No. 68: Progress on Freight Cars, Oct 2017 Part 2

‘Round and ‘Round with Cylindrical Hoppers

 A long time ago, a friend offered to do a free sound install for me.  I paid for parts but not labor, so in return I offered to weather up some models for him.  He said “Sure, I’ll send you some cars–get them back to me when you can.”

I have always thought I do a pretty good job of weathering models.  I expected him to send some box cars or something like that. 

But no…he sent four Canadian cylindrical grain hoppers.  I have no idea what to do with cylindrical grain hoppers.  No idea whatsoever.  Period, dot.

I stared at those cars for a month.  I kept staring at them for another month, and then another month, and then another couple more months went by and then I moved to Germany.  The models have sat in a box for two years.  I had seen Dave Schroedle’s magnificent work at St. Louis and other RPM events, as well as the excellent work done by the guys from the Weathering Shop at St. Louis RPM, for example, but I have no idea how to do what they do.  Below is a Dave Schroedle model from St. Louis RPM 2014. 



The models above are by Jeremy St. Peter, also photographed at St. Louis RPM.   I’m not into the graffiti, but the weathering is beyond compare.  Tom Johnson is also a weathering master; one of his cars is shown below.


I tried streaking the models cautiously with artist oils thinned with paint thinner, but the cars looked horrible.  I was able to sandblast the weathering off and try again.  While I was sandblasting I blasted some of the factory paint off and it looked pretty nice, as though the paint had faded.  Then I used some AIM weathering powders to highlight the panels between the weld lines.  I tried not to overdo it because I don’t know what era my friend models.  I weathered the trucks with AIM “Delta Dirt” and sealed them with Dullcote.  I think the rest of the cars look alright, but I wish I could figure out how to get better results like Dave and Jeremy St. Peter can do.



I still have a lot of work to go.  I’ve had these models A LONG TIME and my buddy has been very patient.  It’s time to get ’em finished and sent.


Sandblaster Rebuild

I spent four or five not-so-enjoyable hobby hours rebuilding my sandblaster in the last month.  I took the whole thing apart, dumped the old aluminum oxide (which I have been using for maybe 12 years?) and cleaned up the whole thing.  I bought 10 pounds of new 220-grit aluminum oxide from an outfit on eBay called the Abrasive Armory, and also bought new gloves on a recommendation from Tim O’Connor.  I’m happy to report it works like new.  The aluminum oxide I bought performs pretty well but doesn’t quite have the cutting power of the old stuff I got from John Polyack.  John was the guy behind the North Coast sandblasting booths.  This weekend I spent a few more not-so-enjoyable hours sandblasting the large multitude of completed builds I’ve accumulated over the last two years.


My temporary set-up downstairs includes a lot of stuff that is required along with the blaster, such as a compressor (to power the blaster, which has a huge appetite for air), and a vacuum (to reduce pressure inside the box when sealed, and also to keep dust to a minimum).  Since some of my devices are 220 volt and some are US 110 volt, I have to use a converter for some of the appliances.  The compressor and converter are on 220, and the lights inside the blaster box are 110.  Here’s a photo of the temporary set-up, above.  If I put an orange bulb inside the box, and put a smile on the outside, it’d make a pretty awesome jack-o-lantern.

While I was working, one of the light bulbs blew out in the sand box and I replaced it with another one from the house.  I forgot all about the 110-to-220 volt thing, and plugged a German 220-volt bulb into the 110 volt outlet in the blaster box.  It barely glowed–I think I got about 2 watts out of it.  I used more light than that flying special ops.  Then I realized–Oh, wrong bulb!  A good old American bulb did the trick.


Here’s an example of why I have to use a sandblaster.  I finished two Kadee hopper cars with NYC decals, one of which is seen above, using Tru-Color paint and a nice decal set.  I won’t mention the manufacturer, sorry.  I thought the decals were a little thick but I applied them as I always do.  The photo above below shows some initial problems; the edges of the decals did not settle down after repeated attacks with setting solution, and they didn’t settle too well around the rivet detail as I expected. 


Above.  After an initial shot of Dullcote I went back to add updated shop and reweight data.  Results were okay–not great, but okay.

IMG_8044 Above.  After the final “detail decals” were applied I hit the model numerous times with Dullcote to get the decal edges to disappear.  I also used a little technique to help the decal film disappear–on the last shot of Dullcote will usually add some of the original paint, which blends the decals and film into the background paint of the car.  It usually works great.  It DID NOT work on this model.  You can still see film edges all over the place.  I continued to weather the model and then for some unknown reason part of a decal “departed the model” after finishing.  I wasn’t sure I could fix it without ruining the rest of the decals so I blasted the whole model clean and am going to start over.


I highly recommend adding a sandblaster to your tool kit especially if you do a lot of freight car or model building work. 

Junction Scenery Rebuild Plan

With the recent discovery of new photos of the IC-M&StL crossing at Ackley, I have decided that I need to rebuild my scenic contours at the junction.  Compare the photo on my layout below with the prototype photo at bottom.  My IC line is too high above the surrounding terrain.  So I’m going to put down another layer of Hydrocal to bring the surrounding landscape up to nearly track level.  I have to get the contours just right to ensure I have enough HO scale drainage but still ensure the surrounding area is relatively “flat”.



The prototype photo above is used with permission from the Ackley Heritage Society.  And what a photo it is! 

Progress on Portage

I have almost completed the models for Portage.  Over the last couple of weeks the buildings were weathered with a paintbrush using slightly lighter and darker shades of gray.  I am not happy with some of the weathering on the tower.  I accidentally over-did it on the east side of the tower and couldn’t seem to blend in enough of the original color to tone down the weathering.  I think it’ll turn out okay.

9E084B46-6C53-44EE-A86C-CFF9003A8653Another problem I noticed with the tower was the windows don’t line up on the trackside of the tower.  You might be able to see the problem in the above photo.  I think I am a much better modeler than that.  The problem was using kitbashed windows.  One of the windows is smaller than the other.  Generally when I scratchbuild buildings I make more parts than I need in case some of them don’t finish well, but in this case I only made exactly the number of windows needed.  Luckily this side of the tower will face away from the viewer so it won’t be seen.

Here is the coal house below.  It just needs doors and hinges and it’s done. 


I ordered dark gray shingles from Minuteman Scale Models and they’re on the way.  In the meantime I used some shingles I had on hand to finish the coal house.  I like the contrast but will weather them a bit more with dark gray/black to blend them into the other buildings. 

Until then!  – John


2 thoughts on “No. 68: Progress on Freight Cars, Oct 2017 Part 2

  1. John I understand the dilemma about weathering. I would know what to do with a cylindrical grain hopper either, nor do I need to know as they did not exist in my era:)

    As to the terrain contours around the Ackley tower, If I remember right, the ground really drops off in the NW and SW quadrants. IE lots of tall weeds. The highest quadrant was the NE where the tower sat, ground fairly level and flat. The SE quadrant was low lying, and wet as it was caught between the interchange track and did not drain well.


  2. Your Canadian, Canada hoppers look good to me…just like the ones we used to switch on the MNNR in Minneapolis for the old, ex Milwaukee Road flour mills. I think when it comes to weathering less is more. Too heavy an application, makes equipment look broken down and shoddy. I know there are alot of heavily, weathered, “rust bucket” freight cars out there today but 15-20 years ago when these cars were newer they looked better…not new…just better.

    I like your M&STL/IC diamond and the ground around the tracks looks about the right height for good drainage. Remember you are modeling both these roads when they still had good sections every few miles and the men took care of things well. They had pride in their work. The IC would logically be on a higher profile because it handled heavier and more trains than the M&STL. Plus with that steel, interlocking, rodding needing frequent oil/greasing there wouldn’t be too many weeds around that area.

    I think modelers often over do it thinking things were broken and in bad shape in the 40/50s which was not true. It didn’t matter how much money you had because they had all gone through the depression and learned how to repair and not replace stuff. Everybody had a responsibility to be neat and clean no matter your place on the “food chain”.


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