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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Articles & Blogs


John Kellett

A few days ago, I received an email from one of my Yahoo groups, which I would like to share and see what your thoughts are.  Though the modeler in question does not model in Z, he is into model railroading.  The email in its entirety is below in black font and the sender's name removed.  John

Hi all, 

Two years ago,  I was putting in maybe 5-10 hours per kit or kit-bashed N Scale Structure.  This including some air misting, detailing and even putting in floors with multiple lights.

I was heading over 20 hours per model with roof and other interior/exterior detailing, when I came upon a fellow Model Railroader who was getting out...Citing the hobby was taking too much  time (and money) away from his family. I bought his tools, which includes a fine array, purchased from around the world. Over 100 micro drills. He was easily spending 50+ hours per structure. He had created his own jigs for gluing.

I began to do the same, mostly to fit and finish and aligning all parts perfectly before applying any glue. No gaps, all set at 90 degree angles...etc.  Absolutely no glue showing inside or out.  What took me one evening now took me days into weeks.  I began to buy my nail files at the Dollar Store and every week at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon.

I then began to whittle in Miller Engineering signs, and my structures began to have a layered affect with a 3 Dimensional quality...with indented balconies and entry ways. I was heading into months to complete one model and was near 100 hours per model.

I then began to plan models, taking several small bits and pieces from several kits. Mostly from second-hand glued up kits. My only visits to real LHS and Train Stores was for scratch building supplies. Perhaps buying upwards of 20-40 built (used) kits in a box for $50, then taking them all back down to their many components.  Can take me upwards of 3 months to set aside the needed parts, before I even begin the model. I began to measure original buildings for a more prototype rendition. Finding that often an HO Scale foot print to a given structure was still at 80% to the footprint presented even in N scale.  I began to put N Scale Doors and Windows into scratch built/kit-bashed structures which might look normal to some people as to their size on an HO Scale Layout. 

Example > My fire house is uses two N Scale Fire houses to produce one  model; and yet it is still about 80% Compression. My Downtown Hotel uses three Life/Like Downtown Hotels.  Then i got worse.  I am now going around picking up anything which I might be able to use in N Scale. Acrylic what-evers from places like Tap Plastics or from the shelves of Thrift Shops. Not just plastic or even wood, but varieties of metal. 

At about this time, I began to get the notion of why an Artist never shows his work till 100% completed.  And Oops!  An obsessive-compulsive trait began to seep through in my behavior. I would find myself into a model at over 20 hours, then !??! decide to start completely over....Cause I knew I could do much better from the Git Go on a Second or even 7th attempt.

>> Took seven attempts to cut a thin strip of Miller Engineering material then bend it around a curve for a Theater to look like Neon Lighting..Then...actually get it to light, after it had been glued in place....And still light up the next week.

The I began to step it up again with modeled foundations.  And worse...Lighting. Even lighting the basement of a model.

I began to incorporate Fiber Optic lighting for subtle affects and have used a number board for street address on an N Scale House. A year later it is still working...but I have yet to complete that model.  LED's on rheostats. Woodland Scenics and a another system just hit the market but before them...I was making my own on PC boards.

Smooth transitions between joined pieces by using a variety of tools and jigs for gluing and setting up along with a lot of fine nail files and sanding paper upwards to 800 grit. Joined walls without the need for ivy or a downspot/drain.  I am now incorporating indented El Wire and experimenting with back lighted names on building...

I am nearly afraid that I will be making my own Miller Engineering Signs Soon'.  I am already at the point where I am creating my own flower beds from the 50% off sales at Hobby Lobby from their flower sections with a fine cutting X-acto blade. And putting them together with a tweezers like  a fly fisherman. Needle tips of super glue.   I went to creating scene dioramas on a module/sabot board. and incorporating more than one Miller Engineering sign into one building, along with fiber optics, LED's and El Wire. 

One model has just tipped over 200 hours.  Then I stopped and went Cold Turkey on my structures. Pushed myself away from my modeling desk.

Why?  Needed the break for one...but also...For me to continue...into older age...I need a better work bench.  More lighting, easier access, TV/Internet hook-up with plenty of Hot Tea standing by. A better more comfortable environment.

And the truth be known...I began to scare myself. Takes a lot of concentration for a 200 hour model, sort of like movie with Charleston Heston where while painting the Sisten Chapel (The Agony and the Ecstasy) he falls from the scaffold. Yes,  I believe I drove myself to sickness.  And my hands began to hurt and spasm.

Yes, I found my limit and it's just a bit beyond 200 hours for one model, even if stretched out over several days. There is a point in my endeavors where i must quit a model and put it to the side..Even if not yet completed.

Just wondering if anyone else has found themselves sanding on ONE model after 200 hours, where your sense comes back and you say enough? (at least for now and several days to come).  What is the longest time you have spent on one model? Whether completed or not.

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Micro-Trains 2 Story Barracks Build by

These Micro Trains kits are nice, real nice. A few nights build timeguild 09 02 d08 and you have a piece for that micro sized layout. No major surgery involved just plain fun.

guild 09 01 51To start this build we followed the instructions and sealed the card with dull coat. Sealing the card protects it from the acrylic pains. We painted the trims and foundation grey. When dry we cut out and glued these to the wall sections while still unassembled. Add the glazing to the backs of the walls at this time.

Put together the interior frame and foundation pieces, let set. While propping the walls in place glue the side walls to the frame and foundation.

guild 09 01 d005To keep the foundation flat while gluing we clamped it to a straight edge. Let everything dry completely.

guild 09 01 d011With all the porch and ladder pieces painted we started adding these to the end walls. This was done to make the task easier, adding these to the walls upright would be an unnecessary challenge.

guild 09 01 d012Time to glue the end walls on, I tell ya these brass weights are real nice. Definitely worth much more then the scrap we pulled them from.

guild 09 01 d015When all is ready we added the roof panels to the building. run a small bead of glue around the tops of the walls to place this on, make sure to wipe off access glues (the excess is unmistakable in the final product).

guild 09 02 d06Cut our the printed roofing to fit the panels and glue on. Make sure to scrape the paper with a hard plastic card.

Ron Pare

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Micro-Trains Farmers Co-op Build by

100 0856I am definitely getting better at Z-Scale. Another Micro-Trains kit, I am liking these more and more with each build. It is a nice two night-er, and I suggest, a nice sit down with the podcast, Model Rail Cast Show and enjoy the build.

100 0860Its not a matter of sight for me, but more of a knowing how to do it, makes all the difference. We know this kit would look great in any era or location you can come up with.

The kit is wood, with some sticky back sheets.

100 0862Building the main deck first, add the support posts and let the thinly laid glue set good. Then attach the cross bents gently to the posts.

100 0872To put the stairs together, the hardest part is getting the first bent on. I put a dab of ca on to grab it. Then followed up with some yellow glue on a toothpick. Add the steps by taking the backing off the step and sticking it to the knife blade and placing in the stringer, starting at the top step.

100 0875 Next we attach the steps to the deck, again using a toothpick, Let dry.

100 0884Painting the different parts, as you can see is a breeze. Pick your color and stick tot he parts you want painted before you even remove them from the sheet. We painted the walls tan, and the trim pieces brown. Let all the components dry completely before moving on, as we want all the pieces rigid  when attaching the trim pieces.

100 0887Again using the knife, stick the window frame to the blade and attach to the wall carefully.

100 0888Attaching the glazing is pretty simple, I cut a pretty big square and glued it on with yellow glue. Same with the big sliding doors, yellow glue. The doors we added in the slight open position.

100 0889Raising the walls one at a time, we first dabbed a wee bit of glue at the bottom of the wall to stick it in place. Add the second wall and seal the corner. Following the same procedure for each remaining wall.

To finish off the model we added the utilities boxes to the outside wall.  We glued on the roof sections, leaving the sticky side up for the roofing paper.

Ron Pare

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Micro-Trains Grain Tower Build by

guild 2009 may 18 025Oh I can feel it, the empire is growing. Granted it is Z scale yet that diminishes nothing in the eyes of my children.

The grain tower kit is made by Micro-Trains. Each time I try out a MT kit I find myself dreaming of large landscapes and industry. Z scale the under represented king in Space Savings is here, and here to stay.

The kit is made from laser cut and scribed micro plywood. The plywood makes it pretty darn solid. Warping is an issue I don't remember seeing yet on a micro  plywood kit.
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guild 2009 may 14 218Assembly is straight forward, hence the instructions are pretty basic. The thing that strikes me as being missing is some elaboration on paint and weather.Before this thought finished passing I had the structure assembled. So whats the point, I dunno. I just state the facts folks...

guild 2009 may 18 027In this article I am going to take the opportunity to focus on how I finished this model. I am not a self proclaimed expert, nor should I be considered to be.  These steps are just my thoughts on the subject.

guild 2009 may 18 026First as always it starts with a coat of inkahol. It gives a base that provides a random variation on the layers above. IF done before it dries. Then dip your brush in the water, we want the acrylic paint watered down. We dont want the brush floaded with water when it touches the model though. Dabb it off.  Why you may ask. Well the dilluted paint will give you control over coverage and spread a larger area.

guild 2009 may 18 025Remember we left the ink wet to soak through, let it. Follow coats that are deamed necesary will blend right in with the same method of watering the paint down. The difference is when the ink and first coat of paint dries, it is sealed to mixing.  Coats of paint above will cover up the ink. A good way to fix a case of TOO much ink. Do this method and with light coats of paint to doctor it into shape. Let it dry.

guild 2009 may 18 024The final step for this build was some treatments for the loading pipe. For this we used Sophisticated Finishes found at our local Michaels. This is iron filings and a corrosive the rusts the iron. Can't get much more realistic then the real thing.

guild 2009 may 18 023With some coats of the MIG Nuetral wash to simulate dust and grime. We were ready to settle with good enough. In my opinion a model isn't finished till it is placed on the layout. Certain conditions will warrent different techniques so stopping here is a good idea, again this is only my opinion.

Ron Pare

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Micro-Trains Logging Camp Cars Build by

Working with my brother-in-law has its challenges. It doesn't always go so well, some of you know what I mean. But when he delivers with work like this. I think we might be able to do it again.

guild 2009 may 14 269This Logging Camp Car (Dining car and Office car, also refered to as the "clerestory") was fun and fairly easy to construct.  The kit seemed to be a bit challenging at some points, mainly because of the small parts and meticulous process of assembling the tiny pieces. But with a good cutting tool, some tight bond glue and a little bit of patience, this project proved to be a great way to explore the ever-so-detailed world of the Z-scale model.

guild 2009 may 14 275Laying out the parts I was near ready to give up. Just then Ron hands me a set of tweezers. After a few manouvers weilding the tweezers my confidence returned.

guild 2009 may 14 282A few directions from my brother I decided to refer the printed instructions. I am glad I did, Ron was right, and I never would have followed his lead, but since the instructions I agreed, I guess I would too. 

guild 2009 may 14 285This kit contains two cars, complete with trucks and couplers. All this was not immediately appearant to me. As the build moved on I did begin to learn a few things about these pieces of rolling stock.

guild 2009 may 14 290As I built Ron provided me with pictures of the real thing. It was amazing with a bit of this information really expanded my understanding of the project at hand. The interest that grew in me completely wrapped my mind into the whole thing.

guild aug 24001Model railraoding is much more then just playing with toys. I realize this now and will never ever forget that. And maybe just maybe, one day I too will pursue a railroad of my own.

Ron Pare

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Micro-Trains Military Barracks Build by

Building this Z-Scale kit was a real pleasure. The parts fit nicely, the materials were right, this all added up to a very enjoyable build.guild 12 09 08 024

Working with Z-Scale should be a challenge for my vision issues, however that is not the case. The way the kits are made makes it easy to both prepare and assemble such a small model.

The first step to building this kit is sealing the card with flat lacquer, before cutting them from the card sheet. The card is thick enough to handle without too much worry of creasing or bending.b7

Using a #11 blade I cut the wall sections out. Satisfied with the color of the card walls we left them unpainted (for now). For the trim and ground I used a tan and the concrete supports grey acrylic, paint the card in thin coats, card will soak in water based paints so thick coats are not advised.b8

To apply the white glue we used a tooth pick this allowed for a fairamount of accuracy when applying glue to a very small area.

We applied the window and door trims with white glue. Having sealed the card earlier allows time to clean up excess glue. As you can see we areready to start assembling the walls.

Using my supply of handy dandy weights I started gluing the sections together. We first attach the end wall to the side and let the glue set a bit. Once stuck I glued the floor section on and again wait to set. This system of letting the glue set allowed me to build this delicate kit in a way as to not ruin a good connection by moving on to quickly.b6

Using a paint pen I covered the floor of the structure black. Just because thats what I do to models that don't have interiors.b2

I scored the roof panel before bending it.and installed it on the model by applying glue to the walls with a toothpick. then I weight the roof down to dry with a bag of sand.

I cut the simulated roofing materials to shape and creased the ridge. Then spread glue on the roof panel and applied the roofing again with the bag of sand securing it.



Assembling the stair cases wasn't as hard as we thought it would be. Again using the glue and set technique we took the slow route at building these.The supplied steps were very easy to handle and I had little trouble here.b5

Ron Pare

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100 3589s

The sawmill has a permanent place in our hobby as an industry built in the sticks. The location of these structures usually is located far from civilization and the scenes displayed in historical records show a real rag-tag operation. The oportunity to create a busy and living scene with this model is one I cannot let pass.

100 3457Micro-Trains offers kits in Z scale. The kit is comprised of laser cut micro-plywood and card material for windows, doors and frames. This card material has two-sided tape for glazings and roofing. Even the glazing for the windows is cut with a laser.

The instructions are made like an electronics manual. I have to say they are perfect and the pictures do just enough to get you through the build. As the instructions stated, we placed the two walls and supports on the base and glued them with WeldBond glue. I use Weldbond because of its Cost, Strength, and the fact that it dries clear. Some say to use Canopy Glue, but it is twice the cost and comes in a bottle near half the size. You decide.

Next step is to prepare the equipment deck. The saws and log tables are all represented in Card. When all is said and done, this looks great. I only had an issue with "How big is a loggers log in Z scale"? That issue actually held me up longer then it really should'a.

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I built this model so fast, the instructions seemed to get lost under a pile of carrier sheets. I usually build the walls complete before assembling them together. This time we just got busy with it, and this ended up with walls assembled without the windows and door installed. 

The amount of interest this kit struck in me had me a bit overwhelmed, so I sat down with the instructions and finally finished them.

Here are a few shots of the equipment deck installed. This is really a striking site in person.

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100 3484Whoever started this technique in kit building is a patron saint. Two-sided tape on small structure kits is the component that makes this build available to a visually imapired person like myself. A pair of tweezers and a good light and I am set. 100 3489

Peel off the back of the window and place it sticky side up on the bench. Take the tweezers and break out a single glazing and place it on the window. Done deal! Repeat that for all the windows and doors and in no time everything was completed and ready to be installed.

100 3490Here is the model with the windows, doors and trim installed. I left the window sills off. One reason is I thought they looked big and reason two, I had trouble handling them. Is it absolutely neccesary ?

I thought not...

100 3494It is amazing how small this structure is considering the size of the prototype. So far I love the instructions, as they are simple and to the point, I could have used a prototype photo though. The kit parts are great, the laser cuts are clean and come apart easily. And the addition of the interior equipment really makes this $76 model worth every penny.

100 3495Again, bdecause of the two-sided tape, these roof panels are a breeze to complete. After gluing the panels to the structure, I peeled off the tape covering. The laser cut paper shingles are varied in sizes. My suggestion is to use the wide ones on the bottom and the narrow ones on the top.

100 3497I use tweezers for this proceedure, I have learned my big fingers are actually z scale battering rams. The shingles look fantastic installed and I can see already how I am going to weather them.

The ramp, or slip, is made of plywood with card braces. For such small parts I have to say this was fairly easy. The braces have two-sided tape to stick right on, using the tweezers of course. I could not wait to see it next to the structure, so I took a picture of it.

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100 3515After completing the slip I really started thinking about building this Z scale layout. Its funny how a model can inspire you. This arrived Friday in the mail, and was built by Sunday Night.

Micro-Trains hit a home run with this model and I am just tickled I had a chance to build it. To be inspired by a model isn't too rare, but that don't make it any less exciting.

Stay tuned for part two.

Ron Pare

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RSLaserkits Cheltenham Station Build by

guild 09 01 f010If someone had told me two months ago, that there is such a thing as a Z scale Craftsman kit, I'd tell them they were crazy. Today I am that crazy fool telling you about a Z scale Craftsman kit, interested ? Good...


guild 09 01 d017Z Scale kits have an appeal to them that other kits lack. The smallest of available scales Z adds that sense that if I can do this I can model anything.

These RS Laser make a very nice kit. The kits parts are small and very delicate, however with a sharp knife, some toothpicks for glue, time and patience. Yes you will break some part, but you can fix it. Rich sends extra parts it seems in all of his small kits, so don't fret. Follow along as this build grows into a micro masterpiece (well at least to me).

guild 09 01 d019We started the build by painting the parts in the sheet. Not realy paint, a stain marker was used, dark brown (my freelanced road colours).The main walls were painted using antique white acrylic, go easy on soaking the wood, you don't want to warp it.

guild 09 01 d024Once the paint has properly dried we can peal off the paper on the back of the trim. This reveals the two sided tape (ingenious) making the process of adding the trim very easy.Once

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When added the trims realy look great. Now set the aside we are going to work on the windows.

guild 09 01 d032The windows are wood and are also very delicate. If you have not changed to a sharp blade yet, nows the time. Don't say I didn't warn ya. Paint the windows (or stain).

The windows have two-sided tape on them so carefully peal of sticky protection and place the glazings on with a pair of tweezers.

guild 09 01 e002To add the windows to the walls isn't all that hard really. Get a small container to put the windows in. Using a SHARP knife cut out the windows. Now that they have the glazing added they are much more stable and you can handle them easily with tweezers.

guild 09 01 e003This is not a scientific method by no means so bare with me. lick your finger, touch the white glue, dab it off. In the window opening, slide your finger to one side and some will bead up there, do the same to the other side.  Remember, use too much glue and you will have glue to clean off your model, so go lite. Wipe off excess glue. We added glue to an entire wall then added the windows. We added the windows through the backs of the walls.

guild 09 01 e016Once we have the windows and doors sorted we move to assembling the main structure. Using our squaring device we glued from the inside corners.

guild 09 01 e017Let dry then connect the two, again gluing from the inside corner. Let dry completely.

Ron Pare

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Stonebridge Models Greenhouse Build by

GEDC0171It's funny - Sometimes in this gig, I come across a project that just amazes me. This Greenhouse from Stonebridge Designs is one of those projects. It is remarkably small. This kit I'm told is available in Z, N and HO. Gardener not included.


When opening the kit, I noticed something immediately. It was full, filled up to the brim with stuff. Instructions, a CD with a full compliment of build photos and last, but not least, the 7 or 8 pieces to the kit. Oh, its small.

GEDC0165As you can see this kit is as basic as it can get. I say basic in design but the end result is something! I walked around showing it off for more then a few days. The parts are Task board, glazing and ground turf.

GEDC0167Construction is not something that will take anymore then one nights work. This kit is easily put together, and I say this considering its size. Remember my disability is, in fact, vision.

GEDC0170Thee hardest part of this whole project here is photographing the little gem. This was as close as I could get with my $60 camera (yes this site is made with a $60 camera), opting to further crop and zoom the image with GIMP the free image editor.

GEDC0171I won't be surprised if I go out to build the other scale models as these Greenhouses are very suitable for a small and interesting scene in scale Z thru HO.

Ron Pare

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Detailing Stony's LCL Cement Canisters Here is a photo of the cement canisters in their raw form. I cut the sprue lengthwise, so the sprue will now act as a holder and a stand for painting, decaling, and sealing. A word of caution, the eyelets on top are very fragile. After breaking an eyelet, I used the barrels and sprue to 'handle' them. You will notice the size of them compared to a MTL caboose.


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 The next photo shows one set of canisters painted and decaled in the foreground, while the other set stil needs numbers and 'writing'.  On Ebay I watch for N-scale decal lots, either partial or whole, usually you can find a great deal.  Sometimes finding the right HO decals will work as well.  The same applies when I go to train shows, when a modeler is 'done' with their decals, I find I can find more uses for them in Z.  These LCL Cement Canisters were actually decaled using left-over Burlington Northern N-scale decal sheets.  I used the tiny writing for the canister messages while using 5-digit number sets to label the canister.  There are a few things that stand out from the proto are the numbers on the proto canisters are Railroad Roman style font, and that there should be more 'writing' on the sides of the canisters.  Other than the two items I have mentioned, I think they turned out great.  The shown BN partial decal sheets I paid a few bucks for a bag load of them so decorating them was very cheap.

Before painting them, and after I seperated the halves, I gave the model a 70% Rubbing Alcohol bath and scrubbed them down with an old 'soft' toothebrush.  When dry, I used my Valspar Primer #65056 Red-Oxide 'rattle can' to spray paint them.  When the paint dried I then gave them a sealing coat of Rustoleum Matte Clear.  And after the sealing was dried is when I decaled them.


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Once the decals have been applied and dried, I then gave the canisters another coat of Rustoleum Matte Clear.  There again, you still can add more 'detail' decals to authenticate the protos, if you wished too.  The next photo shows a custom decorated Soo Line 50' gondola with a load of canisters, while the other set is in the open.


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The canisters really did not turn out that bad, bare without any weathering agents.  I plan to add spilled cement dust to a set, and I will post more photos of that process.  Basically I have a set of artist chalks that I sand down to get to dust form to apply with a brush, but this might be different... I may try a different technique to apply the spilled cement dust.  Below you will find a few proto photos of the LCL Cement Canisters to help compare your work.




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