Monday, February 1, 2016


Not much work has been done on the layout lately ... or nothing that really shows much progress.

However, that doesn't mean work ever stops. Instead of focusing on the layout, I've decided to try to organize my working area and materials storage a little better.

One area that has always been an issue is the storage of styrene and paint. I haven't been able to find an effective storage solution yet that also combines ease of retrieval / viewing of what I have. A trip to the local Ikea came up with what I believe to be the best solution I've found so far:

The Ikea "Alex" six drawer unit:

At $119, its not the cheapest solution but I'm happy with the purchase.

For styrene storage, I made drawer dividers from styrene strips:

Its maybe not the most efficient use of space, but it is well laid out and easy to view what I have in stock. The styrene collection takes up four of the drawers with the fourth drawer having a section for sheet styrene.

For strip wood, I went lengthwise with MDF dividers (ran out of styrene for dividers):

Paint for airbrushing was also compartmentalized in the same manner:

The drawer unit is on casters, but I don't plan on rolling it around. I would eventually like to get another drawer unit to stack on top, but for now, this definitely helps in organization.

In other happenings, a sound bar has been added to the TV! Doesn't help much for the volume on the TV, but helps with listening to music.

The O scale people in the neighborhood have yet to complain, so its time to turn up the volume!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A tool recommendation and a themed weekend of truck mounting

With some of the older Wagner, Q-Car and Current Line power trucks I have requiring that holes be cut in the floor of the model, I've been unsure as to the best way of accomplishing this task. This was really delaying the progress of my three CSL street cars and my two 4000 series Q-Car Plushie models.

So, I acquired a Rockwell BladeRunner, which is basically an upside down mounted jig saw that incorporates a table with a miter slot and guide fence. I thought that this might be a little more versatile than a scroll saw in that it could possibly cut more materials (especially metal).

The saw blade sticks up from the table, the drop down "guide" has two
rollers that act to stabilize the blade. It also can be removed. On the
table is the floor for a CSL Safety Car.

For $100, I am actually very happy in how it performs. After drilling a hole for the saw blade, cutting the holes for the motor is a breeze. I "free-handed" the above hole, but could have used the fence for a more straight cut.

With one floor done so quickly ... things quickly spiraled out of control! With one car done, I decided to work on the CSL MU car and got that car's trucks mounted:

CSL MU Car and Safety Car ready to roll to paint shop!

Luckily I had the CSL Plan book so I was able to accurate space the trucks as for these two cars the floor is wood with no locating holes. Both of these cars have Q-Car power trucks.

Once these two were done, my zombie Q-Car Plushie (the one that had previously been smashed and I put back together) was up next. For this car, it is using an older Wagner set of trucks but with a Q-Car bolster on the un-powered truck. A new floor was cut from plywood as the original wood floor was warped. I used the same Rockwell BladeRunner to cut the floor...which was much easier than dragging out the table saw!

Hole cut, now just need to mount the power truck.
Mounting this older Wagner style truck was a bit trickier as the brass cross piece / bolster was riveted to the motor and was basically soldered to the actual motor. So I really couldn't remove it to properly set the brass cross piece. So ... just had to improvise.

I use styrene to build up around the hole for the required spacing for the motor.

I prefer to use styrene as its easy to cut and glue, and well basically its what I had on hand. A few layers are build up until the floor is level and a box is made around the hole. Holes are then drilled and tapped into the styrene and the motor is mounted.

A couple of notes: stryene may not be the best for longevity for drilling and tapping as it is a relatively soft material. Care must be taken when attaching the screws as to not strip the threads. But, it works for me. If it ever strips out, I can tap to larger screw or add a brass sleeve. Also, I ran out of shorter 2/56 screws so I had to add "spacer" nuts. I later glued sheet styrene across the top of the motor to make a closed box.

Before anything was glued, I did test the car through my tightest turn and no clearance issues!

Before final mounting ... a three car train of 4000's ... two Baldies "book ending" a
With trucks mounded on three models, I decided to tackle a problem I've been avoiding for some time ...

My Q-Car CSL Pullman came with a white metal cast floor that had a slight bend to it. When I initially took the floor off, it snapped in half! Curses I thought. I did try to make a wood floor, but before completing that, I figured I would see what could be done with the metal floor as it was nicely detailed and had mounting locations for the trucks.

For this car, I have a Current Line power truck that will require a hole be cut in the floor.

Luckily the new saw (with a metal cutting blade) made easy work of cutting the hole. The floor being in two halves also make cutting the hole very easy as the part was easy to manage on the saw ... an unexpected bonus.

Hole cut and non-power tuck mounted. Note the split right down the middle.
That might not work ... too large of a hole for the power truck!

I figured I could use a piece of 18 gauge sheet metal (left over from my days of restoring rusty British sports cars ... you know they are rusty when you by your patch sheet metal in 4 x 8 sheets, a truly bad sign) as a splice and epoxy the two halves back together. I used this for strength ... and since I didn't have any brass sheet on hand.

The two halves and the sheet metal splice ... cut on same saw ... easily
I might add!
I used 5 minute epoxy to glue everything together, and once dried, I was rather happy with the result. The splice seems to hold nicely.

This was much easier than making a new floor.

With the floor back in one piece, I was able to mount the Current Line truck. Luckily the brass bolster was removable which made drilling the holes much easier. Again, I was out of short 2-56 screws so I had to use spacers from nuts. But, it works! Again,for ease of use and as it was what I had on hand (and my material of choice) I used styrene to mount the truck. I will enclose the hole with a box later.

I tape down the motor wires so not to pinch them when reattaching the body.
Finally all three CSL cars have their trucks mounted!

I definitely need shorter screws ... but it rolls!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year - 2016! Layout resolutions for the new year ...

First, a Happy New Year to all!

Since resolutions are all the rage this time of year I've decided to try to set some layout goals / resolutions for the New Year! I unfortunately too many projects ... but its nice to try to at least set some goals.

First off ... a review of the layout as of the beginning of 2016:

There really hasn't been much improvement over the last year, just some small detailing and refinements.

But ... for 2016, some of the goals / resolutions I'd like to accomplish are:

Continue / finish the refinement of cast resin L structure as detailed in earlier posts:

This should be an easy goal as I've got most of the plans and techniques down. I would like to invest in some better casting tools (vacuum chamber and pressure pot), but those can be leveraged for use in other projects.

This is a combination of cast resin girders, 3D printed braces and scratch built
columns, Next version will be all cast resin for speedier construction.
Finish backlogged car projects:

This is an area I've really been slacking. I seem to take forever in finishing a car model. Some of the projects I need to finish are:

A slew of CSL models, one North Shore wood car (that will be repainted in CA&E colors) and a 4000 series CTA plushie (who knows what will happen with the 3D printed baldie prototype):

The "shops", always a mess of parts 

I have almost everything to finish these models except motivation! 

I HAVE actually made progress on the Northwestern motor car. The paint is about 90% done and the trucks have been mounted.

The trailer on the left is finished. The motor is on the right ... still unfinished.
My 2000 series CTA cars still languish in an unpainted state. I need to resume this project and get these cars finished.

I still need to perform additional sanding and filing on the shells. 
But, most importantly, I need to finish two CRT Baldie projects. One is my 3D printed car (one end still needs finishing) and I need to finish another Baldie model for a good friend. 

Another unfinished 4000 series Plushie sits behind these cars ... yet another car to
The car on the left will be an un-powered trailer. The biggest delay has been attempting to paint match this to other cars ... with little to no luck.

Refine the 3D printing process for car creation

While I have been successful in getting two complete 3D printed O scale cars built, the process hasn't been entirely painless or as effortless as I'd like.

I've had some quality issues with Shapeways, and due to the cost of the parts, I haven't continued building additional 3D printed cars. 

I do, however, have several almost completed 3D models of cars that I'm hoping to print this year. However, knowing the limitations of the 3D printing process along with the costs and quality control issues, I've decided to take a slightly different approach for my next cars. 

  • Limit the amount of parts and leverage resin casting to duplicate the highest quality parts. For example, I'd like to print one end (assuming the car's ends are symetrical) then make molds and cast multiple copies.
  • Incorporate additional scratch building or non-3D printed materials into the models. I've found that car sides are very problematic for Shapeways to print with consistent quality. Therefore, I may use more traditional scratch building techniques or materials to supplement the 3D parts.
In addition to the above points, I really need to write a synopsis of the whole 3D printing experience. I hope to accomplish this in a series of future posts. I still believe that the process can greatly aid in the creation of O scale models. However, its more of an additional tool to use rather than a magical process that can create a ready to roll product.

Add additional lighting and interior details to the layout

Over the past few months I've begun experimenting with adding interior details and additional lighting to the layout. I'd like to add interiors to most of my foreground buildings and attempt to illuminate most of the others.

Some of these lighting efforts have been detailed in prior posts but I've recently begun to illuminate some of the buildings underneath my Southport Station.

In addition to adding interior lighting, I've also begun experimenting with adding nano LED's under the L structure to help illuminate the scene a little better. Right now the LED's are just placed between the girders, but I'm going to look for some O scale light fixtures that I can attach the LED's to. I do like the effect as it just brightens the scene.

Continue posting frequently to the blog

Looking back at 2015, I did manage to create 32 posts to the blog. I would like to top this number for 2016 as the blog does act as a driving force to accomplish goals and projects on the layout.

And a long shot goal ... start the newest expansion of the layout!

What currently acts as a "catch all" shelf is supposed to be an expansion of the layout to an elevated terminal.

I would like to put an elevated terminal with a small shop and yard (based loosely off of the now demolished Logan Square terminal) or the also demolished Wells Street terminal. Either one is a tight fit, but who says you can't make big plans?

All in all, big plans lay ahead for 2016. I'm sure I missed a few projects, but there's always 2017! Let's see what I get accomplished.

Thanks again for reading and hope you have a successful 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee combination coach-baggage # 256 (Jewett Car Co., 1917) delivers Santa and his presents across the city. Meanwhile, the single car Chicago Transit Authority Normal Park shuttle (4000 series "Baldie", Cincinnati Car Co., 1914) slowly rumbles into the station. Merry Christmas!

And, from prior years:




Saturday, December 19, 2015

Progress for Mid December 2015

With the holiday season in full swing, time to work on the various layout projects has diminished. However, I've managed to make some small steps forward ...

First off, I've revamped some of the lighting on the new currency exchange building. I will be adding detailed interiors to the second floor of this building, but until I can finish that, I've added some window signs and some frosted paper behind to block the view.

I'm using Woodland Scenics' LED lighting kit to light this (and the station house for the Sheridan Road station) building. It's somewhat pricey, but very easy to install and being able to dim each light is nice.

Further down the line at the Sheridan Road curve, I've added some additional details to the apartment buildings there.

I still need to add ground cover in the above scenes ... but at least the buildings are mostly done.

I've also glued in the windows to the apartment building and added glazing and some shades.

This is really supposed to be a building on a main street, but it does fit here. I guess it was just poor planning on the part of the developer to face the facade of the building right onto the elevated tracks. Best that you keep the windows closed in the summer.

The reinforced concrete brick structure behind the station has been finished to a point where it can be put back on the layout:

I'll be adding some signs to the side of the building to break up the large expanse of brick.

In the car shops, the trucks have finally been placed under the Northwestern motor that I finished painting (well almost, still need to add the black to the anti-climbers) last month. Its slow but steady progress.

I also got semi-ambitious and decided to clear the cobwebs from underneath the structure. I have to do this from time to time as it does take on the look of a haunted house after some time.

And lastly, I tried to slip my Iphone onto the Southport Station platform, and using the front facing camera, take a few photos. Its harder than it sounds as you can't really see what you are taking ... but a few turned out ok.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Updates for early December 2015 ... or the motto is: don't give up!

With the holiday season in full swing and all the obligations that come with that, modeling on the layout has slowed somewhat. However, I decided to work on a few different things ...

First up ... 

Behind my Sheridan Road station and behind the Uptown Theater (my very simplified version that is wayyyy out of place) I had a cardboard / paper mock up of a building. I've decided to replace this with a more realistic structure. I've decided to model a concrete reinforced brick building.

This being O scale, this is a rather large structure (18" high by 12" wide by about 6" deep). By making the building concrete reinforced, I can minimize the amount of brick sheeting to use and eliminate any joints in the brick.

And, as this is so large, I decided to make the core of the building out of some scrap 3/8" plywood I had laying around:

This will prevent any warping as the size is rather large! I may leave the roof of the building off as I am thinking of hiding some home electronics equipment (cable modem, router and home network switch) inside as these currently reside on a shelf above the station.

Styrene strips were cut to make the concrete reinforcements using the score and snap method. Once one was cut, it was used as a template for the other sections.

For these larger buildings that typically reside in the background, I am continuing to use the brick sheets offered by JTT Architectural Detail Parts. You get two 7.5" 12" sheets for approx. $6.50. The detail is good and the bricks take mortar very nicely.

For foreground buildings I will still use the brick sheets from N Scale Architect as the quality is better and the consistency of their bricks makes stacking (for added brick details) much easier. The cost, however, is more than double so that is why I try to use these less expensive sheets for background buildings.

To attach the sheet stryene to the plywood core I used 3M spray adhesive which seemed to hold very well. The styrene "concrete reinforcements" have been added to this styrene base:

Since this building will reside behind the Sheridan Road station, details have kept to a minimum on this building for now. 

As for details, my philosophy so far has been to keep time consuming details to a minimum so that I can build somewhat faster. At this point, I'd rather get multiple buildings built, rather spend all my time super detailing one structure at the expense of overall layout progress. I feel that as time progresses, I can always return to these structures and then add more details. But, in the meantime, they can act as adequate background buildings.

And ... as the title of this post states ... don't also give up on either stalled or less than perfect projects. They can often be saved or recycled!

Case in point ...

Over two years ago I began construction on an apartment building that was supposed to be placed on my Sheridan curve module. I made the building from N Scale Architect brick sheeting (so a decent investment in modeling funds) and attempted to add as much detail as possible to the structure ...

I initially built the structure as just a flat with about 1" of depth on the sides. All details were added before painting (this is an important note!).

But, alas ... there were a few problems that stalled this structure and almost sent it to the dumpster ...

  • I realized that the structure blocked the view of the TV from my workbench. Since the "workbench" is more like a desk, I sit rather low. Definitely a bad thing!
  • I built the styrene core of this building from a larger sheet of 4' x 8' styrene that I purchased on-line. The cost of this gigantic sheet was phenomenal ... I think is was less than $10. HOWEVER ... the sheet came rolled in a tube. And, as such, the styrene maintained a memory of being rolled up. Substantial bracing was required to keep the sheet flat for model building. I did that for this structure, but the building still warped badly.I have since added additional bracing, but there still is some warp.
  • When I built this, I didn't account for adding sides and a back. Therefore, when I tried to add the sides, it wouldn't have been a clean transition.
  • I unfortunately dropped the building a few times onto the concrete floor, damaging a few sections.
So, having the above issues, the building was removed and almost thrown away. But, like any good model railroader, I really can't throw anything away (luckily).

Over two years passed, and having the new elevated extension I decided to attempt to "resurrect" the building. I figured I spent too much time and money to just throw it away.

So ... last few weeks I have finished painting it and started adding the windows:

I still need to add additional top cornice details, but I can add and paint that separately.

But with any project, I always try to learn things and especially from mistakes. Some items I learned from this project are:

  • Do not skimp on the core of a building, especially O scale. Due the size, always try to minimize the chance for any warping. While the roll of styrene was very economical, the memory of the "roll" it maintained made for later headaches.
  • If a previous foreground project doesn't turn out as expected, it can always be relegated to the background.
  • Details: When I built this, I added all the stone details (lintels), the front entryway and door, and the brick relief BEFORE I painted and added mortar to the structure. This was a BIG problem. It just made adding mortar much more difficult as I couldn't get into all the recesses and made painting more tedious. A "best practices" approach would be to add all details or brick depth AFTER painting and mortaring. It makes for a cleaner and easier process.
  • Never give up on a project ... it can usually be salvaged!
So, once almost thrown away, the apartment building is now a background building for my newest L extension...

Who knows ... I may even add some interior lighting! Arisen from the ashes, so to speak.