Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mismatched doors

Sometimes a boxcar may show up on your railroad with a damaged door. Your shop may install whatever door they have on hand, and not worry about painting it; especially if it is a foreign road - since you wouldn't have the correct paint anyway. You would replace the door with a primed one and send it (and the bill) on its way.

As a result, you may have cars floating around with mismatched doors, some grey primer only, and some that are completely the wrong color.

Looks like Conrail needed a door, and only had and old one leftover in Penn Central Jade Green.

A prototype mismatch, photo by Ron Hawkins, as posted on

Not all mismatches are from damage. Some roads paint doors a different color for a reason - Conrail has used yellow doors to indicate clean lading only.

Horizontal scratches

Freight cars get lots of horizontal scratches...

Photo by Stan Lytle, posted on

But it can be difficult to make them level. Here is a way to make nice level scratches.

I use disposable lip liner cosmetic brushes ( link ).

I mount one in a portable drill press vise to hold it secure, apply a bit of rust paint to it, then just roll the car past it.

I use acrylic craft paint, so if something goes wrong, it comes right off with a damp Q-tip.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Car cards and waybills

I use car cards and waybills for freight car routing. Here is a simple method that requires no paperwork once it is set up.

There is one car card (the yellow card shown here) for each freight car. It is cut to baseball-card size so it will fit in a standard baseball card sleeve. The waybill is the white piece. It identifies where the car is going by a three-letter abbreviation, here GCF for Glen Cove Fuels. The train drops the car at Glen Cove Fuels, and the car card then rests in a channel on the front of the fascia. (The channel is vinyl molding made for bathroom tile).

After the operating session, the waybills are "turned" for the next routing. The waybill is just pulled out of the sleeve and tucked behind the car card. The car is now empty.

The destination for the empty is now revealed - in this case S for South Interchange. It will leave the layout via the South Interchange, and get removed and placed on the storage rack for future use.

Hair elastics

Here is a way to keep car cards together with rolling stock when off-layout: hair elastics! 

I had used rubber bands, but they are inconsistent sizes and were always breaking on me. These hair elastics are all the same size, soft and stretchy, and economical.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

UPS truck

Found in Walmart - Hot Wheels "Combat Medic" van in all its garish glory. It is available in many different color schemes, all of them just as awful. Orange windows?!?!? The shape looks about right for a UPS truck though...
Hot Wheels "Combat Medic"

Here is a real one.

After drilling out the two rivets, this is what you get. Body has been brush painted brown. The chassis was spray painted black just to get the wheels colored, then trim rings highlighted with a silver Sharpie pen. Window glass was painted flay grey.

Painting the orange window insert grey makes a more believable effect. Clearance lights are dotted on with a mini-brush.

All done... those are true HO scale figures, so as far as size goes, I say it passes the good-enough test. Lights were dotted on with a mini-brush. Stripe was leftover from a decal set, logo brush painted on. This can also be modeled with the door open if desired, it can be easily removed from the inner piece.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Easy 55 gallon drums

I was in Home Depot looking at electrical connectors when I saw these (intended for crimping bare ground wires together), and my 'scale eye' saw HO scale 55 gallon oil drums! 100 for about $8. (They also sell them in 10-packs for under $2). They have a little flange on one end, which makes a nice base so it will sit flat. You can also get them from Amazon. You can make either open or closed drums.

1. Copper Crimp Sleeves, 18-10ga.

2. Paint the inside brown. A Q-tip is perfect as a brush, just insert and turn it around.

3. A pencil makes a good painting handle. Insert it with the flange toward the pencil point, so you can just tip it off the pencil after painting.

4. Paint it up.  Craft store acrylic paint goes on nicely and dries to a flat finish. An initial white coat followed by color top and bottom bands will give the impression of a ridged drum. Here I am using a "lip liner" disposable cosmetics brush (source).

5. Touch the top rim with the brown Q-tip to cover any shiny copper remaining on the edge.

6. Drums in place on the loading dock. 

Now I had some open drums. I wanted to make some closed drums. I tried several things, but best results were with auto body spot putty. Goop some in and let it harden. It may need some light sanding. It settles and shrinks slightly as it dries, creating a nice "rim" around the top. 

The final product, seen here in between some (LED Christmas light) gas cylinders and (sewing bobbin) cable spools.

At 100 drums for $8, you can create your own hazardous waste site in no time!