld epoxy was my choice to secure the aluminum; speaking of which, it was also the exact size needed when purchased, 1'x2'. Very happy several materials were ready to use.
 Here is the jig with the sub-roof being prepped, limed up.. 

The two .020 sheets were lined up on the aluminum and clamped. Leaving one side clamped, the other side was opened in order to apply the Ambroid PRO-WELD. I went to a much larger brush and wider container since the accompanying brush was way too small when I needed to get a lot on quickly. But it worked.
So far so good. However there was a slight uplift to the sides of the sub-roof. I am hoping that by clamping the V groove sections onto the sub-roof using JB, and onto the aluminum jig to hold the curve, the end result will be close if not spot on.
First is to line up the V groove styrene sections.
 One edge was then secured with clamps to hold the position.
JB Kwik (5 minute epoxy) was applied to the other edge. After that hardened, waiting about 1 hour to cure, three more applications with hardening time has one section secured. Below two sections are in place. The other two sections are place holders to ensure alignment.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chattanooga Car Shed

Chattanooga is an end point on my W&A line. One of the 'signature' elements is the relatively much photographed train station. At that time these structures were called the 'Car Shed'. It is a term used in larger cities along the W&A such as Atlanta and Dalton. However, the smaller towns depots and stations were usually constructed of brick or field stone. My challenge was to find a material that replicated the limestone pillars as seen in the photo below...
Finding no textured material, I did locate a paper product of limestone block from Miniature Planet. However, when I went to purchase this they had discontinued that particular design... figures. I had used a flex wall for another project manufactured by Chooch. Problem  was that it did not bend on tight corners as needed for these small pillars. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I took my first trip to the incredible Springfield train show. Speaking of which, it was well worth the trip from NJ. But that's another story. Fortunately I met the owners of Chooch. Their idea was to score the corner to make a clean bend at the tight corners. He also suggested how to alter its color with a gray wash. I purchased the HO/N Small Cut Stone, #8260, and found it to work fabulously! The scoring idea was perfect and it took the wash remarkably well.
Here is a sequence of pics from package to install... 

The wall starts out 4"x24". It is very easily cut with an Xacto #11 blade or a single edge razor. Most important of course is to accurately measure and mark the corner for scoring. I used ply bass wood as the frame. While scoring the flex wall I accidentally cut all the way through the Chooch wall but not the backing material. But that was not an issue. These walls have an adhesive backing and stick very well. In some cases I used hot glue because then narrow sections did not adhere well and the hot glue worked fabulously. I also decided to clamp the interiors to ensure adhesion. 
Below is the sample of how the walls will look once assembled. Next is to tackle roof construction. More on that later.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Organizing Tips 1 - Styrene Sheets

I cannot emphasize the pleasure of having my 'stuff' situated for ease of access. I, as perhaps many of you, have acquired many different styles and diverse sheets of styrene. In the earlier days I was experimenting scratch building everything from structures to rolling stock. I had used both wood and styrene to find what I prefer given the different advantages and challenges of each. Researching the different master modelers' ideas, often recommended was to have on hand a wide variety of materials to avoid time lost either traveling to the hobby shop or waiting for the mail from on-line purchases. Inevitably I would need something that I did not have on hand. My conundrum was how to organize the packages which were in a box and required a constant rifling through to find what I needed. Here is one solution that you may find useful. This is a left over large 3-ring binder from training materials for my work. Staples provided the plastic inserts and wallah! I had my organizer!
Seeing this as a viable way to hold and organize, also filed were all the various paper products from Miniature Plant. I was going to add their link here, however, it appears that they no longer exist as their name is up for sale! This is one most important reason that if you find something you like, PURCHASE EXTRAS! This company was fabulous because you could purchase a sheet, download the PDF and print as many sheets as needed.
However, the general idea of using a binder is something to consider as you look to become organized. Hope you find this helpful.

Organizing Tips 2 - Building Sheets and Scale Lumber

If you follow my blog you know that the majority of buildings are scratch built. This requires a variety of styrene as well as scale lumber materials. At the very least, if not organized, looking for what I or my crew need is cumbersome and an inefficient use of time. At worst it is very frustrating combing through boxes or piles of packages. Keeping building materials organized is key to expedite ease and efficiency. I had a common situation, as many model railroaders, limited storage and wall space, especially since the ceiling is cathedral-like and at an angle. Here is one idea I came up with to separate the building materials. It is a file box with eight sections, four on both sides.
On the left half or section of this filer I have inserted both styrene and paper walls, roof and flooring materials. They are organized in large zip locks.
As you can see, each zip lock is labeled. Others include Shingles and Roofing. This makes the 'search' effortless. On the right side or section I insert the variety of Northeastern, Midwest Scale Lumber and Evergreen Styrene Strip material. 
Above these packages of scale lumber and styrene strips I filed thick styrene sheets. The file box is thick plastic and easily attached to the wall. These can be purchased from Staples or other office supply houses.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Turnbale Discussions Episode 4, Part 1

July 2016 I had the great pleasure to be with Charlie Taylor at his Memphis and Charleston RR. Charlie has been working diligently in preparation for our American Civil War RR's 2016 meet in Memphis. He chose O scale acquiring equipment from SMR and BTS. Track is all hand laid by Charlie and turnouts were built using FastTracks templates. The line runs from Memphis and includes the towns of Huntsville, Corinth, and Chattanooga. Also featured is the "Lost Tunnel" recently located out side of Chattanooga by Charlie and Mark Brainard, an ACW RR historian. Three of the most outstanding features by Charlie are the scratch built trestles and bridges. The structures are of the most beautifully constructed by his friend CC (Charles Curro) who has evolved into a master builder in his own right. His head is slightly visible in the background. Charlie's nephew, Will Shirey, is the gifted artist who painted the backdrops. Will's art here was a key element of his portfolio that got him an acceptance into a premier art school in California. 
This is a brief 'interview' with Charlie Taylor in his layout room. Charlie, by the way, was a bit reluctant to do a more in-depth, formal interview so we took what we could get.You can see more photos of Charlie's layout. Go to "Labels" on right side of the blog. Click on Memphis and Charleston RR.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Passenger Car - Adding Passengers

This post is a follow up from the previous by taking the 'Passenger Car Detailing' to its next step. The ease of this process is that unless the car is lit, passengers only require the slightest of color. The original cars come with a card showing silhouettes of passengers. I prefer creating a 3D quality to enhance the models... and, I just may install lights in the cars down the line. 
At first I thought I would need to have figures be of the period. However, after a test using 20th century folk I could not tell the difference. This contributes to the 'ease factor'. I have many Prieser figures left over for other kits where a few choice positions were transformed into period-looking people. All those leftover seated figures are now being conscripted for the cars! 
I prime them while on the sprue. I then use the Pic-n-Stick Q-tip looking tool to hold as I paint them if not on a sprue. These are fabulous. One box has about 30 and they can be reused many times. 
As you see in this photo below, there are 3-4 basic colors. No detail painting as mentioned since most of the view will be silhouette-ish. 
Next is to attach the passengers to their seats. These 'Pikestuff' seats can be found at train shows, as well as seated passengers, versus buying retail. I find most hobbyists have leftover seated people that they want to unload. 
You'll notice below I have the benches spaced because I don't want to waste seats and I want to position them randomly. The piece of styrene under the seat base is so the bench is even with the weight that runs through the car center and keeps the bench level. By the way, the lady in front came painted. Another find at a show.
Next is to add louvers. As I mentioned in the prior post, my friend Brian Kammerrer, who also painted the backdrops, sent me this sheet based on my description. 
 I cut various lengths and install with Aileen's Tacky Glue.
 This is a larger section to cover three windows.
And the final step is to enclose the passengers, then send them off to their next adventure... as am I!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Detailing W&A Passenger Cars

The Tyco or Mantua 1860 passenger car is a shortened version of the prototype measuring in at about 34'.

It requires 3 cars to create two into their period length, about 42'. Below is a view of the splicing. Tricky part is lining up the widows which is visible at the seem.

Here is the side view. The seem stands out which now requires some sanding and in some cases some fill. Fortunately the latter was not required. The idea is to cut the sections about 2-3" scale inches longer then sand them for the final fit. I believe my friend Gerry Daub used a Zona razor saw.

The challenge with this project was to slice off the molded hand rails since the car was already painted. Tedious  but worth it for the results. Moving ever so slow and gently pivoting the blade left to right making incremental headway to avoid chipping the paint, there are eight hand rails in all to remove.
The molded handrail removed:
 Drilling with a #77 bit for .019" brass wire:
These curved pliers have one tip slightly larger than the other for a larger bend or smaller bend as is your preference.

The results:

Once painted, although not the clearest photo, a much improved prototypical look. You will notice, looking closely, louvers in the windows. Saw these after watching Disney's Great Locomotive Chase for the 100th time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Soldering Iron Cleaning Tool

Soldering has become a integral part of my modeling. Much of my work has been, and continues to be, installing decoders as well as a variety of other soldering projects. During the soldering process, I typically I have been cleaning the iron tip with a damp cloth. Earlier days I was using the accompanying sponge. By the way I use a Weller, the most common one which can be purchased with its stand and sponge. Then my friend Ray Russell was here doing some soldering work that had me stumped. I offered a damp cloth and he gave me that.. "Are you kidding me?" incredulous stare. I responded most curiously knowing I evidently was still on the learning curve. He showed me this miraculous device that not only cleaned the iron nearly instantly, but avoiding the damp cloth eliminated the wait time till the iron reheated. One other most important element was that the iron was not subjected to mineral deposits from the moisture. You may say these are quite insignificant. I would say that if you do solder, this device will have a marked improvement on your time and process. The brand name is Hakko. I found this one on Amazon. You just insert the tip in the mesh a few times and its ready for the next melt.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Lately I have been experimenting more with powders and chalks to weather rolling stock. Reading various reviews on chalks I see mixed reactions to the quality of the look that these materials produce. After applying the powders I am a convert. The only watch-out is to not overdo the amount being applied. However, if that does occur it is easy enough to apply other colors to reduce the area that was overdone. Here are a few examples...

The top "house" / box car, a laser wood kit by BTS, is painted the dark slate blue color known for the W&A. The walls have been altered as was the case on many lines. When troops were being hauled about, the lack of air flow caused the fellas to tear out the walls. There are some reports that entire cars were reduced to the frame.
First application is a gray tone for the basic fading. I may use two or three different tones. Last is the reddish brown. This simulates the GA red dirt.
I have found Doc Brown's weathering powders to work very well. He offers about 6 shades of brown and 6 primary-like colors.
I also use Prismacolor pastels. As you can see with Prisma, there are a wide variety of grays. In this grouping there is a dark color that nearly matches my dark slate blue, which is a Tamiya color called Field Blue. When I overdue a color I can hit it with colors close to the base color in order to soften the hue. The lighter grays give that additional weathered look of faded paint and wood versus using a pure white. 
Here's a few other cars weathered with these powders and chalks.

Monday, October 17, 2016


We came, we saw and were inspired... and had a heck of a good time! Members of our Civil War Railroads and Modeling Yahoo group converged on Memphis TN last weekend. About 20 members, which is a good attendance, met at a LaQuinta hotel to share projects, research, modeling projects and a passionate interest in this era's railroading. We also traveled to one of the more famous battlefields, Shiloh, for a fabulous tour with Lee Millar who has been giving talks, tours and reenacting for about 20 years. One highlight was running trains on Charlie Taylor's M&C 'O' scale model railroad at his home. The following photos are a window into our ventures. 
Ron Flowers of MI, Bernie Kempinski who models the USMRR Aquia Line in Alexandria, and Dave Bright who is the author of a fabulous web site He has done remarkable research on Confederate railroads. The view is of Charlie Taylor's Howe Truss bridge over the Running Water Creek at Whiteside  TN in 1862.
Charlie Taylor, our host, and Marty Vaughn. Marty is a very skilled model painter and sculptor in HO scale. Marty now paints figures for my layout.
Mark Richardson, from CA who models in N, HO and O scale and Mark Brainard, railroad historian who is a volunteer at places like Chattanooga where we first met Mark who was a presenter at last year's convention.
Far left is Tim Bode, first time attendee who had a grand time. Charlie Curro who constructed the buildings and is a master builder in his own right. Charlie's brother Harold who is a master machinist and made the turntables with the "Geneva Wheel", a very complex and precise device for accurate functional operation, D.C. Cebula, our founder and moderator, and Charlie.
John Turner who has installed the decoders in Charlie's locos and troubleshooting craftsman. Rick Sester who is a skilled model railroader in his own right.
Lee Millar giving one of his most thorough interpretations of the Battle of Shiloh. 
And me, Charlie Curro (CC) and Charlie Taylor, who is gesturing..."What train?', at the Crossroads of Corinth where a significant battle occurred on two occasions, both of which were won by the Union army. Look to the far left. See a light in the distance. Little did we know there was a train-a-comin! In less than a minute it was upon us traveling about 50 mph. We got off soon as we heard the whistle which was a bit of a shock. Good thing they have a whistle!
See many more photos on our civil war railroads and modeling site
Hope you enjoyed the trip.