Saturday, May 18, 2013

Side Project: Quick n' Cheap HO Automobiles

With all this scenery and road building going on at Dunes Junction, I took on a side project to bring some more man-made visual features into view.  My 70s and 80s era layout could use some 70s and 80s era heaps and rustbuckets to stay on theme--Northwest Indiana is the rust belt, after all--so I dug into my backlog of projects to get a few quick n' cheap vehicles into the rotation on the layout.

The starting point for this little side project is the Motor Max Forgotten Classics Six-Pack. I stumbled upon this inexpensive little gem of set for cheap a year or so ago at Engine House Hobbies in nearby Gaithersburg, Maryland.

This die-cast set is a virtual who's who of completely forgettable 70s and 80s US-badged jalopies--
Motor Max Forgotten Classics Six-Pack. What a bargain!
and just the kind of workaday visual cues of a place and an era that puts Dunes Junction in Carter/Reagan-era Indiana. Back in those days, there was a strong 'Buy American' theme to auto-buying trends in the region, tied to the declining steel and heavy manufacturing economy--so these and similar cars are evident in photos of the South Shore from that period.

The set includes a '74 Gremlin and '77 Pacer, both made by the now-defunct AMC, which coincidentally operated a plant in South Bend, Indiana; and four Ford products, including a '77 Pinto custom wagon, an '81 Escort, an '84 Tempo, and '75 Mercury Bobcat (a 'luxury' Pinto).

The lineup.
Out of the package, they would be acceptable 'background' models, but they are too chrome-y and too shiny. To get them ready for the layout, I needed to kill the shine and emphasize the excellent detail with paint effects.

I started by dissassembling them to simplify the paint effects and endullenation process. All but the Gremlin can be disassembled by removing the small screws that hold the die-cast bodies to the plastic chassis tubs; the Gremlin is riveted so I took other steps later in the process.

The paint effect is scandalously simple: a 'sludge wash' of acrylic paint, water, and dish soap. wiped off when dry. It's an old airplane modeling trick used to accentuate panel lines.  Fine Scale Modeler, sister publication of Model Railroader offers an awesome explanation of the technique. Once the sludge wash is dry, it gets wiped off with a tissue or cotton swab, leaving neatly accentuated recessed details. I applied the wash to panel and door lines, as well as chrome wheels and grills.

On the move. I think Wayne and Garth might be in that Pacer . . .
Good old Testors Dullcote comes next. Dullcote will fog up any clear parts--so I only applied it to the die-cast car bodies and the wheels. For an old or weathered vehicle, this might be desirable--I've seen a neat windshield wiper effect done with a semicircle-shaped bit of masking tape. I was too lazy to un-rivet the Gremlin, so I masked its windows with bits of damp tissue pushed into place with a tooth pick.
Indiana license plates only on the rear back then. The custom Pinto wagon (my least favorite vehicle of the lot) got Illinois plates, which are the customary front-and-back

After the Dullcote dried overnight, I reassembled the autos. A final finishing touch: era-specific license plates. I found some license plate images on Google and reduced them to HO using Photoshop, then printed them, cut them out, and glued them on. This detail fills in an important visual gap and ties the cars to the era and place of Dunes Junction.

Have a look and see what you think . . .

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Amtrak's New ACS-64 Electrics Are In The House

From the Amtrak blog comes photos of new ACS-64 electric locomotives.
ACS-64s under wire (natch!) Photo:

They look so smooth and European!

We thought the same thing about AEM-7s back in the 80s, but they turned out to be kinda butch-looking, even Millenium Falcon-like, what with all those grab irons and other knobly appurtenances and such.

Feast your eyes, but don't hesitate to click through to Amtrak to see more 21st century electric loco goodness!

More photos below, courtesy of Boston Herald/AP:
Side view. Apparently these photos were taken at the Siemens Mobility plant in Sacramento, CA.
Photo: Boston Herald/AP  
Pans down in the shop. Wonder if those skimpy little pilots will get beefed up?
Photo: Boston Herald/AP  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Completing the Highway Bridge

The highway bridge is complete: it has been weathered and blended into the scenery. It's mostly Silflor tufts and Woodland scenics foam clumps, held down with Aleene's Tacky Glue. The Rix highway guardrail was painted with flat gray spray enamel and then washed and drybrushed.

The scrubby, skanky, nasty under-the-bridge area: cinders, dirt, foam clumps, and weed tufts. Wish I could figure out a hygienic way to do 'smell-o-vision' complete with wet cement-y and creosote essences. I love the smell of trains in the morning!  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dan D. Sparks: Bloggin' Traction Modeling in Style, As Usual

Every Dan D. Sparks post is a must-stop-and-read treat! He's reporting here on his overhead pole construction progress.  Hope to be doing the same on the Dunes Junction by summer's end.
"Dan D. Sparks: Can't See the Layout for the Poles!"

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Running a Train Through Dunes Junction, Just Because

Took a break from scenery making to run a train through Dunes Junction and test out video capabilities of my Samsung TL500 point and shoot. Sometimes, you've just gotta run a train . . .

Sunday, May 5, 2013

There's (Progress On) That Confounded Bridge

The highway bridge, weathered with a wash of lamp black and raw umber oil paint, followed by successively lighter dry brushings of raw umber and titanium white, and finally with straight titanium white.  Like the purple bath towel? Well, I like it a lot better than the visually distracting open studs, cinder block wall, and file cabinet that it's covering up! Maybe it's time to get a mirror or curtain in to that space.
Progress toward completion of the 'behind the tracks' area of Dunes Junction continues apace. I want catenary so bad I can taste it!

The focus of the past few days has been that confounded bridge over which US 20 or US 12 (both Indiana Duneland highways that alternately cross or parallel the South Shore between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana).

We built and painted the highway overpass back in late 2011, so now we've got it worked in to the scenery and weathered it.  Next up is a guardrail fitted to the road grade up to the bridge. Once the guard rail is in: finishing touches to the ground cover and weedage. Stay tuned for progress.
Here's the Pikestuff guardrail being formed into the correct curve for the grade up to the bridge. I held the pad of graph paper up to the bridge and traced the curve, then taped the sections of Pikestuff guardrails to that curve. With a little filing of each section, they can be formed into the curve and then cemented with liquid styrene cement. Next time, we'll attach posts and paint and install the guardrail, along with completing the scenery around the bridge.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Scenery Progress: The Weedage on the Other Side of the Tracks

The past week or so has seen a lot of scenery progress at Dunes Junction. Trevor over at the Port Rowan S Scale blog has been blogging about his scenery progress and the instant gratification of scenery building, which has played a small role in prompting me to get my landscape freak on here a Dunes Junction.  Real life has also made some room in its schedule for Dunes Junction, too.

Over the coming months, I am hoping to get all of the area between the backdrop and the mainline scenicked and detailed with various man-made details like the flagstop and the highway bridge. Why? Cuz we're going to put in catenary, which will essentially block off all that real estate.
That's a paper mockup of the flagstop shelter. A scratchbuilt model will replace it, and will be joined by other odds and ends such as a pay phone, guard rails, and a flashing crossbuck. Note the 'before and after' on each side of the tracks.

Looking northeast across the spur at the 'field' between the Mineral Springs Road flag stop and the Highway 20/12 over pass. Note the difference in texture between the completed area on the other side of the tracks and foreground.  The foreground grass and weedage will go in after the installation of catenary span bridges and wire.
Ah, yes, the scrubby weedage of Northwest Indiana. In addition to a presentable flag stop shelter, I need to get to a photo in that blank spot at the end of the road.