I’ve been busy with a slew of RR projects recently, mostly completing a series of kits. There were three Branchline 50′ NP boxcars in the dark green w/ white stripe scheme, one Intermountain GN boxcar in “bankruptcy blue”, and one Red Caboose Milwaukee Road flatcar. There’s a few more still in-progress: a Red Caboose “Bear Creek Vineyards” (yeap, just couldn’t resist that one) reefer car, and a Front Range Milwaukee Road centerbeam flat car which is quite cool (reporting marks still need to be decaled on):
Since the GN boxcar was dated to ’69 (the last year the NP existed), I sprayed it with hi-gloss to give it that ‘fresh-from-the-RR-paint-shops’ look. An Atlas caboose from the same year got the same hi-gloss treatment, along with my whole fleet of NP passenger cars, to prepare them for decaling. I thinned the hi-gloss 50/50 with floquil thinner and airbrushed it at 35psi. I think next time I will use a lower pressure and a more gloss-rich mix. Maybe like 20psi and 75/25 gloss/thinner. I got decent results with the cars standing upright as the paint went on, but in a few spots I got a little trigger happy trying to get it shiny enough, and that did cause some subtle pooling at the bottom edge when the thicker paint was drawn there by gravity. The surface texture came out mostly smooth but there were a few spots where ‘gunk’, presumably dust or debris from older paint residues, did show up. I need to clean out the airbrush. Again, not bad, but I want to avoid that kind of thing as much as possible. Perhaps lower pressure might help there…
A few observations about the kits: cutting parts off the sprue is the most dangerous part. I used a very sharp razor, and there were still parts that broke apart as I tried to cut them free. The Intermountain kit was the most forgiving with this and the Branchline kits were the most fragile. Best advice I can give is place the sprue on a flat tabletop and whenever possible, lay it so that the piece you’re cutting off is making contact with the tabletop, so it can’t bend or flex. Use a sawing motion on delicate parts and use the sharpest blade you can. Cutting away extraneous bits of the sprue to give better access is something I do a lot.
The Intermountain kit was the easiest to build overall, and the Red Caboose reefer car was the most laborious. It’s just a gajillion parts. Some of which beg the question, why did they not mold this part into the roof? Red Caboose also likes to make you drill out holes so that grabirons will fit in. I really hate that. Yes, technically that gives you a better adhesion because you effectively remove the paint from that area. But man, it’s a pain. Intermountain and Branchline don’t force you to do that, and those kits stay in one piece just fine.
A few tips for any fellow kit builders: anywhere you see the words “pin-vise”, forget about the pin-vise and use a “yankee screwdriver” aka spiral hand drill (pictured atop the MILW flat). They are literally 2-5 times faster and just as effective. I despise the pin-vise with a passion and plan to never ever use one again. Also, using CA adhesive (aka cyanoacrylate aka super glue) to build kits will leave behind ugly, white, chalky residue. CA bonds the fastest, and I do use it in places where warped plastic parts might demand a hard and fast bonding. My local hobby shop guy talked me into trying out this styrene adhesive (which ONLY bonds plastic-to-plastic). I didn’t have good luck with it. The stuff evaporates nearly instantaneously after you brush it on, and it works by actually ‘melting’ a small bit of the plastic. In theory that should give the best bond possible, but in my experience, it didn’t work that well. I was able to pull off grabirons the next day, which should not be possible. Maybe the painting on the (Intermountain) kit may have gotten in the way, but again, scraping paint off adds another step, and we hate adding steps. And the styrene adhesive has fumes.
Cutting to the chase, the best glue in my opinion is called “Gator Glue”. It behaves a lot like good old Elmer’s white glue that you used to make macaroni artwork in kindergarden, only it dries up clear. This glue is the most forgiving for exposed areas like single grabirons on the side of cars. Best part about Gator Glue? Not only does it dry transparent, it’s non-toxic. No more noxious fumes and headaches. Just say NO to that masochism. Building kits is a masochistic enough activity as it is. I once made myself quite ill by supergluing in a poorly ventillated hotel room. Those toxic vapors do have consequences, and it’s worth it to avoid them.
Gator Glue can be ordered online direct from the guy who makes it. Buy a lot and support him because it’s an awesome product. Skip the precision applicator, which must be cleaned every time (and mine STILL got clogged). Just use a wooden toothpick to apply tiny dabs of glue. A box of 100+ cost me $1 at the grocery store.