Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Finished the House Kit From Hell

Oh my God, what a holy terror this kit was to put together! The "Tower House" is my first Branchline Trains kit. Now, laser-cut wood kits are in general a bit more difficult to put together than plastic but this one was tough by wood standards.

First of the instructions just plain suck! They really don't do a good job of telling you which parts go where and how they're supposed to fit together. As a result, I had to pull pieces apart and re-assemble them several times.

If that weren't enough, a number of pieces simply didn't fit together the way the instructions said they should. This led to just whole lot of hair pulling, teeth gnashing and cursing at walls. Honestly, the folks Branchline should have measured twice before they fired up the old wood zapper!

As for paint, I went with Floquil "Depot Buff" of the walls, "Boxcar Red" on the trim and "Grimy Black" on the roof.

So yeah, definitely not a good first impression for Branchline Trains. But unfortunately other than the previously-mentioned Model Power kits, they're pretty much the only game in town in terms of house kits.

Time Warp!

With My K4 off for a rebuilding, I decided to fire up the flux capacitor and move the layout into a different era. The year is 1996, The Macarana is at the top of the charts, Bill Clinton is not having sex with "that woman" and Conrail was running the show.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Finished Model Power's "Decorated Christmas House" and a Motive Power Update

I finished the last of the Model Power house kits. This one comes with Christmas decorations printed on it. I had originally intended to just paint over them. But then my wife saw the kit and since Christmas is her favorite holiday, she convinced me to leave it as is. No paint, no weathering, just a coat of Dulcote to kill the plasicty shine.

Now there's one little problem with keeping the Christmas decorations, my layout is set in the summer! Oh well, there's always one or two tasteless rubes who leave them up all year round. A bit more problematic is the color scheme MP decided to go with, baby blue windows on white walls, yuck. But since the guy that owns the place is obviously a tasteless rube, the ugly colors can be excused. Anyway, that's it for the Model Power house kits.

In other news, I've sent my Minitrix K4 off to be re-motored and re-geared. Even with the addition of all-wheel tender pickup, it still runs far too fast and too rough for my liking. I'll have more once I get the engine back.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More Work at Altoona, More Houses and More Scenery

I spent a good portion of the day working on the railroad and got a few projects crossed off the "to do" list.

First and foremost, I got the tracks laid in the roundhouse. This project was somewhat complicated by the fact the the Atlas turntable has a tighter diameter than the roundhouse. As you can see, the outermost tracks have to curve a good bit to connect to the turntable.

I used some Atlas Code 80 track since I had a bunch of it laying around and it would be largely hidden. For the four outside tracks, I actually used sectional curves.  All told, I think this project turned out nicely.

I also knocked out another Model Power house kit. This time is was their "Haunted House." I had some fun with this one. Other than the fence, which I painted Floquil "grimy black," I left the rest of the kit in stock colors. Once assembled I hit it with coating of dark weather wash, Dulcote and chalks to really give it an abandoned look.

With the house kit done, I turned my attention to the base. Each of the house kits comes with a gray plastic base molded to look like concrete. Model Power also supplies a fairly unconvincing looking grass mat. Rather than use the grass mat, I masked out the areas I wanted to be concrete and kit the rest with some Elmer's spray adhesive. I then sprinkled on a coating of Woodland Scenics fine turf. The I scattered on some yellow turf and coarse turf on the lawn to further cement the look I was after.

I used a WS tree armature sans foliage to simulate a dead tree. I glued the fence on last. I may add a green LED for lighting. It definitely looks like haunted house. But hey, I ain't afraid of no ghost!

With the pop-up hatch in place, Scenery has been advancing westward towards Horseshoe Curve. I placed an Atlas station on the straightaway just before the curve. This will serve as Kitanning Point station. The real Kitanning Point Station was torn down in the 1930s, but I wanted to find a place for this particular structure and like the idea of including Kitanning Point.

When I desinged the track plan, I goofed and set the main line through Gallitzin too close to Horseshoe Curve (the line doubles back on itself). To separate the two scenes, I cut a 1' x 4' piece of Masonite and glues some cloud-pattern bulletin board paper to it to create a view block.

The mountains are in place as far as the right side of the curve. I painted them by diluting raw umber acrylic paint and spraying it on with a spray bottle.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Busy Week

Wow, where do I even begin? I've been quite the busy beaver up in the train room these past few days. My wife attended a bridal shower up in New York and left me with a few days worth of unsupervised play time. That allowed me to get a whole lot of projects taken care of.

The staging yard at Altoona. Two tracks are laid and roadbed for the remaining two is glued down.
I made some major progress with the Altoona staging yard. I got the second track laid and wired up. Unfortunately this did not go entirely smoothly. In my haste, I neglected to place an insulated rail joiner on one rail. When I fired up the power supply, "Zap!" instant short circuit. After replacing the offending joiner, everything worked fine.

The second track pretty well exhausted my supply of flex track, save for two sections that I'm saving for the locomotive servicing facility. However, I had more than enough roadbed to lay out the foot print for the two remaining tracks. This will allow me to get a handle on the scenery for the Altoona, which will be the one major urban area on the layout.

Model Power's Farmhouse

While I was working on the staging yard, I also manged to tackle two more Model Power house kits. The first one I did was the Farmhouse kit. I went with Floquil "Depot Buff" on the walls, Floquil "Roof Brown" on the roof and front porch floor, Floquil "Antique White" on the porch railings, Floquil "Concrete" on the walkways and Tamiya "Red Brown" on the window trim.

Unfortunately this house came with a big Goofy-looking base that was supposed to look like grass. That needed to be addressed before this building got anywhere near my layout. What I ended up doing was coating everything but the walkways with fluid matte medium and then sprinkling on a heaping helping of Woodland Scenics fine turf.

All in all, this house ended up looking a bit more ramshackle than the others. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Every block has at least one house that's looking a little run down and I'm pretty sure Gallitzin doesn't have an HOA.

Model Power's "The Sullivan's"

The second kit I built was "The Sullivan's." This kit's roof came in the most God-awful shade of red. I mean come on! This is Gallitzin, PA not Florida and adobe tile roofs are quite rare. Thankfully that was nothing a coat of Floquil "Roof Brown." couldn't handle. I went with Floquil "Reefer White" for the walls, porch railings and lattice. To conserve my supply of Floquil Concrete, I used Testors "Flat, Light Aircraft Grey" of the foundation and steps. So that's five kits down and two to go.

The mountains with the pop-up hatch removed.

Another project I needed to get done before scenery construction could progress was a pop-up hatch near Horseshoe Curve. When I was designing the track plan and benchwork, I gave little thought to accessing the area around the curve and stupidly made it very difficult to access. If it's one this we all know about model trains, it's that they always pick the least accessible spot on your layout to stall and/or derail. So I needed to cut a hatch into the table to allow me to clean track, dust, and retrieve the smoldering wreckage of crashed trains.

Just cut a hole in the table. Simple right? Wrong! It seemed like everywhere that was a good spot on top of the table was a nightmare on the bottom. There were wire and cross-members in the way. Finally I settled on the plywood section over the attic door. But that was in the middle of a mountain range! What I ended up doing was cutting a piece of two-inch styrofoam, adding end pieces and overlaying plaster cloth to create a removable section of mountain. I used two pieces of 3/4-inch oak stripwood to create a channel for the hatch to drop into.

It's not the easiest thing to open and get through, but at least I have some access to the inside of the curve now.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Finished Model Powers "Mr. & Mrs. Diggers" Kit

Well, three down and four more to go. Unfortunately, Model Power went with just about the ugliest colors for this one. As such everything but the chimneys needed paint. I used Poly Scale Tuscan on the walls, Floquil "Concrete" on the steps, Floquil "Antique White on the windows, porch, columns and lattice, Floquil "Engine Black" on the shutters and Floquil "Grimy Black" on the roof. So yeah, this one was a bit more work than the other two, but I think it also came out the best so far.