weather a flat car

A week ago Friday was the first proper storm to blow through town and then last Friday, a repeat because, well, winter in the Maritimes. Starting as wind and rain the temperature would drop to a ridiculously low measure. Tea made and Coronation Street watched we shut down the television so our home could be filled with the sounds of the rain and wind that were delivering everything that was promised. I’m between books right now but remembered some back issues of the Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazette I meant to read and while digging them out I found a copy of the On30 Annual that I had long ago shelved in the wrong place. “May as well bring that along” and back to the couch I retreated.

Saturday morning’s winds were every bit as strong but that rain had turned to snow and the outside looked a lot like getting the cat fed, kettle on, and back to the couch was probably the best use of the morning. Picking up that 2014 On30 Annual where I’d left off previously I reread last night’s articles. Painting Plastic Flat Car Decks was the title of Russ Watson’s article in this issue where he described a process of doing just that. He used a Bachmann On30 flat car. While I don’t have one of those exact models I do have one of their low-side gondolas that I sort of suspect I bought because I had ordered something else and was “padding out the shipping”. Just like the prototype would, adding sides to a flat car makes it a gondola and, just like I needed, subtracting sides from a gondola returns it back to being a flat car like what Russ used. I haven’t done much of anything productive with rolling stock in most of the last decade and here on these pages was a process that not enticing but doable.

The car comes apart easily. A few screws release the trucks and couplers and then the frame falls out. Bachmann glued the car side casting into every single stake pocket so just slipping that out was a dream that I’d never realise. Hello chisel blade in an X-Acto knife and we turn the page into a chapter titled A Man and His Deck.

Russ’s article is about painting but he starts by preparing the surface. We’re both starting from Oxide Red coloured models and as he notes mine was also cast in the same red plastic. We’re using water-based craft paints to finish the models and they have no real adhesive qualities so sanding the flat car deck will go a long way toward helping the paint to stick. He also described chasing through each groove between each board with the back of a modelling knife to define that joint. Calvin had bought an Olfa scriber and his enthusiasm was so great for this tool I bought one too and it’s this knife I used to dig into the grooves between boards. I also used this same knife to add in some new wood grain–Bachmann tends to model wood grain proud of the surface which is kind of weird and, frankly, no longer a concern since sanding the deck removed most of that texture. I used my razor saw to cut along the edge of the edge and creating a gap between each board. Knife in hand and drawing it along a straightedge against plastic feels like modelmaking and while doing this work I really felt like I was actually making something and that feels pretty darn good.

The article’s main process is layering a few basic paint colours. It was this simple process that made so much sense and converted my couch energy into workbench activity and some resultant productivity. The basecoat is a tan colour (my brand calls this Soft Suede). That’s applied in an almost opaque layer but everything after that is interplay between very dilute washes of black and burnt umber. Since I’m doing this early in the day finding time to wait for paint to dry was easy since there was more tea to be made, breakfast to be prepared and enjoyed, and laziness to be reveled in. With the tan paint dried I started with the very thin black wash (black craft paint diluted about 90% with tap water) and a very fine tipped brush. I concentrated the first application of this wash mostly into those grooves. Progressive layers of this wash breached those grooves and started influencing the boards themselves. Building up these layers of very dilute washes was an all day long indulgence in tinkering with a model and the photos, above, were taken as I’m shutting down the house and ready to head to bed Saturday night. The wash looks intense because it’s still wet.

Here we are now. I removed most of the lettering on the flat car and then worked up some equal washes of colour along it to finish that part of the car. I don’t currently plan to reattach the original gondola sides and I haven’t worked on them at all so it was interesting to lay them back in place and compare the original model’s finish to where I am so far. I don’t think this model is finished. There are some details that need to be added (like a brake wheel and stand) but also once I figure out what we carry on this flat car I’d like to build up some textures and colours as evidence of that work and those loads carried. For now I have something I did I’m really pleased with and the energy from this makes me feel like I could do more of this and probably feel a little more productive and a little more like I’m actually doing the hobby and not just looking forward to doing it when my swagger returns some day in the future.

Categories: Victoria On30

Tags: , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. This post is a wonderful story telling of someone finding their feet once again. From armchair to workbench, bringing the same approach to trackwork to the deck of the car, I see parallels in what you achieved with the H0 Coy’s plastic sleeper web… I’m pleased you enjoyed the weekend Chris, and that car is totally transformed. Not only now a piece of art in your hand, but a level or realism and consistency that gels so well with the texture and colours of the groundwork completed so far on Victoria.

    • That is beautifully said. Thank you.

      Two things you saw and I should have touched on were the Coy plastic ties and the connection to Victoria’s colours:

      I think this simple pattern of thin black wash over tan basecoat would be a fun starting point for smaller scale plastic tied track. I almost want to dig out some HO or N scale track to have a try at it just to see. Equally, lessons learned at Coy certainly echoed into here. Once again, there’s a kind of fluid communication I can see threading itself between projects that connects this and its two predecessor layout projects. Circling back to our conversation on “complete” in this way those two predecessor projects live on through here so there’s a continuity more important that completeness.

      The lighting on my workbench and on the layout are subtly different. Plus the backdrop or context the model will sit in are also different. When I first started washing colour onto this model I did it on the workbench but the final layers were applied with the car on the layout. Not only is the lighting different up on the layout but so is my viewing angle and also doing this on the layout allowed me to position the car against parts of the “scenery” to see what I could do to attempt to connect one to the other — thinking the things that accumulate to weather the track affect equally the railway cars. This is something I hadn’t tried before but think I’ll continue to do.


  2. Wow! The deck looks fantastic.

    • Thank you! I’m really pleased with how well it came out and, equally so, of getting to the workbench and giving the process a try. I love this dance of tried something, it reminded me of being able to do stuff, and now I want to try more.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: