So I mentioned I spent some time as a Trackman on the B&O. That experience taught me that turnout ties were not often replaced at the same time as regular ties. Those standard ties were much more available for track gangs to replace and of course there are so many more compared to switch ties.
I mention this as there are some prototype reasons why switch ties look different from all the rest as far as weathering and condition. At least on a well maintained line. It is not unusual for the longer switch ties to all be of similar age, while the standard ties around them may vary in age. The standard ties are replaced as needed, while a turnout would be repaired more likely as a unit with most or all ties being replaced. This is a factor in weathering for a model railroad. The rail on the other hand may be laid at a different times, but it’s weathering for modeling purposes is more uniform as it lasts much, much longer than a wood tie. Although turnout rail is replaced as a unit usually also, the intervals are just much longer. A Track Foreman or Track Supervisor will gauge turnouts and oversee construction, a lowly Trackman can gauge other track and spike it. Speaking from experience.
My modeling project is using Micro Engineering products and the track I bought is pre-weathered, though the turnouts do not come pre-weathered. Based on my earlier statements, I believe I should weather the rail similar to most of the rail in proximity, while the ties can be less uniform, for good reason.
One way to weather rail is to paint, another option is to use a chemical “blackening solution”. I was satisfied with several applications of Micro Engineering (ME) Rail Weathering Solution #49-103 as it turned the turnout rails a dark shade and matches the pre-weathered rail ME offers. Older rail, before the advent of roller bearings on freight cars, weathered a dark, dark gray stained by the grease from wheel bearings. Rail in more modern times often has a hint of surface rust and brake shoe dust that makes it appear a lighter, more orange color. Except maybe near rail lubricators that keep it a more dark gray color.
If you zoom in on the layout photo (I did that below) at the top of the post you can see that I have added joint bars and cuts in the track at prototypical distances on the rails. I still need to add a little chalk weathering and finish the ballast details, but the track work is coming together. Its a detail that we often pass over and getting it to match your prototype can help complete the scene.
With “Stay at Home” public health orders in place across the United States, it seems many are finding extra time and a renewed need for their hobbies. I am no exception and the time in the evening to escape work tasks gives me a needed change of pace and time away from my kitchen table, now work station. Completing a few projects has been fun, though one painting misstep with Acrylic Floor Finish added some frustration and gave me a reason to consider practicing my techniques and possibly narrowing them down to one basic process and deciding which products I like to work with the most.
For me, the first and most important step in developing preferred painting and decaling techniques was to consider a new airbrush. I had been using a single action Badger Model 200 with siphon feed for years. I did not enjoy it, I could not seem to get fine paint control (also a function of using various paint brands and types) and it took so much paint to fill the jar up to siphon hose, clean up took as long as actual painting time. On and off I subscribe to TrainMasters TV, an online model train video series, and one of the first segments I watched was on airbrushing by a representative of Iwata airbrushes. I loved the fact that by using Vallejo paints and a gravity fed double action tool, the expert on the screen was bale to quickly and precisely paint models and cleanup the brush. Those were the things I wasn’t able to do with my current Badger setup. This is not a knock on Badger, it was the whole system that got me where I wanted to go and I am sure other brands could do that also. I believe the key was the double action for control (takes a little practice), easy cleanup and consistent paint, and the use techniques shown in the video.
I ended up purchasing an Iwata Eclipse Hp-Cs Value Set with Hose, then quickly purchased a Iwata-Medea Universal Spray Out Pot and large container of Iwata-Medea Airbrush Cleaner for easy clean up. Watching the video will show the techniques for using all of these much better than I can explain here.
The consistent paint turned out to be the Vallejo Model Air series, they are thinned for airbrushing and available in a wide variety of colors, though not mainly labeled for railroad colors. This is a big drawback, but I decided to tackle it by starting with the Vallejo Steam Engine Weathering Set I found on Amazon and then add colors available on Amazon and eBay as they were not found local to me. Their line of Model Color paints are also a good and only have to be thinned to the consistency of the Model Air paints to produce the same results. I use Vallejo airbrush thinner for this. An excellent source for additional information about spraying acrylics and color matching with Vallejo paints is available at this link, The Model Railroad Hobbyist’s Guide to Acrylic Painting… in a post-Floquil World. This was written and published by the folks at Model Railroad Hobbyist with the support of Testors.
I have also started my own system for color matching after ordering several Vallejo brown colors that could be used on steam era freight cars. I took a piece of scrap styrene and drew lines on it to allow space for a paint sample along with manufacturer and stock number information. I had done something similar years ago with a few PollyScale and Floquil paints that I could use for comparison with the new colors. The one thing I would do different if starting over is to have a larger paint sample space, maybe a square inch, and use an airbrush to paint the sample. A few other modelers are using Vallejo paints and in online forums, I have heard that Model Air Rust 71.080 is a good match for early Santa Fe Brown and Model Air German Red Brown 71.271 is a good match for early PRR FCC.
This article started when I was looking a “better” flat finish. I have used Testors DullCote for probably 40 years and have almost always had great results. The few times the results were less than stellar are probably user error. A recent online forum post led me to try Winsor & Newton Galeria Matt Varnish, which I found on Amazon. Sorry I can’t find the original post in order to give credit to the person who shared the information. The 8.4 fluid ounce container was around $12.00 which makes it considerably cheaper than DullCote.
The first trial was on a boxcar from the scrap box that had a very shiny finish. The black door in the photo below show the reflection from a light several feet away. Using my Iwata airbrush I put a little bit in the paint cup without thinning. It was fairly thick but sprayed easily at 25psi and dried fairly quickly. You could see it dry as the gloss disappeared and the best part of the product is water cleanup. I sprayed warm water through the brush into the spray out pot several times and then final washed it, as I always do, with Iwata-Medea Airbrush Cleaner. I did so quickly as I wasn’t sure what could be left behind. Subsequent uses of the airbrush haven’t revealed any residue causing problems.
After it was dry for at least 24 hours, I wanted to see how weathering techniques might work on this finish. In the third picture you can see I applied some Tamiya Dark Gray pinwash (they call it Accent Line Accent Color) to the grabs, ladder, and lower sill and pan pastels to various places on the far end. I wasn’t trying to achieve any particular effect just determine compatibility. The application and results did not differ from what I am used to with DullCote finished models, I see that as a plus. This will be my future dull finish product.
As I stated at the beginning of this blog, I haven’t thoroughly tested my techniques from start to finish, so I decided to give it a go with another shiny boxcar from the scrap box. I left the original finish intact and sprayed half the car with the primer I have been using recently, Tamiya Oxide Red Fine Surface Primer and the other half with a product I have been wanting to try, Vallejo USN Light Ghost Grey Surface Primer. The grey was not thinned and cleaned up with my standard procedure of Iwata-Medea Airbrush Cleaner and the spray out pot. The coverage was better, cleanup almost as easy as the spray can, and the cost significantly less, so I think most future projects will use the Vallejo product. For brass painting, I will probably still use the Tamiya product line for what I feel is better adhesion to the metal.
The next step was adding a coat of Vallejo Model Air Rust 71.080, a good freight car brown color. I roughly masked off the ends to keep a little primer showing and gave the model a thin coating sprayed at 25 psi. The results of both ends seem about the same.
After 48 hours of dry time, the next step will be a coat of “Future” acrylic floor finish to add a glossy, smooth surface for decaling. With so many great reviews online about this product, I really want to master its use. I have used it successfully with a brush on small projects like replacing a reweigh date or adding chalk marks, but I have not done so well on larger surfaces or with an airbrush. I got the best finish on the car pictured when I dropped the air pressure to 20 psi and kept the brush back about six inches. Again, a rough masking job shows the progression of steps from the original green. As an aside, I was painting some blank decal stock green to use on B&O caboose window sashes and found that Vallejo Game Air Sick Green 72.729 is a close match to the BN Green on the original model. The second photo below shows a patch I sprayed with the Sick Green.
Time for some decals. Part of what started this search for a better process was the use of some very old decals on the recently gloss sprayed caboose I was working on. They disintegrated when I put them on the model, even before adding setting solution. This gave me a chance to learn about Microscale Liquid Decal Film. I used some decals from the same sheet for this project and gave them two coats of decal film. One coat didn’t seem to be enough to hold the decals together. I placed them over rivets and ribs to make it a bigger challenge. My go to has always been Walthers Solvaset so that what I went with. I ordered some Microscale Microset to try for this experiment but it didn’t arrive in time. My Solvaset technique is the lay the decal into a puddle of the distilled water I used to soak the decal and then wick up the water with the edge of a paper towel. Then I immediately apply Solvaset lightly around the edges the decal and let it wick under the decal. If there is too much and it begins to puddle I wick it off the model. I never touch the decal when the Solvaset is wet and I usually keep the model lying flat. I repeat several times over the course of a few hours and watch everything blend into the rivets and seams to know when to say when.
And a final coat of Matt Varnish to seal the deal. Again, I sprayed at 25psi, straight from the container, and covered the surface with just enough to get a solid gloss shine before it dries. It flashes off very quickly and cleans up with water.
This adventure started when I wanted to test a new matt spray finish and it has sold me on that product. Dullcote was becoming expensive and sometimes unreliable because of the spray can nozzles. Now I am more comfortable with the acrylic floor finish and feel like I have a total finishing system that is repeatable and easy to airbrush. Time to finish the caboose I was working on. Stay safe!
I have recounted the background of the development of the MJB Models kit for Ilchester, now I offer an overview of constructing the model for my era. The blog that recounts the background research is at, https://bomodeling.com/2018/12/04/ilchester-maryland-part-one-the-bo-station/. The kit was a gift from my friend Don Barnes, so I don’t know the price, but it was not inexpensive and the quality is reflected in the well thought out design by Mark Bandy. This model represents a signature structure on this part of the Old Main Line and instantly recognizable to those that follow this part of the B&O.
The instructions for this kit are pretty straightforward and consist of numbered and lettered parts diagrams for each sheet of laser cut parts and then a series of exploded diagrams of the construction process. They are more than adequate to build a great model. However, the walls are created by layering-on parts to create built up subassemblies of multi-part windows, multi-parts doors, and various sidings so it pays to test fit twice and glue once. I am sure this was done to allow the model to be painted prior to assembly, thus allowing a great rendition of a detailed two color paint scheme. My challenge was to do the kit justice.
Unlocking which color to paint which parts prior to assembly was the most difficult part of the project. And related to that, which paint colors to use to duplicate the colors of a particular era. The early 1960s photo below is a good rendition of the Cream and Black colors I remember seeing on old structures painted in this combination. It also matches favorably the Cream color shown on the 1939 paint chip card I received in an email some years ago. To match it I airbrushed Vallejo Model Air 71.270 White (it is not a pure white) with 10 drops of Vallejo Model Air 71.244 Sand Beige added to the almost full bottle. For the Black trim I used Vallejo Model Air 71.251NATO Black, it is a weathered flat black that has a slight brown hue that matches my recollection of the color. Though somewhat subjective, it is what I have chosen.
While the literature indicates the primary color of a station in my era is Cream, I often see B&O models painted the darker buff color. I always remember a light color, such as shown in the preceding photo taken sometime after 1950 and before 1970 when the station no longer appears in photos of the area.
The first question to answer in building the kit was on which sheets does one paint which color. The photos below will help someone building thIs kit.
The kit’s parts are well cut and it only takes a slight trim with a razor blade to free them for their laser-cut sheets. I refrained from cutting the parts out until I could paint them to help them resist curling from the application of paint. I don’t know if it would have happened, but I thought it was a good precaution. I glued the basic frame together with sparing amounts of yellow wood glue and clear coated them. I did this long before I looked at the rest of the kit as I needed a mock up of the station for layout planning purposes. As seen in the photo below it was a pretty solid foundational structure and a perfect stand-in structure for the finished product.
I started building the kit a little out of order from the instruction sheets as I wanted to start on the side hidden from normal viewing on my layout, the trackside. I assembled one door and window on the north side, west end. The window and door attach behind that black painted intermediate piece that is covered by the adhesive shingle sheet on top and the siding piece inset on the lower portion. I added the vinyl glazing supplied with the kit, but cut it to window size and used canopy glue instead of the supplied double sided tape as the space was too small for much tape to bite. The glazing has to no wider than the door or window to fit within the cutout of the basic structure assembled first.
The pieces fit precisely, so before I glued this piece to the basic structure I started building the other window, door, trim, shingle pieces. I wanted to be sure my building techniques were as precise as the laser cutting. I was close. I left the edge trim pieces unglued where they met the next wall to allow the corners to be glued together. These are black trim pieces and they look better as precisely matched as possible.
I don’t remember ever building a structure kit that went together this well. I took my time with each step and test fitted every piece before letting it set overnight and then I came back to glue it the next day. I set it up on a different table and just did one step a night. It was hard not to rush, but the kit deserved this level of attention.
Progression on the kit went well as you can see it coming together. I repeated the steps for each side and it everything fit as expected. I was sparing with the glue and test fitted parts multiple times. The adhesive-backed, laser-cut parts fit very well, but there was not much dwell time. When you place an overlay part in place it didn’t take long for it to be very strongly adhered.
Interior walls seem to be front to back (north to south) as one can see through from the trackside out the backside windows in period photos. Speculation would put the passenger waiting room on the west end with a door for in and out on the trackside. Passenger trains had been discontinued on the OML in 1949. There are no doors on the south side away from the track. The center portion of the station would probably be occupied by the station agent’s office and the east end a small freight storage area. This was apparently supplemented by the separate freight house to the east (a future blog post).
The interior walls were constructed from scrap styrene as the interior is not detailed, but I wanted someone looking very close to see the separation and I wanted to add some lighting to the center freight agent’s office. Looking at lighting in photos in a previous blog I noticed three shaded exterior lights on the trackside of the building. I turned to Woodland Scenics products as I have success with them lighting the Point of Rocks station. The HO scale lamps seemed a little oversized so I used the N scale JP5658 Gooseneck Wall Mount Lights for the exterior pendant lights and one JP5740 Warm White LED Stick-On Light for the freight agent’s office overhead light. These were all connected to a Woodland Scenics JP5701 Light Hub under the layout. The next photo shows my less than neat wiring, my goal was to make sure the wires were secure and out of sight inside the structure and could be installed without drilling holes in the model.
Before the roof sections are installed, I added one final detail to the interior, the windows in period photos show window blinds. Take a look at the prototype photos in the previous blog referenced earlier. I added these with trimmed pieces of manila folder, cut slightly wider than the windows to give them a slight offset and not appear glued to the window “glass”.
The roof intersections have some unusual angles that I would have trouble creating in 1:1 scale, so slight trims and test fits helped me get them very close and then use the roofing material to close the gaps. The tarpaper roofing material supplied is excellent and guidelines for installation are lightly laser-cut into the roof sections. A slight overhang of the tarpaper was needed to cover the facia boards that are added near the end of construction.
The final facia trim work adds the finishing touch. There are some precut pieces that are too short, but this is easy correct by trimming some extra boards from the sheet the trim is cut from and blending them in with canopy glue and NATO black paint.
Currently MJB Models is not producing kits and Mark’s website is dormant. But if you ever want to build an excellent kit, please try one of his products. As I built it, my only trepidation was putting in as good an effort into building it as he had put into engineering and producing the kit. This is not a slight to anyone and I love building Al Westerfield’s older kits, this is on par or might even exceed that level of design and detail, though in a structure.
Having not used Digital Command Control (DCC) in the past and owning only a few factory equipped sound and DCC locomotives, I started with a fairly blank canvas. This led to a lot of reading on the internet to gather as many opinions as possible and see which things are most important to me and my layout.
My original concept did not involve operations and slight changes have made that a little more important, but my path chosen did not make the adjustment difficult. One thing that seemed universal was the advice to choose a command and power system supported by a local hobby shop or a local club. Not belonging to a club, I chose the former and sought the advice of Raymond Stern at Pro-Custom Hobbies in Eldersburg, MD. He recommended Digitrax and as it was unlikely I would be running more than five trains at a time, I purchased the Digitrax Zephyr Xtra DCS51 All-in-one Command Station/Booster/Throttle (recently replaced by the Digitrax Zephyr Express). It fits the size and scope of my planned layout, offers programming, 3 amp power, and throttle all in one unit. It looks and feels similar to the DC Power Packs I was used to, so that held some charm.
For convenience in wiring the layout I purchased an NCE LWK25 – DCC main bus wiring kit designed to handle 25 feet of double mainline track. I later purchased additional wire and connectors, and a high-quality wire stripping tool to make life a little easier. Important lesson learned in the process is to not tin the wires to be inserted into crimped connectors. It’s a thing, ask someone experienced in electrical circuits.
Programming pre-equipped locomotives proved a little challenging and I had to add a Soundtraxx 829002 PTB-100 Programming Track Booster to boost power to my programming track. It worked, but the steps in changing CVs with the Digitrax multi-function unit for anything more than changing the locomotive’s address were long and tedious (multiple button pushes in specific orders). This led me to using JMRI Decoder Pro (freeware), something that I had considered as a worthy investment from the beginning. This was confirmed after programming a few locomotives and then having them reset or lose a CV change. I am very supportive of a product that would keep the stored values somewhere other than the locomotive for ease of reprogramming when something goes wrong. It also eliminates the button pushing and uses a more familiar Windows interface. I purchased the Digitrax PR4 USB to LocoNet Interface with Decoder Programmer and connected it to my Windows 10 machine on the desk near my layout. This is the piece required to connect the Decoder Pro running on the Windows machine to the programming track (other brands are available). It also allows the Windows machine to act as a throttle and I can later connect my layout control system to my computer, if desired. I am still experimenting with these products, but after playing around with programming types and rebooting the machine several times, it has been able to program all of my older Broadway Limited and Bachmann factory sound equipped locomotives, as well as one experimental set of non-factory equipped P2K locomotives that I am adding Soundtraxx DCC and sound units to over time. The changes to operating the Bachmann EM-1 (it’s a must have for a B&O Modeler) have made it worth it already.
Adding sound decoders and speakers is the subject of a few more blogs in the future, as I am equipping the ABA set of P2K Alco units first (along with some prototypical detailing) before I tackle my Kato F-3 ABA set and the OML Peddler’s brass Q-7f Mikado. All in good time.
One operating session on John King’s B&O layout led me to want walk-around throttle control, as it puts you literally in the engineer’s seat as you follow the train on the layout, the old single control point from the power pack days had to be updated. I found a simple, effective solution with WiThrottle, an app for my iPhone and iPad. Game changer. It’s a $10 app (free trial version available) and required the purchase of the Digitrax LNWI LocoNet WiFi Interface that connected to my Command Station with the supplied LocoNet cord. Up and running in ten minutes. If I need more throttles for visitors without iPhones, used iPods are available pretty cheap.
I am pleased with my ability to add pieces to the system that I find I need over time, while keeping a low initial investment. Some may prefer to buy a system that does it from the beginning with a larger initial investment, I believe that is a matter of preference.
As I work on track and scenery I am always on the lookout for new freight cars that could appear on through freights on my 1950 version of the Old Main Line. And of course I am looking for specific cars that appeared on the local, the OML Freight Peddler. These are the cars that take the most research and stretch my modeling skill, but it is fun to locate photos and evidence of the through freights and the cars they carried or could have carried.
Recently, I found Kadee #9015 Mathieson Chemicals SHPX #2570 models for only $30 each, which is a pretty good deal for a car with excellent detail and ready to run in my era after some minor decaling and weathering. These models originally listed for $45. I bought a pair of these Mathieson Leased cars with the same number and experimented with removing the “zero” at the end of the car number and replacing it with a ”one”. The cars were built in 1947, decorated in their as-built paint, and fit in with my layout era. With Mathieson plants at either end of the OML they could realistly have been in service between the two points hauling anhydrous ammonia from production plants to sister plants making fertilizer or out to a final designation customer elsewhere.
Removing the number from a Kadee car was much easier than expected. I used Walthers SolvaSet as either a solvent or a lubricant, not sure which, and it made it very easy to lightly scrape the number off with a dull Exacto no. 11 blade. The number on the sill that appears to be on unpainted plastic came off very easy. I dapped on a little “Pledge” to give a gloss decaling surface and as the photo below shows and the tank car is ready for a “one” to be added and then a spray of DullCote.
I added a little dark gray Tamiya pin wash TAM87199 to the white dome cover to highlight the edges/seams and the tiny handle used to open the cover. What a nice detail to highlight and the contrast brings the viewer’s eye toward this area.
The “one” came from my very small collection of spare decals. I decaled a modern boxcar for a friend years ago, making up a fictitious line for his company which has a siding in North Carolina to ship sweet potatoes. The left over set MicroScale 87-70-1 seems to be a good match. A good act years ago seems to have paid off for me in the present. Carma?
Basic weathering includes spraying the wheelsets with Vallejo NATO Black. Following some advice from Bill Welch I used my newly acquired baking soda blaster (9 oz. Abrasive Blast Gun https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003EM298C/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_IBgCDbM72NXQ3) to reduce the shine on the Kadee side frames and prepare them for painting. I used 90 psi and some Arm and Hammer from the kitchen and the results were great. The texture and dull black finish tempted me to stop weathering them at that point. After this first attempt at soda blasting, I sprayed them with Vallejo NATO Black adding a little thinned Vallejo Hull Red overspray to the mix to achieve a grimy, black-brown color. Then some grime and dirt mixes on the underbody followed by another thin coat of Testors DullCote from a spray can. I have had good luck with the spray can and while the cans are little expensive, they provide the convenience of not having to spray solvents through my airbrush and the cleaning that follows. The last detail is the Dangerous placards, they were included with the Kadee model, I secured them with a drop of canopy glue. A light dusting of Pan Pastels is added to simulate steam era cinders and soot, with a slight hint a rusting dirt, as these are both relatively new cars in 1950.
I wasn’t sure if SHPX 2571 actually existed when I started this project and some input from Steve Hoxie of Pensacola, FL offered me the answer I wanted. The links are below:
At about the same time I got a bargain on the Kadee cars I got another bargain when Tangent Scale Model Products released a General American 1948-Design 8000 Gallon Welded General Service Tank Car. I bought a pair at full price, still a bargain, with different numbers in the GATX Black Lease “Original 1948+” paint scheme. These cars in their general leased paint scheme could be headed to many locations to or from the port of Baltimore and points west beyond Brunswick.
A little more detail about my experiment with soda blasting. The health hazards of this technique are minimal, the media (baking soda) is pretty inert, and at 90 psi it was barely strong enough to remove over-sprayed paint my high tech truck painting stand. I was able to put the trucks on my stand in the yard, blast them with 90 psi and they didn’t fly away. Hitting my nitrile gloved hand with the soda blast didn’t have an affect on the glove, no penetration was evident. My truck painting stand, pictured below, is just skewers stuck in a block of foam with rubber bands wrapped around some of the skewers for trucks with larger screw holes which tend to slide down. The frames stay in place while soda blasting, then I rinse them with water and after dry, airbrush with some Vallejo paints.
Again basic light weathering as described for the Kadee cars and these excellent models are ready for service. Great models at a great price. The challenge of tank car resin kit still awaits, but I am happy with the lower cost per model and now have enough for my through freights.