Thursday, April 28, 2016

ICG woodchip hopper project

Earlier this winter I was browsing eBay for deals when I stumbled across a seller who was listing a slug of the Bluford 70 ton woodchip hoppers.  Most were going for a relatively low price so it caught my attention.

Up to this point I had used mostly the Deluxe Woodchip hoppers for loading at Crushmoore, but these little guys kind of caught my.  They were a little bit older than my era I suppose, but damn they really started to look good.

Bottom line I picked a few..........then a few more.  Before long I had acquired a decent fleet of these little beauties.  The seller would list a good batch each week and I just couldn't help myself and then one week he listed a pair of the Illinois Central black cars that I was able to win.  Upon getting them home. the gears started turning.  "I wonder if I could come up with decals so I could paint a couple in the Orange ICG scheme?"

I did a little searching on Google for pics of them, but came up empty handed.  But by this time I found myself fixated on seeing a couple of these orange hoppers sitting at Crushmoore.   So I started rounding up the supplies.  I found a couple of Undecs, ICG Orange TCP paint and a few decals. Microscale didn't have a whole lot of ICG decals but they did have the round Split Rail logo used on the locos. This meant I didn't have to print white decals and could print the decals on my inkjet printer which made this project a whole lot easier.

Once the supplies had arrived I set about stripping the cars of the details and got them painted.

Next I scanned one of the cars so I could import it into CorelDraw and I could start working on the lettering for the decals I couldn't buy.  But first I returned to Google and searched for a font similar to what the ICG used.  Jackpot! I found a TrueType font that someone had made for the Railroad Sim game.  This just got easier.

After copying the font into windows I could now select it in CorelDraw and start overlaying the lettering.  Even though I could find decals for the ACI label, COTS labels and the Wheel inspection DOT I still created them so I could position everything on the image to see how things would fit.

Now that the sizing was done I copied the images and compressed them into groups to fit on the paper.

Next I ran a couple of test prints on plain paper to see how legible the printing would be.  Satisfied, I grabbed a sheet and made a print and sealed them with a couple of thin coats of Model Masters semi gloss clear. 

The decals laid down really good over a coat of Dull Coat. They were a little bit thicker than Microscale decals, but several coats of Solvaset made them snuggle right down over the details.

The last thing I did to them after getting the decals sealed and rail ready was to tone down the load that Bluford provided with the cars.  I mixed up a little bit of cheap acrylic paint for a wash coat.  I used an Umber, Orange and bit of Antique White and thinned it a bit so it settled down into the chips to bring out the details a bit more and tone down the bright molded color.  I need to experiment with the color a bit more as this might be a little too dark?

Another small project done...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Need to shed some light on a subject?

Having operated for several years now on the Little Rock Line, one issue I've had to deal with was not being able to see the couplers, especially the ones that couple very close.
I use fluorescent lighting in the basement so it's pretty bright, but it can still get dang dark between those cars!

I've always had several of the Rix Pix on hand, a very handy little tool.
Several months ago after enjoying a meal at Hu Hot, I grabbed a couple pairs of Chopsticks to see how they would work?  They were a little too big in diameter so I found some cheap skewers at the local Wally World.  

While these worked much better, one thing still bothered me.  Not just trying to get in between some of the closely coupled cars, but actually seeing the black couplers!  

Hmm? I needed something that could light up those little areas, but it had to be small? 

Tonight a package was waiting for me when I got home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rock Island Rockets.

Now that I have a few more E's and F units in the works and being painted I had a thought to replace my Amtrak set with an actual Rock Island passenger train?

My thought was to do something similar to this, a west bound Cornbelt Rocket in route to Council Bluffs / Omaha while passing the diamonds at Joliet, IL.

This is what the mighty Rocky Mountain Rocket had been reduced to by 1966.
Basically it was nothing more than a glorified mail train with a few baggage cars and coaches thrown on the end behind a few TOFC's.

I grabbed a few cars to see what they might look like and to see if they would fit the sidings or not.

As I was trying to justify a couple of these trains on the layout, I just couldn't get things to sound legit.  The kicker was most mail and package express service ended around 1969-1970.  So after quite a bit of fussing and discussing I opted not to go quite this route.

What I think I will do though is something even more forlorn. I think what most mail trains eventually became were nothing more than solid TOFC's?  At least it sounds more legit and looks a little better.  Since this section of track is Dark Territory, I might even require a crummy on the end?

I think I'll keep the same size of train with 8-10 cars behind a pair or trio of units and assign them as a Red Ball or Rocket Freight.  This will keep it as a priority train. Now as for passenger cars, I will toss on a 1-3 coaches and a converted baggage car with HEP.  This will eliminate the need for home road cars that needed special piping to carry the steam or power to the coaches like they did on the Cornbelt Rocket. Yeah, I could have placed the coaches on the head of the train, but...

By the end, The Cornbelt Rocket was reduced to the Quad Cities Rocket running from Chicago to Rock Island, IL.  and The Rock was running this train for nothing more than a convenience service for the state of Illinois.  With that in mind, I think I will just say that the states of Arkansas and Louisiana required some sort of minimal passenger service to be maintained as well.  So a few tired old coaches were tagged on to the end of the TOFC's and were called good.

This will still require a station stop at El Dorado adding a bit more operations on the layout as well as a possible meet on the line?  A stretch, but it works. 

I think I might also try to pick up a couple of special cars that I can place on the trains from time to time or when I back date the session once in awhile.  

These would be a converted troop train car like this from Skytop Models.

And if I can still find one, a Wheels Of Time 70' HW Arched roof baggage car.

So will the Rockets still defy Discontinuance?  Stay tuned...

Monday, April 4, 2016

Bulkhead flats anyone? Let's load'em up! pt3

The other day while shooting some action shots of W&OV's S2,  I noticed they had several bulkhead flats loaded with plate steel.  I've seen a lot of the coil cars delivered, but not many bulkheads.  So I setup the tripod and got a few shots of them being spotted. 


With the bulkheads on and the decks weathered, I wanted to get the actual cars weathered but found myself heading off on another tangent, loads!

Again this is something I've been wanting to do for a long time but never really had the need to do so until now.  Since we're operating now, one of my crew suggested that we need loads for two reasons, one for aesthetics and the other for operations.  Quin mentioned that with loads the cars would be easier for the El Dorado yard crew to tell where they are going; To the industry or from the industry.  Makes sense.

Heavy Metal Ind takes raw steel in and manufactures a lot of different items, mainly pipe and tubing. I have a lot of the coil steel loads but also wanted a variety of raw material.  So I decided my first load would be steel plate loads.   

I started out with .030" styrene sheets and cut out strips measuring a scale 8' x 20', 30', 40' and 45'.
I then glued and stacked them together in piles of no more than 4 high.  between each pile I wanted cribbing or stickers to separate them a bit.  First I grabbed some 1/16" x 1/16" basswood strips but they looked a little too big.

I found some .030" x .030" strip styrene strips and tried them.

These looked to be a bit more proportional.  With the wood stickers I was going to toss them in a jar of old paint thinner to give them more of a look of wood, but I couldn't do this with the styrene.  I didn't want to dig out the airbrush for a couple strips, then the light came on!  What a brown marker? Didn't have one but I found this, an old Floquil Paint Pen!  I think it was Rail Brown?  This worked pretty slick!

When they were dry I used my Chopper II to cut them to length.  I used a Touch -N-flo applicator to glue them to the bottom of each pile with MEK.  I'm really starting to like the this applicator for small pieces like this.  Just a small drop to spot weld them into place and then I can come back with small brush to really lay on the glue.

After getting them painted and the stickers glued in place, I gave them a quick test fit.  I used a mixture of old Polly Scale paints I had laying around and brushed it on.  I used a gray, a black and some beige and mixed until I had a good color that resembled fresh steel. 

Now I needed some strapping to keep the sheets from sliding around.  I grabbed some black thread and glued one end to the bottom with CA glue, let it dry and wrapped the thread around the piles and glued the other end and trimmed them.

Once the strapping was good and dry I used some weathering powders, Old Rust and Soot and gave the tops and edges a light coat and then sealed everything with a good coat of Dull Coat to lock everything in place.

It took me about two nights to get 8 stacks done, which should be enough once I get some other types of steel loads made.

For the next type of loads I'm gonna make some square rod and "I" and "H" beams...