Flat Car Decks and Lumber Stacks

Some ongoing activities on the Northern Pacific Project:

Rolling Stock Weathering

I bought some Pan Pastels last month and was hoping they’d allow better weathering results than I’ve enjoyed. I’ve read good things about them from folks who’ve used them and the results look good. Model Railroad Hobbyist has a pay video service where the pastels are used and there are some videos on the Net. I haven’t seen the MRH videos, and the ones freely available were uneven.

NPP Pan pastel

I prefer my weathering supplies to be ‘extra sauve’.

My go-to weathering method has been powdered stick pastels applied with brushes, and while underframes are OK, sides and tops give me problems. I decided to have a go with the Pan’s with cars as they came off the layout after operating sessions.

I like them. The various applicators and the fact the powder is mixed with a binding agent allows a high degree of control. And a little bit goes a long way, especially in N. Weathering rolling stock isn’t high on my list of fun hobby times, but the Pan’s make the job more enjoyable.

Weathered and unweathered gondolas:

NPP weathered unweathered gondolas

Flat Car Decks

Along with weathering cars I’ve been looking at flat car decks, or how to improve them. About a third of the NPP’s car fleet are flat cars, and it could use a few more. Flat car decks are highly visible, and there are a lot of them on the NPP. I tried using printed texture on a couple of flats a while back, and while I thought the appearance was improved, the color balance was too light.

Since the cars were going through the weathering mill anyway, I decided to have another go at the decks. After reviewing videos and photos I decided my skills weren’t up to hand-weathering flat car decks to any convincing degree. I turned to another preferred modeling method in printed textures.

Some time ago I purchased a fence model from Clever Models. They specialize in cardstock models and printed textures, and it occurred to me the fence might make a good starting point for a flat car deck.

NPP old fence

The fence in the background

I opened the file and a couple of graphics programs and got busy. The first effort wasn’t quite what I was looking for:

NPP Flat car deck test 1

I printed the texture on plain paper and cut to size. After letting the cars sit for a few days, I decided that while an improvement over molded plastic, it wasn’t quite there. I scaled the resolution so the board texture would print out at about 6″ wide N-scale, then used various settings for hue, saturation, and gamma to make test articles.

NPP Flat car deck test 2

The lower car is one of the earlier efforts

NPP Flat car deck test 3

NPP Flat car deck test 4

I let each batch sit for a few days while I got a feel for how the textures looked. Some were glaringly wrong. What very few images of prototype flat car decks I found showed the wood much lighter than might be expected.

After selecting a couple of acceptable deck shades, I added NBW detail with a suitable rusty brown color. At this level the eye can’t tell a square pixel from a round bolt. I also cut up and rearranged the texture for variety. Some flatcars aren’t decked over bolsters and draft gear, so I made some decks to reflect that. I debated whether to add stake holes to the textures, but decided for this iteration I’d just open them with a knife tip before inserting the stakes.

Rather than glue the textures down as I’d done last time, I wanted to try using sticker paper. This is just what it sounds like: paper on which stickers are printed. I got the idea from an ad I saw in MRH from an outfit that does exactly this: sells sticker textures of flatcar decks. I do not know anything about them or their product other than I saw the ad. And I thought I’d give the idea a try.

After setting the printer and software to the highest resolution, I printed test sheets on plain paper to check that everything was correct. The sticker paper isn’t cheap, and this type of printing sucks up ink.

NPP Flat car deck paper proofs

NPP Flat car deck paper proofs bolster

NPP Flat car and deck

NPP clamping flat car deck

NPP flat car decks installed 1

Three ‘new’ cars and and an ‘old’ one

NPP flat car decks installed 2

NPP flat car deck installation comparison

Decked and undecked cars

I think it’s an improvement, although the shade still looks too light. We’ll see what some weathering  and a shot of Dullcote will do.

Cheney Lumber

I’ve been working on the lumber stacks for Cheney Lumber, and have done all I care to do:

NPP Lumber stacks and flat cars

Only the perimeter stacks in the foreground drying shed are modeled, but all of the stacks on the loading pad are individually assembled and wrapped. There’s another half-cup of cores left, but I think the effect is convincing enough. After aligning and gluing the stacks, only the drying shed and pouring the water remain.

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