Saturday, January 14, 2017

Organizong 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.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


I have been using Musket Miniature figures since the beginning as this company has the most extensive, close to scale, diverse in figures and reasonably priced; an easy choice. Although I use a variety of figures including Preiser, New Designs and Airfix, to name a few, of the nearly 450 figures on the layout 400 are Musket's. Most recently Kris, new owner of the company, has been speaking with several members of our Civil War Railroads and Modeling yahoo group as he looks to expand his product lines. He asked that I send him photos of the W&A to see how they are displayed and possibly to use one or two for his marketing. The key however is finding great, not good, but great artists to paint them. I have been fortunate to have found 4. Here are some of the shots I sent to Kris.
Track Gang

Pontoon Approach
Camp McDonald Big Shanty

Dalton Depot

Supply Train

Saturday, September 24, 2016

CATOOSA - Mantua Rebuild

I have embarked on the next addition to the W&A stable of locomotives, the Catoosa. She was a Norris built locomotive, same manufacturer as the Yonah. As always, a key reference for the Mantua General alterations is Al Mueller's manual...
One of the more prominent elements to his rebuild is his  idea on making room in the tender for a new motor, decoder, speaker and capacitor. Once the tender top is removed, grinding away some of the frame is needed to accommodate these parts. And since the original model comes with a plastic wood load, that is not acceptable for a fine scale model replication. Here's a page from Al's manual on preparing the form for the wood load. 
Now here's the result of my attempt to replicate his instruction. You can see that I added a brass plate and water tank cap; the cap is from Precision Scale.
These next two photos show the tender interior exposed. By being able to remove the wood load there is easier access to the motor section without needing to remove the entire tender. It also allows for more ventilation. The black tip coming out of the tender front is a drive shaft cup from NWSL. The drive shaft mechanism is another redesign element also offered in Al's manual.

I use a motor from a fella named "Motorman" who restores and rebuilds a wide variety of motors and can be found on the internet. He operates via eBay usually. This motor is a Swiss Maxon 13 mm 7 pole coreless motor-High torque (150731330992). They run about $45. My locos are able to pull 12-18 car trains which is quite a feat given that the Mantua General's are not known for their pulling power. Of course I weigh my cars below the NMRA standard to about 30 grams. 
The decoder is a Tsunami Micro. But these have been discontinued. Their replacement decoder is called Econami. Al has installed one or two and vouches for their reliability and easier programming as well as installation; these are slightly smaller believe it or not.