Monday, January 27, 2014

Clever Models

I'm a big fan of Clever Models. They offer a wide variety of printed paper structures and printed textures in all scales. This is the little HOn30 display layout they brought to Springfield this past weekend. Everything on it is printed paper, ever the trains. It's very impressive. You have to touch the models to tell they are made of paper.

On this little display that I built for the EXPO several years ago everything left of the door is printed except the metal Dyna Models tuscan red metal window casting. I use the Clever products everywhere.

Scenic Express's Uncle "Smiley" Express

It isn't often I find someone at the Springfield, Mass. train show uglier than I am, but yesterday was my lucky day. This is the old conductor that minds the Scenic Express store. He's holding one of his latest dioramas. Everyone calls him "Uncle Smiley." I'm the one on the right.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MiniTrain HOn30 Train Set

Here's one of the new HOn30 train sets that is offered by MiniTrains. There are four cars included with the set. I didn't include the forth car - no room on the little track.

I'm building a little display to show off these trains. I'll post photos of the display as it progresses.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dave's big game chili

The big game is tomorrow (no matter what the jocks tell you) between the Pats and the Broncos. In honor of the big playoff game I always make a pot of chili and invite friends over. 

My recipe has evolved over the years. Originally it was posted back in the days when the Internet was just getting started. I copied it from a chili-head list - the name of the creator is long gone but I owe him or her a debt of gratitude. I've added and changed ingredients to suit my taste and product availability. This is good chili and is easy to make. 

The secret to this or any chili is the chili powder. Use you favorite. You'll find the the super market chili powders are cut with a variety of spices. I like pure ground-up chili peppers so try several and buy what turns you on. I like Gebhardts  and Gun Powder chili powders. It's not about the heat, it's about the flavor of the chili pepper.

Here's my recipe. You can make it with any meat you have handy. Today I made it with beef and pork.


Makes 10 to 12 servings

3 pounds (after trimming all fat) of beef cut into 1/2” cubes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
1 teaspoon salt 
Sprinkle cubed beef with salt. 

Add oil to cooking pot and brown the beef in small batches until it turns brown and exudes juice. Remove to a plate.

3 large onions, 2 coarsely chopped and one finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, quartered
1 Jalapeno chill, quartered, seeded
1 12-ounce bottle of beer 
Add 1 finely chopped onion to beef juice in browning pot to soften. Add any juice collected from the browned beef.

In a blender add the 2 onions, the garlic, Jalapeno and the beer. Blend until smooth and add to the browning pot along with:
1/4 cup pure chili powder 
3 tablespoons ground cumin, toasted 
1 tablespoon dried oregano 
2 teaspoons ground coriander, toasted
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 12-ounce bottle of beer 
2-1/2 cups canned chicken or beef broth 

Bring to simmer.  Add the reserved beef. Simmer over medium-low heat 1 hour to blend flavors, stirring occasionally then add:
2 cans kidney, pinto or black beans, rinsed, drained 

Simmer uncovered until chill thickens, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. 

1 lime quartered
Adjust taste and heat by adding more salt, black pepper, lime juice, and/or cayenne pepper* if needed. 

Ladle into bowels. Top each bowl with minced green onions, a wedge of lime, sour cream, and/or shredded cheese. Serve with corn chips.

Note: Add 1/2 Tsp of cayenne at a time, stir and re-taste until you reach the desired heat level. Remember that this chili will get spicier as it “ages” overnight, or longer, in the refrigerator.

MinWax Pre-Stain wood conditioner.

I was watching a wood finishing video on YouTube and saw this MinWax Pre-stain Wood Conditioner demonstrated. It was painted onto a bare wood surface before staining to hide uneven and blotchy wood grain. 

After it dried several hours the MinWax finishing stain went on smooth. It showed the wood grain but not the imperfections. 

I thought this might be worth a try on several, to be scratchbuilt, basswood structures. I planned to age by staining the wood. I bought a can and it works well. I still need to experiment more but it does what it says by hiding the funky grain and discoloring that basswood has. 

I've also tried it to seal plaster castings and have painted it over a finished structure to seal and protect the paint and weathering.

Be aware that this stuff is thin, like water, is solvent based so you need an overnight drying period, and you clean your brushes in mineral spirits.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Parker Grain module

Sometimes I regret selling everything I build. This HOn30 module is a good example. I loved building it but a guy at the Springfield model railroad show waved a lot of cash money in my face and the display was his. 

The part I miss most is having the scratch model of Parker Grain Company shown here. I had drawn a scale plan from measurements of the actual building, taken a lot of photos, and scratchbuilt three of these HO structures just to get it right. The first using Strathmore paper, the second wood, and this model from styrene.

Alas, it's gone and I cannot use it for reference. I gave the plan and photos to Hal Reynolds at Atlantic Scale Models. He's interested in making a kit of the building. I'd have liked to given him the structure also. Oh well.

The caboose was a Poly Scale kit from back in the good old days.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sea Port lighthouse

Here's a close-up of the base of the lighthouse I built for the Sea Port Models display. 

The lighthouse was built from a kit that Precision Laser Craft offered many years ago. Alas, they are no longer in business but their lighthouse looks good on the display. 

The rocks are expanded foam rocks from Scenic Express, the tall grass was made with the Noch Grass Master, and the water in the background in Mod Podge gloss acrylic medium.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Homemade clamps

I've always been big on making and using homemade tools. Here's an oldie from back in the day when people had clotheslines in their back yards. It's a snap-type clothespin that has had the wooden clamp parts turned around so the narrow ends become a dandy little clamp. I've made dozens of these. 

If you're new to kit building you may have never seen them. Clothespins are still available in the hardware store. Buy a bag and make some clamps. I use them for everything.

Friday, January 10, 2014

No Problem Joes

Here's a nice plastic HO kit from Dave Grandt at Grandt Line. It's called "No Problem Joes." I've built four of these for different projects. It's based on a prototype in the west but will fit in almost anywhere on a model railroad. All the plastic parts fit perfectly and it comes with good instructions. Perfect for the beginner.

I decorated the front room (with the double windows) with a bed, a night stand and two figures. It has a 12V grain of wheat lamp with an orange shade to light the bedroom.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My favorite model photo

This photo was taken back in the early 1980's. I was experimenting with a new 4/5 Sinar Bron view camera. I had a little diorama with the Evergreen styrene hardware store mounted on it. So I matched the road on the diorama with a road on my HOn30 Carrabasset & Dead River Ry and shot the picture. The trick was to match the light angle falling on the diorama with the fixed lights above the railroad.

In my notes (yes, I still have the notebook) I see the exposure was 10 seconds at F45 using a 17mm lens and Kodak Ektachrome sheet film.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The HO Fiddletown & Copperopolis station

I'm starting to scratchbuild the Fiddletown & Copperopolis station. I think this will work using two sizes of 6/6 Tichy windows. The trick with this structure is getting the roof pitch correct. I laid out a footprint (the white rectangle in the lower portion of the photo) and placed windows and an HO figure on it to see how it'll look, proportion-wise. I'll post a few photos as I work out the kinks and start to build this station.

New HOn30 MiniTrains

This is the new HOn30 train set from MiniTrains. I have two sets, this one which is all green and a second set with a black engine and brown cars.

Right out of the box this little green engine ran for 24 hours on my test layout. It never wavered. I though it might overheat but it didn't. I did lubricate it before I ran it. The engine has a can motor in the cab powering a gear train to the wheels. There's a flywheel in the boiler. These are DC only but I read where a fellow in England has installed a Z2 DCC decoder in the cab beside the motor.

Both sets are lettered for the fictional Fiddletown & Copperopolis narrow gauge railroad made famous by the Carl Fallberg cartoons which appeared in Railroad magazine.

These trains and more are available directly from the MiniTrains website.

This little HOn30 boxcar is also made by MiniTrains. It resembles many of the little cars seen around Europe and the UK. 

When I received this car it was stark white. I wanted to weather it a little while still retaining the look of a fairly new car. It just so happened that a friend received a copy of FineScale Modeler for Christmas. Tucked inside the plastic bag along with the magazine was a 2-page modelers tip sheet called "Using a Sludge Wash." The article was written by Paul Boyer and was aimed at military modelers. My friend sent me the tip sheet. I spent an hour fooling around with the sludge wash.

The wash consists of 5 parts water, 2 parts Polly Scale paint (I used Roof Brown) and 3 parts liquid dishwashing soap like Joy. These are gently mixed together and applied to a model. Paul warns in order for the sludge to work correctly the surface has to be glossy. What you do is brush it on, let it dry, and then remove as much as you want using a Q-Tip (lots of Q-Tips.)

The sludge seems to work best on new plastic or metal. I also tried it on wood that I painted, sprayed with acrylic gloss, weathered with the sludge, Removed the excess sludge, and then sealed the surface with a matte spray. 

The technique is worth a try to see what works best for you and all my experiments took less than 60 minutes!

Murry's Meats

This started as a little lasercut waterfront shack. I added the false front and a few details from my scrapbox. I hate the sign and will replace it when the structure is placed on the layout. BTW, old Murry on the porch is a Lytlet & Lytler metal figure that's over 40 years old!

My plan is to make it part of the western town on an HOn30 display I'm building.