Mid Winter Update

July 14, 2021

Not too much to report at the moment. It is mid-winter in New Zealand and not much has happened with the layout or model building for a while.

A possible move to Australia within the next 6 months is a distinct possibility but that depends on a few things falling into place first. At the time of writing the pandemic situation in Australia is worsening and travelling between the two countries at the moment comes with a risk of getting stranded and / or being quarantined at either end. This makes it hard to plan anything.

I have been playing around with a free download of AnyRail software recently though and have enjoyed planning hypothetical small layouts. I may do a series of posts on the topic of British Columbia Railway north end themes you could try if you only a small space (and work in N scale). It is likely that any move to Australia would involve apartment living anyway so small space designs are something I am getting more and more used to.

Some offcuts of Erie Lackawanna Microscale decals recently arrived as part of a shipment from overseas so 801 has progressed a bit further.

When I left the project in February I had applied the BCR lettering and had painted remnants of the EL maroon band on the long hood.

Finishing 801 to match prototype photos from 1978 required a delicate process of both applying the EL lettering and lining and then carefully removing bits of it to match the faded paint-peeled effect of the prototype.

The first step was to apply lining and EL lettering to the long hood. I didn’t apply lining the full length of the hood as most of it would be removed later. Ex EL units also had remnant EL markings on the nose and cab battery boxes and the Microscale decal set includes these.

After the decals had thoroughly set I started chipping away the yellow linework and EL lettering on the long hood with a sharp hobby knife. The decals flake off very easily and I also did some additional scraping away of the underlying maroon band. The overall effect is quite pleasing. Using a microbrush I carefully painted over the nose diamond logo with orange paint as this was how most of the BCR units appeared.

While not an exact reproduction of the condition of 801 in 1978 it reproduces the general effect and the distinctive weathering difference between the right and left side of the long hood where the right side had less of the maroon band remaining relative to the left side.

Prototype photos can be seen at links below:



The next step will be weathering which will be a fun process due to the very dirty appearance of the prototype. Unfortunately New Zealand appears to have completely run out of Dullcote, Tamiya Flat Clear (TS80) and all forms of sprayable flat finish so this is hampering a lot of my painting, decalling and weathering projects at the moment.

Just a minor update to the RS-18 build thread to report that the long-awaited PGE map herald decals for 610 recently arrived and were applied this weekend. Thanks go out to Timothy Horton and Phillipe Whyte in Vancouver, Canada for great work on the designing and printing of custom decals such as this for PGE and BCR models. The map herald was applied to the cab sides and is a very distinctive feature of PGE locomotives.

Some light weathering will be applied in and around the new decals to blend them in and then this project can be put aside again.

Both units will need to be updated with more modern mechanisms at some point in the future as the current ones are ancient and really don’t run that well at slow speed. After the arrival of another shipment of Briggs Kits from Canada I now have parts to do a third RS-18 so that will be something to plan for also.

I recently completed several trailer kits which have been a nice diversion from traditional rolling stock. Trailer traffic was a notable feature of the north end of the BCR system during the 1970s. These trailers are built from kits offered by Briggs Models (http://www.briggsmodels.ca/). The completed set includes two 40′ and two 45′ trailers.

These flat deck trailers will offer numerous opportunities to create interesting loads including pipe, lumber, machinery and road vehicles and can be loaded onto prototypically correct TOFC models also offered by Briggs.

The models are resin kits comprising just a few components. They can be easily assembled over a couple of evenings.

Completed models were given an initial coat of Tamiya fine surface primer before final painting.

Trailers were finished with True Line Trains PGE/BCR light green acrylic paint for the frame and wheel hubs. Tires were painted with Tamiya XF85 rubber black and the deck was finished with thin washes of Tamiya XF63 german grey thinned with alcohol. The wash approach really brings out the fine surface texture on the decks.

These models will be put aside for now while I research some suitable and interesting loads to model.

This weekend saw the completion of PGE 216 and BCOL 2501 and 2502. Custom decal application was finished on PGE 216 and BCOL 2501 was renumbered (as it was previously a duplicate 2502) using some suitable dry rub transfer numbers I found in my decal box.

Ready for ballast service (about 10 more cars needed!)

There are many easy ways to make removable ballast loads (and some commercially available ones also). A balsa wood block is always a good option as a base but I elected to use some HO Scale foam road bed offcuts that I had sitting around. They were cut to the dimensions of the gondola interior space and the ends had to be angle-cut on the underside so that the top side was flush. This is a bit tricky to do because the foam obviously squishes and moves when you try to cut it, but with a good sharp blade and some patience it can be done fairly easily. A coat of PVA glue was then applied to the foam and Woodland Scenics fine ballast sprinked on top. A second coat of thinned PVA with a spot of detergent was then applied to the ballast load to bond everything together. A nice feature of these loads is that they are flexible so you can bend them into a slightly humped shape before placing them in the hopper. A small tooth pick is useful for pushing the ends into place (and for removing the load).

Weathering was done using a series of washes of light grey and earth tones. Generally I use Tamiya military modellers acrylic paints thinned with alcohol for this. Weathering powders were then applied to blend the wash effect together Special attention was paid to the ballast chutes with were weathered with a light sand weathering powder to simulate ballast dust, in addition to the general grime coloured powder used on the underframe and trucks.

The oxide red PGE car looks especially good with the mix of weathering shades on it and I am keen to add a few more of these to the fleet in the future.

The only remaining upgrades to these cars will be the eventual replacement of the wheels with metal ones and possible body mounting of couplers. For now this project is complete. This whole project from start to finish was essentially a handful of work sessions over a one week period. I am increasingly becoming a fan of small projects like this where results can be seen in a few work sessions. Fortunately I have a large stash of ready to run and kit rolling stock that I can work on over the autumn and winter months here.

Good progress on the undecorated ballast car this week with a timesaving step discovered on the way. The undecorated car is now PGE 216 which was determined by the last pair of available numbers on my various offcuts of decal sheets

Originally the plan was to prime the model with grey spray primer and then brush paint the model using Polly Scale Special Oxide Red acrylic (my go-to “boxcar red” colour) but I soon realized that a getting brush in and around the end hand railings and steps would be very frustrating so I decided to look for a suitable spray primer of roughly the right red-brown shade to at least make my job easier. I picked up some Tamiya Oxide Red fine surface primer spray paint and after a few coats it became apparent it was actually a very close match for the prototype colour so I just used it as the final colour (saving the brush painting step entirely)

Decals were from offcuts of a custom sheet designed for this very prototype so I was happy to find it in my decal box. Standard decal technique was used which includes brush coating Humbrol Gloss Cote in areas where decals will go. This helps hide the decal film. Micro Sol and Micro Set were used to help set the lettering.

Continuing on small freight car projects, I pulled out these 3 Atlas Hart ballast hoppers from the stock box recently. For ready to run models they are a very good representation of the prototype car which was used to haul a range of loads. I will be using these primarily to simulate ballast traffic. In the 1970s there were regular work trains leaving Fort St John to maintain and upgrade the Fort Nelson subdivision traffic to the north and the ballast pit at Teko south of Fort St John also generated a lot of traffic in its own right.

I have two stock Atlas models in BCOL colours and one undecorated model that was a random lucky find from several years ago. The BCOL models are unfortunately both the same number (2502) so that will need to be rectified, but other than that all they need is some light weathering

The undecorated model will be finished in PGE oxide red with the distinctive map herald. Fortunately I already have a custom decal set for that car so there won’t be anything to hold up the project. The PGE cars did have some minor differences in appearance to the Atlas model but they are relatively minor so I am undecided whether to modify the undecorated car.

I plan on making removable ballast loads for all three cars. I haven’t yet decided how to make these but I expect it will be a fun and inexpensive project.

For a car that was common in the period it is actually quite hard to find prototype reference photographs. On various online searches the best I could find was one in PGE colours sitting at Fort St John in 1978 (Photo Credit: Ross Pugsley).


PGE 8027 Weathering

March 12, 2021

After a series of locomotive conversion projects and freight car kit builds I thought it was time to start weathering a few of the ready-to-run models in the fleet

PGE 8027 is a stock Micro-Trains car that is a reasonable representation of a series of 10 insulated boxcars built in 1969 by National Steel Care and delivered to the PGE in a very distinctive orange colour scheme. There are a few prototype photos of these cars online and they all show the orange faded and weathered with vertical streaks of grime. These cars were a common sight in Fort St John and the first two prototype photos linked below show examples in the early 1980s.




The first stage of the process was to fade the orange slightly using a series of very thin washes of flat white Tamiya acrylic paint thinned with alcohol. The alcohol evaporates quickly meaning that 5 or 6 coats of the white fade mix can be brushed on within an hour. Photos below show the result with the left hand side of the car having received the fade washes and the right hand side untouched.

Panel lines and other raised detail features were picked out using several very thin washes of Tamiya German Grey thinned with alcohol.

The roof was brush painted with a flat light grey to tone down the silver effect on the model.

The next step was to reproduce the very distinctive grey- brown streaks of grime down the car sides and ends. For this, oil paints were used. This was my first time trying oil paints for weathering and it takes some practice but the best part is that oil paints take a long time to dry so any mistakes can easily be wiped off. I mixed a grey-brown oil mix from black, white and burnt sienna oil paints and then painted it over the car liberally.

The weathering effect comes from taking the paint off rather than putting it on. The paint was removed using a combination of soft rags, dry brushing and Q tips. The recesses in and around the grab irons, steps and the doors were hard to remove paint from so an old stiff bristle toothbrush was used to scrub these areas. The result is very pleasing effect where the dark weathering mix sits in the recessed detail areas and a subtle streak effect is visible down the car sides and ends.

The oil paint technique was also applied to the roof after highlighting a few panel areas with burnt sienna and raw umber effects to simulate rust. Because oil paint can actually take a few days to fully dry you will have ample working time to fine tune the effect.

The overall weathering pattern was then refined with sparing application of weathering powders to blend everything together bringing the car to its final appearance as shown below

Eventually this car will be upgraded with body mounted couplers and low profile metal wheels. For now the stock ‘Pizza Cutter’ wheels were replaced with lower profile plastic ones and the stock orange plastic coupler draft gear boxes have been painted black.

C425 Conversion – Part 3

February 28, 2021

801 has progressed nicely over the last couple of weeks despite only having a few free hours to work on it. The underframe was painted using an initial base coat of Tamiya XF-85 (Rubber Black) and a series of washes of XF-63 (German Grey) were applied to pick out the raised detail. One tip with Tamiya acrylic paints I have found is that they thin far better using alcohol than water.

In the previous post I had noted that the Tamiya yellow spray paint used on the ends and underframe sides was a bit too vibrant for the EL shade of yellow. I applied a series of very thin washes of white (Tamiya XF-2) over these areas to fade the yellow. Again the Tamiya white was thinned with alcohol to make a wash and several coats were applied over the course of a day to progressively fade the yellow. The effect is very pleasing and I am looking forward to trying this on some freight cars soon.

The final step was to apply the British Columbia Railway lettering to the cab sides and add the road number to the battery box area below. Microscale provides the correct decals for this on their N scale BCR diesels (1972 – 1994) sheet.

At this point the project will be put aside as I have run out of supplies needed to finish it. Parts needed include Micro Trains couplers and Erie Lackawanna decals from Microscale. As with the the other locomotives in my fleet completed to date (2 RS-18s and 2 RS-3s) decoders will need to be acquired and installed at some point also.

Part 4 of this series will be posted when I obtain the parts needed. For now I have a large selection of unbuilt kits to choose from so the question is whether to start another locomotive project (three M420As using Briggs conversion kits) or maybe do some freight cars.

Recent weeks have seen good progress on 801. With major body shell conversion complete, attention turned to small details and painting. The Briggs kit comes with a set of small detail parts which can be used to complete a C425 in as-delivered ex-EL condition or in the later fully shopped BCR condition. The as-delivered EL units require only a few details as follows (all provided with the C425):

1.Horn cluster bracket installed on cab front above headlights. Life Life horn cluster mounted on this bracket

2.Cab side window sunshades added

3.Long hood carbody filters added behind cab.

Cab detail additions

The Briggs kit provides pilots with footstep which was an early modification to C425 units after delivery. I elected to use a strip of styrene glued to the bottom of the original Life Like pilot as it gives the general appearance of a footstep without having to cut into the existing pilot

A base coat of grey primer (Tamiya fine surface primer) was used as the basic EL grey. This is only an approximate match of EL grey because the final unit will see heavy weathering. Photos of 801 show a slightly darker grey ‘ghost’ band where areas of the EL maroon stripe have been removed.. This was simulated by masking the unit and spraying the long hood with Tamiya TS81 Royal Light Grey from a spray can. Upon removing the masking tape a very subtle band shadow effect is visible along the side of the long hood which is a good foundation to simulate the peeled EL maroon. After masking, the ends of the unit, the sides of the frame and the front and rear hand rails were sprayed with Tamiya spray can Camel Yellow (TS34). This is actually closer in shade to BCR yellow as the EL yellow is quite pale. The yellow will be toned down with weathering washes to reduce its intensity and bring it closer in appearance to the EL shade.

Major painting completed. This was all done using small spray cans of Tamiya paint (a great time savings that I highly recommend – especially for painting yellow!) The “ghost stripe” simulating the faded and peeled EL maroon stripe turned out quite well after masking the base grey and spraying with a slightly darker shade.

The final step of this stage was to simulate the peeling, faded and partially painted out Erie Lackawanna maroon band. The shade of red was chosen visually based on various photos and the closest match available in a local hobby shop was found to be from the MIG military modelling range, specifically, A MIG-0121 Blood Red. This was brushed on in a patched fashion following prototype photos of 801. Further dry brushing was then applied over the patching to blend it in. Photos below show the effect which I tried to match to prototype photos on both sides.