Thursday, June 28, 2012

Walthers Northern Light & Power Kit

Walthers Cornerstone Northern Light and Power kit
One of the last and largest structures for my layout is a Walthers Cornerstone Northern Light & Power kit that I recently purchased at my local hobby dealer. I knew before I purchase the kit that I wasn’t going to keep it as a power plant, but the size of the building and its large, round-top windows were definitely selling features. My plan for the building is to place it in the vacant space between the track leading into the right lower mountain tunnel portal, and the road passing around the turn-table area. The building houses the Pioneer Press Daily Advertiser as its tenant, complete with a custom built interior and printing press. I chose the Pioneer Press Daily Advertiser because I’ve always had an interest in printing and journalism, and because I already had the company name on a Woodland Scenics dry-transfer sheet.

Painting main structure with brick red Humbrol EnamelPainting main structure with brick red Humbrol Enamel

Like all Walthers Cornerstone kits, all pieces are precision molded with quality materials. Besides the 4 walls, roof, one-piece chimney, and base pieces, the kit includes an under-track hopper kit, roof support trusses, an internal firewall, roof vents, and the separate windows and doors. The separate windows and doors are my personal favorite, as they make painting much easier and convenient as there is much less masking required. Before I started painting and assembling, I carefully cut each piece off of its plastic carrier structure and trimmed/sanded off any spurs, and washed each piece in warm, soapy water.

Painting main structure with brick red Humbrol Enamel

I started by carefully assembling the 4 main walls, ensuring the structure was kept level and the walls joined at a perfect 90 degrees.  I then painted the main structure with brick red Humbrol enamel, thinned 3:1 with thinner. I also used the same paint colour on the chimney and firewall pieces. At the same time, I also sprayed the windows and doors with Testors light aircraft gray. I didn’t remove the windows at this point from their carrier, making them much easier to paint in one easy step. Other small components, such as the roof vents and trusses, were painted with metallic aluminum paint.
Masking kit in preparation for painting trimMasking kit in preparation for painting trim

After the main structure dried for 24 hours, I masked the entire building to prepare for painting the trim and foundation. I used the same light aircraft grey colour that I used on the windows for the trim, which took about 3 coats as I was brush-painting them. Once the trim had completely dried, I made any necessary touchups with either the brick red or light aircraft grey paint using a fine detailing brush. I then weathered the entire building with powdered pastels and sealed it with 2 coats of Testors Dull-Coat.
Masking kit in preparation for painting trimCompleted trim with light aircraft grey enamel

I felt that the roof pieces lacked any detail, so I used trip styrene to add a bit of this lacking detail. I first divided each roof panel into 4 equal sections by gluing 1mm x 1.5mm strip styrene directly onto the roof. I then glued a piece of the strip styrene along the total length of the edge of one roof section. I made sure this piece overhung the roof panel slightly, thus covering the gap between the 2 roof sections once they were assembled on the structure. The entire roof was then spray painted flat black.
Roof modification and enhancement with strip styreneRoof modification and enhancement with strip styrene

For the large double door, side entry door, and overhead bay door, I used dark green enamel to add a bit more interest to the colour scheme of the building. I masked off the door frames and transoms so they would remain the light grey colour I had originally coloured them. The last step was to weather the doors with dark powdered pastels and seal with a final coat of dull-coat. The windows were also weathered and sealed with the same method.
Painted and weathered windows glued to clear styrene sheetPainted and weathered windows glued to clear styrene sheet

The clear styrene window glazing included with the kit is less than satisfactory. The glazing is thick and oddly obscured, so I opt to use clear styrene from Evergreen, which is thin and almost perfectly clear, looking much more like real glass. After removing each window from its carrier, I carefully glued it to a clean sheet of the clear Evergreen styrene. I glued each window side by side to get as much use out of the styrene sheet as possible, leaving only a large enough gap between each window to accommodate a razor-blade. After the glue had dried, I carefully cut each window with a sharp hobby blade, and trimmed off any overhanging styrene where needed. This process went much quicker than anticipated, and before I knew it, I had a nice pile of glazed windows ready for installation.
Installed firewall and roof support trusses

Before installing the windows, I first painted the interior walls with dark grey enamel. I also scraped the paint off of the surfaces of the windows and window openings where glue would be applied for a stronger bond. I then applied a small bead of glue around each window, and mounted it to the inside of each opening, pressing down for several seconds to ensure it was properly seated. Once the windows were all installed, I added the 3 roof support trusses and the firewall section.
Installing lighting in between roof support trusses with rigid steel wireInstalling lighting in between roof support trusses with rigid steel wire

Lighting was next. I didn’t use the styrene light diffuser box I had used in previous models, mainly due to the fact that this building’s interior is completely open and visible due to the large amount of windows. I instead wired 2 automotive 12v bulbs between the roof support trusses, using rigid steel wire to support each bulb. I originally wired the bulbs in series, but they were too dim at 12 volts, so I adjusted the wiring to a parallel circuit, allowing the bulbs to glow much brighter at the same voltage. The wire leads run down the back wall and exit out of 2 small holes in the structure’s foundation.
Custom built printing press

Interior structure at rear of building behind the firewallScratch built printing press and interior mechanics

The interior was by far the most challenging task of the whole project. I knew the staple piece of equipment for any press company is the printing press itself, so I immediately went to work scratch building a large press from scrap styrene. Once the press started to look somewhat realistic, I sprayed it flat black, and detailed it with metallic aluminum rollers and highlights. The final and most imperative detail was the print itself, which I created in Photoshop and printed as a long strip on standard printer paper. I then glued 2 printed strips directly to the press, weaving it in between the rollers.
Top view of forward facing interior detailsScrath built styrene printing press with printed material

Custom built styrene interior details including printing press

For the rest of the interior, well, it was pretty much just random pieces, shapes, and parts thrown together in an attempt to make the inside look like something industrial and factory-like. The large box-like structure with the grate on top, sits behind the interior firewall and really only serves to fill the large interior void. Its intended purpose is completely up to the imagination! Just remember, the interior will be mostly out of view from the outside but getting just a glimpse of any interior parts when looking at the building makes it entirely more realistic and believable to the viewer.
Weathering roof panels with powdered pastelsWeathering roof panels with powdered pastels

Finishing the roof was next, which included installing the painted roof vents, followed by weathering. My first attempt at weathering was with my preferred method of powdered pastels. I spend about 45 minutes carefully applying the light grey powder with a soft brush, but when I added the dull-coat to seal it, the light coloured pastels almost completely dissolved, leaving me with barely-noticeable weathering effects! I instead opted for dry-brushing the roof with steel enamel paint.  Once dry, I glued both roof sections to the main structure.
Northern Light and Power Kit – front viewNorthern Light and Power Kit – side view

Northern Light and Power Kit – with smoke stackThe Pioneer Press Daily Advertiser

This kit was undeniably a lot of fun to build. It is currently the largest structure I have ever put together, and only took me one and a half weeks to complete, working for a couple hours each evening. I might still be able to fit one or two very small structures on my layout, but definitely nothing as large as this one. I must say that the feeling is almost bittersweet that this kit is finished. Guess I will just one day need a much larger layout.
Walthers Cornerstone Northern Light and Power kit with interior lighting

View of scratch built printing press through large round top windowInterior lighting of the Pioneer Press Daily Advertiser building

Built up Walthers Northern Light and Power kitBack side of Northern Light and Power kit

The Pioneer Press Daily Advertiser

Monday, June 11, 2012

Scratch-Built Garage

Scratch built styrene garage – front left view
I’ve accumulated a small collection of scrap styrene over the last year or so, mostly from buying bulk bags of assorted styrene pieces from Evergreen (which in my opinion is a great deal by the way). A couple of the larger scraps I had consisted of various corrugated patterns, so I decided to try my hand at building an entirely scratch-built structure. I decided to keep the design simple for my first attempt, so I planned out a small garage/workshop, measuring about 2.5” x 5”. The design includes 3 overhead bay doors, 4 office windows, and 2 single entrance doors; the front having a half-length window. I also kept the size of the building to a minimum as my layout is quite limited for real-estate at this point. 

Scratch built garage walls cut from scrap styrene sheetI started by first planning the design of my building on paper, noting all the wall, door, window, and roof dimensions to ensure that they scaled down to realistic HO measurements. Using a new blade, I carefully marked the measurements on the backside of the styrene sheet, then scored the outline of the wall using a straight edge. I used a square and ruler to double check the measurements after every score line I made, ensuring that the walls were kept square and equal. I then gently flexed the styrene to break each piece apart. I fixed any rough edge with sand paper and a hobby knife.

Painted overhead and entry doors cut from styrene

The overhead doors were cut from scrap v-groove pattern styrene, and the entry doors from standard smooth styrene. For the main entry door, I cut a half-length opening for a window, and added strip styrene for the insert trim. I masked the very outside edge of all the doors so I could easily add glue to these unpainted areas when attaching the doors to the backside of the walls. The doors were then all sprayed with light aircraft gray paint.

Installing trim on scratch built garage walls using strip styreneAlmost-completed walls of scratch-built garage

I hand painted the corrugated steel walls with a mix of blue and steel gray enamel paint, mixed 1:1 with thinner. After letting the 3 coats of paint dry for 24 hours, I glued the overhead and entry doors to the backside of each wall. I then added trim to the doors using 1.5mm x 1.0mm strip styrene. I used the same strip styrene on the base of the building to represent a foundation, as well as for building the window frames.

Garage structure with internal supports before roof installationScratch built styrene garage – roof detail

The 4 wall pieces were then glued together, and extra styrene support pieces were added to the interior for extra rigidity. The roof was a single piece of v-groove styrene, scored and carefully angled down the center to fit the slope of the building. After airbrushing the roof a light gray, I carefully glued it to the main structure. After making a couple touch-ups to the paint and trim, I weathered the walls, doors, and roof with a variety of powdered pastels. I then sealed in all the weathering details with 2 light coats of dull-coat.

Scratch built styrene garage – front right viewScratch built styrene garage – rear view

Once the structure was dry, I added clear styrene pieces to the backside of the walls for window glazing. The final step was to add a black cardstock divider and floor to the interior of the building so no white plastic could be visible through any of the windows. I am quite happy with how this little project turned out, and can’t wait to mix it in with my other model buildings.

Scratch built HO scale styrene garage

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Layout Scenery Part II - The Background

Upgraded warren-truss train bridge with almost-complete scenery
The second section of scenery I tackled was the double track portion directly in front of the backdrop. This section runs from the right mountain tunnel portal, over the warren-truss bridge, and in front of the remainder of the mountain scenery in the right-hand corner of my layout. This segment was probably the most inconvenient to work on, entirely due to the fact that I had to lean way over the rest of my layout to work on it, resulting in many sore and strained muscles. However, now that the background portion is complete, the middle and foreground should be a much easier and more convenient experience.

Small mountain with first layer of foam earth-blend ground coverOld bridge and background scene before scenery

Woodland Scenics pine trees and scenery products added to backdrop

To start, I first needed to complete the tree line that runs along the top if the rock ridges and spans between the 2 mountains in each corner of my layout. I had already previously painted trees onto the backdrop, however this did not suffice to represent the forest above the rock ridges, and definitely required more texture. These rock ridges are only about ¼ of an inch thick, so the pine trees needed to be literally attached directly to the backdrop. When building the tree armatures, I made sure the back sides of the trees were flat, which allowed the finished trees to be easily glued to the backdrop.
Light vegetation between tracksBallasted tracks with light vegetation and overgrowth

Background scene under construction with upgraded warren-truss bridgeBackground scene under construction with upgraded warren-truss bridge

With the addition of actual model pine trees to the backdrop, I also added clumps of Woodland Scenics conifer green foliage directly to the painted trees, further adding texture and blending the painted trees in with the actual trees. The tops and faces of the rock bluffs were finished with various foliage, ground foam, bushes, and lichens.
Scenery and vegetation under constructionUpgraded warren-truss train bridge

The completion of the scenery around the road that passes under the warren-truss bridge and disappears into the background was also on the list to be completed. I started by temporarily removing the bridge so I could more easily access this area. I applied fine gray gravel to the shoulders of the roadway, then the normal cementing regiment of thinned glue and isopropyl alcohol. The next layer was earth coloured ground foam, followed by coarse turf and bushes, which I applied generously around the base of the bridge abutments.
Original warren-truss bridge structureUpgraded warren-truss train bridge with almost-complete scenery

Upgraded warren-truss train bridge with almost-complete scenery

While I had the bridge removed, I decided that it required a bit of an upgrade. I originally had to custom build the deck of the bridge using 3 Atlas bridge girder pieces to allow dual tracks to run over it, and used the truss supports from an Atlas warren-truss bridge kit, which I glued to the sides of the deck. I wasn’t happy with the design or look right from the beginning; the truss structure rubbed against rolling stock, and looked to be too small to support the double track.
Forest scene with Woodland Scenics scenery products and upgraded warren-truss bridge

Background forest scene almost completedForest scenery between tunnel portal and warren-truss bridge

I started by adding 3/8” wide styrene strips to each side of the deck, thus widening it by ¾” so trains would no longer rub on the support structure. I wanted the truss structure to also be enclosed over the top, which required raising the original Atlas warren truss supports. To do this, I built 1” risers out of styrene, which I then glued to the bottom of the trusses, following the angles of the original struts and bracing bars. The horizontal struts and bracing were also constructed out of styrene strips, which I built into t-girders for the main roof supports.
Completed background mountain scenery around trackBallasted track and scenery on background section

The truss system is not attached to the deck; but instead sits in 2 support slots that are located on the deck. I needed to build it this way so I could slide the deck back under the track-work as the track is no longer easily removable. The re-designed bridge was then sprayed flat black and lightly weathered with powdered pastels. I then simply slid the deck under the track and onto the abutments and place the superstructure into position.
Scenic details of rock face, ballast, and vegetation along tracks

Scenic details of forest scene on top of small mountainCompleted mountain scenery at track level

Ballasting the rails was next, followed by weathering the center of the track with black powdered pastels and applying light vegetation and overgrowth between the double tracks (once the ballast was dry of course). The backdrop section of track and surrounding areas are the same type of mountainous scenery as the completed tunnel mountain, so I used the same methods as before to build up the scenery here (see my Scenery – Part I post).
Background forest scene almost completedCompleted background mountain scenery

I ran out of trees to fully complete the raised section of track leading up to the trestle, so I will need to finish this once I put more trees together. At this point I’m not sure what section of scenery I will tackle next; most likely the area in front of the single and double tunnel portals on the front of my mountain and the area right in front of the backdrop section I just completed. However, I am currently working on finishing my very first scratch built structure, which is a priority to complete in the next day or two.
Forest scenery between tunnel portal and warren-truss bridge