Thursday, May 22, 2014

Prototype Pic of the Day #10

The entire NS heritage fleet | Image courtesy of Norfolk Southern Corp. via
This is probably the best photo ever of a group of locomotives. Norfolk Southern really knew what they were doing with this fleet. All of the paint jobs look downright amazing. My favorites would have to be Conrail, Lehigh Valley, and Nickel Plate Road. I've only been lucky enough to see one of them in person so far (Lehigh Valley in the old Conrail Sterling yard just down the road from me), but I'm hoping to see more of them someday.

Monday, May 19, 2014

More Track Painting and Ballast Trials

I've been hard at work on these two sections of track for practice painting and ballasting for a couple of weeks now. It's a slow process because I find myself with very little time for modeling now that summer has arrived. When I do get time though, its full speed ahead with as many projects as I can handle. This one has been the primary lately and its actually been a lot of fun to work on. 

So far I have completed the straight section of track and have made good progress on the switch. At first I said I wouldn't post a picture of the ballast job on the first one, but now that I've been looking at it, I kind of like the color combination. To each their own, right? Here's what a 50/50 mix of Woodland Scenics medium dark brown and medium buff looks like. 

A look at my 50/50 mix of medium dark brown and medium buff ballast.
Here's another look with one of my boxcars just because.
While that one is not the best looking in the world, it definitely taught me a few things about track painting and ballasting that will help when it comes to building my office shelf layout. I think the most important thing I learned was just to take my time, especially when doing the painting. If you want something to look good, it requires patience and that's become pretty obvious through this process.

Now onto the switch. I took the same approach to painting this one and it took me a good couple of hours to complete the painting. I know that seems like a lot, but I want these to look just right, so I see it as time well spent.

A look at the painted switch track before starting the ballast work.
A look at the switch track after starting the ballast work.
I still have one more piece of track to create for this one so the upper left area runs out to the end of the board. I did this by custom cutting a couple of pieces of rail and manually placing some plastic ties I cut from remaining scrap track. It's a bit of tedious extra work, but make for much better looking track if you ask me. The only tricky part is figuring out what to do since I cannot place standard rail joiners in there anymore. 

I'll work on that problem when it comes to having a running train. The office shelf layout will be static, so I don't need to worry about the connectivity between rails just yet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Prototype Pic of the Day #9

LSRC Alco C425 #281 and LSRC Spreader #DMX20 | Image courtesy of JJ Schrader via
Today's pictures is another one of former Detroit & Mackinac equipment. Up front you have a Jordan spreader that has obviously seen a lot of use. Bringing up the rear is one of D&M's old Alco century units, #281 in this case. It's a shame that these locos lost what was an excellent paint scheme when the railroad became LSRC. Oh well, that's life I guess. At least they were still using them at the time of this photo in the beginning of 2008.

Monday, May 12, 2014

More Track Painting and Ballasting

I've made some more progress on the two sections of track I've been painting and ballasting for practice in preparation for building my office shelf layout. In my last post on the subject, I left off with the track painting nearly complete and some work started on the roadbed. This past weekend, I spent some of my free time working on on both and have a bit more to show for my efforts now. 

First I'll show the initial paint job on the track. It came out much better than I thought it would. There is a noticeable improvement over my last attempt at track painting. The difference maker is definitely the rust colored paint on the rails. It may have taken me an hour or two, but I made sure to include the tie plates when painting the rust color.

Fully painted rails, ties, and cork roadbed shown before cleaning the rail tops.
I thought about leaving the tops of the rails painted in the rust color, but decided against it in the end. Even though the shelf layout I'm building will not be powered, I don't want to get myself into a habit of doing something that would not work for a running layout. So I went ahead and cleaned off the tops of the rails to complete the look.

A look at my test section of track before applying ballast.
The next step was getting some ballast and applying it. I started with some Woodland Scenics medium buff ballast and that's what you see below. I thought it looked to uniform and bright to be very prototypical, so I decided to by some medium dark brown and mix them together. That didn't work so well and I won't even post any pics at this point because it just doesn't look that great. I think I really need to go with a grey blend and maybe mix in some of the buff or grey.

Starting to ballast the test section of track.
 While its back to the drawing board for my ballast work, I ran into another interesting problem with the switch that I am doing for the piece without the roadbed. I originally got this track dirt cheap and its pretty old and beat up, so I knew it might need some work. Well, in the spirit of making things look as real as possible, I found myself manually cutting and replacing the end ties and the two contact points for the wiring. It's a bit of tricky and delicate work, but completely worth it for the more prototypical look you can achieve by doing it. 

A look at my "Franken-track" with the end ties all replaced with ties from scrap track.
I've been calling this piece my "Franken-track" because its got pieces from two different manufactures, which is really only noticeable when you get in real close and look at the detail molded into the plastic ties themselves. From a distance, it looks great and will more than do for what I need. It's not shown in this picture, but I did go ahead and replace the two contact points with four new section of ties from a scrap piece of track. Now I just need to finish painting the ties and move onto painting the rails and tie plates.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Great Model Railroading Channels on YouTube

One of the things that I love about getting back into this hobby now is the technology that was not around back in the early to mid 90's, specifically the internet and YouTube in this case. I've gone there for all kinds of topics and always seem to find what I am looking for, and then some. After seeing a nice post over at West Toronto Junction (click here to see it), I thought I would share a few of my favorite channels. We actually share a few favorites, so that's kind of cool.

1) jlwii2000

This is the first channel I began watching this past summer when I decided to get back into model railroading and has a ton of great videos. They are primarily review type videos, but there are some others as well including the one I posted above. This one is the first in a how to series on building a model railroad layout. The series was full of great information and would be great for anyone getting started in the hobby.

2) MonsterRailroad

MonsterRailroad is one of the channels mentioned over at West Toronto Junction and I definitely have to agree that Al conveys a strong sense of "you can do it too" in his videos. After watching several of his videos like this one dealing with track ballasting, I thought to myself it can't be that hard and went on to try out some of his methods.


This is a channel that I came across more recently and have really enjoyed. Fasha has some excellent videos on rolling stock and locomotive detailing and repainting. This pair of videos were a great watch for me when I was working on repainting one of my old boxcars. I love the attention to detail and the explanations of the methods in these videos.

4) ModelerManMike

ModelerManMike is my new favorite channel at the moment and has got me really wanting to go out and buy some structure kits. I will eventually need one or two of them for my office shelf layout project, so for now I've just been watching all of his videos gathering tips and information on how to build structure kits. While the videos are a bit on the long side, they are more than worth the time spent watching them. The one I posted above is a great example of his work. I've learned a ton from these videos and cannot wait to apply it to some structures of my own.

5) RidgelineDivision

Ridgeline Division has some excellent videos or 'build logs' as they call them on various types of locomotives. I found this video when I was looking for some ideas for rebuilding my SD40-2 and have to say I was impressed with the attention to detail and explanation of steps. This video in particular has some great details available for an SD40-2 and has me thinking about some of them for my project.

While this is only five, I have at least 10 more model railroading channels I am currently subscribed to. Maybe I will try to put together another post like this sometime down the road. Until then, I highly recommend all of these channels if your're into HO scale model railroading. The way I see it is the more information you can gather about doing something the better. Its also good to get multiple approaches and opinions on how to do things. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

More Track Painting and Ballast Trials

Now that I look back at the test track I painted and ballasted recently, I am not completely satisfied with the way it looks. I kind of took the easy path and just painted the ties and rails all the same color. It looks of from a distance, but when you get up close to it something is just a bit off. The other problem was going with the coarse ballast, it is just way too big to look anywhere near prototypical. All that being said, I've decided to go back and do a few more trial pieces with some new paint and smaller ballast.

I've actually started two more sample sections of track: one with cork roadbed and medium ballast, and one with no roadbed and medium ballast. I did this because I wanted to see the difference between the two so I know how to plan for building my office shelf layout. I plan on having an industrial siding of some kind, so I may need to go without roadbed if it looks good enough. Plus, practice makes perfect and these will help me improve my track skills.

Two new test tracks for painting and ballasting.
Along with trying out the smaller ballast, I went out and bought myself a bottle of rust colored paint from Testors for the rails. Last time around everything was all one color. This time I'm hoping the rust color will make the rails look more realistic. Below is a look at what I've done so far. I just need to remember to clean the tops of the rails now.

Trying out some rust colored paint on the rails.
One last thing I decided to do at the last minute was painting the cork roadbed with the same dark brown paint I've been using for the ties. I noticed  on the last test track piece that if the ballast is light in certain areas you can see some of the exposed cork. That is definitely not a prototypical looking material, so I figured painting it brown would make it more like earth underneath the ballast. This was just a quick experiment to see how it would look so I may have to find a better, more earthy looking paint to do more of this in the future.

Hopefully painting the roadbed will give it a more prototypical look when this one is complete.
I have some painting to finish up on both pieces of track then its time for ballasting. I'll try to get some updated pictures of the completed pieces once they are all set. I'm hoping this will help me make a decision on which method to go with for my office shelf layout. Not sure which will be better looking, so I'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Prototype Pic of the Day #8

LSRC Alco RS2 #469 | Image courtesy of Ron Cady via
I don't really have any major updates on any of my modeling projects, so time for another prototype pic. Today we have a shot of an old Detroit &  Mackinac locomotive. This one is Lake State Railway #469 shown doing some street running through downtown Alpena, MI. What's neat about this picture is that I've been to that area many times as a kid and remember seeing these trains up close and personal.