Saturday, 3 August 2019

Imagine all the people (with apologies to the Beatles)

I mentioned in my "what's the intent?" post that I think people are the reason railroads exist. In 1895  people were much more connected to rail transport than they are today. The train was 'the' way you travelled any long distance. If you were going on holiday, travelling for business or shipping goods, you used the train. One way I've tried to capture this aspect of turn of the century life is by populating the layout with figures and animals.

I'm really blessed that my father's hobby is painting wargaming miniatures, particularly from the American Civil War and Old West eras. Because of this, he very generously paints all manner of figures for my layout and I think he does a superb job.

Dad uses Humbrol matt paints almost exclusively and patiently hand paints each figure. He works in batches, painting various figures in stages, working through the flesh colours, then various parts of the clothing. His hand is far steadier and more accurate than mine, allowing him to add fine details like check shirts, flowers in headdresses and in some cases, even pupils in the figure's eyes.

A pack track from Musket Miniatures Rustic Rails line.

A mixture of Blue Moon, Knuckleduster, AC Stadden and Musket Miniatures figures make up the inhabitants of Cass.

Figures and horses from Musket Miniatures work at the Teresaton livery stables.

Many store-bought, prepainted figures can appear flat and featureless. Dad uses a dry brushing technique to highlight details, bringing the figure to life. Dry brushing makes ruffles in a dress, cresses in a suit, buttons, or even individual fingers on a hand, far more apparent.

Dry brushing is also a really good way of adding dirt and dust to a figure, most people today, let alone in the Old West, don't look like they have just stepped out of a clothing shop.

By using matt paints, Dad also avoids the unrealistic sheen of many prepainted figures. At a distance, even shiny surfaces are not as glossy as they close up.  Our models are generally viewed from several hundred scale feet away, so it can be appropriate to tone the colour intensity and sheen down. Subsequently, Dad's figures fit naturally into the scenery.

TOC19 children by A C Stadden, outside Teresaton school.

A cougar stalks on the cliff tops. This was a 3D printed miniature from Shapeways.

Bank robbers encounter lawmen at a bank heist by Blue Moon Miniatures.
Over the last ten years, Dad has painted several different brands of turn of the century figures. The majority of my figures come from Musket Miniatures Rustic Rails product line. The business changed hands several years ago and unfortunately, the new owner has not continued to offer the rustic rails line on their website. I understand they acquired all the moulds, though I have not enquired as to if they plan to produce any.

I also have figures from Blue Moon miniatures. These are 15mm wargaming figures and are a little small for HO. However, interspersed with other brands, help vary the average height of the population.

AC Stadden makes several lines of fantastic Edwardian and Victorian civilian people in everyday and fancy dress. They are beautifully detailed and paint very well. They are quite fine, or slim, which also helps with the variety of body shapes in the population.

By far the most impressive figures we've seen are those on offer from Knuckleduster Miniatures. Sculptor Forrest Harris has made masters using 3D printing, which he uses to cast the lead-free pewter miniatures. The detail is finer than anything else we've seen in HO Scale figures.  Buckles, individual fingers, facial expressions, and eye details are just par for the course in Knuckledusters figures.
Musket Miniatures figure on the left, Knuckleduster on the right.

Two TOC19 figures by A C Stadden, with two Blue miniatures figures in the background.

The most recent census of the layout revealed there are 270 people on the layout. If you were to add all the cattle, horses, and wild animals like bison, elk, moose, skunks and coyotes, the final tally would easily be close to 350. Some may say this is too many. I have thought this myself at times. However, I believe it really gives the impression there are bustling towns and industries that need the railroad to survive.

Some modellers have a preference for figures or animals in at rest poses as opposed to active poses. The thinking is that figures in action poses are frozen in that position forever like some fairy tale nightmare and may appear unrealistic.

I don't mind the frozen action. I find it helps convey the story of what life was like in 1895. Visitors to the layout tend to be drawn in by the detail. Their intrigue shows they are quite accepting of the fact they are frozen in time, they have fun looking for the story in the scene.

Wagon teamsters by Knuckleduster Miniatures.
Thanks, Dad for making such a huge contribution to the layout. Truly, without the figures, I believe the layout would not have the impact or the interest it does.

AC Stadden54
Blue Moon57
Musket Miniatures93

Saturday, 15 June 2019


As part of a prior post on the Maastrecht's Mill project, I explained how I added several dirt roads around the sawmill and town of Cass.

One road runs perpendicular to the railroad, past the sawmill and disappears into the forested backdrop. I tried to paint the road with some single point perspective to it, so it appears the road has some distance to it. This was partially aided by blending the rock cutting on the layout into the backdrop.

I'm not an artist, but I'm happy with the effect as a first attempt.

A stacked photo looking down the road. A small wagon train is making its way into town. The two fellas driving the green wagon are from Knuckleduster miniatures. 

The road also extends around and into the town of Cass. I used a darker brown colour to give the feel of damp earth. I wanted it to feel like it had rained not so long ago and the road is a but muddy. I may yet add some puddles by brushing on some gloss medium in low laying areas.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Improving Bachmann's old time cars

The turn of the century modeller is not spoilt for choice when it comes to ready to run locomotives or rolling stock models.

There are a number of very nice kits made by manufacturer's specialising in turn of the century equipment. However, I do not own any of them. One-third of my rolling stock is made up of Bachmann old time cars. When I started out in turn of the century modelling all I had was four Bachmann old-time freight cars and three passenger cars. I was able to find more of these 34' freight cars for sale second hand to grow my rolling stock fleet. Most cost between NZ$8-12  per car.

Thoroughfare Gap Railroad
Rolling stock by manufacturer
ManufacturerNumber of each%
Grand Total51100%

Most of the Bachmann freight cars are flat cars or gondolas and the detailing is more toy-like. Even so, a little weathering goes a long way in making these cars look better. Over time, I've painted and weathered the decks to look like grey weathered wood and some added custom decals.

To get the cars to run reliably, I replaced the thickly moulded trucks with Walthers proto arch-bar trucks and wheelsets. In doing so I also body mounted the couplers.  I find body mounted couplers much less likely to derail when shoving a string a of cars while switching.

Even after all these improvements, the height of the cars has still bothered me. The car body itself is quite thick as it accommodates a metal plate to give the car enough weight to track well. In addition to this, the cars bolsters are quite high, meaning the car body sits high on the trucks. All this means these cars are obviously taller when sitting next to other cars on the layout.

I decided to try lowering these cars and I'm quite pleased with the results. I filed down the bolsters leaving enough clearance for the trucks and wheelsets to pivot over rough track. I also removed the metal weight. This allowed the plastic shell to fit slightly lower over the plastic underbody.

Bachmann Old-time gondolas, the lowered car is on left, original on the right. Side by side, the height difference is very noticeable. The plastic stirrups have been cut off to be replaced by metal ones. 

The only problem now was the lack of weight. I cut out a section of the plastic underbody frame and filled it with lead shot until the cars achieved the desired weight. The lead shot was glued in place with PVA glue.

So far, I've lowered two of these cars, but they appear to be tracking around the layout just fine. I'll be slowly working my way through the roster.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Blog housekeeping

I've been going through old posts and updating the labels for each post to make them easier to find. Unfortunately, when I've done this I appear to have updated each post, rather than simply saving the changes.

If you follow by email, I fear Blogger may have sent you an email for each of these old posts I have updated. My apologies for the confusion.

On the other hand, it may be a great way to see rerun some old content.

Thanks for your patience.

Bachmann 4-4-0 new tooling repainted

I ordered two of the new bachmann 4-4-0 with sound at the beginning of the year. I was keen to have a reasonably accurate model of the Union Pacific's 119 but felt the wine colour of the model was too brown for my taste. I ordered a 119 model and I've now completed a new paint and decaling job and I'm quite happy with the results.

A big thanks to John Ott for making his decals available on his website, I modified his decals to fit my bachmann model. John based his decals on the colour scheme researched by Jim Wilke and Jon Davis, which you can find at

I followed the rendering by Jon Davis to come up with the overall paint scheme.

Stock loading ramps

Both the towns I have modelled on my layout have stock pens. Shipping livestock is a big part of the business on the thoroughfare gap railroad.

Each town has a trackside corral though, neither had a way of loading the livestock on and off the trains. I've been meaning to make up some loading ramps for several years now but somehow, I've never got around to it.

Recently I discovered a seller on Trade me, the NZ version of eBay, selling some stock loading ramps as 3d printed kits. I purchased four and the went together really easily.
After a little paint and some weathering with soft pastels, they were ready for the layout.

The corral at Cass and the two loading ramps in position. It's great to finally have these little details to complete the scene.

Running the kitbashed 2-6-0

In my earlier post about my kitbashed 2-6-0 I promised I'd 'do a video of it someday'. I've finally got around to making one and posting it to my YouTube channel. You can watch it below.

I've experimented using a voiceover to explain some aspects of the project, which is a departure from my previous subtitle only videos.