“Buzzard” at the World of Film International Festival in Glasgow

If you’re in Scotland on October 6th, Buzzard – the short dramatic film shot partially in my layout room last summer – will be enjoying its film festival premiere at the World of Film International Festival in Glasgow. It is competing against 16 other shorts from around the world.

Joy and Filip at Port Rowan
(Joy and Filip discuss a shot overlooking Port Rowan. Click on the image to read all the posts about this film…)

In other news, Joy’s 2017 film – the award-winning Game – is now available for viewing via Omeleto on YouTube. And you can still catch In The Weeds – another award-winner, from 2015 – on Vimeo.

I am super excited for director Joy Webster, co-writer Ben O’Neil, co-producer Lucas Ford, and the rest of the Buzzard cast and crew. And I’d like to once again thank those of you who joined me in backing Buzzard during its fundraising effort last fall. Your contribution helped complete this film, and helped market it to festival selection committees – so it wouldn’t be in Glasgow without you.

I wish Joy the best of luck at the Glasgow festival. I only wish I could attend…

CNR D-1: Bring out the big guns

CNR D-1 and the air eraser
(Progress on the shells: Knocking down the ridges on one of the trailers)

As mentioned yesterday, I’ve decided to make some progress on the long-stalled CNR D-1 project.

CNR D1 - Grit blasting at Ryan's

A big stumbling block was how to deal with the ridges that are a characteristic of 3D Printed items. Such items are built up in layers and there’s often a ridge where the layers are bonded together. This stratification was very much an issue on the 3D Printed shell for D-1 and its two trailers.

Sanding and surface primer is the usual approach to addressing this problem, but there’s a lot of shell to cover here, and the sheer magnitude of the project made it easy for me to say, “Hmm… I wonder what’s on TV?” I needed a better answer. And that answer came in the form of a big red box fitted with cocktail-length rubber gloves…

Ryan and the air eraser
Ryan sets me up for a day of grit blasting

I visited my friend Ryan Mendell yesterday for an afternoon of hobby fun. (Stephen Gardiner, who designed the D-1, joined us too.) Ryan has been building patterns for resin casting and recently started his own hobby business, National Scale Car. He makes many of his masters using 3D Printing and was looking for a better way to deal with the ridges – and found the answer in the form of a grit blaster. I was curious about how effective it was, so I arranged a visit.

I worked on the three bodies for a couple of hours and I’m really happy with the results. The grit blaster (also known as an air eraser or media blaster) did a terrific job – especially in areas where it would be difficult to sand by hand, such as the recessed doors. In fact, I realized that if I focussed on those difficult areas, I could do the large flat sections of the shells with sanding sticks – or, even better, Ryan’s Tight Spot Sanders.

Ryan has a Paasche Air Eraser and a Blast Cabinet by Central Pneumatic (obtained from Harbor Freight). For the D1, I was shooting 220 aluminum oxide at 80 psi.

The before and after photos below show a definite improvement in the curved nose of the power unit:

CNR D-1 Texture - Before

CNR D-1 Texture After

The translucent nature of the 3D Print medium used makes it difficult to see the improvement, but running a thumbnail over the surface tells me the ridges are much less pronounced. I will finish sanding this shell using my Tight Spot Sanders then give it another application of Surface Primer and see how it looks. I expect this will be a “repeat as necessary until satisfied” operation, but I now have a strategy for tackling the project, which is the important thing.

Would I add a grit blaster to my workshop? Well, I do like tools, so the answer is “probably”. I don’t have the space right now – there are other things in the shop that must find their way to the curb – but I do have a suitable air compressor to power a blaster, and I’ve already thought of where I would hang the booth once I clear space for it. I would want to do something about muffling the noise of the air compressor, but a sound-insulated cabinet could take care of that.

Meantime, I envision another trip or two to Ryan’s before this project is finished. Thanks for the help, Ryan – the next beer is on me!

Tight Spot Sanders and Fret Saw Table

Here’s an awesome combination to add to any workshop:

Tight Spot Sanders and Fret Saw Table

I visited my friend Ryan Mendell yesterday. Ryan recently made the jump from hobbyist to hobby business owner by launching National Scale Car. His company’s focus is on rolling stock and detail parts for the HO craftsman kit / RPM market. (And yes, I’m talking to him about the potential for S scale kits and parts…)

But Ryan’s also a pattern-maker and he’s developed some cool tools to help him with pattern making and general model-building. He’ll offer some of these through his business – and his first tool is a small offering that’ll make a big difference:

Tight Spot Sanders - NSC

It’s the Tight Spot Sanders. As Ryan notes on the National Scale Car website…

Sanding in corners or between details can be difficult using sanding sticks with foam cores. Tight Spot Sanders are the answer. They allow one to apply enough pressure while sanding flat against a surface. Ideal for sanding inside corners or between rivet strips on a boxcar when plugging holes.

Made from laser-cut acrylic with a precision machined finger dimple that makes them easy to grip and propel. Sanders can also be propelled with the eraser end of a standard pencil or other such implement.

The Tight Spot Sanders are sold as a set of three, including two pieces of self-adhesive emery paper (180 and 320 grit). Definitely worth the $5.00. (While you’re on the National Scale Car website, be sure to snoop around at Ryan’s other offerings, too.)

In the lead photo, Ryan is demonstrating a Tight Spot sander and is supporting the model on a Fret-Saw Table from Lee Valley. Clamped in a vise, this is a terrific work surface for supporting odd-shaped objects – like a car body with braces in it, as shown. I’m definitely adding one of these to the shop next time I visit the Valley of Lee…

A drive train for D-1

CNR D-1 Drive Train

I’ve decided to tackle a few projects that have been stalled, to see if I can make some progress on them. The CNR D-1 passenger train set is an example – I last posted about this almost three years ago, and it’s been collecting dust since then. There are some issues to resolve, and other projects called…

Yesterday, I decided to solve one of those issues: The drive train. I was most of the way there: The motor and power truck – both donated from an S Helper Service SW1 – were installed. But I needed a drive shaft to connect them. I dug through my stash of Northwest Short Line driveline components and found a mostly suitable shaft, plus universal couplings.

I say “mostly suitable” because I had no drive shaft material that would fit the universal coupling at the gear tower end of the drive. Everything was too small.

Fortunately, I have a lathe and making a bushing is an ideal project for it. I had some brass tube that fits the universal coupling, so all I had to do was bore it to accept the drive shaft. I chucked the tube into the lathe and got to work…

Boring the bushing:
Boring the bushing.

Test-fitting the drive shaft:
Test fitting the shaft

Parting the bushing:
Parting the bushing

I cut a length of 2.0mm drive shaft, added the bushing and universal coupling at the gear tower end, added a universal ball at the motor end, and assembled the drive. Everything press-fits nicely – I experienced no slipping. (If I do in the future, I will add some Lock-Tite.)

The assembled drive

I tested the drive with a 9v battery, running it in both directions while wiggling the truck about and turning it to its extremes, and all runs smoothly and quietly. I was worried about the extreme angle of the drive shaft – but that turned out to be a non-issue. Progress has indeed been achieved!

The next step is tackling the texture of the 3D Printed body shells. I’m visiting a friend later today – we believe we have a solution for this. Stay tuned…

CNR D1 Texture (Before)

A new bench lamp (or two)

Mag light - close-up through lens

I hate getting old. I used to have terrific eyesight. These days, not so much.

But rather than try to ignore the inevitable, I’ve decided to throw money at it instead. A few years ago, I bought awesome reading glasses, which also get a regular workout at the hobby bench. (They’re even slim enough to fit inside safety glasses.)

Yesterday, I took another step, and purchased a magnifying bench lamp. There are many of these on the market, but I picked a nice one offered by Canadian-based tool specialist Lee Valley because I trust the company to source quality products that are designed for people who build things – whether it’s furniture or F-units, carving or cabooses.

Bench lamp - overview

The lamp does not have a brand name – but given that the box is clearly printed with the Lee Valley catalogue number I suspect they’ve sourced this directly from a manufacturer.

The lamp is catalogue number 17J30.30 – and here’s what Lee Valley has to say about it:

This is an excellent magnifying lamp. Its array has 56 LEDs with a color temperature akin to daylight (6500 kelvin), making it well suited for task lighting.
The 5″ 3-diopter optical-grade glass lens focuses at a comfortable distance (3″ to 9″) for detailed work. Its spring balance mechanisms are fully enclosed and the lamp has a maximum overall extension of 47″.

The lamp head is adjustable for viewing angle, has an integral flip-up lens dust cover and comes with a 2-1/2″ capacity table-mounting clamp. The LEDs are rated to last 50,000 hours, equivalent to 5 hours per day for 27 years. UL/CUL certified.

To let you mount the lamp in a dog hole, stainless-steel bushings with a 3/4″ or 20mm outside diameter are available separately.

I also purchased the 3/4″ bushing and installed the lamp in a dog hole on my work bench.

The 3-diopter really makes a difference. In the following photo, you can see identical bottles of Vallejo wash both inside the lens, and outside to the left:

Mag light - inside and outside the lens

I’m really pleased with this purchase. While I hope I don’t have to use it all the time, it will certainly help with those fiddly operations, such as reading mouse print on decals or painting figures. In fact, I actually bought two of these lamps and installed the second one on my desk in my home office, where I frequently paint war-game miniatures while waiting for clients to call me back.

Mag light - upstairs

I’m not yet ready for an optivisor – and maybe with these lights, I can put that off for a few more years. If you have a Lee Valley in your area, check out this lamp: They’ll have one on display, and I bet you’ll add one to your “must have” list.

Port Rowan in Cannes

Buzzard film shoot  - July 2018

It seems my model railway is going to make it to Cannes before I do…

Longtime readers will recall that last summer, my layout room and workshop were used as locations for Buzzard – a short film co-written and directed by Joy Webster. Today, I learned from Joy that the film has been chosen as one of 16 to be featured as part of Telefilm’s Canada: Not Short on Talent market showcase at the Cannes Film Festival, May 20-23.

Joy and her co-writer Ben O’Neil will be in Cannes to represent the film as part of this showcase. (More information about the films that make up this collection can be found on the RDV Canada website.)

Congrats to everyone involved!

SP 1010 at work in California

I visited my friend Pierre Oliver this week to take photos of my HO scale model of Southern Pacific 1010 for an article I’ve prepared for Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. (I’ve written previously about this model on this blog, but only in the most general terms as I knew I would be doing a construction article on it.)

There’s more about my trip to Pierre’s place on my Achievable Layouts blog – and you can read about it by clicking on this image of the SW1 earning its keep on his layout…

SP 1010 - Clovis van hop

Enjoy if you visit!

CNR 3737 :: Snow melter fittings

CNR 3737 - Prototype Photo

I’ve been thinking about the snow melter equipment on my CNR 2-8-2 project ever since I installed the big wrapped pipe for it last week. I know that this pipe supplied steam to equipment that melted the snow and ice out of switches in yards. But beyond that, the photo of 3737 that inspired this build (shown above) doesn’t really make the fittings clear to me.

So, I did some research with the aid of Canadian National Steam! – the the excellent series of books by Donald R. McQueen, published a few years ago. In one of these, I found a photo of CNR 2-10-2 4033 with a much clearer photo of the snow melting equipment – a portion of which is shown here:

CNR 4033 snow melter detail

I’ve highlighted three important points with white arrows. First, there’s are two shut off valves on this pipe – one near each end of the pipe. Second, the front end of the pipe appears to be fitted with the same sort of steam line connection that’s used on passenger cars for steam heating.

With this information, I look another look at my subject photo and things became more clear:

CNR 3737 snow melter (detail)

First, now that I know what to look for, it’s easy to spot the wheel on the shut off valve just ahead of the steam dome. And while I cannot see the second shut off valve, at the front end of the pipe, I will assume it’s there and model one accordingly. Perhaps it’s hiding behind the handrail in this photo.

Finally, while I had spotted the steam line connection back at the start of the project, I didn’t know if there was anything more to the system at this end of the pipe: now, I know that this is all I have to model.

Precision Scale offers valves in a number of pipe diameters, including ones cored for these wrapped pipes. So I’ll be placing an order for those soon. And BTS makes the passenger car steam line connectors, which will work fine for this application. I’m already building the shopping lists…

CNR 3737 :: ash pans and doors

Yesterday’s work session with my friend Andy Malette focused on the firebox of my CNR 2-8-2 project – specifically, the ash pans.

CNR 3737 ash pans and doors

The stock model has a pair of cast brass plates that run across the bottom of the firebox. These are screwed to the body of the model from underneath, as they must be removed in order for the motor slide into the firebox area. The plates project beyond the edge of the firebox but needed to be bulked up to better represent the bottom of the prototype. So I soldered some bar stock in place along the top of each plate, while they were still attached to the model – being careful to not solder them to the firebox wall. I then unscrewed the plate and shaped the bar on a bench grinder – working a little bit at a time and cooling the brass in a pot of water so that the solder would not melt and the parts separate.

Andy had prepared for the session by cutting some square tubing to create the frames for the four ash pan doors – two per side. I filed these to better fit against the curve of the base plates, soldered them in place, then returned to the grinder to finish them. A light touch was required, with regular checking to make sure I was grinding them so that their outside edge would be vertical when installed on the model. I finished these with a file.

Finally, when I was satisfied with the door frames, I made the doors themselves. These are simply pieces of styrene sheet cut to fit between the sides of the door frames, left long and soldered in place, then trimmed level with the top of the ash pan.

With these built, I test-fit the new ash pans in place. I had to gently bend some piping out of the way to get them to fit, but otherwise it went fine.

The last step was to add two blow-downs to the firebox, on the engineer’s side. These are spare castings from Andy’s CNR K3 Pacific project from a few years ago. I cut off a large discharge pipe on each. Then I drilled holes in the firebox side, soldered the castings in place, and added smaller discharge pipes that line up with the bottom of the ash pans. There’s a large hole from a removed casting that I’ll need to fill – the easiest way will be to simply solder a brass NBW casting or a piece of brass plate over it and be done with it.

There’s lots more to do, of course. But I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me so we may not get back to the project until next month. Meantime, I’m putting together a list of details that I need to buy to continue this build.

CNR 3737 :: The big pipe, and other progress

CNR 3737 - Prototype Photo

I had some time today, so I put the phone on mute, turned off the computer, and spent the day in my basement workshop. The result is, I made a lot of progress on my CNR 2-8-2 project.

The first order of business was piping…

The big insulated (wrapped) pipe across the top of the locomotive in the prototype photo is the primary reason I picked CNR 3737 to model. This unusual feature was to deliver steam to an appliance at the front of the locomotive that was used to melt snow and ice out of yard switches in the winter. The melters themselves are not visible in the prototype photo – presumably, they were removed in the summer, and this picture was shot in August. But the steam delivery pipe is very obvious.

Months ago, my friend Andy Malette provided me with a length of wrapped pipe from his stash. I straightened it and re-bent it with pliers to approximate the path of the prototype pipe:

CNR 3737 - Snow Melter pipe

I drilled a hole in the steam dome to accept the end of the pipe, then realized that if I soldered it in place, I would never be able to remove the smokebox front. Given that there are lights to install and maintain, this seemed like a bad idea. So, I made sure the pipe was long enough to fit firmly in the steam dome hole, then soldered the pipe to the smokebox front. It now comes off with that front piece, all as a unit. As I add additional details, I will see if this will continue to work. If not, I’ll have to come up with something else.

Now, I have to do more research on the snow melters themselves. Time to go through my CNR steam books, looking at photos…

CNR 3737 - condenser pipes

While piping, I also installed the condenser coil under the running board. This runs from the air pump, behind the feed water heater pump, to the small tank under the running board. It then runs from that tank to the larger tank that’s between the front ladders, on the pilot deck. I bent up the pipe using some 0.032″ wire and mounted it to photo-etched brackets supplied by Andy – although a simple L-shaped piece of brass bar would serve if the brackets were not available.

As a bonus, the pipe to the large air tank is soldered to the short running board next to the smokebox, which helps strengthen this. It has frequently come unsoldered as I work on the locomotive – but it’s not moving now. (I’ll have to come up with a similar pipe to support the running board on the other side.)

Further back, I realized I could add the cover to the steam turret housing, just ahead of the cab. I cut some thin brass sheet to size, rolled one end around a piece of brass rod, and installed it:

CNR 3737 boxtop

Finally, I tackled a fiddly project: the seven triangles that support the cab roof smoke deflector. I cut triangles oversize, tinned them, and soldered them in place. I then ground the backs of them down to size.

CNR 3737 - 7 triangles

This was a messy process, but it worked – although even now I see triangles that need some adjustment. That’s easy enough to do with metal.

While this represents a lot of progress, the biggest step forward is something that can’t be seen in the photos: Namely, that I did this work on my own, without Andy’s guidance. The point of this project, for me, has been to learn how to do this work – and I realize I’m starting to gain the confidence to forge ahead on my own. That’s very good news, because it means I’m internalizing the skill set. I’m certainly no master – and there will be many more sessions with Andy, including one scheduled for tomorrow afternoon – but it feels great that the work is paying off…

Maybe we’ll even get our CNR S-3-a Mikados finished this year? Tonight, it feels like anything’s possible!