Tangent GATX 8000 Gal. Acid Tank Cars

A few weeks before the holidays, I ordered and received a pair of 8000 gal. acid tank cars from Tim at Action Hobbies in Kingsville.  These cars are by Tangent Scale Models and, like the rest of their product line, are very nicely detailed and finished.  I dare you to click on the link to Tangent’s web site and not be overcome by the urge to buy at least one model.

Models like these are expensive, by any measure, but one of the benefits of building a small layout is that I can put more resources into each model.  The paint scheme on the two cars I bought represents cars from a GATX lease fleet.  You may have noticed them in a photo from my December 29, 2014 post celebrating the installation of an NCE DCC system on my home layout.  Here is a shot of GATX 24941, off-spot at International Paper (on my layout, of course).


A keen eye will reveal that the car in the photo above is lettered for a pool of cars assigned to haul phosphoric acid, a food additive that provides tanginess.  As they stand, these models are out of place at a paper plant.  By default, my plan is to cycle these cars into the consist of trains TF-2/FT-1, COJ-32, or any of the CASO trains once I build the North Tonawanda yard across from the paper plant.  However, I’m exploring another possibility.

According to my limited understanding of the paper making process, sulphuric acid is used to manage Ph levels of the digested pulp as it passes through the washer and thickening machines.  It’s also used to make chlorine dioxide to bleach fine paper products to a brilliant white.  I’ll definitely need some sulphuric acid tank cars for my paper plant at Tonawanda Island.

Sulphuric acid is very dense, and is therefore moved in tank cars of relatively small volume, by modern standards.  At 8000 gallons, the prototype for these spectacular models by Tangent are approximately the right size to have been in pool of cars assigned to haul sulphuric acid.  I’ll have to do some research and reach out to my friends who are more knowledgeable about the details of freight car useage to figure this out.  The best-case scenario would have me undertaking some minor relettering to repurpose these two models.  I’m hoping that will be the case, but if not, these cars are fine addition to the various through trains that will be modelled in the next phase of the layout.


Weathering Ties with Acrylics

I stopped using enamel paints on my models when I came back into the hobby.  I was introduced to acrylic model paints and I’ve never gone back.  In my hobby of landscape painting, I use acrylics exclusively as well.  I prefer their fast drying time and easy cleanup.  Most important to me, though, is the fact that acrylics are far less harmful to me, the other people, and pets in my home.

When it comes to creating rust and streak effects when weathering models, I haven’t tried to get acrylics to behave the same way as oils.  Similarly, I don’t imagine acrylics as a wood staining pigment.  When it came time to stain the ties on my layout, I instinctively reached for my oil paints.  The second-greatest deficiency of oils (toxicity being their greatest) is the length of time it takes for them to dry.  I have sections of ties that were done with oils which are now on their third day of drying, and I’ve become impatient.

I wasn’t sure if acrylics could yield the kind of effects that I see in photos of railway ties, but I figured the only way to find out is to try it. In one evening I finished a sizable length of ties.  Here’s a sample:

IMG_0230I’m happy with the results.

Trevor Marshall asked me to outline my process for weathering ties in my previous post, so here’s what I did with the acrylics.

First, when I glued down the ties, I made sure that the layer of glue was as thin as possible.  I ran a bead along the roadbed and then flattened the bead to the width of the ties using a scrap of cardboard as a trowel.  This is important because if if the glue gets onto the sides of the ties, they won’t take the paint properly.

To start the actual weathering process, I scrape and gouge the tops of the ties with a chisel-shaped X-acto blade, a #1 blade (#7 would be better but I don’t have one right now) and a dental pick instrument that my dentist gave me.   For the track in the photo above, I didn’t hack as many of the ties as in my previous post because this particular track represents one that would have had at least a modicum of maintenance within the past decade.

Once I’m finished destroying a few ties, I go over all of them with raw umber acrylic (the thick kind you buy at an art supply store for painting landscapes) straight from the tube.  I apply a partial coat, so that the ties are only partly covered in paint, and then use a water-soaked brush to spread it around sides and ends.  After this, I do a with a thin wash of black while the raw umber is just barely dry.  This generally darkens the umber colour.  While I’m doing this part, I pay attention to adding some variety.  Basically, this step creates a range of dark brown and black that should look slightly different from one tie to the next. This step also darkens the sides and ends.

Each layer dries quickly, so once the ties are dry again, I put a dollop of mixing white on my palate and a tiny spot of burnt umber somewhere else on the palate.  I mix a light beige colour by dragging some of the white and a tiny spot of umber together.  This colour is used to add highlights to the tops of the ties.  After I’ve done a short section of track and I’ve used up the beige that I mixed, I go back over the same section with a lighter beige, mixed by eye again.  This time I use less paint than the first time and highlight the parts of each tie I already in beige.  I apply slightly less paint this time around.

I typically go back a third time with a beige that’s almost white. This is just used as a very delicate frosting over the ties.  This colour can really lighten up the ties, so I don’t apply to each one, and I apply it in varying amounts in order to create some variation.  That’s the whole story.

In summary, I use…

  1. thin application of raw umber full strength from the tube
  2. brush on some water to spread the raw umber around
  3. add a thin wash of black, to achieve some random darkening; let everything dry
  4. light beige mixed by eye, applied very sparingly to the tops, making sure not to fill any gouges in the ties
  5. lighter beige, applied more sparingly than the previous beige
  6. a beige that’s almost white as a dry-brushed frosting of the highlights

I don’t know if the steps make any sense.  I improvise and adjust things if the colours aren’t doing what I want.

Switching Layout- Room Preparation

About a month ago, I posted a drawing of my unfinished basement so that I could share the anticipation of building some kind of layout in all or part of that space.  Though I have a few different rolling stock projects on the go, I’ve just come to the end of three months of intense work and personal challenges, and I needed a few days away from those.  Instead, I spent the past week or so digging through books and searching online for more information on a few possible layout concepts.

All of this has produced a small pile of scrap paper, each decorated with odd loopy lines, and while none of them represent anything close to a track plan, it’s been fun to noodle with some ideas.  Of the dozen that I sketched, I’ve come up with two concepts that work with the space I have available.  Both represent about two miles of railroad selectively compressed along the outside walls of the basement.

Ah yes… those outside walls.  They’re unfinished, and I expect that I would be deeply dissatisfied with a layout in an unfinished room.  I won’t be building anything until the exterior walls are framed and drywalled.  But wait!  One wall is already framed and drywalled on one side!  All I need to do is drywall the other side and I’m good to start building.

layout detail1

Orange oval indicates the location of the wall that is easiest to finish.

So the decision was made.  Instead of aiming for that larger project of two miles, I’m going to build a shelf layout depicting a specific industry or two.  The shelf will measure approximately 12″ to 16″ deep and be about 12′ in length, mounted to the wall ahead of the crawl space (the orange oval in the sketch above).  That crawl space will be a good location for some staging.

Yesterday, I got to work.  I roughed-in three receptacles (one facing the finished side of the wall, and two facing the layout).


I picked up four sheets of 1/2″ drywall after work today, and with any luck, I’ll get some of that up quickly.  I have to do a small amount of framing so that the area above the crawl space is finished with drywall.  I’d like the layout to have finished walls behind and beside it.

So there it is, I’ve defined a layout space that represents an attainable challenge for me.  I expect that finishing the layout side of the walls is within the scope of my abilities and the time I can dedicate to it.  The layout that will be built in this space will serve as a place where I can practice modelling techniques and pose my finished models for photos.  I’ll get to plan a small, operations oriented layout, and then put the plan to the test by actually trying to build it.

Wish me luck.

SW1200RS Project: Window Glazing

I had a dilemma while composing this post: how do I take a photo of something that is completely invisible?

I worked on the cab window glazing of 8152 last night, and tonight I finished the all-weather window on the engineer’s side and the sliding windows on the fireman’s side.  The glazing isn’t all that evident in the photos because, well, it’s see-through (duh).  Actually, it turns out that it’s mostly see-through because I managed to get some dirt and grease on the pieces while I was installing them. I’ll have to buy some HO scale Windex to clean them off.

I experimented with two different adhesives.  I used Micro Crystal Clear glue by Microscale on the rear windows.  It’s white with the consistency of Elmer’s school glue.  I used a Testor’s product specifically designed for cementing clear plastics on the front windows.  This product is slightly thinner in consistency and more grey in colour when it’s wet. Both products are clear when they dry.

I think I like the Testor’s product better, but it’s too early to say for certain.  I’m going to need more practice before I can say for sure.  The pieces of glazing included in the kit are die-cut to fit just behind each opening.  Some pieces were cut perfectly while others were slightly too large to fit in the depression inside the cab, just behind the window gasket.  The tight quarters of the cab interior constitute a difficult place to apply adhesive and move parts into position.  This challenge is compounded by the fact that the model is nearly complete and has lots of delicate detail parts attached.  It was prickly business, but I’ve finished one unit.

I’ll get onto the other unit tomorrow night.


TH&B 70 Ton Hopper #1234: Finished

This model was completed some time ago, but I was deliberating the various approaches I could take with the weathering.  I had to consider how the car was utilized while I thought about the various media that I’ve used for different effects.

I built TH&B hopper #1234 for a small pool of cars used on the WRMRC in slime service for Inco.  TH&B didn’t serve any mines on line, so they used these cars like many roads used boxcars, meaning that, stead of hauling minerals for a specific customer, they shopped around for ways to put them into service earning revenue.  Aside from hauling slime for Inco, some of the cars contributed to a pool of cars assembled by CN, TH&B, and PC.  Others were used in a variety of ways, like hauling limestone from the quarry in Dundas, or scrap steel between industries in Hamilton.  Even cars used ore service were  rotated in and out of the pool.  As a result, they didn’t weather quite the same as hoppers from a road like the Pittsburgh and Shawmut or Lehigh Valley, where the such cars were used to haul coal for the duration of their useful lifespan.

In the end, I decided to try a combination of acrylic model paint, artist oils, and chalks.  The first step in the weathering was actually in the base colour of the car.  I used Polly Scale paints, and instead of using straight black, I mixed in some Reefer White to fade the black a bit without making it look grey.  This also helps to give more depth to the details.

After the decals and flat finish were applied and cured, I brushed a rough coat of white artist oil paint on the outside and bottom of the car.  I don’t use Titanium White because I find it has a hint of blue that works nice on canvas, but isn’t so good for weathering model trains.  Once the car is covered in a thin layer of white, I use a series of four progressively softer brushes to remove the paint.  The first brush is a 1″ flat and the last brush is large and very soft fan.  This step fades the car.

After I was satisfied with the fade, I used three different mixes of light grey on different parts of the car.  In this step, I didn’t whisk quite as much of the paint away because I wanted some streaks left behind. After the grey streaks, I put a few very subtle rust patches onto the sides with Burnt Umber and Raw Umber.  For these I put tiny blobs in place with a small brush and then dissolved the blobs with mineral spirits until the edges softened up enough to look natural.

When I was satisfied with the oils, I went at the car with some Bragdon weathering chalks, mixing and blending their Dark Rail Brown, Old Tuscan, Antique Iron for the inside, and a bit of those plus their Ash colour on the outside.

I think this one is ready for the layout.