Dates to Remember

This week’s post will be short, not because I have nothing to share with you but because I have so much and it is all happening at once!  This week will see some new products arrive, current projects move forward and I have even managed to progress my two modules a bit closer to being ready for the NMRA (BR) convention in October.

So for this week I am simply going to give you some dates of shows that I will be at here in the UK, and then for me it’s back to the work bench.

The first is a show hosted by the Gosport American Model Railroad Group on Saturday the 22nd of August 2015.  This is a club I’m a member of but instead of setting up our regular N Scale modular layout we will be playing host to the local N-Trak group.  You can read more about the N-Trak layout here.  We will also be visited by Alan Cross’ N Scale Mohawk Valley as well as three other GAMRG club layouts.  The show is at the St Mary’s Parish Hall, Green Rd, Alverstoke, Gosport, Hampshire, PO12 2ET.

The second is the RailEx show in Fareham run by the Fareham & District Model Railway Club.  The show is on the 3rd and 4th of October 2015 and I will be there both days with a sizeable portion of the GAMRG’s N Scale modular layout.  The show is at the Fareham Leisure Centre, Park Lane, Fareham PO16 7JU.  Here is a link to the show page.

The third is the NMRA (BR) convention held in Derby in the 23rd to the 25th of October 2015.  And again I will be there with GAMRG’s N Scale modular layout; hopefully all of it, including my new modules.  Here is a link to the convention website.  This year’s convention will be held at the former LMS Railway School of Transport in Derby and will  be hosted by the The Black Diamonds Group.

Another show worth mentioning is the Swindon Railway Festival on the 12th and 13th September 2015 which I’ll be attending as a visitor this year.  This show is the big Great Western Railway event of the year and, as well as many actual steam engines and layouts, my friend Graham Tavener’s layout ‘Kensal Green’ will be making its first appearance after a total rebuild.  Here is a link to the event webpage.

For now that’s it. I am sure there will be more shows coming up and I will let you know which ones I will be at.  Now back to the work bench.

Making Rocks for Your Model Railroad

One thing I enjoy making on my model railroad is mountains with tunnels and bridges.  And for that you need a lot of rock.  In this post I am going to share with you how I make my own rocks, boulders, outcroppings and cliff faces.

The rocks I am currently making are for a modular N Scale layout but this process can be used for any scale.  And as with most things in model railroading there are hundreds of ways to do the same thing. This method is just one that I have found which works for me.

I have been asked in the past why I don’t use actual rocks on my layout.  The answer is that real rocks are very heavy and may not be the right colour for the scene that I’m modelling.  And they can be very hard to shape!  The weight is less of an issue for small areas on a fixed home layout and I have used them before, but for modular layouts the lighter you can make them, the better.

To make my rocks I use plaster or filler, depending on where you buy it from.  Different makes of plaster can effect the outcome so it’s worth thinking about what you will be doing with the rocks.  I have used the cheap powder filler from the local DIY store; this goes a long way but is fairly heavy when dry and again for modular layouts this is not so good.  Woodland Scenics make a product called Lightweight Hydrocal, pictured below, which is a plaster that sets fairly quickly and is very light.  This is ideal for rocks and I use it for most of mine.

Lightweight Hydrocal

To cast the plaster into rocks I use moulds.  I have a few commercially available rock models; mine are also made by Woodland Scenics.  They are made of rubber and are designed to be strong enough to be self-supporting but flexible enough to take out the plaster when dry without breaking the rock, although that is a common occurrence. Below is a typical Woodland Scenics mould.

Woodland Scenics Mould

Even though the moulds are reasonably strong with all the added weight of the wet plaster the sides can droop and if you are not careful the fluid plaster will spill out.  To prevent this I sit the mould on a bed of scrunched-up newspaper so, as the plaster is added, it settles down into the paper without tipping over.

The Hydrocal is very easy to mix. I use an old plastic bowl and wooden spoon.  First I add the plaster, about one and a quarter cups.  Then I add half a cup of water.  I mix all the powder in until the whole mix has the same consistency which only takes about a minute.  Then it’s ready to pour into the mould.  I would not recommend making bigger batches as the plaster starts to set fairly quickly and if you need to stop mid pour it might go off in the bowl.

The plaster sets in about an hour but I tend to leave it overnight as it can be a bit soft if removed too soon and breaks easily.  When it is properly set it will be hard and dry. Below are some rocks cast in the mould above.

Rocks From Woodland Scenics Mould

This is a great way to make rocks but there is a drawback.  If you are putting a lot of rocks in one area you soon run out of different types.  You can use the same rock several times by changing the direction but it can start to show.  Also, having used my Woodland Scenics moulds many times I am very familiar with the rock shape and can easily spot them on other exhibition layouts.

To get around this and to add diversity to my layout I have made my own rock moulds.  This is not as hard as it sounds and Woodland Scenics provide the tools for the job.  They make a liquid latex rubber which can be painted on to real rocks to make a mould.

Woodland Scenics Latex Rubber

I collected a selection of rocks based on shape and texture that I wanted for my layout.  I washed all the rocks to remove any dirt and loose material from the surface.

Rock Moulding 1Then, once dry, I painted a fairly thin coat over the rocks top and sides.  A bit of preparation is a good idea when doing this, mainly making sure you have somewhere to put the rock down once you have painted it and also having some water or even better a sink near by to wash off the brush and clean up if required.  Dont expect to use the brush for anything else after this as it will become a rubbery lump.

Making the first coat thin is necessary to ensure the latex gets into all the detail on the rocks and to prevent any air bubbles from getting trapped under the latex.  It also helps the latex set quickly.  I would also recommend only doing a few rocks at a time so the latex in the jar does not start to form a skin.

Rock Moulding 3 Once the section of rock I required was covered I placed it in a foil tray to set.  The latex rubber is white as it comes out of the pot but turns a translucent yellow as it sets.

Rock Moulding 5 Depending on the thickness the latex will take about half an hour to an hour to set.  Then another coat will need to be applied.

Rock Moulding 6 About three to four coats of latex rubber is required to create a good strong mould.  To make a very strong mould layers of gauze can be placed in-between the latex layers; but so far I have not had the need to do this.

Once the final layer has set, I tend to leave this overnight, the mould should then be a uniform colour.

Rock Moulding 9 Rock Moulding 8

The mould can be peeled away from the rock.  This can be started by rubbing the edge with your thumb.

Rock Moulding 10

Once the edge is lifted all around the mould it should peel away completely.

Rock Moulding 11 The mould is then ready to be used to cast a rock.  This particular mould only had three thin coats of latex and will need a little support to keep the same shape as the rock. This is actually a good thing as with out the support the mould will flex in a different direction every time I use it, giving me a slightly different rocks.

Rock Moulding 11-5

The plaster is mixed and poured in the same way as before and the final result is a rock similar to the original just as I wanted.

Rock Moulding 13 Rock Moulding 14

This method can be used on any surface that has the texture you want for your rocks.  Below I have a section of bark collected last year from a tree.  Now that it has fully dried out I will use it to make a mould.

Rock Moulding From Bark 1

Again the first layer of latex wants to be very thin as the bark details are fragile.

Rock Moulding From Bark 2

Rock Moulding From Bark 4 Rock Moulding From Bark 5

Once all three layers had set I removed the mould and poured in some plaster.

Rock Moulding From Bark 7

The latex did pick up some of the bark material which consequently ended up in the rock but that doesn’t mater and will blend in nicely when I colour the rocks.

Rock Moulding From Bark 6 Rock Moulding From Bark 9 I have used this process on large and small rocks with great success.

Lots of Cast Rocks

Now that I have a big pile of light weight rocks and boulders it’s time to fix them to the layout and colour them, which I will cover in a later post.

Etched Brass Name Plates

As well as all the American Railroad modeling I do I also like the British outline trains and through my local clubs and societies I get to see many from across the country.  In this post I will share with you how a British Hornby Ready-to-Run locomotive was renumbered and more importantly renamed using etched brass.

British steam locomotives, particularly the express locomotives, are usually named as well as numbered.  So are many of the smaller and industrial locomotives.  Some are considerably more famous than others around the world, such as the Flying Scotsman and Mallard, but most are simply named in groups depending on their class.  The locomotives often changed numbers when companies merged or the railways were nationalised but the names were always kept the same, giving personalities to the locomotives.

My local model railway club, the Poole & District Model Railway Society, is on the South coast of England and the primary railway here in steam days was the Southern Railway.  Naturally there are a lot of Southern Railway fans at the club and one member asked if it was possible to change the name and number on one of his SR Schools class locomotives.

The Schools class, or properly named SR V class, locomotive is a large 4-4-0 Atlantic designed by Richard Maunsell.  This class was Europe’s most powerful 4-4-0 and the last locomotive to be designed in Britain with a 4-4-0 wheel arrangement.  A total of 40 were built between 1930 and 1935 and they were all named after English public schools.  Below is a photo of ‘Cheltenham’ No. 925 restored and part of the National Railway Collection.  You can read more about it here.

SR 4-4-0 V Schools Class No 925 Cheltenham

The particular locomotive which my fellow modeller asked me to alter was a OO gauge Hornby model of ‘Shrewsbury’ No. 921. Hornby released this model under a few different names and a few other companies have made replacement name plates for some of the others but the one elusive name was ‘King’s-Wimbledon’ No. 931. And this was the name he wanted.

So to start I measured the existing locomotive name plate as you can see below to get a scale and size for the new one.

New Name Plate 1

The original name plate on the model was a flat paper with a sticky back and was easily removed.  Next I had to find an image of the original ‘King’s-Wimbledon’ name plate and luckily there were a few on the internet.  Here is a link to an image on Flicker taken by Jonathan Wilcox of the name plate hanging at Kidderminster Railway Museum.  Sadly the original ‘King’s-Wimbledon’ locomotive was scrapped; only three of the forty survived into preservation.

Knowing the required size and having information from the original I was able to layout the new name plate in CAD over the photo of the model.

Kings' Wimbledon Cad 1

Then I could create a template for the fret etch.  The original had the words ‘Schools Class’ in the small box under the main name but even in OO Gauge that would be too small so I omitted that detail.

Kings' Wimbledon Cad 2

The fret was then added to a much larger sheet with other etched parts which I needed and sent to the etcher.  Below is an image of the actual finished etch.

New Name Plate

The real name plates are brass and only the sunken parts are painted, the border and letters are clean so they can be polished.  To achieve this the whole etch is sprayed red then the top surface is lightly wiped clean leaving only the sunken areas painted.  The new name plate is then glued to the locomotive.

New Name Plate 3

The locomotive number also needed to be changed and this was done using wet slide decals.  Although only the middle number needed changing it is often easier to change all three as sometimes the font or size of the new decals can be slightly different to the model manufactures.

New Name Plate 4

I think the overall effect looks really nice and I prefer the name plate with the proper sunken areas as opposed to being just flat.  Hopefully I will be seeing ‘King’s-Wimbledon’ pulling an express train on the club layout soon.

New Name Plate 2

I have a few spare sets of the ‘King’s-Wimbledon’ name plate available should anybody want to purchase one for their OO Gauge Schools class and they can be supplied plain or painted ready to fit.  Also, if you have another name or number plate for a locomotive that you can’t find and want to get etched in any scale, please contact me for a price.

Removing Acrylic paint From 3D Printed Models

Last week I was asked by a customer if it was possible to remove or strip acrylic paint from a 3D printed model.  Knowing that some 3D printed plastics can be sensitive to chemicals this was not something that I had attempted but decided it was time I found out.  In this post I will share with you what works.

You may be wondering why you would want to strip the paint?  Well, there are several reasons but two of the most common are splattering caused by blockages in an air brush and paint being too thickly applied.  Both can ruin the finish of a model.

With injection molded parts the paint can be removed with 91% alcohol or certain paint thinners.  However even some of the stronger ones can remove detail from plastic parts.  With 3D printed parts, particularly stuff printed in Shapeways’ Frosted Detail materials, these chemicals can have a disastrous effect as they react with the material causing it to melt or break up.

After doing some research I found a product called Dettol here in the UK which can safely be used to strip acrylic paint.  Dettol, as pictured below, is a low price cleaner and disinfectant which can be watered down for cleaning tiled floors and work surfaces as well as cleaning minor cuts.

Dettol Paint Remover 7The primary chemical is chloroxylenol (C8H9ClO); the rest is pine oil, isopropanol, castor oil, soap and water.

In order to test this product I need something 3D printed which had been painted, and something that I would not be upset about if it turned in to a blob of plastic and paint.  For over a year I have had one of my Yosemite Valley Railroad Log Cars sat on the work bench in a half-painted state.  This car had been dropped and some of the detail parts had broken off so it was not high on my priority list.  As you can see below it had received a total covering of the primary paint.  The paint was an acrylic made by Revell.

Dettol Paint Remover 2

Dettol Paint Remover 1

As this is only a small model I found a small jar, filled it with Dettol and popped the car in.

Dettol Paint Remover 8

Having read all sorts of suggestions about how long to leave the model in the Dettol I decided to be on the cautious side and only left it for two hours.  I removed the car and already the paint was coming off on my fingers.  I ran the model under the tap and gently rubbed the flat areas with my fingers and they almost went back to white.

Dettol Paint Remover 11

For the underside with all the lumps and bumps I used a tooth-brush to gently scrub and this worked a treat.

Dettol Paint Remover 10

At this point I stopped. I could have removed every last bit but I was simply trying to find a method that works.  There is a drawback to doing this.  The Dettol does have a temporary effect on the 3D printed parts.  The car went very soft and pliable; it was very similar to when I heated this material with hot water to remove a bow. You can read more about that here.  This softening did not last and once the part had dried it began to stiffen again.  I don’t believe that it will remove any of the detail from the parts but if handled roughly in this pliable state the parts can easily be broken or torn if they are particularly thin.  I left the car overnight and the next day it was back to being a hard model and was ready to receive paint, although there was a smell that took me back to falling over in the playground!

So if you reach the stage with your 3D printed model that there is nothing you can do to cover a bad paint job all is not lost and you don’t have to order a new shell.  However I would still advise caution before dipping all your models in baths of Dettol; make sure you have a set down area ready for when the parts come out to reduce the risk of damage and avoid keeping the parts submerged any longer than necessary.

On another note should you wish to buy another 3D printed model, or even order your first 3D printed model, Shapeways are offering free shipping on any order untill the 12th of July 2015. Simply add your items to the cart and the free shipping discount is applied.