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J. Palacio

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Train in a box #2

The following set is the one I made in July 2009. This time I wanted make it small as possible in “Z” scale, but no so small that could look like a Merry-go-round. It should fit in a wooden stationary box 8½” x 11” x 1½” high, interior dimensions that mean a regular size letter paper.
I wanted to show a lot of rock formations so the eye will be catch by the scenery and not by the tiny track, and I think I got what I expected. I made a bird eye sketch with the idea I had, but later I had to remove the high rocks above the track level because they won’t fit in the box.

For the track I used a single section of “Peco” flexible track, 26” long, welding both ends together to form an small oval 6 ½” x 9” and a 3 1/8” radii. In order to weld the track in the right way I had to trim the inner rail and connect both ends together with track joiners and to secure the track over a plywood piece with push pins until weld was done and cooled. Also the wire feeders had to be welded at that time. I think this is the most important part of the job, if the tracks are not joined well or if it has a kink, the trains won’t run.

The layout drawing was made on a regular letter paper and I transferred the design to a 5/8” thick board of blue Styrofoam, which is the type used as thermal insulation on walls. This material is different than the white Styrofoam; the cells are smaller, the material is more compact and you can carve it easily with an exacto knife, a small surform file and sandpaper. The bad news is that all the debris and dust will stick everywhere, to the walls, floor, and furniture, up to your face and even to the interior of your nose. So I did this job in the back yard and the wind spreaded all the dust on my grass, and on my neighbors' grass.

After I was happy with the shape and rugged terrain, I applied a couple of coats of a spray matte primer. I wasn’t too happy with the results because it would not cover enough, besides, it leaves a shinny surface. I painted over with beige acrylic, and it looked nicer. After that I stuck it to a ¼” plywood base with hot glue. That was wrong again, the glue is too thick and leaves a gap between the Styrofoam and the plywood which I had to fill with plaster. I also applied plaster to some areas of the ravine, in order to carve thinner erosion lines and in some missing areas of the roadbed and concrete bridges. When dry I carved all the details, sanded the plastered areas and painted with different color tones all the surfaces. I crushed some loose pieces of dry plaster, small enough to looks as erosion rocks, painted with diluted acrylic paint and glue down in the ravine and at base of the cliff sides. I also added some beach sand for the smaller rocks and the sand banks.

Then I glued down the track with white glue. I had to secure the track with head pins because it tends to form a circle and not and oval. Next I applied the ballast stone over the track so it will adhere to the glue, and hold the track firmly to the Styrofoam until the glue dries. It was time for the grass, so I painted the upper areas of the terrain with white glue and spread the crushed foam ground cover to simulate the grass, after that I glued down the bushes (Landscaping Learning Kit LK954 from “Woodland Scenic”), and placed the trees.

For the buildings I made in the computer the designs in Photoshop Elements, and printed them in card paper. I Cut them out and glued it together, making cuts for the windows and doors to open a little, and painted the interior of the buildings with a dark acrylic paint.
Why do I paint the interiors? Because I wanted to install some lighting in the buildings, otherwise the light would go thru the paper. This way I make the paper to look opaque and the light goes out only thru the open windows and doors.

The terrain and track looks terrific, but the cardboard buildings are not so great. The walls with open doors and windows look fine, but the tile roof looks plain, maybe would look better if the roof was made of “corrugated metal” styrene sheet (Evergreen Scale Models”) painted in orange. The trains runs good but the pulled cars got loose several times on the thigh curves.

Trying to re-rail the locomotive.

Aerial view

Close up of the Marklin Railbus #8112

Another aerial view

The layout in the box.

Close ip of the Station Buildings.

Closeup of the Marklin Class 381 Switcher with a passenger car I made.

In future postings I will explain how I made the red and yellow passenger car sides and the buildings.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Train in a Box #1

About 3 years ago I bought 3 sets of “Tomy” ( Tomix) "N" scale “Super Mini Rail Set Oval Layout Set” (item #91080), I ordered thru an internet store which import items directly from Japan. Each set was an oval of 9” x 14 ¼” (4 1/8” radii curved sections) and cost me about $24 per set.
(Double click on images to enlarge)

On January 2007 my cousin Andres was going back to Canada, and I wanted to give him a present to take it back home. I thought it was a good idea to make a train layout together so we could spent some time doing teamwork.
It had to be a layout he could carry with him on the plane, so I decided we can use one of the “mini” track sets to fit it in a small wood box. The box I found was an old hinged box used to carry ceramic tile samples, it was 10 ¾”x 15 ½” x 1 ¾” high, interior dimensions, big enough for Tomy track.

For the base, I cut a ¼” plywood piece and draw the oval track shape, the location of the building, the rocks and the road with a thin pencil line. Then I glued down some plaster rock castings that I made with a rubber mold, and filled the gaps with more plaster. I carved some crevices with an exacto knife so the rocks will look more natural, and then paint them with a diluted dark brown acrylic paint. Those acrylic paints are the ones that come in small plastic bottles of 2 oz (Americana, Delta Ceramcoat, Plaid, etc ) and cost about $1 or $2 each

At one corner of the board I placed a piece of plywood with a drill hole, over some wood blockings, for the future placement of a female plug on that hole.

After that I brushed some acrylic paint on the board (light brown) and when dry, I applied white glue (Elmer’s white glue) in order to attach ground cover to simulate grass and bushes. I bought a Landscaping Learning Kit (LK954) from “Woodland Scenics” that has seven little bags of colored grinded material.

I also added some trees that came in another kit from the same manufacturer mentioned above, and a plaster casting of a Cuban Farmer’s Hut (Bohio) that I carved about 20 years ago and made a rubber mold in order to have some castings. It was painted also with diluted acrylic colors.
Then I installed the Tomy track also with white glue and placed the completed model in the wood box.

The trains are USA railroad lines, so this are looking somehow out of place, if we think we are supposed to make a layout representing a Cuban countryside.
Conclusion: Looks nice and compact but just a few locomotives and cars could run on this small radius track.

This is a close up of the trees and tobacco fields:

The farm with the Bohio:

The corner with the plug feeder: