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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Detroit & Mackinac: InterMountain 50' PS-1 Double-Door Boxcar

Detroit & Mackinac models in HO scale are not exactly the easiest thing to find, so when I see there is something new already out or about to be released, its kind of exciting. The other day I found out that InterMountain has release a set of Pullman Standard 50' double door boxcars. There are six road numbers: 3202, 3237, 3210, 3241, 3226, and 3248.

InterMountain 50' double door boxcar
These things look great and I am hoping to at least get one of them for myself, although getting the full set would be the ultimate goal. The only thing I need to do is see if either of my two local hobby shops will have them in stock. If not then there are several places online selling them for right around $30 including shipping.