Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Modeling Danbury - Signature Structures - Sand Bin & Dryer House

The sand storage bin and dryer house at Danbury no longer exist and few pictures could be found of these two structures.

The photo that reveals the most usable information for modeling purpose is the below photo taken by Peter McLachlan circa late 1950's. This photo supplies the best information on the construction and sizing the heigth of the sand bin and the east end of the dryer house. Without this photo building a creditable model of these two structures would have been unlikely.

Peter C. McLachlan Photo

The length and width of the sand bin and dryer house was best determined by a vintage aerial photo sizing the structures comparing them with boxcars and passenger cars of the era that were present in the yard when the photo was taken. The model length would be prototypical but the scale distance between the tracks on either side of the sand bin is somewhat narrower on the layout than on the prototype seen above, the model width would have to be adjusted to fit between the tracks on the layout.

Sand Bin Model

The sand bin model is made from styrene strips and sheets. The sides are made from sheet V Groove siding and the vertical support posts are dimensional strips.

Below are the 4 sides and baseplate on the flat before assembly.

The assembled bin below.

I believe during the era of the layout the New Haven was getting its locomotive sand from quarries along the railroad on the lower cape near Provincetown MA. Below is the painted model filled with a light almost white sand as per prototype photo.

The Dryer House

The sand dryer house was still standing in the photo below that I took late 1970's, but the sand storage bin has been removed. Combining this photo and the Peter McLachlan photo there was enough to build a creditable model of the dryer house.

The model is again a simple styrene building. The sides are sheet styrene clapboard with Tichy windows and a scratch built sliding door. Below are the pieces on the flat.

The assembled and painted dryer house. I could not quite figure out the taller of the two smoke jacks, in the prototype photo it looks like an enterprising yard employee used a 55 gallon drum to support the pipe so the same was done to the model until someone proves that is incorrect!

Below are the two structures together, they will take their places along with the wood sanding tower on the layout soon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New England Foam Forestry

This Modelers New England Dilemma

Modeling New England means modeling many trees, specially on a branchline like New Haven's Berkshire Line in western Connecticut and Massachusetts. My dilemma is fabricating trees, what could eventually amount to a thousand trees or more.  Although building rolling stock, structures and vehicles is something that I totally enjoy, fabricating trees is not!

Scenic Express SuperTrees make nice small foreground trees and I will continue to use them where I think they will make the best presentation, but with the amount of them that would be required for the background foliage on this layout they are not financially nor timewise practicable.

Foam Forest

Initially when planning this layout I thought making "puff ball" trees would be the easiest way to blanket the background with the amount of trees required to represent the part of New England being modeled. I tried making a few puff balls but it quickly became clear that this method was not something I was willing to do on the entire layout and a new plan was needed.

The following method is the way I decided to fabricate the blanket tree canopy for this layout. Although this method takes a few days to complete because of drying time between steps, the actually fabrication time spent is minimal. Great Stuff, an expandable foam dispensed from a 16 oz spray can, will form the tree canopy shapes. These foam shapes will then be covered with black poly fiberfill and finished with various colors and textures of scenic flocking materials.

I decided to make the foam tree canopies as separate sections that would be formed on the layout then finished with the scenic materials on the workbench before installing the sections on the layout. The section that is the subject of this post is about 7' in length, about the maximum length that will fit my workbenches. I find that the finished sections are easily blended together after installation on the layout.

Wax paper covers the layout area below where the foam will be sprayed. When cured the foam will retain the shape of the terrain that it was sprayed over making the section easy to install when finished. The foam will not stick to the wax paper.

An initial coat of foam has be sprayed over the wax paper below, after a few minutes packing peanuts were attached to the still very tacky foam. The peanuts are just a filler and were used because they were on hand, this filler most likely could been anything from news paper to leftover pieces of extruded foam board. If the foam is too thick it will take a long time to fully cure and is a waste of material.

A second coat was then sprayed over the peanuts. Dispensing short spray bursts of foam from the can leaving behind irregular and random shapes, nooks and crannies are best. 

As a side note, the reason that a peanut filler was required when making the section above is that the landform terrain was already glued in place on the layout because puff ball trees had been planned on being installed. Going forward with the remainder of the layout extruded foam board as below will be shaped to the near the full height of the tree line so only a thin coat of spray foam will be needed.

After curing overnight this is the fully cured foam section being checked for fit. Parts of the section that look undesirable will be broken off at this point.

When I was satisfied with the shaping of the section it was taken outside and painted with black enamel from a spray can.

After the paint was dried a mixture of 1 part Matte medium and two parts water was sprayed over the foam section, then layers of stretched out black poly fiberfill were placed over the foam and worked into the contours. An overspray coat of the matte medium mixture was then sprayed onto the poly fiberfill and let to dry overnight.

This is how the section looks after the poly fiberfill has been affixed to the foam. One last test fit on the layout.

The poly fiberfill is very stiff after the matte medium mixture has cured, the fiberfill is pushed down into the contours then another coat of matte medium is sprayed over the section in preparation for the scenic materials.

Several varied colors of scenic materials have been dispensed over the wet matte medium below.

When the scenic materials have achieved a look that I like the entire section was oversprayed one more time with the matte medium mixture and let dry overnight on the bench.

This is the finished tree section on the layout. A few dabs of adhesive caulk hold the section in place, double sided tape could also be used.

This is a fast and inexpensive method for me to make the background foliage for the layout. This section took about 3 hours of actual working time, the can of foam was $4.25 and the spray paint was $1 both from Home Depot. I prefer to do the spray painting outside and the application of the scenic materials over a tarp on a workbench inside or out, but could be built in place on the layout if the painting step used a non solvent type paint.

The tree section can easily be removed to have additional scenic materials added or tweaked in place if desired. The section is light weight but rugged and not subject to damage. I may add some random or groupings of conifer tree tops where appropriate on future sections.

Works for me!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Modeling Danbury - Signature Structures, Wood Sanding Tower

The wooden construction sanding tower was located near the turntable in Danbury yard, used to service motive power assigned to the Danbury roster.

The sanding tower is seen standing in the background of the photo below I took in the late 1970's.
This is another one of the structures in Danbury yard that was never the focus of my attention at that time that I regret today for not photographing or measuring when it was still possible. It is my understanding that the tower just collapsed one day, I believe that occured in the 1980's.


To build an accurate model as possible of this sand tower I had to rely on the few photos that could be found and the one above for reference. Thankfully there is one photo that has a locomotive near the tower, knowing the dimensions of that type of loco gives a hint of how tall the tower was and the track gauge helps with the tower width, so I went with the sizing information derived from the 1957 W. T. Clynes photo below to build the model.

W. T. Clynes Photo

The model is a simple build with styrene strips and sheet. The four corner supports were cut first along with the four sides of the sand storage box. Below the V groove siding of one side of the storage box is glued to one of the support posts.

A second support post and cross braces are glued in place next.

Before the solvent cement is completely cured, a quick check to make sure the side stands plumb.

With two sides built, X bracing is added as per prototype.

Two additional sand storage box sides and X bracing bring the four sides together, a top and bottom of the storage box are glued inside to keep the structure square.

The pyramid hip roof sides are being glued together in the photo below. The grid lines on the cutting mat and a perpendicular straight edge keep things square while glue cures.

Below the roof is glued in place. A sand distribution hose and support pulley that were left over brass parts from the steel sanding tower that was built with the Electric Service Group of structures are added.

Phosphor bronze wire is used to make the roof access ladder.

The most difficult part of the ladder to make were the bends for the hand rails on the roof. Each side rail of the ladder is one continuous length of wire from bottom to top. A brass bar stock support brace was added to the ladder and attached to the side of the storage box.

This must have been an interesting climb on the prototype!

The early 1950's photo below was useful for painting the model.

The finished sanding tower ready for the layout.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

4400 "Washboard" M. U. Cars Part 3


The delivery paint scheme with green ends as seen in the 1957 photo at Danbury in part 1 was picked for this model.

The bare body shell was sanded smooth to a fine 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Sanding the stainless side fluting is difficult without distorting the fidelity of the flutes, this was made as smooth as possible with a maroon 320 grit Scotch-Brite flexible sanding pad.

The shell was primed with Alclad II black primer with micro filler, the shell was re-sanded again with 600 grit paper and the flutes were sanded with a light grey 800 grit Scotch-Brite pad.

The roof was painted acrylic grimy black. The ends were painted New Haven 401 green with Accu-paint.

I had never tried Alclad II metal finishes before but decided to give it a try on the stainless side fluting. I had read on the net somewhere before that chrome was the best choice to represent stainless steel so I decided to try that.

Alclad is a two step process, first coat is their gloss black lacquer base coat, after drying followed by the chrome lacquer coats.

I was actually amazed it does look like chrome plating as seen below, to shiny for stainless though.

To dull it down some, a mixture coat of  1/3 dullcoat 2/3 glosscoat lacquer was applied over the chrome, see below.

I am happy with the result on the fluting, but I would try the stainless steel paint next time. I will use the chrome when vehicle modeling going forward.

A light coat of chrome was also applied to the outside of the corner steps. To help mask the white of the paper that the step risers are printed on, a very light coat of chrome was over-sprayed but not enough to obscure the printed "holes". The letter and number boards are separate pieces of .005 styrene, they are painted a cream color to try and match the prototype. These appear more white in the photos than they actually are because of the lighting used to take the photo. There are no interior details, the window shades are a print out from Rapido.

Below is a new 4400 washboard.

MU cables, air hoses and a few extra details added as per prototype. Need to find some small decal numbers to fit in the number boards next to the vestibule doors and add some weathering to finish.

I am happy with the final model, it was a needed prototype for the layout. The car runs great with just a base non sound decoder.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

4400 "Washboard" M. U. Cars Part 2

Body Shell

The body shell from Island Modelworks is cleanly cast and fits the Lifelike Proto 1000 power chassis well. The clear cast windows that come with the kit fit the window openings in the shell very well and simply snap into place, but they must be cut from the window strip and installed individually.

The suggested Bachmann E 33 Pantograph is used.

Adding Detail To The Body Shell

I decided to remove the cast on body on details like the grab irons, horn, headlights, etc. for a detail upgrade and replacement.

One thing that was most bothersome about the shell was the inset depth of the front and rear doors, they did not appear to be set far enough into the shell. The Danbury Railway Museum has a 4400 "washboard" in their collection, during a visit there the actual inset depth of the front and rear doors was measured, using that measurement the inset of the doors were corrected on the shell.

First step was the removal of all the molded on roof details except the roof air vents on the rear of the car. The lightning arrester was carefully cut off and put aside for remounting later. The roof was sanded smooth.

The front and rear doors were were cut out of the shell, the doors were then reset further back into the shell as per measurements taken of the prototype.  As seen in the photo below of the rear of the car body, styrene strips were used to make the passageway wings on both sides of the door and also the passageway ceiling not seen in photo. The molded on air vents were shortened on both ends, then a longer styrene cover was made to fit over the molded on vents so there would be a prototypical opening on both ends of the vents. A styrene platform walkway and buffer plate were also added. 

This next photo shows the inside of the body shell, this again shows the styrene strips used to frame the inset door.

Also shown below and above a coupler lift bar from a Branchline coach kit was installed on a styrene bracket. The coupler yoke is also from Branchline, a styrene cover was made to look like the washboard prototype.

A headlight lens a bezel ring was harvested from a F-7 body shell to replace the molded on headlight.

On both ends the upper sheetmetal sheets were replaced with a .005" styrene overlay. This gives a crisper edge between the ends and roof. This photo also shows the door and end hand grabs. Archer rivet decals were applied as the prototype.

A styrene filler strip was added above each vestibule door to bring the top of the door opening in line with the top edge of the stainless steel side fluting. Molded on hand grabs were removed and the door was framed with styrene strips then rivet decals applied.

Styrene channels were added to the roof to match the mounting holes in the Bachmann pantograph.
A Hancock air whistle casting from Branford Hobbies replaces the molded one.

The lightning arrester will be remounted on a styrene channel and brass bar mounting bracket.

I really don't know what the roof details below actually do on the prototype!  My assumption is that the release mechanism has something to do with the pantograph, as well as the detail marked ? Motor ? below, maybe this raises and lowers the pantograph? Anyway they were modeled as well as possible from photographs with pieces of styrene, solder, brass wire and bits and pieces from the scrap box. The short piece of running board is from Kadee. The lightning arrester sits on its new mounting bracket shown above.

A second look.

Ready for paint!

The model is presently in black primer, color to be added next. Final results in part 3.