Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How I constructed an IP Engineering Open topped cattle truck

This kit has been sitting in one of my project boxes for at least five years and so I felt it was about time I constructed it. When I bought the kit, it came without wheels which suited me as I have found that the steel wheels which come with IP Engineering kits are not always compatible with my LGB pointwork - I have found the flanges are too fine and have a tendency to ride-up on the point blades or sometimes the back to back distance is too great and the wheels refuse to be guided by the check rails and foul the frog. Maybe things have changed since I created this post on modifying IP Engineering wheels to help improve their compatibility with LGB pointwork way back in 2012. By contrast, I believe there are no compatibility issues with IP Engineering wheels and Peco pointwork.

So, the kit was unpacked ......

... and the comprehensive instructions consulted.

These kits are very straightforward to construct and so would suit a novice garden railway modeller. They also represent good value for money at £35 for the kit (at time of writing), including the wheels.

After carefully removing the parts from the sheets, using a sharp craft knife, they were tidied-up with a sanding block. The ends and their overlay frameworks were identified ....

..... and the frames glued to the ends. I used thick superglue as I am somewhat impatient and prefer a faster setting-time than is achievable with PVA based wood glues.

 The frameworks for the sides were located ......

...... as were the sides .......

..... and the frames glued on.

One end was then glued to one side.......

..... using a tri-square to help ensure the joint was square.

The assembled end/side was then glued to the base.

The same process was followed for the remaining end and side .......

So far, the construction had taken less than half an hour and already the wagon was taking shape.

I then turned my attention to the axle boxes and hangers. The brass bushes were inserted into the hangers ......

...... and glue applied to the rear of the solebars and springs.

The hangers were then glued on.

This was repeated until all four axle boxes had been assembled.

The headstocks were then glued to the base of the wagon and the solebars trimmed to fit. Only a few millimetres needed to be removed from each end. I decided to use Bachmann 24.5mm diameter wheels as I know these are compatible with my pointwork. The ends of the axles were inserted into the bearings and the solebars positioned until they were central. I then applied a generous fillet of thick superglue to the upper edges and ends of the solebars and then squirted some superglue activator on to the joints to provide an almost instantaneous bond. This saves having to clamp or hold the solebars in position while the glue sets.

NOTE: The advantage of using the Activator spray is the immediacy with which the bond is achieved. The disadvantage is that once the spray is applied, there is no opportunity for fine adjustment, so I had to be certain the solebars were correctly positioned before using the spray.

I then attached the central buffers. Because the buffers on my other rolling stock are higher than the default position on the IP wagon, I had to glue on a small piece of thin plywood (cut from the fret) and drill a new 3mm hole for the bolt on the rear of the buffer.

Although the instructions suggest that the hinges should be glued on after the body has been painted, I decided to glue them on at this stage. I am happy to paint them in situ (see below).

The next stage was to take the wagon to the paint shop. I applied masking tape to the wheels and axles and then gave the wagon body a couple of coats of Halford's grey primer from a rattle can aerosol. This was left for a couple of days to harden off.

As can be seen, the finish is quite rough and so, I then used some fine emery paper to smooth off the paintwork. I used 600 grade wet and dry wrapped around a small block of balsa to help get a smooth finish.

There were some gaps at the corners where the ends and the sides had not fitted as snugly as I would have hoped and so the gaps were filled with Squadron White Putty filler which I buy from Eileen's Emporium. The putty only takes around 20 minutes to harden after which it was rubbed down with a sanding block and 600 grade wet and dry.

 I decided, at this stage, to 'distress' the wagon slightly and so attacked the ends of the vertical boards of the doors with a craft knife to give the appearance of wear and tear.

I also scored the lines between the planks more deeply and attacked some of the gaps with a craft knife to give the impression that some boards were beginning to show their age.

A scriber point was also dragged lightly across the surfaces of the 'planks' in the direction of the grain to give it a slightly aged look.

I decided to add rivet heads to the 'ironwork' instead of relying on the laser-cut circles which had been used to represent them. Small blobs of thick superglue were applied to the position of each rivet head with the point of a cocktail stick.

2mm diameter half-round nail art pearls were then picked-up with the same cocktail stick, the residue of glue being sufficient to attract the pearl. The pearls were then transferred to the blobs of glue on the model.

NOTE: Nail art pearls )or gems) can be purchased from a well known online auction site. I got a pack of 1000 for 99p (including postage). It's also possible to buy hexagonal pearls to represent bolt heads

Once all the rivet heads had been glued to the bodywork ......

 .... a 3mm half round nail pearl was glued to the end of each axle box and 2mm pearls were glued to the spring pivots.

 I then gave the whole model another couple of coats of grey primer.

Once the primer had hardened-off (a couple of days), I hand-painted the metal frames, hinges, solebars, axle boxes, springs, headstocks and buffers with black acrylic paint.

This can be quite time-consuming but I usually try to coincide jobs like this when there's a decent afternoon play on Radio 4 and so the time passes quite quickly.

After gauging the correct height for the couplings (by lining it up with another wagon on a piece of track), I glued and screwed wooden mounting blocks at each end of the chassis.

The headstocks were slotted to take the fronts of the couplings .........

..... and then the couplings were screwed to the blocks.

The wagon was then allowed to enter service.

Once the paintwork has hardened off, I will apply some light weathering to emphasise the planking and to suggest the wagon has been in service for some time.

I then decided to give the wagon some light weathering using my tried and trusted techniques (see How I weather my wagons).

I also added a couple of simple latches to each of the drop-down doors made from some offcuts of plasticard, plastic tube and brass rod.

Some sheep from DesignPrintScan3D were painted to resemble Oxford Down sheep

Some 'straw' was added to the wagon floor, kindly donated by a yard broom.

And then the sheep were glued into place.

Whilst the wagon was in the paint-shop, I also re-liveried and weathered my most recent Llanfair GR Show bargain-find (a Tralee and Dingle cattle truck).

They should add a bit of variety in mixed goods trains and so I am looking forward to having some decent weather when I can give them both a good airing. 

It seems to me that IP Engineering kits provide a cost effective way of creating rolling stock with a minimum of effort. I would say it took no more than an hour and a half to construct the basic wagon - after which, probably the most time consuming aspect was applying the rivet heads and painting the ironwork etc with black acrylics. Neither of these activities is essential but, to my mind, they both enhance the appearance of the model.

I would like to build a couple of Welshpool and Llanfair style sheep wagons to complement these two wagons and have already worked out how they might be adapted to fit on to Hartland Loco Works (HLW) chassis, my default donor for many of my wagon scratch-bash builds. As they say, watch this space!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

How I assembled and painted some whitemetal Perfect People figures

Over the years, I have acquired and deployed around a dozen whitemetal figures on my railway. Most Perfect People, which are now distributed by Trenarren Models.
of them are

I like the Perfect People range. The figures are mostly in keeping with the period in which my railway is set - ie early 1930s and the poses and quality of the figures is good. The only disadvantage is that some of the figures require a small amount of assembly - usually arms, legs and occasionally heads.

Having recently painted a batch of figures (see Progress Report 78), I discovered I had three Perfect People railway personnel tucked away which were in need of attention.

Previously, I have attached limbs to whitemetal figures with two-part epoxy adhesive, but have found it difficult to get a reliable bond. I decided that these figures would be soldered.

I acquired some 70 degree low melt solder from Eileen's Emporium .......

..... having already bought some flux paste from my local DIY store.

The first job was to clean up the mouldings to remove mould ridges and any other unwanted blemishes. This was achieved with a couple of needle files. The surfaces which needed to be joined were also cleaned up to remove any oxidised coating and also to help ensure they were flat or flush.

I then selected the first limb to be attached and drilled a 2mm diameter hole through it, at right angles to the surface which was going to be joined.

After positioning the limb where it was intended to be on the figure's torso, I then drilled through the existing hole and into the torso - to ensure the new hole was in the right place and at the right angle

A short length of 2mm brass or copper rod was then put into the hole in the torso.

The two surfaces requiring to be joined were then smeared with flux paste.

I use a fairly cheap heat-adjustable soldering station which I purchased on eBay for less than 20UKP.

There is no  temperature readout on my iron so I set it to about 1/3 of its full heat - hot enough to melt the solder but not hot enough to melt the whitemetal.

The limb was threaded on to the brass peg  ......

...... and then a piece of solder and the iron were applied to the joint until the solder melted and flowed into the joint (difficult to photo as two hands are needed for the job).

This process was repeated at other points around the joint until all the gaps had been filled.

It is probably possible to do this more precisely, but I prefer a belt and braces approach figuring that any excess solder can be filed away. Once any excess solder had been filed away, the figures were given a couple of coats of Citadel Chaos Black base coat.

 A Wargaming friend of mine taught me how to paint figures. Although I cannot profess to possess anywhere near his expertise, the principles which he outlined seem to me to be logical and seem to produce good results. The main principle which he instilled in me was to start from dark and work towards light with a series of dry-brush layers.

Dry-brushing involves taking a minimum of paint on to a brush and wiping the brush lightly over the surface of the figure to deposit paint only on the raised details. The amount of paint decreases as more layers are applied.

It's sensible to start with the lowest layers of clothing first. Some Wargamers advocate starting with the flesh colour first as this is clearly the lowest layer. However, arms and hands sometimes lay on top of clothing and so I tend to start with the lowest layer of clothing first, which in the case of these figures is the shirt and/or waistcoat.

The prancing ticket collector was given a light blue shirt his waistcoat was left black and his trousers and hat were painted dark blue.

The guard was similarly painted - his jacket was also painted dark blue.

Very little of the mechanic's shirt was visible but what could be seen was painted light grey and his overalls a mid-blue.

Note that the creases and crevices of the clothing retain the Chaos Black base coat so give the impression of shading.

NOTE: Some acrylic paints are translucent when applied, particularly blues and reds and white so, no matter how many coats you apply, the black base-coat shows through. Adding some white makes them a little more opaque but, of course, that lightens the colour. I have discovered the Pebeo Studio range of acrylics are designed to be opaque when applied and so use their Prussian Blue and Ultramarine, darkened with some black, to get a navy blue for uniforms.

The next stage in the process was to paint the base coat for the areas of flesh. I darkened some basic flesh colour slightly using a small amount of orange and an even smaller amount of blue.

Whilst this was drying off, I next applied the final dry-brush coat of colour for the clothing. This was a much lighter shade of the underlying colour which was applied very lightly so that only the most prominent areas of the clothing were touched with the colour.

 Thus is particularly effective at highlighting (quite literally) the raised areas of clothing to make them stand out.

Quite often, with a flat coat of colour, a lot of finer detailing such as pockets and collars are lost.

I find, the lighter dry-brushed coat brings them out.

At this point, some of the more prominent facial features were painted a lighter shade to bring them to the fore, and then the lips were painted. Unless lipstick has been applied, lips are generally a slightly darker shade of flesh colour. I usually add a very small fleck of blue and a tiny speck of dark red.

Eyes are tricky to get right. I'm not sure I have mastered them yet, but my technique is it paint a tiny dot of black or dark blue with an even smaller dot of white either side.

Finally, other features were painted, such as hair, shoes, buttons, ties, scarves, etc.

 The figures were left for a couple of days for the paints to fully harden off. They were then given a couple of light coats of matt varnish to tone down the brightness of the colours and help to prevent the paint from becoming chipped through handling.

NOTE I now use Windsor and Newton Galeria Matt varnish which is specifically made for acrylic paints

In the past, I have tried various other matt varnishes and found, to my cost, that some react badly with acrylics. The varnish on one set of figures, for example, continuously remained tacky after being sprayed. Eventually, I had to sprinkle them with talcum powder and then apply a coat of Galeria. Not ideal, but easier than repainting the figures.

I cannot profess to having completely mastered the figure painting process. Certainly, when I compare my outcomes to those achieved by my Wargaming mate and his friends, then mine pale into insignificance. However, the quality of the mouldings provided in the Perfect People range of figures does, in my mind, merit a little bit more attention being paid to ensuring those features are brought out.

I am constantly searching for good quality figures. There does not seem to be as many carefully crafted figures available for 1/19 or 1/20.3 scale as there are for Wargamers whose figures tend to be smaller and yet bursting with detail. I have bought some 3D printed figures which are based on scans of actual people and, whilst the quality of the clothing is generally good with beautifully accurate folds and creases, the technology does not yet appear to be sufficiently advanced to produce finer details such as faces and hands. However, technology is developing at such a pace that who knows what might be achievable within the next couple of years!
A 3D printed figure from DesignScanPrint3D