Wednesday, June 20, 2012


While sitting here recovering from 14 hours out there working in the heat, I suddenly had an urge to update my blog.  Sorry for the gap between posts but work and then side work, yada, yada, yada....

Door Thickener Pre-clear resin topping
  Rick Bickmore visited the Perth Amboy Terminal Railroad last night and got me thinking about a few areas on the layout.  I also had an in-person demonstration of his recently famous tile grout ballast and roadway technique (See a link to his Railroad Line Forums Thread in my links)   I've talked about my lone wolf model railroading habits before, but I'm finding of late, (should have been 30 years ago but I'm stubborn) that there are other very skilled model railroaders out there with lots of helpful information and also, dare I say critical advice.   The later is actually extremely helpful in developing your skills and improving your modeling.

 One of my recent online tirades (I've wrongly had too many of these) was concerning a forum that I very much enjoy but with certain posters offering anything other than an atta boy is met with derision, other threads have an excellent exchange of ideas without anyone taking offense - the trouble is you don't know who is ok with it and who isn't.   This is a way of life in fine art schools.  After you finish a piece your classmates and teachers critique it - what you did right, what you did wrong,...etc.   You don't need to take there advice but most of the time doing so makes you a better artist.   He will deny it, but Rick is an artist.  He will say I can't build with styrene like you can blah blah blah.  Yes, I think I'm a fair styrene scratchbuilder, and trying to get better.   But essentially I am a good copier - I copy things I see in photos or better yet, plans, in miniature. Because of my years as a woodworker and builder I'm have developed a skill set that enables me to cut things accurately and keep assemblies square and level and estimate sizes from photos well.  Rick however is excellent at composing a scene, and that takes an artistic eye.  I struggle with this, maybe Rick does too, but you wouldn't know it seeing the results.  Buildings, trackwork, roads, ...etc... all flow together well, making the scene very believable.   I tend to crowd my scenes I think too much.  Some of the new parts of my layout, that I've usually rebuilt four times, flow better than others, so I'm heading in the right direction.  

Last night, the subject of my cokeworks branch came up.  Lots of cool semi-finished buildings, but squeezed between code 70 trackwork from an older layout configuration.  What was trackwork within a foot of an aisle is now a foot or two further away and the middle ten feet is completely inaccessible almost, and if you have operated a layout you probably have an idea of how that would go trying to switch cars in that area.   In addition to the cokeworks, I also have a small yard, a rolling mill, electric melt shop, soaking pits, and steel foundry on that short branch.  Rick said something in passing about making the coke works bigger.  At first it didn't register but then the slow machinery upstairs started turning and by this morning I'm pretty much committed myself to ripping out all the track on that branch, laying it in a more flowing, logical manner, and eliminate at least the yard and the rolling mill so I can expand the coke works substantially.  Why not - most coke works are as large as the blast furnace plants they make fuel for.  Also, I love the structures involved and can reuse all my scratchbuilt by-products plant stuff.   In addition to a realistic looking oven battery, I might even be able to fit a benzol works.

We also got talking about the Dorr Thickener and I realized that I never followed up on that topic.  I was mostly complete with the modeling at our last blog on this subject except for a few more of the blades for the arms, which I added.  I then painted and weathered most of the structure and then disaster struck.  The idea was to use a thin layer of clear resin to give the appearance of liquid, but also to leave most of the modeling exposed including some of the lower arms and all of the upper.  Being my typical cheap self I figured I could build up the level in the Dorr using plaster instead of resin to save on the latter material.  I colored the plaster with acrylic paints and mixed it thin.  The pour went well and got the level up to just below where I wanted.  Now I should have known to let it dry for a week or more, but after two days I found myself pouring the clear resin.  Resin heats up quite a bit when mixed and this heat caused the water retained in the plaster to steam off and turn the resin into a foam.  It raised the level of crap in the Dorr a few inches higher than I wanted and also looked horrible.  I thought I had screwed the whole thing up, but careful filling and painting and most of all letting things dry a week allowed me to get on a thin layer of resin without problems. abet, a lot higher than I wanted.


Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

John Teichmoeller said...

Jim, your trouble is that you get too much done! Now I would never have had that problem with the Dorr Thickener because it would probalby be 5 years between the plaster pour and the resin pour on my layout.

Seriously, your work is very inspiring and I hope to move beyond the cardboard mockup stage soon.

John Teichmoeller