Monday, December 11, 2017

Two more GP18's join the fleet.

These two were the first of the GP18's to join the roster, but it wasn't till now that I got around to weathering them.

Again as I did with #1351 I replaced the factory LifeLike DCC ready chassis Atlas DCC ready chassis.  I only had to add a few detail parts to bring them close to the prototype.  It's tough finding good shots of Rock Island locos at times, but I did manage to find a couple that told the story.

The 1343 wound getting a pair of flared spark arrestors and five chime horn and firecracker antenna.
The 1346 only got the five chime horn and the firecracker antenna.
Only the 1343 got cab shades from what I could tell in the pics I found.

Both of these came factory painted in the 70's Red and Yellow speed lettering. The trucks and fuel tanks were also painted gray as per the prototype, but the gray waaaaay too light.

Once all the details were applied and painted to match, I sealed both units with a healthy coat of Dull Coat, I mention heavy as I was hoping that it would give more tooth when applying the Pan Pastels.  I ran into the issue of the Dull Coat dissipating the pastels on the #1351, which made me re-apply several coats of the pastels after spraying the Dull Coat.

I'm thinking it helped? I only misted a light coat of Dull Coat once, then another full strength to seal it all a short while later.  The Pastels didn't seem to dissipate much at all like it they did on the #1351.

Anyway here are the results.  I'm kind of diggin the Pan Pastels.  If you're going after a real rust bucket, I think Oils are the way to go, but for just a faded dusty look, the Pastels seem to do a good job.

When I did the 1351, one feature I really liked was the wide, black streak under the rear grilles.  What I found out was it seemed to be a common trait on the GP18's.  So I added to the twins as well.

And just for fun, here's the 1351 joining in...

I've got two more GP18's planned so I'll see if I can get them done before the layout pulls me back to it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Another Rock Island GP18 #1351

Well it's been two weeks since my knee surgery and things are progressing well.  

As mentioned in my last post, while I had the mill out I decided to get a few more Atlas GP chassis prepped for the rest of my GP18 fleet, 5 total.   The two Red and Yellow 18's are ready to have chips installed and programmed and I still need to get MTL couplers installed.  Then they'll at least be serviceable for the next session. 

The next GP18 I worked on is one that always caught my eye.

Not sure of the whole story behind this one?  It wasn't a wreck rebuild.  I read somewhere that the shops must have had some extra yellow paint laying around and needed to use it up?  Either way is it a sharp looking unit that I've been wanting to add to my fleet mainly because it adds to the Character of the Rock Island in my eyes.

I didn't need to do too much customization to this unit other than add the flared arrestors, a firecracker antenna, cab shades, new cab numbers, number boards and then I needed to fabricate the air filter on the top.

This was done with a few scraps of styrene.

Not perfect, but it gets the idea across.

Then I added some small scraps of extruded screen to the flared arrestors.

Before I painted the yellow or started on the weathering, because I was not able to remove the glazing, I used some liquid mask to cover the windows and headlights on both ends.  The last bottle I bought was dried up so I tried some Humbrol Maskol this time.  This stuff worked very well!  

As I did on the ICG units, I used primarily Pan Pastels for the weathering medium.  I also used some P3 Armor Wash to darken the grilles and to make the dark stain under the rear intake grille.  I was able to get crisper lines with the P3.

As I was afraid of, the Pan Pastels did dissipate a little after I sprayed the first coat of Dull Coat on the unit to seal it.  I went back over the model with a bit heavier coat of Pastels then reshot the Dull Coat.  This seemed to help but I wondered if I had not gotten a thick enough or rough enough coat of the Dull Coat to help hold the Pastels in the first place?  Another thing I did was to mist several light coats on and let them dry before spraying a heavier sealer coat to protect the weathering.  It seemed to work?

In this shot I grabbed an Intermountain F7A that was originally built by flight2000 (Brian K).  He built this F7 for a customer in Germany who later sold it on eBay and I was lucky enough to score it.

Three GP18's down, 2 to go...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A knee, a mill and some new power

Back in late August I slipped on air hose at work and tore my meniscus and fractured my leg bone and I've been off work since then.  Well this gave me a lot of modeling time that I put to good use.  Most of which time I used to finish up the trackwork, held an op session and worked on the backdrop.

They finally decided to scope my knee and do the repairs on Nov 8th.  I was laid up for several days and had to stay off my leg, which about drove me stir crazy, cause I'm not one to sit down too long.  By the 12th I couldn't watch anymore TV and was jonesing to get downstairs and putter around, just to be doing something!

Up until the surgery I knew I wouldn't be able to stand and work on the layout so I decided to switch directions and clear up some locomotive projects I've had sitting on the shelf for a long time.  At least I could do this sitting at the workbench and not be on the leg.  Hey, it was better than watching a bunch of mindless shows on Netflix.

The first project on my To-Do list was a pair of LifeLike GP18's.  Not being a fan of the LifeLike chassis's, even the Walthers Proto version with the split frame DCC versions, I had started to fit an Atlas GP7/9 frame under the LifeLike shell several years ago when I friend asked me to try a similar project with a couple of Bachmann GP7's in this post

After getting the units out and refreshing my memory of the original plan, I drug the mill out and got it setup.  The plan had been to do some minor milling to thin the top edges of the Atlas frame since the inside of the LifeLike shell was a bit narrower at the top due the removable section where the exhaust stacks were at. 

I milled a small notch down the length the outer top edge of the frames and then another pass across the side of the frame, about 3/32" down from the top.  I needed just a bit of clearance for the thickness of the shell. 

Next I used a large grinding disk in the dremel and eased the angle of the chassis so it would slip inside the front and rear of the shell.  

After a couple of test fittings, the chassis slipped right in and the bump-outs on the Atlas chassis, lined up with the dimple holes on the inside of the LifeLike shell.  But it was still a little snug so I flattened the bump-out with a file and Voila!  It fit like a glove and everything lined up!

Here are the first two less their fuel tanks.

Since things were setup, I scrounged up two more Atlas chassis and repeated the process.  If I can find one more chassis I might get it milled too as I have another shell spotted. 

While digging out the GP18 projects I stumbled across another long ago shelved project.  A number of years ago I scored an Atlas GP35 and a GP38-2 that was painted in the ICG Orange & Gray scheme on eBay for a very good price.  These turned out to be a pretty decent paint job except that the painter had used some sort of paint that was extreeeeeeemely glossy, which might have been Scale Coat?

The GP38-2 already had a DCC frame and was pretty much ready to run, but the GP35 had the older DC frame that I wanted to swap out for a newer DCC ready frame.  Both units needed a few details, couplers and chips added, nothing major so I added them to the short bucket list. 

The Orange and Gray scheme started showing up in the early 80's so I didn't want these units to be rustbuckets, but anyone who knows the ICG, knows that dirty locos were just part of the ICG, just as they were to the Rock Island.   

A couple of quick squirts of Dull Coat cut the gloss and now I was ready to start getting them dirty.  This time I decided to use nothing but Pan Pastels and see how well they worked.  More or less I just wanted them faded and weather worn just enough to show road grime to show a little age.   

I'm waiting on some Shell Scale number board decals and need to add a few minor details, but for now they're ready for service.

Until my knee is back to normal, my plan is to get some more Bench Projects done like this.  I've been itching to get back to working on my loco fleet and I've got lots of locos to run through the paint shop.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fordyce to Calion backdrop

I got a chance to paint the backdrop from where I left off at Fordyce, down to Calion, just North of the Ouachita River.

Fordyce is to the left, looking south.

Looking north from the Ouachita River.

Hopefully next, I'll be working on the scene behind the Ouachita River or I'll try to get the town of El Dorado proper raised and work back to the river scene?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Happy Trees!

OK, Bob Ross I am not, but I'm pretty happy with the way the backdrop turned out.

This was the stage had me worried, I have never done any sort of painting before but decided that if I wanted something that looked halfway decent I was going to have pick up a paintbrush and push myself.  I did a lot of Youtube watching and conferred with Quin about how to paint my backdrop.  He gave me some great suggestions along way that proved to be quite a bit of help.  Thanks Quin!

While I felt the distant mountains looked good, I couldn't help but wonder what an actual 3D tree planted in front of them would look like?  Would there be too much contrast?   I kept thinking that I needed to have some sort of texture to help blend the 2D background trees with the 3D trees on the layout?  At the saame time I didn't want to have paint a mural to get the results.

This turned out not to be the case.  Quin explained that the darker colored hills were nothing more than a shadow layer that I was suppose to paint the forest on, thus giving me more depth to the scene, so I began using a sponge and dabbing method with a darker rich green.  I got the hills about 90% covered up with the sponge.

While the sponge worked good for this, I couldn't get close enough to the ceiling tile, so I tried using a 3/4" Filbert brush to get paint on the bottom 1/2" of the backdrop.  Then I tried using this brush on the next lighter color of green but I couldn't get the stippled effect I was looking for.  I had used a cheap 1" painter brush to get a rough edge on the nearest hills, but for the trees the pattern was a bit too big. So I grabbed 3/4" flat brush.  

After getting the greens mixed to a lighter color I loaded up the brush, wiped off the biggest share of it and started to stipple on the paint.  This seemed to work better.  I continued to stipple on that color of green until I had covered the previous color about 75%.  

Then I mixed up the next color of green several shades lighter. Being lighter I only applied it to half of the hills and not the entire area. This would give the appearance of sunlight hitting one side of the trees and would help to reinforce the Depth of the scene.  I kept mixing the green with a lighter green and yellow until I felt I had sufficient Depth.  As I moved down the layout I could feel myself getting the hang of this and quite often I returned to a previous area to apply more highlighting to match what I had recently done.  

I was worried the whole time that I would go overboard and ruin the scene, so when I could stand back and see the Depth, I stopped, took a few pics and sent them to Quin.  The next morning he replied that they looked awesome, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

See what you think?

The next night I cleaned the rails again and started putting back the structures and rolling stock and grabbed a few more pics.  All in all I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Now at least I have some faith that I can replicate this later with a few changes and complete the backdrop.

This it the paint and the colors that I used.

Quin just edited this picture for me! LOL
I wish I had that much hair...

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I got after the clouds today.
Clouds have always been perplexing to me.  Most say they are easy but there are as many different ways of making them as there are clouds.

While watching something on FaceBook the other day where a painter used nothing more than a rattle can and stencil he made some pretty realistic clouds very easily.

While I've know of stencils I never really looked into them before.  I found several videos on YouTube showing how some made them and how they used them.  It seemed pretty simple?

I made mine from a sheet of black poster board I got from Wally World for $0.97 and cut down into smaller sections that were easy to hold and maneuver.   On one I cut out the clouds with a knife, the rest I just tore out sections randomly.
Then I folded the top portion over 1" or so to give me something to hold them with and also to keep them a bit  more rigid.  It also acted like a shield from any overspray.

I gathered the needed supplies and started playing on some plain cardboard.  Didn't seem to tough, but I realized one thing.  I found I didn't want to use a rattle can due to the small height that my backdrop was.  So I got my airbrush out and wound up using some thinned down cheap acrylic paint that I had on hand.  The airbrush didn't have the power to spray the paint all over the area and create a fog.

As with anything, practice makes perfect, and I still need a bit.  Also found it kind of tough not to over do the clouds.  Referring back to Eric's Housatonic layout, where Eric painted clouds continuously around his backdrop, I wanted some space between my clouds.

Things I learned.
Do not hold the stencil too close to the back drop.
When overlaying the stencils keep them closer than you think you will need, this keeps the clouds more solid.  I had to go back and fill in on some of them.

Could they have been done better? Yes
Will I get better at this? Probably. 
Can I fix the clouds I already sprayed? Yes.  (Paint over them with blue and respray them, lol)

Anyway, here is what I came up with.  Not perfect, but I think they'll work.

Next up I will be adding the blotch trees to the foreground with a pallet of acrylics.  This is the part that has me worried, I'm not a artist...