Monday, October 30, 2023

Project Showcase | Bachmann Hawin

Today I'm happy to share with you one of my long term projects I've been working on this year, Hawin!  Griffin @TheBlueSnowplow made an interpretation of the illusive tank engine from  "The Monster Under the Shed," storybook for a whole YouTube saga based around this character. I took on the project of bringing him to life as a working model in OO scale with the help of a few friends from the community for prepping and printing! Here's how it turned out:

1) Concept and Design

It all started with an illustration of this character from the book. An unnamed blue tank engine trying to find his way home only to disappear forever running away from a monster that lived in an abandoned shed. It is an intriguing story, and Griffin wanted to create a series around the engine. He was named "Hawin," after the lake at the heart of the island his line served, inspired by a lot of the events that took place in the spooky episodes from series 5 of the TV show.

Working from the illustrations int he book, Cameron @Mainland_Studios was commissioned to design him in 3D, tying in a lot of design choices from the props to really make him feel like a character you would see on the classic TV show. I really like his design, and I wanted to stay as close to this design as possible while considering options for his running chassis.

2) Chassis and 3D Printing

For the chassis, I decided to go with a Bachmann Junior J94 for the offset counterweights and smooth running. I cut down the front of the chassis with an Atlas track saw to allow the cylinders to fit and a lead truck to fit and swivel around curves and switches. Noah had a spare Henry wheel on hand to fit a swiveling resin piece screwed into the bottom for that purpose. Then I mailed the chassis over to Noah to work with it for test fitting, printing and wiring.

Next came unwrapping the original design to be printable in resin! Cam gave the files to Noah @the_lbsc_Thomas and Green @Greens_Trains to thicken the walls and troubleshoot the various detail parts to translate well once printed.

After testing the proportions, Noah printed out the main pieces for the body and footplate to test fit. Henry's wheels were pulled from the axle and fitted back together into the resin truck support, which was painted to match the black paint of the chassis. It worked really well on curves and switches on testing, and all the parts were then sanded down for a smooth finish and glued down with modeler's glue for a secure fit. Then the chassis was screwed onto the resin shell.

3) Painting and Varnishing

After brass coach buffers from Romford was added to the bufferbeams, primer and painting were applied with masking for the smokebox, running board and window portals. I wanted a matte finish, so I recommended Noah to use amiya TS-80 matte varnish once painting was done.

Now for the details! Some parts were made using files from Jamos @JamosTrainos such as the brake pipes. Noah cut sections of flat red vinyl for striping around the boiler, bunker and splashers. Cal-Scale HO handrail sanctions and K&S 0.020 music wire were used for the handrails. Noah even used a separate firebox piece recycled from a model he had on hand, which added a nice detail to the interior! A dummy lamp inspired from Lady from Thomas and the Magic Railroad was decorated with a Sharpie for the case and added to the back of the bunker. I would add all of the other details once I got back the model. It was really coming together!

Something we wanted to try were spare side rods from Bachmann Bill and Ben. They had to cut them down so they had the correct shorter distance from the wheel to the crosshead. That way it can slide at the correct distance and without hitting the resin cylinder casing. But after cutting down and soldering the pieces back together, they needed to be recolored back to a silver-metal look. Noah uses a process to recolor metal that's been soldered or filed using a nickel plating solution. It's made up of vinegar and nickel "dust," and when a electrical charge is put through it the dust attaches itself to the negative end (part you're nickel plating) coating the part in nickel. Here's a comparison with spare pieces of metal Noah was cutting. You can see the nickel plate on the left that is corroded it's "dust" is now in the liquid. It's a great process to know and really handy, especially when it comes to scratch building.

*WARNING,* this can be a hazardous process dealing with chemicals and metal dust. If you want to try this, you can hit up Noah @The_lbsc_thomas in the Twitter DMs for questions you may have, but please make sure you research the process thoroughly and prepare your space and equipment to safely preform the steps properly. If you are younger, ask a trusted adult for help.

The cylinder casing was a separate resin piece installed with metal wire to support the crossheads to smoothly operate in motion, and it looked really good with testing, matching the original design and functional!

4) Faces

Cam also designed Hawin's faces, so while Noah was working on the engine, Green printed the faces out for me with open eye sockets for 6mm airsoft pellets for eyeballs. After scrubbing them down with soap and hot water to get rid of any printing residue, I let them dry and then painted them with my RustOleum chalked aged grey spraypaint in a few light coats in different angles to give a smooth application.

Once left to completely dry, I used my technical pencil to draw out the eyebrows very lightly to erase and go over with my Faber-Castell XS ink pen, following Cam's renders for the design, and painted the mouths and teeth out with my acrylics. Once finished, they looked great when laid out together for testing under natural LED lighting.

5) Weathering and Final Detailing

At last, Hawin arrived in the mail and I couldn't wait to finish him! After checking he ran well on my test track, I oiled his motor gear with my XL modeler's lubricants for smooth running. Then I got out my weathering powders to apply rust, dust, soot and grime in suitable places around the model. I added lamp irons made from 20 gauge wire and Sticky-Note strips glued in place on the front. He was really beginning to look like a real, working locomotive!

Then I added Smith's screw links from in the UK. I used the LP8 kit I like to customize and fit them in the sockets on either end for pulling rolling stock. LP5's are an assembled version of the screw links I also recommend for easy installation!

For the cab interior, I added JTT Scenics plastic wood planking I painted and weathered up for floorboards, which looked amazing once installed with an ink wash. It makes a huge difference for added realism. I'll add a Old Baily figure inside to drive him once finished!

Something I also did was darken the side rods even further with an enamel wash from Mig, recmmended to me by ED @EDsTrainz. I like how grimy and oily it makes the rods look, and once completely dried helps make the soldered side rods look completely solid with the dark application of the wash. It feels very industrial along with the spots of weathering powders on the engine.

A finishing touch was the whistle, a brass print by from Shapeways store, which is just Thomas' whistle mounted in front of the cab. The natural finish helps give a nice polished look!

6) Gallery

And now for some test shots on the layout! I was pleased how nicely he ran and how well the modified rods looked in motion. The studio lighitng brinds out the right colors and weathering powders perfectly, and I think he looks quite smart with the Bachmann museum coaches!

My favorite shots have to be at night captured with my LED studio lights dimmed down and using the fog machine to create mist around the track as Hawin makes his way on the branchline, working in some influence from season 5 and Griffin's visuals for inspiration. I captured the spooky feeling I wanted to have with these photos, and Hawin looks great with his worried faces under the moonlight.

Hawin was a joy to work on. It was quite a challenge but taking longer to get him running right and fully tested helped make him a better model, and one I'm thankful to have. Thanks to Griffin and Cam for giving me their blessing to manifest this for OO, and Noah, Green and Jamos for helping with the printing process. It was a pleasure working with you all on this project! Hawin is a great addition to the collection, and will make a lovely cameo for my own sets and future videos.

As always, happy modeling!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Project Showcase | Clarence the Fish Van

Meet Clarence, an old North Eastern van that carries fish on the Norramby Branchline east of Sodor, although he is known on occasion to be seen on fish trains around the island! He’s a character created by my good friend Mike @theburiedtruck. Here is a synopsis:

Clarence is a van who's been on Sir Topham Hatt's railway for quick some time, and his good nature has earned the engine's trust. He has a quick wit and is always willing to share a joke or a tall tale of the sea to keep up good spirits, even at the annoyance of others! He doesn't often get cross, but when he does he has a very good reason for it, either trucks that are too much of a hassle or engines who are not cooperative. Some of the crews joke he should be converted to be a brake van for being so resourseful keeping trucks in order! Clarence is never phased by other trucks who chatter, gossip and scheme to make all kinds of trouble to the engines, even when they make fun of him for being an old van! He takes it in his stride and it never bothers him, but always quick to put them in their place if pushed too far!

I like how endearing a character Clarence is. While Mike worked with Jake @Jje09 to visualize him in Blender, they kindly let me test how the faces looked in HO/OO scale! All based around the North Eastern van seen in the Thomas show. I'm excited to show you how I made him. Let's get started!

1) Scratch-Building the Van

Back in 2018, I made a North Eastern van kit-bashed from a Bachmann Branchline wagon chassis as a base that I cut down with a track saw to make it shorter. The body is created using a rough pencil drawing as a guide, and I scratch-built the van body using JTT Scenery Products HO scale wood planking and strips of cardstock. I glued the sides together with strips of balsa wood, and used some thinner stripes for the brackets on each end. I found a back of cast metal wagon buffers from eBay UK I glued on a [ - shape styrene strips as buffer beams.

Once I installed the Smiths LP4 chain link couplings, I spray-painted the whole thing with RustOleum camo dark brown. The N E (North Eastern) lettering was replaced with N W to represent the North Western Railway. The final touches came with some light dry-brushing with earthy colored acrylics and scraped pastel powder, but I can recommend Tamiya Weathering Master kits or Dave's Decals weathering powders.

2) Character Design

Here is a render of Jake's custom 3D model in Blender! Jake worked with Mike to find the design he was looking for. He went for a very Sam Elliot look, with a pronounced forehead, thick, bushy eyebrows and a white mustache! He has an old but gentle sailor voice, similar to Willem Dafoe from The Lighthouse film by Robert Eggers. Jake captured his personality very nicely with his renders! Once the finalizing stage was complete, Jake handed the STL files over to Noah @The_lbsc_thomas to print the faces in resin and to scale to HO/OO.

We actually had to do this twice, because the first test batch of resin prints looked too thin. We tried another batch with thicker sides and the facial features were more defined with some adjustments Jake made to the faces. It gave the whole face so much more depth and the painting translated so much better on the faces!

3) Resin 3D Printing and Painting

I gave a light sanding and a thorough clean with warm water and dish soap using a tooth brush to get rid of any left over dust and artifacts left over from the printing process. Then I gave them two coats of RustOleum "chalked" aged gray, covering the corners and detailing and letting each layer dry thoroughly. I wanted to have the eye sockets hallowed out to use eyeballs, but I used a trick with Recollections' plastic adhsive faux pearls from the craft store, painted white with RustOleum "chalked" linen white spray-paint, and 2.2 mm pupils cut by my friend George @bowledout95! But how can I secure the eyeballs to the face and still allow me to have them positioned differently for shots?

I placed the pearls in the face, and glued them to a strip of cardstock! It's secured to the back of the face with blue tak, just like the face itself. I have a few of these with pupils applied with tweezers in different positions so I can use them in various eye directions for specific camera shots. This is a great option for those of you who would want faces on rolling stock with delicate parts or smoke box detail you don't want to take off but stick on for easy removal.

This way, it allows Clarence's faces to be placed on the van without drilling out an open section for the eyeballs to move around. I can place the face right on either end with a flat back, the blue tak used to secure the whole face snugly in place. I am very pleased how good the face looks on my van custom. It gives a classic van such a fresh appearance and a lot of character. The tail lamp is also resin printed by Noah and designed by Jamos @jamostrains!

Now for final decorating! I painted the open mouth and teeth using various acrylics, but for eyebrows, I tried cutting appropriately shaped eyebrows using spare flat white vinyl to apply in place with tweezers. This works so nicely and might have likely been done if these were made for a prop from the show! I like how effective this looks for the face and gives him an expressive appearance.

Above are the finished faces completely decorated and placed on the office table for this behind the scenes-inspired photo with all them together! I like how professional these look under the lighting.

4) Gallery

Here are a couple of shots of him on the layout and the modeling desk! I am very pleased how he turned out. His new faces look delightful on my van and he is a charming addition to my collection, especially for harbor and seaside dioramas! It was a pleasure to work with Mike, Jake and Noah to bring him to life. Maybe I will fix a working light for him to see in the dark when I run the trains at night!

Happy model railroading.