Thursday, December 25, 2014

Office Shelf Layout Update

Along with all the work I've been doing on the Walthers Commissary building, I've been making some progress on other parts of the office shelf layout project. Now that I have a better idea of the final size of the Commissary building, I've been able to finalize the track plan and pavement layout, at least for now. This plan seems to be ever changing, so something may be different than this by the time I'm done.

I'm still working with the same track plan I posted back in August, but with a small modification. Rather than having a mainline running across the front, I've decided to make both track dead end sidings that would serve only this particular industry. This means I'll be able to have a car parked on both tracks at the same time and be able to put a loading dock between the two to get to the front most track.

A look at my latest mockup of the office shelf layout.
A better look at the loading dock mockup I built from old cereal boxes.
The plan for the loading dock is to create it from the modular kit from Pikestuff shown below. It comes with four main pieces and two ramps, so the plan would be to only use one of each piece. I mocked up a version with two main sections and one ramp, but it just took up too much space. This just means the front track will be reserved for just 50' boxcars, anything longer like the bulkhead flat cars would have to use the rear track.

Pikestuff modular loading dock kit.
Another slight adjustment to the overall plan is the road running along the very front edge of the layout. My plan for this is to make it half of a road. It will still give me the look I'm going for and save some space. I plan on making it more of an industrial driveway or short access road, so it should be pretty easy to model.

At this point I am happy with the progress I've made and I continue to really enjoy this project. Its a lot of fun to come up with all these ideas and build the mockups to try things out. The next steps are going to be getting the loading dock kit and deciding on some more of the smaller detail parts for the layout.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building Part 9

It took a little longer than I wanted, but now I have all of the major pieces glued together for the Commissary building kit. It was actually pretty easy to get everything assembled. The only problem I ran into was some of the glue running into places that I didn't want it. I'm using Testors liquid cement and it dries clear on top of the paint job, so it doesn't look all that great in a few small places. The good thing is they are in areas that will be difficult to see when this thing is done.

A look at the front of the assembled structure.
I have to say this thing looks much better than I expected it to. Not bad for my first kit build. There really isn't anything I would change about it. I like how the black stands out against the red brick color and the concrete accents help complete the look. With just a little more weathering, it will be perfect.

A look at the back of the assembled structure.
The next step is figuring out what I want to do with the roof and then the interior. I want to go with either a gravel or tar paper roof, so I've got some things to look into before I can work on that. For the inside, I've started mocking up some floors and walls using craft wood and cut up cereal boxes. I'd like to have it all made out of styrene in the end, but its looking like the cardboard might do the trick.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building Part 8

Progress has been relatively slow overall on this kit, but its been a fun project so far and I'm very happy with how its going so far. Since my last post I've gotten the two loading dock door sections modified to my liking and repainted. I actually went ahead and removed all three individual door sections from both pieces, which leaves a good sized section open to see through into the interior of the building. This means I have to at least do something with a floor on the inside now, otherwise the front of this thing would look pretty strange.

A look at the front of the kit temporarily assembled to show the cut out doors.
Once that was done I repainted the two doors with spray paint. After that there was only one thing left to do before I could start assembly: another idea from Southern8099 which is painting the insides of the walls black to prevent light from shining out. I do plan to light this structure with LED's so I defintely needs to do this step. 

I happened to have some black acrylic paint sitting around so I decided to do this the hard way and paint it with a small brush. I had to paint the back of the three walls as well as the four loading dock doors. It was a pretty quick job and it works great. I took my mini LED work light and tried to shine it through from the back, but the acrylic paint stops the light altogether. I just hope all this extra paint doesn't interfere with the gluing process.

A look at the backs of the main components painted black.
The only thing I messed up was not painting the back of the window frames before gluing down the glass pieces. Now they are going to be permanently green, but that may not be a big deal because they are not exactly easy to see from the outside. The next step if assembling these main pieces. I'm hoping to get that done in the next week or so.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building Part 7

Finally, Thanksgiving is here and I have two extra days off work. That means I have two extra nights of modeling time this weekend, so I'm trying to get as much out of it as I can. Most of these next few nights will probably be spent working on this kit so I can get it done and move onto finishing up the track work on the shelf layout.

So far I have all of the pieces painted and have begun the assembly process. Last night I glued all of the windows in place on the three walls and began prepping the doors for assembly. While progress has been much slower than I would have liked, I'm comfortable with where I'm at so far and its been a good learning experience. 

A look at all of the main pieces with the window frames and glass installed.
Getting the windows installed was pretty simple. All it took was a couple of drops of Testors plastic cement and a good eye to keep the pieces aligned properly. The black frames went in just fine and then the glass just mounted flush to the back of the frames. It came out looking pretty nice. I really like the look of the black.

A closer look at one of the ends with the window frame and glass installed.
The next thing I need to do is install the roll up loading dock doors. These come out of the box completely shut so there is no visibility into the structure without some modification. After seeing Southern8099's video of this kit on YouTube, I am using his method of cutting away some of the doors so you can see into the building. I'd like to build a floor to go on the inside then model the interior with as much detail as I can. 

Starting to work on cutting away some of the loading dock doors.
In the video his method was to just cut them out with an Xacto knife. That seemed simple enough so that's what I started doing. It takes a few passes with the blade to get through the thickness, but its not all that difficult. After rough cutting it with the knife, my plan is to sand it flat and repaint. I wish I would've thought to do this before painting them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New Rolling Stock: Atlas TTX Bulkhead Flat Car

I made a trip to one of my two local hobby shops again earlier today just taking a look around for ideas for my office shelf layout. I didn't go in with anything particular in mind, but was happy to come away with a new flat car that I plan to use as part of the scene in front of the commissary building I'm working on.

I've been thinking about making the commissary into a facility for a furniture maker, so there would be a need for inbound freight like wood and paper products. The paper can be brought in with boxcars and the wood with bulkhead flat cars. I chose the TTX road name because it is one that can be seen all over, so it would not look out of place at a fictional facility somewhere in Michigan, which is what I'm going for with this layout.

Atlas Trainman TTX bulkhead flat car #804069
A look at the car fresh out of the box.
A look at the details on the ends of the car.
A look at some of the decals on the sides.
A look at the end and top deck of the flat car.
It is a great looking car and I think it will work perfectly for the office shelf layout. Now I just need to figure out what I am going to do for the wood load. I've seen some pre-made ones online, but they are pricey so I may try to go ahead and make my own. Not sure how to do that just yet, so we'll see what happens.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building Part 6

I was lucky enough to find some extra time this weekend to get some work in on this project. I am not at the point where I have all of the major components painted and ready for assembly. The concrete colored paint I bought has been excellent so far and definitely gives the whole structure a more realistic look On a side note, I've decided that any weathering I try will be done once the structure is fully assembled. This will allow me to get started on the assembly as soon as I have some spare time for it, which is hopefully sooner than later.

Here is a look at all of the major pieces with the concrete color added. The accents on the brick walls look great and I'm really glad I decided to paint the foundation conrete as well. It just gives the whole thing that little extra bit of realism. 

Finished paint work on the major components.
One thing I did learn from this so far is to be careful how much paint you put on for the mortar lines in the brick. I found that if you let it get into the inside of the window frames it looks pretty bad when everything is dry. I ended up having to go back in an touch up a lot of the openings to retain the red brick color rather than the cloudy looking white.

My next step will be gluing in the windows then the clear glass pieces. After that it will be time to put the three walls together then assemble them with the base.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building Part 5

I've slowly been making progress with the painting and hope to have all of it done soon so I can start the assembly process. In my last post I left off saying I needed to get some concrete colored paint and I did just that with a trip to one of the two local hobby shops. I ended up buying a 0.5 oz bottle of "concrete flat" from Model Master.

A look at a few pieces with the concrete color added.
So far I have painted the loading dock and stairs as well as the foundation and window sills for the two short ends of the building. I have to say it came out much nicer than I expected. Now I just need to finish the front face of the building and a couple other pieces. Again, progress is slow, but I'm getting there. Hopefully I can get all of the paint done in the next couple of weekends and get moving on the assembly. I'd like to have this building 100% complete by the end of the year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building Part 4

In my last post, I left off with completed mortar work on a couple of the red brick pieces. Well, now that work has been done for all of the remaining pieces and I have to say I really like the results. I wasn't sure about it at first, but the more I look at the finished pieces, the more I like the way they look. The only thing I would maybe change is getting some of the excess white paint out of the corners where it tended to build up. 

A look at all of the brick pieces with finished mortar work.
A close up look at the finished mortar work on one of the end pieces.
In addition to the brick pieces, I also got some painting done on the windows, doors, hand rails and dock bumpers. I picked up some more spray paint from Home Depot and got to work while the weather was nice this past weekend. I painted the windows and door frames with a flat black. Then I used a gloss yellow to paint the handrails and dock bumpers. This color did not come in flat, so I figured I could just hit it with some dull coat before I assembly everything. 

A look at the flat black windows and doors.
A look at the yellow painted hand rails and dock bumpers.
The next step will need to be getting myself a good concrete color paint to do the widow sills on the brick pieces as well as the staircase and loading dock. After that I need to paint the loading dock doors and cut out some openings in a few of them so you can see inside the building (I have some plans for this later on). Even though progress is slow, this has been a very enjoyable project. I can't wait to see it when I'm all done.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Layout Idea: Detroit & Mackinac and the TankTrain™

Even though I am focused on my office shelf layout at the moment, I still like to look for ideas to use on my future layouts. Someday I would like to have at least part of a layout dedicated to the Detroit & Mackinac and their Michigan operations during the late 80's and early 90's. I have a good start on some rolling stock, but nothing when it comes to locomotives yet. That layout wouldn't be for quite a while, so I have some time to work on accumulating more pieces for my D&M collection. In the meantime, I am always on the lookout for ideas that would work on a D&M layout. 

Today I came across something interesting when looking through all the pictures I have for #1280. The picture below shows it in front of two CM units and another unknown fourth locomotive, but the most interesting part is what's behind that last one. If you look close, you can see several tank cars. These are not just any tank cars though, they are actually part of the TankTrain™ from GATX (Great American Transportation Corporation).

DM 1280 leading three other units somewhere in Michigan.
Here is the description from the GATX website: "TankTrain™ System - A string of interconnected tank cars with flexible hoses, developed exclusively by GATX’s research and development team, allows for quick loading and unloading of commodities including crude petroleum oil, benzene, light fuel oil and phosphoric acid." 

A better look at the TankTrain cars in real life.
The best part is there are several models out there for these specific tank cars. I found a great example from Athearn. They can be bought as individual intermediate cars or as an A/B set of two. For my purposes, I would probably go with three cars total to match the picture shown above. Here are some pictures I found of these models.  

A look at one of the Athearn models.
A look at two of the units connected to each other.
A closer look at the connecting hose between the two units.
These would definitely look good on a layout with some D&M locomotives pulling them around. I'll have to do some more research to see where exactly these things would've been used in Michigan. I'm assuming it is somewhere within D&M or CM's trackage, but that's a large area so it may take some time to figure out for sure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building Part 3

In my last post I left off with all the parts painted with a coat of primer. Since then I've separated out the brick pieces and hit them with a coat of Rust-Oleum "claret wine" spray paint. It came out a bit darker than I was thinking it would, but I'm more than happy with it right now. I did run into one small issue with too much paint getting on a couple of sections and filling in the mortar lines. To fix that I had to wash off the wet paint and try it one more time. That seemed to work and I had all of the brick pieces ready for the next step.

A look at all of the brick parts after initial painting.
A close up look at the brick texture after painting.
The next step was figuring out the best way to paint the mortar lines white. In the video from Southern8099 he used a 50/50 mix of acrylic paint and alcohol and just brushed away the excess. I tried that and am still not sure I really like the results. The biggest problem came when I was trying to wipe away some of the excess with a magic eraser and it actually began bringing up the red paint making the mortar turn pink. I think I will try a 50/50 mix with water and some dish soap to help the mixture flow into the cracks. 

I say I'm not sure if I like the results because one of the smaller pieces I tried actually came out looking perfect. This piece can take the place of one of the rolling doors on the loading dock. I'm not even sure if I am going to use it, so it made for a good test piece. It looks great and doesn't really have much of the pink effect from the red paint mixing in. 

An example of a piece that looks great with the mortar lines painted white.
A side by side comparison of my first attempt at painting the mortar lines white.
So for now my next step will be trying to fix the pieces I don't like. I will also try the 50/50 mix with water on the other pieces that I haven't started yet. Hopefully something will work and I can move forward with this project and get to some assembly soon. In the mean time, I've been doing some brainstorming and think I have some tweaks coming to the layout for this project. Nothing major, but some things that will affect the overall look of it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building Part 2

My last post showed what came included with my Walthers commissary building kit and I left off where I had everything cut away from the sprues and sanded. Well, I made some good progress over the weekend and really like what I have going so far. Even though this is a pretty simple kit, there is a fair amount of work involved, but that's good because it gives me something to focus on for now. 

Before I could think about painting anything, I took all of the parts and cleaned them with dish soap and water to make sure there were no oils or dust left on them. Then I laid them out to dry on some paper towel with a small fan to speed along the drying process. Once that was done I need to find something to hold all of the small pieces. 

What I ended up doing was taking a couple of scrap boards from my basement and putting strips of blue painters tape inside out. This gave me a good amount of hold, but not so much that I risked damaging the finished paint. Here is what they looked like with all the parts attached to the tape.

My makeshift part holding boards with blue painters tape.
I learned from watching a few other modeler's videos that priming these types of parts is a good idea, so that was my next step. In order to do that though, I needed some spray paint so I went to Home Depot and picked up some grey primer as well as a nice dark red for the brick sections of the kit. 

The paints I chose for this project from Rust-Oleum.
Here is what the pieces look like after hitting them with the primer.

The first set of parts with primer on them.
The second set of parts with primer on them.
One thing I was kind of worried about at first was getting too much paint on the brick surfaces and losing some of the detail. Well, I have to say that will not be a problem. Even after a generous helping of primer on the brick pieces, they still look great. I'm not even worried about adding several coats of red to this. 

The brick pieces still look perfect even after spraying them with a primer coat.
Now I need to separate out all of the brick pieces and get them ready for the red paint. I think I may just stick with the primer grey for the loading dock since that needs to be concrete anyway. The window and door frames are still TBD for now, but I'm leaning toward a very dark grey or even black to help contrast the red brick. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Structure Build: Walthers Commissary Building

As a birthday present to myself, I went out and finally bought a kit for the Walthers commissary freight transfer building. This one seemed to be the best choice for my office shelf layout project and from what I've seen on YouTube is a pretty basic kit. There are actually two excellent videos for this build: one from user Southern8099 and another from user BNSF9382. These videos have been a huge help to me so far in preparing for building my kit.

A look at the box for the Walthers Commissary / Freight Transfer Building kit
Once I got the kit home the next step was unboxing it. The first thing I found was the instruction sheet, which is shorter than I expected it to be. All of the steps are listed on the front and back of this single page. Everything you need is there, I just imagined it would've been more of a booklet than a single page. Other than that it was just a bunch of different size and shape molded parts attached to five separate sprues. 

A look at the contents of the box.
The next step was getting everything cut away from the sprues. To help with this I bought an Excel sprue cutter from Hobby Lobby for $10 and it was definitely a good investment. It made cutting the parts extremely easy, which meant there was less sanding to do after removing them. There were some parts that required sanding, but that was easy enough with a simple sanding block. 

So far I have everything cut, sanded, and ready for primer and paint. I just need to decide which colors I want to go with. I'm pretty sure I want to have a red brick building. Other than that, I may go with black or grey windows/doors and likely a concrete color for the loading dock area. Now I just have to get the paint, find some time, and hope the temperature stays warm since I have to do any spray painting in my backyard.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New D&M Rolling Stock: InterMountain PS 5277 Cu. Ft. Boxcars

Last week I posted some new Detroit & Mackinac boxcars that InterMountain was going to be releasing early next year. There are a total of six new road numbers being released, but one thing I noticed was that they had already released these at least once before. Looking at the actual part numbers, these start at -07 and run through -12, which means there was six more done at some point in the past. 

Anyway, I was doing some searching for these upcoming models and stumbled across a website that showed two of the earlier road numbers: 2217 and 2256. I called to inquire further and they were in fact in stock, so I decided to go ahead and get both of them because these things are impossible to find. In fact, these are the only two versions of this model that I have ever even seen for sale. Here is a look at them in their boxes:

D&M boxcar #'s 2217 and 2256
The store I bought these from is called Spring Creek Model Trains and they are based in Deshler, NE. I will say the service was excellent and the shipping time couldn't have been better. I placed the order on Friday and they were waiting for me when I got home on Monday. Together the two set me back $60 with shipping, which doesn't seem all that bad for a couple of quality models like these. I even saved a few bucks off the original sticker.

As you can see from the ends of the boxes, these are -01 and -04 from what I am assuming is the original run of six models. The store told me they had gotten them all the way back in 2007, so these are actually pretty old now. That's ok though, all that matters is that I have them now. Here are some pictures of the details on these cars:

An overall view of DM2217.
A look at the excellent decal work on these models.
A look at the details on the end of the car.
A look at both of the new boxcars together.
These two are exactly what I was looking for, plus I don't have to wait until early next year to get them. Now I just need to see if I can track down any of the others from the first six. I would like to get at least a few more of these to be able to build a decent consist of D&M rolling stock. Just for fun, here's what my entire D&M fleet looks like right now.

Seven cars isn't all that much, but its a good start if you ask me. These things are pretty hard to track down, so I will always take what I can get. Also on a side note, I think its kind of neat that InterMountain used 2217 as the stock image for the upcoming release and I was lucky enough to have that be one of the two I picked up.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Office Shelf Layout: Trackwork Updates

It's been far too long since I made any progress on the actual layout itself, so it feels nice to be able to post this update. I had some free time late last night and decided to jump into working on the track for the layout. That meant cutting a few pieces down to size and working on assembling them. The key to this is that I am using traditional snap track from a bulk purchase I made at a train show a while back. 

I know I could go ahead and use flex track if I really wanted to, but this seemed like the way to go since I had the pieces already on hand and it would only require a few extra steps to get everything connected. Before I get into the details of that process, here is a look at the track plan I have decided to go with. 

A look at my rough track plan for the office shelf layout.
As far as aligning the pieces, I started on the right side with the turnout and worked my way to the left. The near track was simple as it is made of three pieces of straight snap track. The far track was a bit more tricky because I had to custom cut the curve to get the spacing between track I was looking for. I also had to cut off the ends of the two pieces on the far left, which has already been done in the picture. It was actually pretty simple to do with the hacksaw I have. 

Once the pieces were all cut to size and assembled, I realized there was some detailing work to be done so it would look a bit more prototypical. The first step was repairing the turnout by removing the two large standoffs for the electrical connections. These just look awkward and I thought they needed to go.

A look at the turnout section before modification.
To remedy this issue, I took my x-acto knife and cut off those two large pieces. Then I took a scrap piece of track and cut off the ends of four ties and glued them onto the turnout as shown in the next picture. It was slightly difficult working with such small pieces, but it made the turnout look much better and more prototypical.

A look at the turnout section after modification.
Once that was figured out I had one other cosmetic issue to work out and that was the interface between sections of snap track where the rail joiners go. In these areas the ties are molded with a rectangular ring section in between the rails and I have always thought it looked strange when the pieces are put together. 

To remedy this, I took my knife and cut off the last tie on each end to get rid of the inner rectangular ring. This leaves a long section of rail exposed. To fix that I cut pairs of ties off of the scrap piece of track and used those to join the various sections together. This results in a much more seamless appearance. And since this is not going to be a powered layout, I'm not too concerned with maintaining a perfect electrical connection between the sections of rail.

A look at the sections of track with my improvised joining sections.
Here is a look at the near section of track from the layout after this modification. It almost looks like a perfect continuous piece of track unlike the far track where you can clearly see the inner rectangular rings where the rail joiners would go. It's a little bit of extra and tedious work, but well worth it for results like this.

A look at the results of my slight modification to the ties on the near section of track.
Now all I have to do is finish the far section and then I can move onto painting and weathering the track. I also have an idea for making the tie spacing a bit more realistic looking, but that will have to wait for another post as I am still trying a few things out with that method.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Detroit & Mackinac: InterMountain PS 5277 Exterior Post Boxcar

In addition to the 50' double door boxcar I posted recently, I found out that InterMountain will also be releasing a more modern Detroit & Mackinac boxcar sometime in 2015. These would be more of a priority for me because they would fit right into the time period I would model if I pursue a D&M themed layout someday.

InterMountain 5277 cubic foot exterior post boxcar.
There are also six road numbers for this one: 2219, 2263, 2235, 2277, 2254, and 2290. I would love to pre-order the entire set because there is some savings in doing that. I believe the whole set retails for around $170, which isn't bad if these are a nice as they appear to be. While I don't have any prototype photos of these six, I have plenty of others in this series of boxcars, so it would be really nice for my collection to have all of them.