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.

My first project for the new year is a Alco Century 425. The British Columbia Railway acquired twelve of these ex- Erie Lackawanna units in 1976 and they were immediately pressed into service due to a shortage of motive power at the time. As a result, many of these units retained evidence of their Erie Lackawanna colours for several years before they were cycled through the paint shops

The C425s were a common sight on the north end which was four-axle territory exclusively in the 1970s so this project will be a great addition to the fleet. I have selected 801 as a prototype. During my modelling period of 1978 it was still in its original EL grey with rather worn EL lettering as shown at the image links below. I thought this would be fun to reproduce using paint peel weathering techniques and a combination of Microscale BCR and EL decals.

The starting point for this project is the Life Like Alco Century 425. I was lucky enough to stumble up on an undecorated unit in a Calgary hobby shop well over a decade ago and grabbed it for my future project collection. This model runs very well despite its age (the chunky rapido type couplers being a hint as to how old it is). I gave it a good run in and thoroughly cleaned the wheels and it is now one of my best running units.

The ex EL units had a very different carbody appearance than the Life Life model so a replacement bodyshell is needed.. Briggs Models offers a replacement body shell and detail parts. The original Life Like Cab and handrail set is retained so it is actually a relatively straightforward conversion. As with any BCR locomotive project, photos of the particular prototype are recommended as the C425s had several modifications made as the years progressed and these were not always the same across all units.

The Briggs conversion kit comes with a set of instructions but I recommend (if you have access to it) following the article written by T. Horton in the January-February, 2008 edition of N Scale Magazine. This is a step-by-step guide with model and prototype photos that makes the conversion easy and enjoyable. As such I do not provide an exhaustive descriptions of the steps here, just a summary.

Out of the box the Life Like C425 has very pleasing dimensions and, as mentioned earlier, runs very smoothly once given a good run-in and wheel clean. The first step is to disassemble the major parts. There is some minor filing required to the metal frame but it is not too arduous.

With frame filing complete, the Briggs body shell was fit to the frame. Generally the fit is pretty good although a little work may be needed to get the cab to sit nice and flush with the frame. At this stage, the bulk of the conversion is actually done, with just a few more detail parts to install

Next steps are finalizing the remaining details and getting a coat of primer on in preparation for final painting.

BCOL 606 and PGE 610 now completed bringing the motive power roster to four

This week saw the completion of weathering and final details on both 606 and 610 which (for now) brings this project to a close. PGE 610 still needs custom decals made for the cab side map heralds and both units will need to be upgraded with a modern DCC friendly chassis as the current ones are ancient and their running qualities (under DC) are terrible compared with the RS-3s which use the still-old-but-not-ancient ‘Atlas Classic’ mechanisms

Due to the remoteness of New Zealand and lack of local suppliers, I typically do one big import order a year from North America so this year’s order will likely include replacement chassis for these two units.

Weathering for 606 was done using the same approach as used for 610 but a lighter touch was used as 606 represents a unit that would have been repainted from PGE to BCR branding within the previous 5 or 6 years. As with 610, a mix of washes and weathering powders were used.

Glazing was done using Canopy Glue (this was a suggestion from a local military modelling hobby shop) and it does work quite well for N scale cabs. The glue is applied to window openings with a toothpick and by dragging around the window edges, surface tension will fill the window opening and the glue will dry clear.

I found I needed to do a second application as sometimes the tension would break as the glue dried and create small holes in the glue film. The plastic glazing inserts from an original model will always be preferable but in this case existing parts would only be available for the cab side windows. The canopy glue method is also far less tedious and frustrating than attempting to glue hand-cut squares of clear acetate sheet behind the window openings. This is something I did on 3 resin caboose kits and I would prefer to never do it again!)

Note.. the glazing step must be done after all weathering has been completed and sealed with dullcote (or flat clear equivalent) as applying a flat seal over the canopy glue would likely cause it to fog.

Images below show the completed units from various angles and also include some images of a four unit consist where they have been posed with previously completed RS-3s. Prototype photos from the period show that with regard to consisting, anything seemed to be fair game on the 4-axle north end subdivisions, with various combinations of RS-18s, RS-3s, M420s and C425s all cobbled together in lively lash-ups.

PGE 610 in fully weathered glory with 606 waiting its turn.

The last few weeks have seen the completion of decals on both units, the addition of some detail parts and completion of weathering on 610. PGE 610 is still missing the map herald on the sides of the cab as it now looks that these will have to be custom made decals. I had an assortment of PGE map heralds in my decal stash and was optimistic that one of them would fit but they are all much too large unfortunately. For now I am moving ahead without them as it will not be a huge deal to add them later and blend them in to the weathering which has already been completed

The horn and bell cluster on the cab is a very distinctive feature on the RS-18 and fortunately I had some suitable parts available from a previous project. The horns and bells are Miniatures by Eric brass parts which I took from a couple of CRS-20 shells I completed back in 2013. After scraping off the BC rail red from those parts they were mounted on the cab and painted light green. The side cab window sunshades are Gold Medal model parts and were also taken from the CRS-20 shells, stripped of red paint and repurposed.

Weathering on 610 was done in a series of stages and I am quite happy with the results. I aimed for a fairly restrained weathering finish but after looking at lots of prototype photos it was obvious that most units ended up in filthy state.

I used a thin black acrylic paint wash to pick out the recessed details and a thin grey wash to dial down the intensity of the yellow on the pilots and handrails. A thicker black wash was used on each side of the vertical handrail stanchions. This has the effect of visually shrinking them and from a normal viewing distance you would almost think they are fine wire details.

Bragdon black weathering powder was applied liberally to the top of the long hood and brushed down over the sides as per prototype photos. A microbrush was used to apply weathering powder in vertical streaks between the carbody side doors as this is quite a distinctive prototype weathering pattern.

Finally, Tamiya Weathering Master powders (Item 87079) were used on the pilots. I used the ‘Mud’ powder primarily. It is slightly less intense than the Bragdon powders and can be built up in very subtle layers. It is also more of a grey/brown colour so it doesn’t overwhelm the yellow pilots like the black does.

The next step will be to weather 606 using the same techniques. 606 will have slightly less severe weathering as it will represent a unit that had been repainted within the last 6 or 7 years, whereas PGE 610 represents a well worn unit by 1978.

Photos below show completed weathering on 610 and it is quite a contrast from the currently pristine 606

BCR 606 Decals largely complete with PGE 610 not far behind

This week saw good progress with additional painting and application of decals to BCR 606 and PGE 610.

Additional painting involved applying a dark grey (Tamiya German Grey) to the top of the long and short hood (and the cab roof of the PGE unit). The application was based on prototype photos and received information on general paint schemes of the time. The prototype roof colour would have been black but I went with a dark grey to simulate paint fading. Liberal application of black weathering powders will give a black appearance eventually anyway.

Additional painting was applied to the carbody filter in the form of several washes of thinned black paint to bring out the details. At this point the two locomotives looked quite smart and the different two tone green treatment on the cab of the BCR and PGE unit adds a nice bit of variety.

Decals were applied using the available Microscale decal set #60-783 (British Columbia Railway Diesels, 1972 -1984). As with the RS-3s completed last year, the white lining was the most challenging but with patience (and use of a magnification visor) I was able to get it on nice and (relatively) straight.

BCR 606 decals are largely complete in these photos. Microscale does not offer the exact PGE map herald and numbering font for RS-18s of this period, but I have a collection of other PGE decals that may be close enough to do the job.

After decals are fully completed there will be some additional detailing applied and some adjustments to the handrails to get them to sit neatly. Then it will be on to the weathering stage which should be fun based on the state of some of these locomotives in prototype photos.