Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter 2016!

Just some photos taken over the past few weeks of the layout ...









Thursday, March 10, 2016

Under pressure, part 1

As was mentioned in my previous post, incorrectly labeled "What's new for March 2017" (whoops on the date), I am going to attempt to cast car parts via pressure casting. And as such, I will need both a vacuum chamber and a pressure pot.

There are a few options available for both vacuum chambers and pressure pots. Most of the vacuum chambers can be sourced via Ebay and consist of a stock pot, a large acrylic lid, fittings and a vacuum pump. The pressure pots fall into two varieties: pots designed especially for casting (expensive) and home brew paint pressure pots turned into casting chambers (cheaper but some hacking needed).

After quite a bit of research, I decided to attempt to kill two birds with one stone and make a combination vacuum / pressure pot. My one major consideration was that the pressure pot would be big enough to hold an O scale car side. 

This requirement immediately ruled out the very popular Harbor Freight pressure pot conversion as the size isn't large enough. That left one option (without resorting to a professional model): the Grizzly Tools 20 Liter (5 gallon) Paint Pressure Pot. I was able to obtain this for the very reasonable price of $190.

As shown in the prior post:


One big advantage of the model (aside from its larger size), is the much more substantial clamping system that this pot has versus the Harbor Freight model. The pot has larger wing nuts that clamp down on metal protrusions from the pot, making a much more secure (and safer) hold on the lid.

One problem with this pot, however, is all the attachments that are installed on the lid, none of which I plan on using. All were easily stripped off with a wrench.

The now stripped top, after all attachments and fittings have been removed:


One large problem is the large hole now left in the center ... which of course is not threaded. The other holes are standard size and are threaded (1/4" and 1/2" in size).

After some internet research, it was shown that a 1" black pipe coupling with two caps and a liberal application of sealant filled the hole.

The view after the holes have been filled:


All but two of the holes have been plugged with caps. One hole holds a 60 psi safety / pressure release valve and the other holds the quick connect, a combination pressure / vacuum gauge and another 60 psi safety / pressure release valve (extra safety here!). I have a wall mounted regulator / moisture trap so that wasn't needed on the lid. Mounted on the inside of the lid is fitting that forces the air out at 90 degree angle. That way, when filling the pot, air won't blow directly on the molds splashing the resin. 


Why the combination vacuum / pressure gauge? With the still in transit vacuum pump I ordered, I'll be able to use the pot as a vacuum chamber to degas my silicone rubber by connecting a hose to the quick disconnect fitting and then to the vacuum pump. Vacuum can be monitored on the gauge. I can then use the air compressor to fill the chamber with air to act as a pressure pot. Double duty!

Right now as I'm still waiting on the vacuum pump I am running a pressure test to see how long the pot will hold air. There are no obvious leaks, so that is good. I don't plan on pressurizing the pot over 50 psi, but started conservatively at 40 psi.

Once I get the vacuum gauge I will test the vacuum potential of the pot. But, I figure that if it can hold air, vacuum shouldn't be an issue.

Also mentioned in my prior post was that I couldn't locate the "in progress" photos of my news stand. Well, I found them so here they are:



I did make the roof removable for easy painting.


And as shown last post, now on the layout painted and with magazines for purchase:



Friday, March 4, 2016

What's new for March 2017

Just some updates on some outstanding projects that I've been working on ...

I've starting painting my three CSL cars, using all Tru-Color paints:


First is the cream
Then red underneath the windows


Red for the letterboards


Brown for the doors
The colors used were (all Tru-Color paints):

  • Passenger Car Interior Cream
  • Caboose Red
  • Sante Fe Brown
  • Pullman Green (for underbody and trucks in bottom photo)
I still need to find an appropriate dark grey for the roof, paint the window sashes and do final touch-ups. But progress has been made!

I've also finally added ground cover to the Sheridan curve along with some background trees:






I still need to "tidy" things up, but a little ground cover is better than bare plywood.

I've also added a magazine stand next to my Southport station house. This was a quick build that was made out of pieces from the scrap box. I can't seem to locate the "in progress" photos so the "semi-finished" photos will do. I've added 50 or so O scale magazines for sale. I just need to add some newspapers now:



I may add some additional magazine racks and some other details. But for now, there is a pretty good selection of periodicals for my O scale citizens. 

I've also begun collecting the necessary equipment for pressure casting. Previously. my mold making and casting was done without vacuuming either the silicon or pressurizing the castings. In order to make better castings of cars, I recently acquired a pressurized paint pot:


I will use this for both vacuuming silicone (vacuum pump has been ordered, just not yet received) and for pressure casting. While used for painting, the pot can be easily adapted to pressure casting.


All the attachments for painting have been removed from the lid. I just need to plug some holes and add my valves and gauges.

Most folks use the 2 1/2 gallon Harbor Freight pressure pot, but this one is larger (approx. 14" wide by 12" deep, necessary to fit an O scale car side) and is much more sturdy in construction. The wing nuts for securing the lid are much more substantial than the Harbor Freight model.

I've also started working on a small brick store front that will go next to my Southport station house.



This was another quick "scrap box" build made of of parts that I had laying around in various scrap boxes. The front of the building is N Scale Architect brick sheeting while the sides and back are JTT Scenery brick sheets. I still need to add stone lintels and other embellishments and clean up some of the mortar, But I did it this way (painting and mortaring before adding stone lintels) as it is much easier to paint. The store front (the white portion) was made separate from the brick and is a press fit. Much easier to paint separately.  

I've also finally attached the trucks to my other Q-Car 4000 series Plushie:


Next up is sending the car to the paint shop.

And finally, some random photos from the layout:






And as always, thanks for visiting!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Very bad at responding to emails ... so a brief question and answer time

Due to various commitments and just plain forgetfulness, I've been pretty remiss in answering various email inquires I've received. So, I thought I'd answer a few questions ...

A train load of answers (hopefully) pulls into the station!
1) Where do I find plans / dimensions / details on elevated structure?

I've found a lot of information via Google searches and especially with various trade publications that were published last century that have been scanned by Google. However, for a more detailed answer ... it all depends. Not the best answer, but like elevated cars, the differences in L structure types are vast. 

But basically, a good starting point is:

For North Side main line type of structure (or Englewood or Ravenswood branch):
    - Length of girders is 48 feet
    - Height of the girder is four feet
    - Height of the structure depends ... but 16 feet from ground to bottom of the girder is a good starting point.
 
For Loop:
    - Length of girders is 50 feet
    - Height of the girder is 5 feet

     - Height of the structure depends ... but 16 feet from ground to bottom of the girder is a good starting point.

From these dimensions, the best answer I can give is to study the real thing. If you can't do it in person (certainly without looking like a terrorist), Google Street View is fantastic for getting up close and personal. Zooming in on various areas of different structure gives a great (and relaxed) view of how all is put together. 

Then, with the details gleamed from Google and some basic dimensions, you can change the structure to fit your needs on your layout. What worked for me may not work in your situation. Each layout (and what you desire from it) is different. As they say, your mileage will vary.

Also stay tuned as I slowly build more details models of L structure ... I'm working on that now so more posts will appear in the future.

2) Where can I find models of the elevated cars?

Since I model in O scale, I have a combination of MTH 3 rail elevated cars (the 3200's and the 6000's), some Q-Car 2 rail cars (Northwestern Elevated, 4000 series plushies and CSL cars), a set of Island Model works 2200's, Clouser North Shore cars, and a Chicagoland Hobby CA&E car. Plus, add in some 3D printed 4000 series Baldies for fun.

From near to far: 4000 series Baldie motor (3D printed); 4000 series Baldie trailer
3D printed), Q-Car 4000 series Plushie and wayyyy in the distance a MTH 3200.

MTH 3200 in foreground, MTH 6200 in middle and Island Model Works 2200
in rear
Q-Car Northwestern motor and trailer and a very lost Q-Car CSL streetcar
Clouser North Shore Cars (with Plushie tucked behind)
Chicagoland Hobby Resin Kit CA&E car

As for other models / scale, please refer to Ed Halstead's excellent blog Modeling Insull's Empire in O Scale. Ed has several posts listing various models that were available in O and HO for Chicago. He has multiple posts and lists, so search through the old posts. Ed's blog is linked to in my list of favorite blogs.

3) Are you still selling the Baldie model?

Yes and no. Its best to contact me before you pull the trigger. There are some ... pitfalls. The design is good and if all goes well at Shapeways (that's a big IF) ... it makes for a great model. If not ... things get expensive as reprints are needed.

4) Any more 3D printed cars coming?

Plans are to complete a Met 2800 series and get ready to print a Joliet and Southern Interurban (local road for me). As with the Baldie, I have to out-smart Shapeways' inherent idiosyncrasies. Its too much to write here, contact me if you want the full and very long story.

5) Where do I buy L structure (pre-made)?

I do believe there are a few companies that sell components. Bridge Boss and Imagine That Laser are two that come to mind. 

All my L structure is scratch built. See previous posts for various construction articles.

Watch the end of the line!

6) Where can I buy the buildings you have or how did you make them?

With the exception of two buildings on my layout (one Ameritown 3 story brick building and a wooden garage) all of my buildings are scratch built.

A review:
- Track is 3 rail Gargraves. I'll be replacing this in near future with 2 rail as I convert to 2 rail
- Turnouts are Ross. Those too will be replaced with two rail.
- L structure as mentioned in scratch built
- All other structures and station platforms are scratch built.

The buildings are made from sheet styrene, home-made window and door castings and brick sheeting. I obtain most of my brick from either N-Scale Architect (good stuff!) or from JTT Scenery.

Back wall with window and door castings

Construction in progress
Southport Station under construction

I don't really build the building from plans. I search Google Street View for something interesting (and easy to build) then modify it to fit the space.

Well, this one I did draw out. But no scale, just visually to size and
appropriate "fit" to the scene based on the height of the door (7 feet),
7) Why the switch to 2 rail?

Why not? It will look better ... I'll just have to convert all my MTH cars to two rail. Should be easy, right? That will be a most interesting project.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. If I can think of anything else, or if any more come up, I'll do another Q & A post.

But, the ultimate answer is that there are no easy answers. Traction is a niche part of the niche hobby of model railroading. Modeling elevated traction is even rarer. Therefore, one's ready made resources shrink to an almost non-existent level. Scratch building is really the only good answer to most questions, unfortunately!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Organization!

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!