Ilchester, Lees, and a Little Beyond; The Big Picture(s) of Progress, Part Two

The two track DCA yard is behind Tracks 1 and 2 of the Old Main Line just east of Ellicott City, Maryland. The short bamboo sticks on the right side of the photo are a mock-up for tree locations. The can take a beating and will let me know if they will be in the way when operating the layout.

The last time I gave a photo tour of the first two modules in July, 2019 (link to previous post) there was a lot of plywood showing, no fascia, a little backdrop, and no construction on the next three modules leading into the return loop.

This is where we left off, the fascia needs to be added to give the station a little more real estate .
And this is the same area in January 2022. Still some scenery to complete and a photo backdrop to add.

The Patapsco River in the first photo is dry, the station isn’t complete, and no fascia has been added. Since then I have finished the river, realized the Woodland Scenics Realistic Water material is a very thick fluid, even when “cured”, and is very, very slowly spilling over the edge of the layout. That will be a new project. The station is complete and mounted on a “concrete” foundation like the prototype after a later 40’s reconstruction project. I have started on the adjacent small freight house, I need to complete the roofing and the boards enclosing the raised platform. I will add a short blog on building that structure in the future.

I’ve been able to build four more modules and get the layout moved against the wall to allow the Ilchester Tunnel to reach staging in the unfinished part of the basement. One of the new modules is inline with the first two and the next three are set perpendicular to create the return loop that will take my Old Main Line back behind the backdrop to two modeled areas and then into the remote staging location and its return loop. This will allow continuous running.

You can see light at the start of the Ilchester Tunnel which is the staging in the unfinished portion of the basement.
This January, 2019 photo appeared in my previous Pictures of Progress Blog. Only two modulars are built.
This is the visible return loop at the Doughnut Corporation of America plant and will divide the layout into two halves.
This is a view underneath the layout from the same end of the return loop. The original three modules appear at the far end.
An Updated Layout Sketch. Sykesville has moved behind the backdrop and the Doughnut Corp. of America is no longer a hidden industry it is now a large, visible structure.

I was able to add fascia to about 40% of the layout. I used 1/8″ masonite as it can be bent to fit the curves of the layout. The layout is designed to follow the curving Patapsco River, just like the Old Main Line that was laid out to follow the river through gaps in the hills and mountains west of Baltimore. I wanted a smooth finish so I used Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty, it is a one-part product, don’t use the two-part product that is too hard to sand similarly to the masonite and is too thick for thin gap filling (two part glazing putty has a resin and a hardener like an epoxy, not great for this application). The Spot and Glazing Putty product works great on wood trim for the house also, it is red and hard to cover with paint, but doesn’t shrink over time and crack.

A joint in the hardboard fascia with Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty applied to create a smooth transition.
After painting, the joint disappears and similar joints on the layout have gone through several season changes with no cracking.

I intend to build the very large Doughnut Corporation of America milling and manufacturing plant using an ITLA modular building system. I developed a mock up of the building that is less than 50% of the actual size, but it is large enough to portray the imposing size of the building. And it substantiates the need for a two track yard to serve it and the two track siding within the plant. It will be the primary operating feature for the 1950 Way Freight as it heads west every other day. And I presume it was serviced on all days, so it may be switched on the opposite, every other day east bound trip of the Way Freight. It was a priority customer over time, so it might have even rated a special train from Baltimore when needed. I need to find some more contemporary operations sources.

The mock-up of DCA using ITLA actual-size paper templates.
Laying the mainline tracks headed into the curve past DCA that heads into Ellicott City, MD on the prototype.
The mainline tracks are to the right, with the two tracks on the left serving the DCA plant.
Switching west of the DCA plant in 1952. At the top right of the photo, one can see the bridge leading into DCA. The left two tracks are the mainline, the two on the right are the small yard serving DCA.

Behind the backdrop of my peninsula layout is the second half of the visible layout of the Old Main Line. Beside Ilchester, my favorite layout element is Sykesville, Maryland. I was based from the old passenger station in Sykesville when I worked on the track gang during summers in college. The base for the Life-Lke Main Line station injection molded plastic kit is seen in the photo below in an approximate location. It was modeled after the Sykesville Station and I bought one when it was released many years ago, knowing I would have a spot on a layout someday. I haven’t planned out the entire area and need more information about Sykesville in 1950. I need to build the station next and would love to have a color photo of the station from the 40s or 50s, if anyone knows of any, please drop me a message.

The visible layout behind the backdrop. Sykesville will in the first location on this side of the peninsula, further along before going through the wall into staging will be Gaither Tower and passing siding.

Finally, I decided to “brand’ my layout by developing a name for the layout, calling it “the Original Old Main Line” referencing it’s setting on the B&Os Old Main Line, the original part of the United States’ first common carrier railroad.

“The Original Old Main Line” logo. Developed using the B&O’s “Linking Thirteen States” logo and matching the unusual lettering style. Bruce D. Griffin Artwork.
A short video overview the layout progress.
Getting closer to the photo below, needing a backdrop with trees and some 3D trees on the granite above the tunnel portal.
The station has been abandoned in this 1960’s era photo. Bill Hopkins Photograph.

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A Paint Booth for Acrylic Paints

A Nice Place to Paint Freight Cars

I have written before about my switch to acrylic paints, specifically Vallejo paints for airbrushing. To keep down the mess in the house, I wanted a cheap, lightweight spray booth with lots of light and an exhaust system for the particles and slight odor. I have been airbrushing inside with a cardboard box and a respirator to catch particles before the entered my body. It had its limitations.

The Old Cardboard Box Solution.

I started with the idea of using a plastic storage crate about the size of my cardboard box. The plastic was hard to work with as it was brittle and my search for an inline exhaust fan didn’t work out. I was hoping the clear plastic could help with lighting inside the booth, be lightweight, and portable for future moves.

The Original Paint Booth in a Storage Crate Idea.

I live on top of a large granite and marble deposit, one of the revenue sources for the NCR that run through this area starting back in the 1830s. These deposits off gas low level radiation, so my house is fitted with a radon removal system. It is basically a hole in the basement slab with an extraction fan outside of the house to pull the radiation up and away from the house. When I first moved in seven years ago, the exhaust fan on the side of the house wasn’t working, so I found the same fan model and replaced it. Just last month the fan started to vibrate, maybe a bearing was wearing, and it caused a reverberation throughout the house. A new fan was sourced for about $150 and the replacement (a new model number with slight design changes) ended the house-wide vibrations. Then I realized I had a fan that could pull 160+ cfm that works, but with a slight vibration. Paint booth dreams were again alive. And one big advantage is this fan is that it is meant to connect with 4″ PVC pipe and easily adapted to use flexible, metal 4″ dryer hose connections.

The main lesson that I can share from this experience is that lightweight construction is possible on a budget. A little time woodworking with a table saw can provide a strong frame and the walls can be thin and lightweight. Like the walls on the inside of a house, the framing provides the structure and the skin can be weak. Having enjoyed the size of my cardboard box, I used it for a start and created the main structural members from 3/4″x 2″ poplar. You can use another wood, but I was lucky to have access to some hardwood stocks that a friend was willing to share. I created two 18″x !8″ frames for the sides and used half-lap joints with glue, then a light spray to polyurethane to seal the wood. A glued half-lap joint is very strong and provides the main structure for the booth. The width between the two sides was determined by the width of a roll of easel paper. I saw this online, someone used a roll of drawing paper hung at the top, back of their paint booth to allow for a renewable white background for painting and possibly photography. The rolls are available through Amazon and much cheaper at many craft stores for $6, they are used for children’s art easels.

Gluing Half-Lap Joints on Side frames.
A Light Coat of Polyurethane on the Side Frames.

For the bottom of the box I used a thin piece of plywood lying around in the garage. It was 1/4″ pine, which helped with keeping the box light. I added a second piece of 1/4″ under the front lip for dimensional stability. My second choice was a piece of 1/2″ birch plywood left over from layout framing. The width was 20″ to allow for the paper roll to fit within the side frames. The depth was set at 22 1/2″ to give me a little lip on the front of the box for paint bottles, cleaning supplies, and the spray-out pot I use to clear my airbrush. The side frames were screwed from the bottom of the plywood base. I skipped glue here in case I want to take it apart or adjust the size. The added a lip also gave a place for the paper roll to be slid under and secured.

The Paper Slides Under the Lip.

I wanted the top to be clear or translucent to allow light to enter the box and possibly add lighting from outside the box. I was leaning toward buying some plexiglas to cover the 20″x 18″ top of the box. I didn’t need a solid piece of plywood like the bottom foundation, so I was thinking of just using some 20″ wide scrap strip to the keep the sides from moving too much with the plastic to fill the space. Once again a scrap piece of material came to mind. I had several 12″x 12″ pieces of glass from former wall decorations that I had saved to use for my modeling bench as replaceable smooth work surfaces. A couple of pieces of the poplar hardwood I received had reliefs cut into them so two 18″ pieces became the top braces, along with another scrap piece for the back edge. I was going to screw the glass in place as the pieces had holes in the corners, but I decided to use two more pieces of the same trim to capture them in place within a frame, a few thin screws helped hold this together and make it removable should the glass become to covered in overspray.

Top Frame and Light Opening.

For lighting I am using a simple metal, portable flood light sitting on top of the glass and two short screws into the cross braces to keep it from moving and stay above the glass. The light fixture is fitted with a 5000k LED floodlight bulb which operates cool to the touch and is the same bulb used over my layout. Do not try this with an incandescent bulb, they are way too hot and a possible fire hazard being in contact with cardboard and finished wood! The 5000k bulb should help with having the paint applied in the booth look the same as it would on the layout.

LED Light Fixture in Place.

A simple dowel was used to hang the roll snugly between the sides. I mounted it as high and as far back in the box as possible. The roll I bought is 75′ long so I need to remember to buy the same size in a few years as I have seen much longer rolls with larger diameters available. The cardboard used for the back wall is visible.

Adding white cardboard or foam-core is just the covering for the back and the sides, it provides no structure, but keeps the negative pressure pulling air from the front of the booth (where is protects the user) and white allows for better light reflection inside the box and thus more light on the paint subject. It is just stapled in place so that it is easy to replace. We’ll see how this works over time.

The radon fan needed a mount as in its primary use it is attached to braced 4″ PVC pipe with rubber collars on the outside of the house. (insert photo of fan outside house). Here again I took advantage of scrap lumber, this time a 24″x 24″ piece of birch 1/2″ plywood left over from my layout’s modular structure construction. I built a shelf 10″x 10″ to be as wide as the fan and used a jigsaw to cut a 5″ hole in the center to allow the fan body to sit down into the shelf. To mount the shelf to the cinder block wall of my basement I cut a mounting bracket with a dado cut to fit the shelf and then added some angles from the shelf down to the bottom of the mounting bracket. I gave this a light spray of polyurethane to give it some dimensionally stability over time. After attaching the mounting bracket to the wall with three Tapcon concrete screws, I added a couple of drops of acrylic adhesive caulk to attach the fan housing to the bracket and keep it from moving around, while providing a soft mount to keep vibrations to a minimum. I only used a couple of drops of adhesive as I want to be able to cut the fan free should it fail in service.

The Assembled Parts of the Radon Fan Shelf and Mounting Bracket.

Venting the booth outside house is always a challenge. A window can be a great option. I didn’t have this option in the unfinished side of my basement. Then I caught a lucky break that not one in a million modelers gets, I found an unused dryer vent to the outside just seven feet from my intended booth location. It still goes outside and was plugged with expanding foam to keep out small animals. I can’t figure out why it is there, the washer-dryer is fifteen away and there are no nearby plumbing connections to suggest the washer-dryer had been moved at any point. I can’t help you if you are not that fortunate, but I can say the radon fan will push some air as it is sized to move a lot of air two stories up, so a longer run on the exhaust side of the fan is practical. Keep in mind this is only for use with non-flammable solvent paints and finishes, don’t try this with flammable solvent based paints!!! If it doesn’t clean up with water, I don’t use it.

A Fortunate Dryer Vent.

This is a design-build project, so I had a general sketch or two in place and set out to build it to meet the design intent with the materials on hand, adjusting as needed. And I am writing this blog as I am building it, so one of the last details to complete was how to connect the duct work to the side of the box. In the original plastic storage crate design I was going to use a 14″x 14″ filter in front of the fan connection at the back. I realized a side mount fan would be better for my new box design and allow the booth to sit closer to the wall and more out of the way. I knew this wasn’t a good a design to get the best laminar flow across the face of the paint booth, but with 160 cfm pulling through the fan, I was going to exchange all of the air in the box about once every two seconds. Adequate air flow shouldn’t be a problem. The plan was to put a 4″ coupling for flex duct on the top edge, near the back of the side nearest the fan and use some type of filter to protect the fan from paint particles. So far I have only invested time, as all the materials were on hand. I grabbed the 14″x 14″ inch furnace filter to see how I could attach it to a side frame or maybe consider something else. Serendipity struck again and the filter fits perfectly into the popular side frame opening. It was a press fit! I would like to say that was planned, but it was per luck. With the fan pulling through one corner of the filter, I actually think I can get four times the filter life as I will rotate it periodically to put a fresh corner of the filter closest to the fan intake. So next I attached a coupling connection to a 5″x 5″ piece of the 1/4″ plywood with a 4″ hole and…

Furnace Filter Press Fits into Right Side Frame

The finished box, now a paint booth, needed to be attached to the wall and/or held up on legs. I wanted the booth at layout height so I was painting models at the height they would be viewed. I decided to use some plastic shelves from Lowes that are 18″ wide. I attached them to the wall with 1-1/2″ conduit clips to keep it in place. It was a little top heavy. The $20 shelves gave me a place for paint and thinners. A nice bonus.

I connected the flex dryer hose to the connector and hit a few gaps with duct tape for some and caulk for permanent connections. I may add a piece of plexiglas across top front to increase air movement through the box. It pull the fumes away, but you can never have too much ventilation.

Duct Connection, Cardboard Sides, and Conduit Straps Holding it All in Place.

This was a fun project and added a little professional touch to my modeling. It doesn’t hurt to have nice tools and this one was low cost. Model on ya’ll.

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Ilchester, Maryland, Part Three; Building the Model of the B&O Station.

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.

Source Unknown
1939 B&O Standard Paint for Storehouse Buildings, Etc. G.S.K. C-239. Source Unknown.

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.

Top shingle and lower siding pieces are all Cream.
The window frames and doors are Cream, except a few door overlays which are black.
Most of these underlaying pieces are black with the exception of the detail on the trackside lattice additions to the roof supports.

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.

The basic structure, later to be painted a light concrete color in the lowest 1/8 inch and Cream on the gables. The roof undersides were also painted Cream.

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.

North side (trackside), west end of the structure. (The upper shingles and siding are a little off, but not glued yet)

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.

The north end pieces and roof aren’t glued yet, the kit is starting to look the part.

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.

1964, B&ORRHS Collection
The adhesive backed tarpaper roofing has the right look and adheres well.

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 south side windows are visible through the station in this period photo. A pendant light fixture without a shade is visible in the center of the photo. I modeled it with a shade matching the ones at the east and west ends of the station.

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.

This simple styrene base allows me to blend the model into the scenery. The raised portion fits the opening in the passenger waiting room floor of the structure and allows me to align the model on the base. The hole allows the lighting wires to connect to power source below the layout.

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”.

Interior walls are visible (white styrene) along with wiring for exterior lights.
The location of the three exterior lights are visible here and their appropriate size is apparent. This is a test fit of the roof and supports.

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.

Gluing the last and most difficult roof section.

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.

Completed, but still on the workbench.
On the layout looking from the west.
Another view from the west.
Looking back at the station from the east on the hill across the Patapsco River.

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