Saturday, June 24, 2017

The State of My Collection

While decaling my Procor pressure cars today, I took sometime to organize my rolling stock collection at home. It accounts for about half the total collection, the other half being store at the club layout.

I was aware I had too much stuff, but this little exercise proved me I should think twice before buying anything new without a good reason.

For the purpose of classification, I used different color Post-It to identify each box by its general theme:

Orange: Modern CN (post-1960)
Green: Old CNR (pre-1960)
Violet: CPR (all eras)
Yellow: American roads
Blue: Old Time

The results were astounding. American cars were the largest group, followed by CPR, Old Time, Old CNR and modern CN. While arguably most modern CN cars are in service on the club layout, it was disturbing to own so many American cars I have almost no use for. I recall many of them are realted to the Harlem Station layout, but the real problem is they were bought before that layout even came to fruition. It means I collected American cars for almost no reason except kitbashing purpose to such an extent I know have no idea what to do with them and no longer remember what conversion I had on my mind back then.

The same thing apply to the Old Time cars which I bought in numbers back in the days in hope of making a QRL&PCo layout, or a logging layout or something else. They piled up, and now I have a bunch of half kitbashed cars in such quantity it could crowd a medium sized layout. I even found out a disturbing amount of small Bachmann, IHC, Pocher, Roundhouse and Mantua steam locomotives... In fact, I'm starting to believe I could build the Temiscouata layout in HO without buying a single piece of new equipment... It's frightening.

But to speak frankly, the problem is that most of these cars (Canadian, American or Old Time) were bought with the future in mind. "Just in case" or for the "future layout". Most of them require extensive kitbashing, detailing and painting, which can be a serious investment both in time and resources. Unfortunately, they are also models from another era, mainly blue box kits, sometimes detailed plastic models or craftman kits. It means they no longer fit the level of detail and accuracy I want from my model. Also, meanwhile, many cars I bought for the sake of kitbashing a particulay prototype have been superseeded by accurate models. What's the point in installing state of the art decoders in old P2K EMD and ALCO locomotives. I have lots of F and FA units I have absolutely no purpose for. They don't fit my interests but they sure eat up a lot of space.

While I'm confident many cars and locomotives will find a purpose someday, I'm also aware many of them no longer hold value in my eyes. As much as I would like, it is not realistic to think I'll kitbash dozens of cars for the sake of completing long overdue projects. One day or another, I'll have to trim down the tree... You can't have it all and these models, as fun as they were and supported my dreams, must be shed like a snake shed its old skin...

Maybe layout design ideas are just a nice little cute excuse to buy more and more... because we can justify impulsive consumerism with vague and idealized dream layouts.

By the way, don't expect picture of that messy collection, it is quite humiliating, even for me!

On a positive note, I'm glad to find out I don't need cars for Hedley Junction and can now put my effort on detailing, weathering and fine tuning the fleet. Rapido's cylindrical hoppers are likely to be the last cars to be acquired next Fall.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Relettering Intermountain CN Procor Hoppers - Part 2

The three Procor cars are now repainted in CN Grey No. 12 or should I say, a custom mix made to fit the rest of the Intermountain fleet.

As a matter of fact, paints are always tricky when it's time to choose a color. By mistake, I sprayed the first car with True Line CN Grey No. 11 only to discover is was too far off and didn't even match my other True Line hoppers! Maybe the color is right, but it seems to be far to greenish. But the mistake didn't end there. CN indeed changed it's hopper color to Grey No. 12 in the late 60s, exactly when the Procor cars were built.

A quick search in local and online hobby shops yielded poor results and I had to make my own mix. As I often hear from my older architect colleagues "a good painter should be able to eyeball any color". Well, I guess that's true. In my case, seeking the perfect color was trivial since the cars will be heavily discolored and weathered per prototype. Thus, it was much more important to blend the color with the existing similar cars in my fleet.

In fact, getting the mix right took about 1 minutes. A lot of white, a sizeable amount of Tamiya German Grey XF-63 and a bit of Tamiya Flat Flesh XF-15 yielded quickly a satisfying mix. The color was tested on a prepainted Intermountain car until a perfect match was achieved. In a matter of a few minutes, the three cars were covered in a nice coat of warm grey paint. Later, a coat of Future gave them a nice glossy finish for decalling, which I hope will occur during the weekend when the paint will have cured.

When completed, this will bring the Procor fleet to 9 cars. Add to this 2 Intermountain cylindrical hoppers, 12 Rapido new cylindrical hoppers and we've got enough car to serve the cement plant. Meanwhile, the slabside hoppers will be phased out when the Rapido cars will be available next fall. By the mid-80s, none of them served the plant anymore. However, they could be extremely useful if we want to backdate the layout a little bit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ciment St-Laurent - Part 2

I'm back to the drawing board! This time, to design a way to build Ciment St-Laurent loading facilities. While the building is rather spartan, its size (42" long in HO scale) and structure offer a structural challenge.

I have also to take into account how I will detail the interior and maintain the rails located right under the structure. Our initial approach was to build a single structure with protuding columns. While definitely feasible, this option has a few disadvantages. First, it's hard to make all columns sit correctly against the soil without having some small gaps. Second, the aforementionned columns lack bracing and are quite flimsy. It could be worked out though.

I'm exploring the possibility to break up the building in two parts: the structural columns and the superstructure. Columns would be inserted and glued into a sturdy base and connected together with a web of structural members similar to the prototype. The base could be scenicked and detailed while tracks could be embedded in the base. The superstructure would sit on top and could be removable for maintenance. It is quite more complex than the original one-part concept, but would ensure a more realistic approach.

As for materials, no definite choice is actually made but whatever is used should be braced and sealed to some extent to reduce warping.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Memories of QRL&PCo

I often lament the disappearance of QRL&PCo-related heritage in Quebec City area. While this is inevitable and I'm coming to term with that, I was quite surprised to discover a 60-years old manhole cover installed by the defunct utility company probably in the early 1960s on Rue Vallière. My estimate is based on the fact the text is French, which was a trend in the 1960s as seen on CN bilingual car lettering. Quebec Power was absorbed in Hydro-Québec by the late-1960s.

Meanwhile, I walked the bike path up to D'Estimauville to see the state of the track after a long winter. Well, nothing changes here but vegetation do grow. At least, it will be handy for scenery reference.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Relettering Intermountain CN Procor Hoppers - Part 1

While I'm certainly not a rivet counter in terms of lettering, I still consider a car should reflect its era and while I've seen many people use post-1990 white-colored CN covered hoppers for gray-colored hoppers, it's certainly not a path I want to thread.

Colors and shapes are the most recognizeable aspect of an object (given we can't reproduce smell in a practicaway). Failing to graps these fundamental characteristics won't pay off if your goal is to reproduce something.

A few years ago, I made the mistake to buy CN Procor hoppers in the wrong color. More than once I thought about selling or swapping them for correct ones, but as high quality car prices raise, repainting them quickly became a practical option.

But at the same time, being practical has a lot of advantages. Instead of completely disassembling, stripping paint and repainting my fleet of white Procor cars, I've decided to erase the lettering. My technic is simple and only require fine sandpaper and Solvaset. This particular product is generally strong enough to soften pad printed lettering. In case of small letters, they disappear in a matter of a few seconds while large logo like the CN noodle can take more time and care. To prepare this model, it took me about 90 minutes, which may seem long but is a fraction of taking the longer route.

When lettering was completely removed, I repaired and glued back loosen parts, wiped the model clean with 70% alcohol and misted a light coat of white primer to give some tooth for the new coat of paint. As for decals, high quality Highball products will be used. Two others to go!