Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Dreaded WHX. . .

Look! Real modeling happening on my workbench! Early progress on the fleet of WHX wheat hoppers, specifically, the beginnings of the maze of pipes, hand-holds and air brake mechanism on the "brake" end of the AR Kits model.

Okay, so I chomped the big, thick bullet and decided to get started on making a credible fleet of WHX grain wagons.

Those Auscision WTY/NGTY/etc. cars really raised the bar on detail for a grain wagon. Placing these next to a basic AR Kits WHX wagon really lets one see the short-comings of the WHX kit. The WHX model is a good foundation for a dynamite model, though, if one wants to do the time, research, and most of all, fussy, detailed modeling--like Andreas Keller did with his stunning rendition of the AR Kits model. Modeling like that is truly inspiring, and though I got to see the model in person last April, I was unable to distract him long enough to slip it into my pocket so I could take it home and dissect his modeling method from all angle. So, a few photos will have to suffice. Ugh. That is a LOT of really nice work. Kudos, bro'!

And there's certainly a lot of "stuff" on the prototype WHX. Hey, look at this view of just half of the "brake" end platform. If that isn't enough to give you nightmares of little styrene, brass strip and brass wire parts, I don't know what is. It certainly was enough to keep me from going beyond the basic assembly of 10 of these cars 18 months ago.

But, again, that Prototype Modeler's meet is lighting a fire under me, and I vowed to get four of these cars ready in time for the show; it'll also give me a running start with getting my fleet of 10 done before Austrains delivers its version of the WHX sometime in 2010 (or 2011. . .). That too looks like it'll be a stunning model.

So using the excellent Kieran Ryan website detail photos and Andreas' model as a guide, I've set out into the first true "heavy duty" modeling I've done in a couple of years (defined as "something more than just repainting an R-T-R model").

I'm working on all four models at the same time, breaking down each task of detailing the model into smaller sub-sections. The "model engineering" in how to create each item is the most time-consuming. Once a good solution is reached for the first model, parts for the next three come along pretty quickly. After a few night's work, I've made good progress on the brake end platform. The main thing holding me up now is looking for a suitable stand-in for the Aussie equivalent to our "triple valve" in the states. I'm sure I've got a box of old Intermountain and Branchline models brake sets where I could harvest a triple-valve.

I've stocked up on various angles, channels, and strips of styrene, as well as the Kieran Ryan etched brass details kit (looking forward to making four ladders--yeah!), several sprues of AR Kits brake gear (not the stuff that's included with the basic WHX kit--the after-market sprue offered separately), and a selection of various diameter phosphor-bronze wire.

I don't expect this model to be an exact replica of the WHX. I've not got the 3-D modeling resources to pull that off, and my abilities aren't quite up to that level of detail. But I think I can make a reasonable facsimile that will be "good enough" for me and "complete enough-looking" to satisfy visitors. I'll try to keep it from getting to close to Andreas' model.

But so far, it's looking pretty good, and not as intimidating as it once was.

Using a jig, I added eight slices of 1.5mm styrene channel (Evergreen 261) on one side of each car for the slack-adjuster rod to ride through.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One down, eleven to go. . .

Roof-down view on the first of the WTY fleet, 36129.

Actually, that's not quite true.

This is the first of the painted WTY conversions of the Auscision NGPF models to roll out of the shops here in Texas, with eleven more to follow. Though it looks pretty complete, it still hasn't been weathered, and you can't really model the WTY grain wagon without weathering it up to some extent!

The fleet started as undecorated NGPF's purchased with an eye towards modifying them to as-delivered WTY codes circa 1979. I'd procrastinated on getting started in modifying and painting them, instead putting my modeling efforts largely into building a suitable layout to run them on. But now that I'd got that monster under control, I have no further excuses.

Backdating them involved removing the air rams between hoppers, hopper discharge controls, and additional air lines on the sides and ends added to the WTY/NGTY's in the late 1980s. I replaced the supplied couplers with Kadee #78's, and will replace the too-thick wheels with Intermountain 36" .088" semi-scale wheelsets when available.

The shiny aluminum of the new cars in 1976-77 weathered quickly down to a dull medium grey by my modeling era, 1979-80, and I used a mixture of Floquil Polly-S Undercoat Lt. Grey and Grimy Black. The roof hatches are straight Undercoat Lt. Grey. The blue on the ends, grain hoppers, and discharge gates is a mix of Polly Scale D&H Avon Blue and GN Glacier Green--it's what I had on hand, and it looks pretty good to my eye. It's been lightened up a tad with a bit of white. Of course, most of the blue won't be visible once a couple of years of wheat dust and road grime are added. I used Ozzy Decals #1055B for the "L7" herald and created my own code board in Photoshop on an ink-jet printer.

The blue paint in hard-to-reach places necessitated removing the discharge gates (48 total on 12 models, most of them very securely glued at the factory). I also removed the side ladder (and didn't break one!), roof walkway and roof hatch assemblies to paint separately and make the job of masking the ends easier. Given the many, many parts on this model, I'd much rather wrestle with a few parts to remove, paint, and reassemble versus building this thing from a kit to begin with!

Most of this would not have been necessary had Auscision released the WTY/NGTY to begin with, but they didn't of course, though their advertising now shows they're in the pipeline. . .for an undetermined time in the future. I figure my working on them will help Auscision push a second-run up the production line.

I'm in an active model-building mode the likes of which I haven't experienced in a few years, attempting to get a number of NSWGR models built, painted and weathered to exhibit at an upcoming "Prototype Modeler's Meet" in Fort Worth in late May. I'm hoping to be the only one these exhibiting Australian models (ha!).

After a string of WTY (I'm aiming to present four at the exhibition), I'd like to work on completing:
  • 620/720 diesel motor car set (weathering)
  • 1 47 Class Diesel (weathering)
  • 1 49 Class diesel (weathering)
  • 1 44 Class diesel (weathering)
  • 3 RU wheat wagons (weathering)
  • 4 BWH wheat wagons (weathering, 2 grey, 1 each PTC blue and SRA tuscan)
  • 2 GLX/GLV louvre vans ( weathering 1 grey, 1 very grimy PTC blue)
  • 1 BDX open wagon (weathering NSWR rhomboid placarded grey)
  • 2 guard vans (weathering GHG/FHG )
Two dark-horse projects may or may not be ready in time: a TRC refrigerator car, which will need extensive underframe and brake component detailing; and one or more WHX wheat hoppers, which have been giving me nightmares thinking about fabricating the brake rigging on the very-visible end platforms.

I'll also have on display the on-going project to construct and power a Stephen Johnson models 400 class motor car.

That's a fair amount of modeling to complete in the next month. I'll certainly do what I can to best represent Australian modeling to this little part of North Texas.

Standard three-quarter view of WTY 36129, pre-weathering.