Sunday, December 9, 2018

Before you do the 4x8 plywood...

The traditional starter railroad is on a 4x8 sheet of plywood. However, a rectangle has limitations - you are pretty much limited to a little oval of track, and it is difficult to use the corner space in a practical way. Here's an easy improvement on the good old 4x8. 

Cut off two 24" x 24" triangles, outlined above, off one end. 

Flip them around and attach them to the other end. Now your 4x8 is 4x10, with a shape better suited to a big oval, with a longer mainline run. Formerly wasted corner space is gone.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Modifying decals for a freelance road

If you are considering a freelance railroad, you will immediately run into the question of how to letter your railcars? Most modelers choose a roadname, then windup committed to preparing artwork and buying custom (read that $) decals forever.

On the Cape Ann, we have flipped that strategy around. First, we browsed Microscale's online catalog to see what stock decals are available, then selected decals which could be modified to create a roadname. In other words, the decals drove the roadname, not the other way around. We wound up with not just one, but three roadnames!

Cape Ann

First .. Observe the Central Vermont CV logo:

Jim Parker photo

The CV could be flipped and applied wrong-side out to turn CV into CA. Thus the inspiration for using a CA roadname: Cape Ann. (There is another modeler out there doing the same thing, for his Central Atlantic).

Cape Ann locomotive

Cape Ann boxcar


Second - a Maine short line to interchange with the Cape Ann. The Rock Island decals are an easy modification, just cut a few letters out of the middle to turn Rock Island into Rockland, a city in midcoast Maine.

Rockland locomotive

Rockland boxcar and caboose

Seacoast Line

Third - Seaboard Coast Line decals were found to be an inspiration for Seacoast Line, a regional New England short line specializing in running seafood from Maine to Boston overnight.

Seacoast Line locomotive

Seacoast Line boxcar

Seacoast Line caboose


Leftover scraps are useful too. Some leftovers from Procor tank cars became Co-op gondolas.

So - before you settle on a roadname, see what is available for off-the-shelf decals you can modify!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Scrap iron load

My 15-year old pickup truck is shedding some rust flakes, so I turned them into a gondola load of scrap iron. I figure after about 15,000 gondola loads my truck will be gone completely.

There have been some questions about how the sides of the gondola were deformed. I softened the sides up with a heat gun (also known as a wallpaper stripper) and just pressed them by hand. A hair dryer will not get hot enough. Go easy, or else you will have a molten blob of plastic.

Fun with Plastic Canvas

Plastic Canvas is available from your craft store, Hobby Lobby, and some Wal-Mart stores. It will be in the sewing/embroidery section.

Plastic Canvas comes in various colors, and is sold in 10.5 x 13.5 inch sheets. The hole sizes are rated in "mesh": the larger the mesh number, the larger the holes. The mesh number indicates the number of squares per inch. For HO scale, 7 mesh is a good size.

The material is soft enough to cut with a utility knife, and stiff enough to be self-supporting. It can be used for industrial windows.

windows from white plastic canvas

It can also be used for ladder stock.

ladders from plastic canvas

Plastic canvas was used on this sanding tower (link to article). 

Fun with Fiberglass Drywall Tape

Fiberglass drywall tape can be used to mass produce windows and other things on your layout. This is available in the drywall supply section of your home improvement store. It is sticky on one side.

This is a quick way to make individual window panes. Cut a piece of drywall tape larger than your window opening, and stick it on a piece of clear plastic. Then just glue that up against your window opening from the inside.

You can also use this tape to make solar panels for your buildings.

See this post for directions on making solar panels.