A Temporary N scale Layout for a Weekend with Family

I recently attended a family get together in Vermont to celebrate my niece’s First Communion. Having 4 nieces and 2 nephews between the ages of 4 and 11, I decided I would bring some turnouts, curves, flextrack, and some equipment just in case there was time to fiddle around.

When I arrived at my brother’s, I immediately started poking around, and found a painted piece of 1/2″ plywood in the garage that was perfect in size. Much of what I brought was new…previously purchased, unopened code 80 that was never going to make it to my code 55 layout. So I started opening turnouts and began laying out a simple oval, with an emphasis on switching. In addition to 4 trailing point spurs, I worked a passing siding and a facing point spur into the design.

Since this layout was only for a weekend’s time, everything was dabbed lightly, and caulked in place. The turnouts were Atlas Custom #4s, and I needed a way to throw and hold the points from the operator’s side of the layout. After all, when your nieces’ and nephews’ arms are only 16″ long, you need to help them a bit with the reach, don’t you? The local hardware store carried a spool of 20 gauge (.88 mm) wire, and some pushpins. I taped down some straws from the kitchen to act as sleeves for the 2 wires that needed guidance to reach the far side of the layout. Initially I used only caulk to temp everything in place, but I eventually needed to anchor the turnouts with Elmer’s Glue near the throw bars. That secured them for good operation.

The pushpins, combined with the V bends in the wire, worked surprisingly well. For each turnout, I made 2 holes in the plywood to accept the pushpin. I needed to poke deep holes, though, because their arms were not strong enough to set the pin otherwise. We forget sometimes how difficult it is to be little!

The whole set up took 3-4 hours to get up and running, and we had a blast. Each child had different abilities and tendencies. Some ran prototypical starts and stops right from the beginning without my suggestion. Others plowed onward at full speed, trying to see if any of it would topple over at full throttle. (Uncle Genady had the good sense to use 11″ minimum, so they failed miserably in this regard.) I did all the uncoupling for them. They did everything else, including throwing the points, starting and stopping, switching directions, and setting out/picking up cars. They also learned how to perform a run around movement to service the facing point spur.

My youngest niece, 4 years old, was able to start and stop the train, and that was plenty of entertainment for her. The biggest challenge was staying on top of keeping her hands clean before she touched anything, but if I insisted she wash up with soap, off she went, only to return 2 minutes later with squeaky clean hands. My 2nd youngest niece, who’s First Communion was being celebrated, was a natural. With the tiniest of hands, she was able to place the trucks on the rails with no problem, and operated with precision and care. At one point she ran to the kitchen to get a small cardboard box, which we cut up to make a shipping warehouse, and a tunnel. My youngest nephew, who’s imagination is notably vivid, was avoiding the passing siding for a long stretch of time, and when I asked him about it, he calmly said “We can’t go there because they are fixing it. There was an accident on that side, and the track is damaged.” I couldn’t believe my ears. This was me 40 years ago!

And so, a fun model railroading weekend worth sharing, all because of a whimsical thought I had 30 minutes before leaving, when I looked at my packed bag and saw room for a few more items. If you have a chance to do something similar, whether it be with family or others, please do. It was a very rewarding experience.

Click to View:

High Res Slideshow



Progress on SLR 2062

Click to View:

High Res Slideshow or Downloadable Set

N Scale – Saint Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad / SLR #2062, Micro-trains 50′ Boxcar Weathering Project - a set on Flickr

The first roof rust layer is created with very small dabs of Raw Sienna oil color pooled with Mineral Spirits.

N Scale – Saint Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad / SLR #2062, Micro-trains 50′ Boxcar Weathering Project

The fill on the left tag was achieved with white pastel pencil, sharpened and then filed to a finer point several times during use. The lettering outline is jet black gouache thinned with water for some transparency and workability. The tag on the right is white gouache mixed with black to create an off white, also thinned with water. Both were painted with a 20/0 liner sable brush, wet with saliva for a finer line stroke.

N scale – Alaska Railroad, ARR #8019, Micro-trains 50′ boxcar

Click to View:

High Res Slideshow

I wasn’t happy with the my initial weathering on this ARR 8019 boxcar…the roof was a bit fresh, and the ends were a bit heavy, so I decided to make some changes. The roof was reworked using a rubber latex masking technique, galvanizing, and 2 tones of rust to reflect more milage, the panel detail was highlighted a bit more, and the tackboards received some gray to simulate wood. I also equipped it with weathered FVM metal wheel sets, which is a nice upgrade.

N Scale – Saint Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad (SLR)#2062, Micro-trains 50′ Boxcar Weathering Project

January 1, 2012

Here’s my next weathering victim, a Micro-trains MT 027 00 000 undecorated 50′ boxcar, that will receive a non prototypical treatment. The general goal is to loosely follow an SLR boxcar of the same style, giving it a heavier dose of wear, striving for what it might look like a few thousand miles from now. The starting point:

I recently picked up this helpful technique. Hot gluing a 1/4″ x 4″ dowel to the inside roof allows you to work without gloves, and still keep the model fingerprint free:

Next is the base coat, using Behr water based enamels available at Home Depot for about $3 per 8 ounces. This base purple is matched from a color swatch, “Weathervane”. A quick word about these water based enamels, as I just started airbrushing with them. Not only do they appear to be very durable, they will also breakdown (as needed) when massaged with 90% isopropyl alcohol. The better news is they will do so without producing the bleached result that’s associated with alcohol washes and acrylics, thus reducing the need for dusting it with Dullcote between each wash. This is key in smaller scales, because repeated  layers of Dullcote lessens the detail with each application:

Next is the salt masking technique, using kosher or sea salt instead of table salt. Standard iodized table salt is not usable because it’s cubed shape will mask unwanted squares instead of random circular patterns needed for rust pits. I crushed the salt to a finer grain, and picked off the unwanted larger grains and shapes for a more realistic look. The salt was locked into place by sharing time with the shell and a small humidifier inside my spray booth for about 5 minutes per side. The ends were moistened with a sponge and gently mashed into the salt, then manicure further when the salt was set:

The horizontal scratches are masked using a rubber latex “Colourless Art Masking Fluid” by Winsor & Newton. The nice feature of this product is it’s instant removability if you don’t like how it’s applied. You can also remove it without disturbing the surrounding scratches that you’re keeping. This is an enormous advantage, IMHO. It was applied using fine steel wool strands twisted to a point and held by clamp tweezers. You have to work quickly, and clean the wool applicator often, but the scratches you produce can be very  refined:

Final airbrushing for the body was a Behr waterbase enamel, matching Lowe’s swatch “Redstone Western Red”, with a drop of gray mixed in. The gray was a store returned custom enamel I picked up for $0.50. For this photo, I placed the lighting on a downward angle to better highlight the masking that has been applied:

I was going to salt mask the roof also, but decided to stipple instead. The same gray as above was used for the base roof color:

A warm water wash with a toothbrush and an eraser removes all the masking. The enamel really holds up well here, not scratching or flaking excessively when roughed up:

I examined the high res photos, found masking that I missed, and removed it after this photo was snapped…but this was very close to what I was trying to achieve, and I’m happy with the result:

The first layer of streaking was achieved by using two types of brushes, a fine point round sable brush and a 3/4″ soft flat brush. I dabbed burnt umber oil color on most of the individual rust pits, and streaked them with the 3/4″ soft flat brush by dipping it in mineral spirits, wiping the excess on a paper towel, and then pulling gently and slowly down the body. The ribs are helpful in keeping the brush steady and straight, and I was able to streak 3 panels with each pass. I’m using a bleeding technique for the door, which is achieved by applying the paint, then pooling the mineral spirits around each spot so that the pigment leaks mildly into the surrounding pool. Here’s the first of a handful of goes:

More to come as progress is made…

January 7, 2012 Update:

Some graffiti I’ve been working on: