Peco Country Station II

I did some more painting today, then put most of the station together. First, I mixed up a wash of windshield washer fluid and a dollop of black acrylic paint. I put a single wash over all windows, doors, vents, and the gutter. The intent is to give these parts some depth, so they don’t appear flat and monotone. While I was at it, I hand-painted the roof black on both the telephone box and the signal bell, and I painted the chimney-pots black too.

I spray painted the flat roof and the awning black, but masked the “slate” border on the former. Then, I used the black wash on the roof slate as well as the flat roof slate border. It took a couple of washes before I was happy with it. Once that was dry, I loaded a brush with some Steel Gray acrylic paint, and then wiped most of it off on a paper towel. With the almost dry brush, I put highlights on all the slate.

I pulled down the ol’ tube of CA glue and then went to work joining the parts. My fingers are covered in glue now, but I’m pretty happy with how the building turned out.

I still need to do some work on the awning before installing it, namely, painting the etched brass decorative fringe and adding the posts.

There are a couple of tiny things that bug me about the model, both related to how the pieces fit. The flat-roofed section (which will hereafter be referred to as the restroom) isn’t exactly flush against the wall of the station proper, so it is at a slight angle, making the building a little crooked. Also, one of the bargeboards (the green triangular trim on each end, just under the eaves) pokes out a bit further than it should on one end, so the eaves don’t quite cover it.

These are nit-picky issues though; I’m still impressed that it’s coming out as nicely as it is.

Peco Country Station I

I spent several hours cutting, trimming, and painting the Peco Country Station kit.

On the box, Peco notes that the parts are “self-colored,” which–for someone who is in a hurry–means there is no need to paint. However, the colors are pretty intense and plastic-like, and there are only three colors: bright brick, vivid green, and gray. No detail at all (and I didn’t expect there to be).

Before I could paint the parts, I needed to remove them from the sprues. After that, I trimmed and sanded the edges.

I taped down the parts and spray painted a base layer. For brick, I used Krylon Super Maxx Satin Brick, and for green I used Rust-Oleum Satin Hunt Club Green. I haven’t started on the gray parts, which are mostly roof panels and the chimney-cap.

Once the base colors were dry, I did some detailing. First, I masked all but the sills and lintels, then spray painted these with Testors Flat Dark Aircraft Gray.

When that dried, I sprayed a paintbrush with that color and painted the tops of the sills and bottoms of the lintels.

At this stage, I also drilled a few 1/32″ holes in one of the parts (they were already marked) to attach the optional canopy later on.

I used the same gray spray-painted brush to make the bases of the canopy poles look like concrete.

The stage that I was most nervous about was painting the mortar between the bricks. After quite a bit of methodological research, I made a wash by mixing about a cup of windshield washer fluid with 1/4 teaspoon of FolkArt Statin Wicker White acrylic paint. I painted over all brick and let the wash fill the crannies. I did about three washes, though I did some further touch-up on a few areas.

Overall, I’m really happy with the way the mortar turned out. In fact, I am impressed with how the whole thing is coming along. Using muted colors does wonders for realism.

I added one final tiny detail before calling it a night. There are a couple of very small wall-mounted signal bells, which I had already painted green. I sprayed a fine brush with Rust-Oleum Metallics Aged Brass (because it was kicking around and I didn’t want to buy more paint) and painted the little round bell. You can see the bells in the top left corner of the picture above, on the edge of the blue tape. After I spray the model with Testors Dullcote, I will have to remember to go back and put another dot of brass on the bells to give them a hint of shine.

A Few Kits

I used a bit of my holiday bonus to order several Peco and Ratio kits. I will post some pictures after the packages arrive (which may be a week or two, as they are coming from the U.K.)

There’s still a bit of work left to do on the topside of the module before I can add the kits. First, I want to bring the “ground” up so that it is nearly level with the rail ties. This will give the rails a sunken appearance. I will probably use 1/32″ balsa to do this.

Next, I will spray-paint the rails brown to remove the shine. I will need to mask the turnout points to ensure that I don’t create connectivity issues, and I will need to repeatedly work the turnouts while the paint dries, to make sure none of the moving parts are painted stiff.

I won’t start building up terrain until I have dimensions for all buildings, but eventually I will create a slope on the “viewing side” of the layout, and a gradual hill at the back. Overall, my plan is to refrain from dramatic lumps and bumps, keeping a relatively flat surface with only slight variations. I hope that this will add to the realism while allowing me to add structures, trees, and scenes without much fuss later on.

Turnouts V

Yes. I finally finished installing all six SMAIL switch machines and remote mechanisms. One was a little fidgety, so I had to reposition the mechanism a bit to increase the “push” of the cable, but after fifteen minutes of honing the tension it works as well as the rest.

I tried taking pictures of the process (again) but after the first three steps or so they become so intensive that I cannot spare a hand. Sorry about that.

Here’s all six machines:

I played around with the layout for an hour and a half tonight; it’s already tons of fun, and I’m not even switching wagons yet. Once the turntable is active, this module will provide many hours of enjoyment.

Here’s a video of the 0-6-0 Bellwether moving over all turnouts.

Turnouts IV

I finally got around to installing two more SMAIL machines. Once again, I have no documentation of the process; I think I’d need someone taking photos as I go because the work is too fidgety to be dealing with a camera. But here’s the finished product, anyway:

What a mess, right? See, if I had any track-wiring experience, I’d have used about half as many feeders, but I’d have made them four times as long, and I’d only have installed a single set of bus wires down the center of the layout. That would have given me more space to work with, and all that crowding that you see would have been spread out.

Because some of my feeders are immediately beneath the turnouts, there wasn’t enough room to have the switch machines swing a certain way, so I had to turn them around and run the cables in a long arc to the SMAIL motors. In the image above, only the uppermost turnout has a straight cable.

All of the turnouts work perfectly, although I will probably use some electrical staples to help keep them in place.

Turnouts III

On LSR, there are a lot of steps and pieces involved in throwing a single switch!

First I bent six piano wires like so:

Then I cut six lengths of brass tubing like so:

I drilled a 1/16″ hole two ties away from each throw bar, like so:

And then I inserted a length of brass tubing into each hole until it was level with the tops of the ties:

And a bit of fussing on the underside. The feeder wires almost thwarted three or four switches, because they are so close. Almost.

With a pair of pliers, a pencil, and some wizardry, I bent each piano wire again after measuring each turnout from the hole in the throw bar to the center of the brass tube.

Then I inserted the piano wire so the long end extended through the brass tube to the bottom of the layout, and the short end was dropped into the hole in the throw bar:

After checking to make sure that each turnout moved freely, I flipped the module and bent each length of wire at a right angle:

Toggling this wire back and forth from under the layout throws the switch. The remote mounts will be affixed to these wires, and the SMAILs will be attached by wire and tubing.

I think I’m at the halfway point now with the turnouts. For fun, I connected a SMAIL to the terminal block and programmed it into the PowerCab. It moves exactly as I expected. Hopefully by the end of this coming weekend, I will be able to switch my turnouts by pressing a few buttons.

Wiring IV and First Run

I finished wiring all of the track except for the turntable. There are a few things I would do differently next time, but overall I am pleased with how it looks and functions, and it seems pretty bulletproof.

On the topside, my turnouts are still without the SMAIL switching machines (which will be installed and wired up soon), so the points on the turnouts aren’t very reliable. If I don’t hold the points in place tightly, trains running close to them will falter or stop completely.

It works well enough with a pencil in hand, so despite the lack of switch machines and without regard to my fledgling abilities with the PowerCab controller, here’s footage of the first run of the Bellwether.

The thump at the end of the video was my cat, Pisces, who batted the out-of-frame Bellwether off the tracks. This is why I will usually be operating the layout at shoulder-level, atop the bookcase which started this whole blog.

Here’s a photo of the perpetrator:

Wiring III

Bus wires going in. “Quick splice” connectors are key here; initially I thought I’d have to strip and splice, which would have taken days of soldering and shrink-tubing. Each connector takes maybe a minute or so to pry open, place the wires, plunge the metal clip, then snap the top down.

I ran out of connectors though, so can’t finish it all today…

I also connected the wires to a terminal strip at the “open” end of the module. This will make it easier to connect a second module later on.

Wiring II

I spent the better part of today cutting, stripping, and crimping wires, then (making a mockery of) soldering the feeders to the track.

Once the feeders were all in place, I started running the bus wires down the layout, but I didn’t get too far yet. Perhaps this weekend I will finish connecting all feeders to the busses, and then the Bellwether will be able to traverse every inch of the layout except the turntable and beyond.