Western Crate

This is a Bar Mills kit to build “Crown Crate”. I followed all the instructions, but changed the name to something more suitable for Montana.

Since it’s a Bar Mills kit, it’s a little fiddly to build. But the end result is worth it.

I took some photos as I was building it, but this is not going to be a “how-to” for building this kit.

The first step was to add bracing and corner strips to the shed walls. This was followed by priming and painting the walls with a grey/white mix. The paint went on a little thin and the primer shows through a bit, but I like the look.

After that was assembling the shed. I had a little trouble squaring it up, until I followed the instructions and added the roof at the same time. The rafters are pretty fragile, but I managed to get it together without breaking any.

While that dried I started assembling the lumber rack. This was even more fiddly because there isn’t much glue surface. Adding the cross pieces and the roof went far in stiffening it up. This is where I ran into a standard issue with all the Bar Mills kit’s I’ve built – they don’t include enough strip wood for the build. I have an assortment of sizes and found some that would do the job, but it’s a little annoying that they don’t include enough material.

The roof material was something new for me. The first Bar Mills kit I built had printed paper that looked like rusty corrugated metal, but was flat. This kit came with some thick corrugated paper. So I primed it, then painted it barn red – lighter in some areas and heavier in others.

After that I brushed on some “rust” using light cinnamon, burnt umber and raw umber paint. After that I hit it with some Rust-Oleum Dead Flat, but I didn’t like the way it looked – it tends to spray rather large droplets. So after that I sprayed it with some matte acrylic clear I have. That also sucked. This is what it looked like – not very flat and it lost a lot of rust.

I decided to just install it and weather it some more afterwards. I used some chalks and then hit it with Model Master flat and it looks pretty good now.

While that paint was drying I assembled the lumber piles for the rack. I thought it would be simpler to build them off the rack and then install them.

I also created my first custom decals using the Micro-Mark decal paper and my ink jet printer. They turned out okay, but that was a learning experience. The large “Blackwing” is to put on the water tower. The first two purplish prints are testing different settings on the printer.

After adding the decals, painting and installing the dust collector (correctly, not like the instructions which are backwards) and painting the other details, we have Western Crate.

Not sure where on the layout it’s going to go yet, but it’s a nice little model.

Posted in Industries | 1 Comment

Building Branchline Blueprint Series Box Cars

I’m building my second Branchline Blueprint Series Box Car model and I thought I’d document my process. It’s a little different than what the instructions suggest you do.

The instructions are a little vague about what order you should assemble things, and if you follow them in the normal reading direction (left to right, top to bottom) you are more likely to break some small parts.

The instruction sheet is divided into five sections in this order: Underframe, Ends, Body, Doors and Final Details. If you assemble it in that order you will be installing fragile parts way too early in the process. Here is my system – it’s a little generic because the models might have some differences. Read all the provided instructions before you start.

  1. Inspect all the parts for damage.
  2. Clean any flash or sprue leavings from the body.
  3. Remove the underframe from the sprue and clean any flash. Fit the underframe to the body and trim if needed. Do not glue at this point.
  4. Use a #75 drill in a pin vise to clean out all the holes in the body and the car ends.
  5. Fit and glue the car ends to the body.
  6. Glue the weights into the body – I use canopy glue for this step. I also like to add extra weight. I over-weight my cars a little – about one ounce per inch of car.
Supported on blocks to protect the car end details while the glue for the weights drys.
  1. While the glue for the weights is drying you can glue the brake piping to the underframe.
Brake piping installed.
  1. If the car has a roof walk, and the instructions call for it, drill out the mounting holes on the roof.
  2. Install the roof walk (if there is one.) This lets you glue it on from the underside if possible.
  3. After the glue for the weights is dry, glue on the roof.
  4. If there are brake parts to install on the bottom before the underframe is installed, do it now.
  5. Install the underframe.
  6. Install the coupler boxes and couplers. I installed Kadee couplers and used the draft gear that came with the couplers.
The underneath.
  1. Install the trucks – this lets you set down the car without worrying about the bottom details getting damaged. This is a good time to check the coupler height and make sure the trip levers are at the right height.
Checking the couplers.
  1. Install the doors. You can glue them on or follow the instructions to make them movable.
  2. Glue the tack boards on the sides. Look at the (muddy) photos to figure out where they go, or find some prototype photos online.

This completes all the major assembly. Now we can start installing all the small parts. I like to follow this order:

  1. Start on the A (non-brake) end and add all the ladders, grabs, roof walk support, tack board and such. I do not install the coupler cut lever or air hose at this point – they are very fragile.
A End
  1. Move to the B end and install the ladders, grabs, brake hardware, roof walk support, tack board and such. Again, I do not install the coupler cut lever or air hose at this point.
  1. Next I install all the ladders and grabs on the body of the car. I install the stirrups last because they are pretty fragile.
  2. The last step is to install the air hoses and coupler cut levers. They are pretty fragile, so quite often I’ll leave the air hoses off. I’ll probably replace the cut levers with wire, or some of the etched brass ones I bought.
Finished. Needs weathering.

And done. These kits do make a pretty nice looking model if you take your time don’t rush it.

Unfortunately it appears that this kit has two incorrect doors. I’ve emailed Branchline to see if they can send me the right ones.

Posted in Rolling Stock | Comments Off on Building Branchline Blueprint Series Box Cars

Mickey’s Diner

When I was at the train show I decided the residents of Blackwing needed somewhere to eat. There was a vendor with the Walther’s “Betty’s Diner” kit for sale at a reasonable price and since it fit my time period I thought I’d pick it up.

The majority of the kit is molded in a greyish “silver” color, with the seats and tables molded in red. There are also some clear parts for windows.

I sprayed the grey parts with Rustoleum Aluminium spray paint to make them look more like chrome, and left the red parts alone. I thought about washing the red parts with some black to add some detail, but you can’t really see the interior all that well when it’s assembled.

The model goes together okay, but it’s not the most well designed kit I’ve ever assembled. There are places where they could have made better locating tabs or pins, and the curved plastic windows are terrible. If I’d realized how bad they were going to be I would have replaced them with some clear acetate or something. Oh well.

I only took a few photos when I was assembling it.

Assembling the ends and installing the windows in the front.
Here the vestibule is assembled and I’ve painted the inside walls and am installing the tables.
All of the interior is assembled now except for the counter stools.
Walls attached, interior completed. There’s even a malt machine and a cash register.
Roof edging and upper trim installed.
The finished project.

I didn’t like any of the signs that came with the kit, so I made my own. There is a pair of local diners named “Mickey’s” that have pretty tasty “greasy spoon” food, so I grabbed a photo of their name and massaged it to suit.

It might be fun to get an old heavyweight passenger car and re-model it into a true “dining car” restaurant, but that’s a project for another time.

The model still needs an HVAC unit on the roof, some signs on the windows, a parking lot and people. I left the roof loose so I can add people and some lights.

It turned out pretty well.

Posted in Industries | Comments Off on Mickey’s Diner

GN Engine No. 655

I went to the swap meet again and this time I picked up a Proto 2000 model of an EMD GP7 painted for the Great Northern.

It’s a really nice looking model, and has some very nice detailing. It even comes with optional parts you can install, including an all-weather hatch to put over the radiator fans, some all-weather window boxes and various MU hose stands. I haven’t applied these details yet – that will be another post.

This post is about installing a Soundtraxx Tsunami DCC decoder, a speaker and new LED lights.

I had been hesitating to get started on this project but I finally bit the bullet and went ahead and milled the frame.

I have a Shapeoko 3 CNC router/mill, but mainly use it for wood and foam. This was pretty much the first metal I’ve milled in it. It came out fine, but I had to stop and adjust the process a couple of times.

I milled off the screw bosses where the PC board was mounted and took a little bit more off there, then I removed a bunch of the nose to fit a speaker in it. I should have weighed the frame before and after, but didn’t think of it until now. Oh well.

Here is the frame all milled and deburred.

I initially got the wiring done for everything except the LEDs. I cut back the wires and did a much neater job than the first decoder install I did. I may go back and redo the decoder install in the VO-1000 just to neaten it up.

I’m happy to report that the shell fit on and sat all the way down on the first try!

I didn’t have any LEDs to do the lights with, so I ordered a set of 25 white SMD LEDs with leads soldered on from Amazon for only $9.99. They even came with three sets of resistors!

When the LEDs arrived I ended up just gluing them to the underside of the little covers for the original lights. That worked out pretty well.

I forgot to take a picture after I neatened the wires and taped it all down, but it still all fit in the shell, so I’m happy.

You can see the lights here on the rear of the engine.

You can see that they are pretty white. I’ll probably replace them with warm white LEDs in the future. You can also see a lot of bleed into the cab. When I open it up again I’ll paint the light pipe black on the outside to try and cut down some of the bleed.

I’m pretty happy with the way this install turned out.

Posted in Motive Power | Comments Off on GN Engine No. 655

Ballast Testing

On Friday and Sunday I put down some ballast on the track on the Northeast end of the layout.

Ballast work.
Continue reading
Posted in Track Work | Comments Off on Ballast Testing

Progress Report – 8 Nov 2019

More and more progress to report. Since the last progress report I’ve gotten the following done:

I installed the “fiddle yard” extension, painted the top of it tan, put down the cork roadbed, built two more turnouts to finish the “run around” area, and laid all the track.

Continue reading
Posted in Construction | Comments Off on Progress Report – 8 Nov 2019

Progress Report – 29 Oct 2019

I know the last post was about being discouraged, but that doesn’t mean I stopped working on the layout. I took a day or two off to do other things and then buckled down to get back to it.

The first thing was to try and figure out what was wrong with engine number 141. I took it all apart and made sure the gears were installed correctly, meshing correctly and properly lubed. I also shimmed the slop out of the worm gear bearings.

Unfortunately there is still some jerkiness at slow speeds. I think it’s the motor “cogging” and may just be inherent in the beast. It does run pretty slowly and other than some jerkiness it’s smooth, so I think I’ll just have to live with it for a bit.

Continue reading
Posted in Construction | Comments Off on Progress Report – 29 Oct 2019

Feeling A Little Discouraged…

On Monday I decided to run my locomotives around on the layout to test the turnouts.

First I ran the V0-1000 diesel around. Sadly it did not go all that well. It looks like I need to do some re-work on all the turnouts. The point rails don’t quite allow enough clearance and the loco kept derailing.

So I thought it would be fun to just run it on the curves. But the loco made a sort of grinding noise when moving on a curve. That’s not right. So I took it apart to investigate. As far as I can tell there is too much play in the worm gears. So I ordered some shims.

That’s one loco down.

I thought maybe I would pull out the steam locomotive and try it. It didn’t want to run well at all either. At first I thought it was an electrical pickup problem because it would start and stop randomly, but since the sound didn’t stop working when the loco stopped moving it probably wasn’t that. I didn’t feel like taking it apart also so I just packed it away again. I have a feeling it’s binding somewhere and maybe the motor I put in it isn’t really strong enough either. So I ordered a new motor to try later.

That’s two locos down.

I thought it would be fun to try the Proto 2000 GP7 that I bought, even though it doesn’t have DCC in it yet. But first I had to take it apart and replace the gears on the axles. That wasn’t too bad a job so I hooked up an older DC power pack to the rails and ran the GP7 around a bit. It also was derailing on the switches (no surprise really) and it wasn’t running that well either, though that may be the power packs fault. I need to save up a few more dollars and order the DCC decoder to install in it. So I put it away on the shelf and went and took a nap.

That’s three locos down.

For those keeping score, I have three locomotives, none of which are running well. I also have track work that doesn’t work.

I’m going to have to rework all the turnouts until the locos can navigate them properly. And repair the locomotives.

So I’m a little discouraged with the layout at the moment.

Posted in Misc | 4 Comments

Crossing Lutgens Creek – A Staged Publicity Photo

Since I managed to place the three bridges and lay the three tracks to cross Lutgens Creek I thought it might be fun to stage a “publicity photo”.

Still plenty of work to do, but it’s starting to look more like a real layout now.

Posted in Misc | Comments Off on Crossing Lutgens Creek – A Staged Publicity Photo

Creating and Crossing Lutgens Creek – Part Two

In the last installment about Lutgens Creek I had created the creek bed and painted it tan. The next step was to paint the bottom of the creek bed a darker color and then shade the sides a little.

I had some greenish brown paint (named Chocolate Cupcake, but if my cupcake was that color I wouldn’t eat it) left over from another project and I thought it would do, so I painted a stripe down the creek bed.

Continue reading
Posted in Track Work | Comments Off on Creating and Crossing Lutgens Creek – Part Two