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First of all, congratulations on having the surgery. My son would be proud of you. It's amazing how an operation that used to take hours, with time in the hospital with great discomfort is now done in minutes as an out-patient. My son did 815 of them last year.

Nighthawks: Unfortunately, now that I've nailed down the lighting question, I will get back to working on the carrier and finish it. While it's comforting to have four projects running concurrently, it's not the way I like to work because I have the need to complete them. The rest of the Nighthawks build should go smoothly without too much drama... at least that's the plan. Clauswitz said that strategy ends the moment the first shot is fired. My experience tends to agree. Often simple projects that are supposed to be a piece of cake turn out to be the exact opposite. I won't get too complacent.

I'm still thinking about buying a 3D printer... and still concerned that the ones I can afford don't have the resolution to do O'scale work. I wish someone would make a serious cutting laser for around $500. The ones with any capacity are all over $1k.

Good Afternoon Trainman2001,

My name is Randy and I'm a lurker. Seriously, I found your thread about a year and a half ago and have been following it ever since. Your work is amazing and Inspiring. I'm been a modeler mostly on and sometimes off for over 50 years building cars, planes, and the occasional ship. 3 years ago I discovered O scale trains and here I am. You caught my attention (yet again) with the LED's and copper strip. Who is the manufacturer of the LED's? I'd like to look into them myself.


Thanks Randy! As I've said many times before, you can't take the old shop teacher out of me. I learn as much from my commenters as I give so it mutually beneficial.

Here's the link to the surface mount LEDs.

And here's the link to the foil tape on Amazon.

Just remember that the LEDs are very small (but powerful) and will require careful soldering. As was said in "Man in Black" just because something is small doesn't mean it's not significant" or something like that. The fellow who steered me to the copper foil uses a piece of sheet styrene between layers if he's going to overlap two circuits. I would definitely recommend drawing out the circuit before cutting any tape.

Your welcome.

Today I was working on the Essex and got all the lighting in place in the Hangar deck and really learned how to work with those surface mount LEDs. I also spent hours wrestling with trying to get a staircase into Nighthawks that wouldn't take up so much room that it would wipe out the restrooms or the kitchen. The problem is two fold. The building's footprint is nat large being 24 scale feet on the side and the 1st floor ceiling height is 11 feet. That makes for a stair case challenge. In the Netherlands they solve the problem with deep buildings and very steep, almost ladder-like staircases. 

After trying straight and various turned staircases, I finally capitulated and put it outside. That too might be a problem since I don't know how much room is in the alley way.

Here was one of the earlier attempts. In this one it forced the kitchen pass through all the way to the wall. I was using 7.5" rise and 10.5" tread. I changed that to 9 X 9 and it helped, but still killed half the kitchen and had the stair running up past two of the windows. If I was still in the design phase, I would have structured the windows around the stairs, BUT THE WALLS ARE ALREADY GLUED TOGETHER. Every attempt led to similar problems.

NH Stair Challenge

So here's the final version. You can see how long a stair is when it's going up 12 feet, plus there's 3 feet of foundation too.

NH Stair Challenge Solution

I had thought that I had all the stairs designed, but lost the version that had it. So I will have to open that upper window to make it into a door and now have an extra door on the first floor. If it was a bar, there would be a ladies entrance in the early 50s, but it's a cafe and doesn't need one. The door next to the outdoor stair is to the kitchen. Oh well... I take ideas now. I have the Rusty Stumps stair kit which is perfect to craft the wooden stair case (if I can find it in the shop... I've been looking, but can't seem to find it... I know it's there somewhere so I'll keep looking.

Here's the LEDs taped and painted on the flight deck's bottom.

Essex unmask LEDs


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  • NH Stair Challenge
  • NH Stair Challenge Solution
  • Essex unmask LEDs

As a big Hopper and Nighthawks fan, I am enjoying this building project immensely.  Here are just some ponderings about the new proposal.  

The outside stairs are a good compromise but if they are intended as second story access, rather than as, say, a fire escape, then have you tried flipping the section?  That would make it so that the first steps are right next to the door, rather than the back of the first landing being there.

In otherwords, people would walk from the cafe door immediately to the entrance to the steps.  Doing so might block a bit of the first storey window, which I suspect is what you wanted to avoid.  But, I assume that it wouldn't make any difference on the second storey as to which window becomes the door.

I dunno.  Visually it works very well as you've designed it, Myles.  I was just thinking about traffic flow for your little people as an architect might.  Either way I hope that you will have room in the alley for this feature.

The second thing is that I'm curious about the two kitchen doors.  I haven't read through all the posts yet, so pardon me if this has been covered.  I like them and they are classics. But I wonder whether they will hamper interior detailing possibilities by limiting the uninterrupted wall space that you have to work with?   Of course, you may be going for the stark Hopper look -- in which case, that will be a plus.  It's hard to tell from the painting whether the interior door has a window in it or a dark sign on it.  If the former, it would suggest a kitchen with single egress.

I'm really impressed by the bent front that you fabricated and am looking forward to reading and seeing more.  

You work amazingly fast, especially given your are also working on a boat, so this post may be moot! :-}

Thanks for the ongoing sharing.

Tomlinson Run Railroad


If you hadn’t mentioned the lack of room for interior stairs, I would be fat, dumb, and happy in my blissful ignorance!  I agree, it seems logical that there should be a stairwell inside with its own exterior door, but you are probably the only person who will know there isn’t room.  I wouldn’t think a building like this would have exterior stairs in real life.  Will all sides be visible to the average visitor?  If not, the space for interior stairs and entrance can be implied.

If you think you need stairs, then your design has a lot of interest!  However, will it take something away from the Nighthawks cafe?  

No... we're not to late to make minor changes. I really can't change window locations unless I want to "brick one up" and simulate renovations. I took your advice and moved the outside stair to the other side of the building.

NH Stair Position 3png

Originally, the three doors were: Main entrance, Kitchen entrance and 2nd Floor apartments entrance. But moving the stair outside makes the 2nd floor entrance redundant. There is a cellar. I suppose the door could be a cellar entrance. I also have a Photo-etched pavement cellar elevator from Bar Mills that I bought years ago and haven't installed yet, and this building would a perfect place since there's obviously a basement. Where the stair is now is truly the backside of the building since the corner in which it will be placed has the building's face on the right side of the above image. With SketchUp, I was able to grab the entire staircase, rotate it 90° then flip it so it was reversed from its previous position, all without redrawing anything. Building stairs is a fun project and the Rusty Stumps product includes a fixture to position the stringers while gluing on the treads (if I can find it).

I bought another couple of airbrushes from eBay. They're importing Chinese airbrushes for significantly less $$ than my Badger. I love my Badger, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a couple more. I also bought a manifold to connect them all up at once, and I'm going to get more siphon bottles so they can all have paint ready to go without major cleanings. One of the two is a medium nozzle with siphon bottle, and the other is a fine line brush with a top feed cup. I never liked the Badger open cup since it's a bottom feed gun so the cup sits at a funny angle and I tend to spill it all the time.

But there was a wrinkle. Badger uses 5.0mm fine-thread hose fittings and all the others use 1/8", so today, I bought an adaptor for the Badger fitting and two more hoses with 1/8' fittings including one that has the female version of the 1/4" pipe fitting for the compressor. I forgot that with three airbrushes you need at least three hoses.  After our vacation, I'm going to buy a larger capacity compressor since mine doesn't have a reservoir and runs continuously when you're spraying. It's 43 years old and has served me well.


Images (1)
  • NH Stair Position 3png

So here we go again... I decided to solve the stair problem with brute force. First of all I didn't want to spend the time building an elaborate stair that really won't be seen nor do I want it to be the focal point of the model (it's the insides that's the focal point). I also wanted to solve the "3-door problem" and this solution solves both.

NH Stair Problem Solved

It's not pretty, but it's very practical. I covers that third door and if we imagine there's one in there, it will be an inside access to the outside stair so you can go upstairs without going outside in the rain. It's also a private entrance to the apartment. I first design the enclosure to hide the supporting trusses, but then realized that these could be exposed and add more interest to an-otherwise funny-shaped box. I don't have to build any stairs are all since the door will be closed and the upstairs window won't show anything. So if this is in the back and not very visible, it won't matter since it's not much to look at, but it's realistic and is architecturally relevant to the era.


Images (1)
  • NH Stair Problem Solved

Yes!  Trainman, this is a brilliant solution to the door and stairs problem and looks fantastic with the double-hung window at the top, and slight roof overhang.  Just perfect!  The lines for the roofing over the stairs draws the eye up nicely and works well with the actual roof.  And, as you said, it is authentic to the period.

I can't wait to see the execution.  You have a winner here!

Tomlinson Run Railroad

Thanks! That's what you can do with SketchUp! It's a fantastic design and visualization tool, but it does take a lot of work to learn. It's kind of like the guitar. You can play a few chords in a few hours, but to play like Eric Clapton, Steve Howe, Kenny-Wayne Sheppard or Andres Segovia takes a lifetime. You can create a Cape Cod bungalow in a few minutes, but when you start working with complex images that have compound curves, it's quite a pull.

This post probably should go in the "What have you bought new" thread, but since I have such a loyal following I figure I'll just post it here.

I ordered and recieved a set of two airbrushes from Amazon. These are Chinese and getting two for around $35 was an offer I couldn't pass up. My faithful Badger XF-150 is many years old and has been rebuilt by Badger. Badger has a lifetime warranty and will rebuild their high line brushes. It was a good thing! I'm keeping the Badger as an active air brush. The new pair includes a medium gun with a suction feed (like the Badger) and a fine-line top-feed gun. I wanted a top-feed gun for doing detail work. Now I have three. On a job like the Essex, having multiple guns with different colors loaded will be helpful.
Three Airbrushes
The new guns, although a little less refined than the Badger, are nicely made including additional nozzles and needles for additional sizes and will do well for my use.
To drive three airbrushes required a manifold. Incidentally, that Badger diaphram compressor dates back to 1977, so it's done yeoman duty. No complaints. I have a moisture trap, but having it sideways I think is probably not doing it any good.
The Manifold
I was able to source that at Amazon too. It has one inlet and three outlets. They use 1/4" threads with knurled nuts with O'rings so you don't need a wrench to make an air-tight connection. I also needed four hoses. My Badger hose uses an atypical 5.0mm fine thread on both ends so it needed replacement. I needed to get a 5.0mm/1/4"  adaptor to connect the Badger brush inlet to the rest of the system. And I needed another adaptor from the compressor's 1/2" female pipe-threaded outlet to the 1/4" hose fitting. So I now have four hoses connected to three airbrushes. I moved my airbrush holder to my roll-around auxiliary work table and I'm going to mount the manifold onto it and use a single hose from the compressor to the manifold. This will greatly increase my air brush reach.
Next thing is a new compressor which I'm buying after we return from a trip to New Mexico celebrating our 50th anniversary. Again, there's a Chinese twin cylinder compressor and reservoir available for a bit over $100. While I'm not over-joyed about buying Chinese air brushes when Badger still makes some of their's in the USA, I know for a fact that almost everyone's compressors are made in China. This includes Badger and Pasche, and they upcharge their compressors, but when you look closely, they're all the same product. My current aging compressor has no reservoir which means it's running continuously as I'm spraying, and has no pressure regulator which really reduces my ability to spray different materials effectively. I'll keep y'all posted on how this all works.


Images (2)
  • Three Airbrushes
  • The Manifold

Hi gang! Just got back from our 50th anniversary trip to New Mexico. First time in that state and we spent most of the time in Santa Fe and it's area (Taos and the Ghost Ranch). It was wonderful, great weather and terrific food. Yesterday we went back to Albuquerque to meet with the bass player in my old R&B band, his wife and his terrific home. They too moved away from their ancestral locale to be near grandkids. He had clued me into the locomotive restoration project on-going in ABQ, where they're bringing SD 2926 back to full running condition. The site is open to the pubic on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11:00 to 2:00. We wouldn't be getting there until almost closing time so I called and asked if we could still come and they said to hurry. We took an Uber and got there at 1:45. Glad we did!

This was one of the big late model 4-8-4s built by Baldwin for the Santa Fe. It features a very large tender with 4-axle Buckeye Trucks. The engine has 80" Boxpok drivers. They've added Timken light-weight roller bearing alloy side rods, thus bringing it up the the latest steam engine specs. The engine was a park engine that was brought to this industrial spur that has access to BNSF trackage. They're very far along with boiler pressure testing underway. They expect to run it later this year. It was capable of over 100mph.

My wife was a great sport! It was her birthday and she agreed to go with me to this out of the way spot and spend time learning about restoring a relic. She asked terrific questions and really was engaged. Steve, our docent, was one of the main mechanical engineers on the project and is a retired nuclear engineer at Sandia Labs. Another member of the team is the founder of Ticket Master. It was terrific crew and I was immediately envious. We spent over an hour learning about this magnificent, big engine. My uncle worked at Baldwin during the years of this engine's manufacture and probably designed parts of it.

When the loco was turned over to the City to display in a part, all of the specialized tooling necessary to maintain such a machine was scrapped for pennies on a dollar. All of those tools needed to be sourced or created in order to do the things needed to get it running. Steve gave us a thorough description (including showing us the custom tooling) on how they had to hone the 28" cylinders. To purchase a commercial hone big enough to do the job would have been over $30,000. They have a very limited budget living mostly off of donations, so they had to make their own. The hone had to be completely aligned with the major access of the machine being the center of the main driver's axle. Before honing, they needed to ensure that the crosshead guide and crosshead were in line with the bore which in turn had to be in line with the axle. They created an adjustable plate with a very small center hole to support a piece of stainless steel wire that was fastened at the other end at the center of the main axle. The plate was centered using a dial indicator swung about the cylinder diameter and the adjusting screws were manipulated to bring the plate's hole to dead center. They then used a dial indicator fastened to the crosshead bearing and touching the wire to align the crosshead slide with the bore. It was not in line when they started. Just getting the crosshead guide re-babbeted was a seriously difficult task.

They are very far along and are now doing boiler pressure testing in preparation for final certification. They expect to be running later this year.

2926 Engineer's Side 2

At the end of every work session the engine is pushed back into it's "garage" by a Trackmobile so vandals can't get their hands on it. Once the boiler testing is completed they will start fitting the boiler insulation and jacketing. A fellow was fitting a small piece of jacket to the other side. It was very shiny.

2926 Engineer's Side

The piston and rod are removed and stored separately to make it easier to move the engine (all roller bearings on main axles), and to rework them before re-installation. The engine is immaculate. 

2926 Running Gear

2926 Front End Throttle

The elevating stack works and they demonstrated it for me and I made a movie, which I'll put up on YouTube tomorrow. 

2926 Face

This engine probably didn't look this good except for the day it was born. All the exterior painting is Imron, and they even used more specialized paints for any parts that receive wear. The paint was donated by the manufacturer.

2926 Face 1

Here I am showing the comparative size of the 80" drivers and that brand shiny new return crank. The new rods were so much lighter than the plain bearing rods that they had to shave off metal on the big counterbalances on the drivers. Instead of requiring lubrication every major station stop, the new rods can go a couple thousand miles before using a grease gun on them. This engine has bigger drivers than N-S's 611. Just getting brake shoes was a major challenge since no one makes an 80" brake shoe. They cost $1,000s.

2926 and Me

Here is the very clean and easy to understand tender Buckeye Truck.

2926 4 Axle Buckeyes

For those of you who like to weather the heck out of steam locomotives, just look at the refections on that tender. It's like an expensive car. All of these engines looked like this when they were new. Builders photos showed flat finished because they sprayed them with a flat spray for the pictures since the reflections made it hard to get a good picture, but it was washed off before delivery. Trucks usually aren't painted so cracks can be easier to spot. Same goes for couplers.

I anyone gets the change to get to Albuquerque before it's put out on the main line I would whole heartedly recommend seeing this. It's very rare for any of us train lovers to get so close to a running locomotive where you can actually touch it. Most engines in museums are surrounded with railings, and they're all painted over. This one's real and is going to be alive again. And it's a stunning engine.

The address is: 1833 8th Street, NW, Albuquerque, NM. It's only about a mile and a half out of downtown heading north. It lies in a very industrial area and the engine is not easily seen from the street. Our Uber driver didn't know it was there.



Images (8)
  • 2926 Engineer's Side 2
  • 2926 Engineer's Side
  • 2926 Running Gear
  • 2926 Front End Throttle
  • 2926 Face
  • 2926 Face 1
  • 2926 and Me
  • 2926 4 Axle Buckeyes
Last edited by Trainman2001

Great pictures of the 2926.  I remember first seeing a 2900 class Santa Fe Northern, the 2912, in Pueblo years ago. I know these are the biggest Northerns ever made, but when you see one in person they're so huge it's really overwhelming.  I've seen the Challenger, a Big Boy, the 844, and others, but for some reason  they didn't seem as overwhelming to me as these Santa Fe 2900s.

Myles, Welcome back!!

Thank you for sharing your visit to see the 2926 with us!!  The photographs do show the immensity of the locomotive!  It is great to learn that this one will be back riding the rails soon.  I have never been out that way, but I do get reports from my brother-in-law (another Butler Pennsylvania resident) who fishes in the Santa Fe National Forest annually that the scenery is great too!

Congratulations of your 50th anniversary with your lovely wife!  I'm glad she was interested in the 2926 as well!

I'm glad to be back and thanks for the nice comments. Here's the New Mexico Railroad Historical Society website that's doing the work. The project apparently started in 2000 when the engine was rescued from it's life as a park engine (and pigeon coop... most likely). Like they did with the UP Big Boy project, they had to move it from that place by laying temporary track in front and then moving that panel from the rear to the front so they could keep going.

The site has tons of pictures and some videos that clearly show just what it takes in skill, persistence, and dedication to turn a hulk into a marvelous machine.

One last pic... he was my wife discussing locomotive reconstruction with Steve, the mechanical engineer. I'd really like to be on one of these projects. All of the skills were those I was teaching kids how to do in the early 1970s as a metal shop teacher including sand casting are being applied on this majestic job. They even set up a bronze foundry right at the loco work site to mold bearing wear plates for the radial buffer. Those Timken rods were in place on the original engine. As explained to us, it sounded like they were upgraded during the restoration. I think he was referring to this as a design upgrade in the 2900 series versus the earlier SF 4-8-4s (3700 series) that were running since the late 1920s (also Baldwin-built). The rods were removed and sent to Timken who rebuilt the bearings (still in business!!!). SF 3751 is the other SF 4-8-4 that is restored, running and doing fan trips (or at least it was). There's some great videos on YouTube about the 3751.

2926 Michele with Steve


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  • 2926 Michele with Steve
Last edited by Trainman2001

Hey there! Thought I'd check in an tell you what I've been up to. Nighthawks is patiently waiting for me to finish the model car. The Essex CV9 carrier was finished two days ago and I'm pleased with the results. It was a brutal build with lots and lots of custom work, tons of photo-etched parts to wrestle with, time spent getting additional parts to replace those that I screwed up, but it was very rewarding. I started using tiny surface mount LEDs on adhesive copper foil which I'm now going to use for building lighting. Takes some soldering skill due to their tiny size, but they're incredibly bright and take up zero room.

The ship sits on an oak plank made for me by my old friend in Albuquerque. I'm waiting for the plexiglass for the case to arrive. I found a Louisville plastics house that will cut the pieces on a router so the edges can be glued directly without further finishing. It's sitting with the Missouri which I built 6 years ago before starting the RR. The lights are on in the hangar.

Ships on Shelf

All the masts and yards are soldered brass. In fact, whenever I could, I soldered all the photo-etched parts. 

Essex Complete Cross-Deck

The ship is configured as it was late in the War where Corsairs and Helldivers were added to the air wing, planes were painted 100% dark sea blue, the ship was navy blue on all vertical surfaces, the flag bridge was moved forwards to coincide with the ends of the island and the 40mm gun mount that was in that location was removed. All the radar was repositioned or changed to meet it's late 1944 refit. Two additional 40mm mounts were installed in a port fore sponson that was supposed to be the location of a cross-hangar-deck catapult that was never installed in the Essex.

Essex Complete Port BowEssex Complete Port ViewEssex Complete Stern View

Again, I used E-Z Line to rig all the antennas. The tail designs are custom made decals which I drew on CorelDraw and matched the dark sea blue on the computer so the tail decals were bigger and easier to apply.

Essex Complete SternEssex Complete Strbrd Stern 2Essex Complete Strbrd Stern 3

Regarding the Ford, finally got the paint rubbed out, but wore through some paint on the high spots. I'm now adding adhesive foil to the window trim. 

GTA Chroming Rear Window

So that dear readers this brings you all up to date. I expect the Ford to be finished in about a week and then it's back to building things for the railroad. Meanwhile, one of my florescent lights was acting up and I had to go up in back to the open space. While standing there I realized that I had a unique view of the refinery and took some pics. Here's the one I like the best. Speaking of lights, one by one I'm replacing all my dual 40w florescent fixtures with LED. They go on sale at Costco for $20. They're easily twice as bright as the florescent, have better color and use 1/4 the power. Win/Win. So far, I've refitted all of them in the workshop. The railroad room will be next.

Refinery Reverse View 1


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  • Ships on Shelf
  • Essex Complete Cross-Deck
  • Essex Complete Port Bow
  • Essex Complete Port View
  • Essex Complete Stern View
  • Essex Complete Stern
  • Essex Complete Strbrd Stern 2
  • Essex Complete Strbrd Stern 3
  • GTA Chroming Rear Window
  • Refinery Reverse View 1
Last edited by Trainman2001

Myles, Glad to hear from you!!  I knew you were working on the carrier and the Ford and that the Nighthawks wasn't ready to go yet, so I wasn't concerned.

The carrier looks fantastic!!  Not being up on ships, I will only say that I like the plane ready for takeoff looks like it's propeller is going around!  Great!

That is a great view of the oil facility!  That was a good idea to take a photograph while up in the air changing the light!

Thanks Mark. You know I always like to show off what I'm doing to the vast audience that peers at my thread. My wife always asks me, "Are you doing the models for yourself or for what others think about them?" Can I do both? I do like the attention and it does encourage me to strive for better results. Being in the training/teaching profession my whole career and playing guitar professionally in college in front of big crowds are also forms of showing off. This is from a person who as a kid would have rather done anything instead of standing in front of a class making a presentation. I guess I'm still over-compensating.

I agree with your answer to your wife, You can do both!!  You are right, when you are doing it for someone else, it encourages you to do it a little better, and to think about it more to write it down!  I was horrified to get in front of the class, because my face would always turn red and kids would laugh at me.    It is far easier to type out replies and send photographs to show what I have done, and attempting to do, and asking for help when I know I don't know what I'm doing!  

Good news and bad news.

Good news: after a long wait just heard (yesterday) from editor of Railroad Model Craftsman mag that my article on the design and construction of the Bernheim Distillery is slated for publication as a three-part article. Don't have publication date yet, but soon. He requests that I take new pictures of the finished product on the layout using a sky blue background to block out any clutter. I bought two additional portable white boards at Michael's today, plus found 4' X 12' roll of sky blue "bulletin board" material that will make for a seamless background. I then went to Costco and picked up two more of their LED shop lights that are on sale for $20. They're about twice as bright as the florescent lights they replace and have better (less blue) color. Tomorrow I'll start changing out the lights and building the backdrop assembly and see what kind of pictures I can create.

Picked up the cut plexiglass for the showcase that's going to protect the Essex. 

Bad News: came down with shingles on Father's day. Awful! Started taking Valtrex as soon as I knew what it was and hopefully it will clear up faster rather than slower. We've been putting off getting the vaccine since we were waiting for the new advanced drug "Shingrix" that is significantly more effective then the current one. Unfortunately (for me) my luck ran out. When this bout is finished, I will still need it since it can come back again. My son had it two years ago at age 42 and is an ophthalmologist and warned me and my wife to get it since it can be brutal especially if it comes around the eyes. I had all intentions doing so. I'm in my 70s and it's the time to get it if you've ever had chicken pox. It's a nasty, mean, sneaky virus that lives in you all your life until it decides to activate. How the heck does that happen?

I'll take a half-like! The Shingles thing is my "community service" responsibility  We humans are funny… we're either convinced we're going to get something or we're convinced we're not. Neither is a rational point of view. But the randomness of illness is quite frustrating. It's one thing if you're a runner and wreck your knees… not random. Or if you've smoked for 30 years and get COPD… certainly not random. But a 65 year old virus living in you body and deciding to assert itself…Really! Give me a break. That really sucks! Shingles is not fatal, but can affect internal organs on the same nerve trail that activating. And it is especially brutal around the eyes and can lead to blindness.

Thanks guys! Shingles is annoying, but with the Valtrex and Tylenol, I managing okay and sleeping well. I do believe that it's giving me a lesser case of it.

Here's the Essex in the case I put together yesterday. I did not do the neatest job gluing it together, but it's fully functional and now that very delicate model is protected for the long haul.

Essex Encased

As things have it, I just met a very nice man my age here in Louisville who is as passionate about photography as I am about trains and model building in general. We had met earlier on a board we were on together, and he remembered that I am a proficient solderer. He had a hearing aid sterilizer that had a bad switch on a circuit board and asked if I could take a look at it. I replaced his switch and we found that we had much in common especially our professional career philosophies. Then along comes the note from RMC about needing a better finished model picture of Bernheim for the article and this gentlemen is going to help me photograph it.

Today I changed out the two fluorescents hanging near Bernheim with the Costco LED lights, and started experimenting putting the backdrop in place. Before I went to the trouble of attaching the sky blue bulletin board paper to the backdrop boards, I took an iPhone pic and sent it to the editor to see if what I had done was correct. I had two choices: put the backdrop at the rear edge of the layout, or put it directly behind the distillery. The picture I sent him was this.

Bernheim Far Backdrop 2

He said nearer would be better. So I moved the panels to immediately behind the model. I then took another shot just to see how it works. The photographer's bringing professional lights with umbrellas so the front of the building won't be suffering in shadow as it does. The LEDs do provide significantly more and warmer light than the florescents so every couple of months when Costco features them I'm going to pick a couple up and in a year or so all the layout lights will be converted over.

Bernheim Near Backdrop 1

Remember, all this backdrop will be blue and the lighting will be correct. It certainly isn't now. I am really excited about this article getting published…finally. I had really given up on it. Now I have to start thinking about the next ones. I should develop a more professional photo shooting area for the all the in-progress pictures. I'm noticing that folks that do construction articles regularly have their in-progress shots done with pretty good lighting and very plain backgrounds. You have to plan ahead for that.


Images (3)
  • Essex Encased
  • Bernheim Far Backdrop 2
  • Bernheim Near Backdrop 1

I'm on the right track. Checked with RMC this morning with some test shots with the blue background. We're all set except for the studio lighting to get rid of the dark front face. Here's the set up. These are display boards available from Michael's for about $5 or so covered with blue bulletin board paper also around $5. I'm going to preserve this backdrop for use with other photographic challenges. These test shots were done with my iPhone.

Bernheim Photo SetupBernheim test

In a few minutes, my photographer friend will arrive with better cameras and lighting and we'll be in business.


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  • Bernheim Photo Setup
  • Bernheim test

So… here's some of the pictures we took today. I have cropped/adjusted these. The editor is getting RAW, unmodified images which magazines prefer since they have the most adjustment latitude. I shot some pictures with my Canon EOS before he came and only used the LED overhead lighting, plus the LED spots that I have aimed at the town. He came equipped with remotely operated strobes and diffuser umbrellas.  I've sent the editor those that he took. If he wants to see mine, I would be happy to offer them.

This one was shot with no room lights on and is quite dramatic showing the lighting.

Bernheim All Flash 3

This had room lights on as well as the fill strobes.

Bernheim Final 3

Here's the setup: (Shot with iPhone)

Bernheim Photo Setup

Here's one from my Canon with just room lighting.


I'll let you all know when the issue will come out. The Ford Fairlane is one day away from completion and I'll be back onto Nighthawks next week. My caricatures are about 10% oversize. I've reprocessed that so they'll be ready for the display I'm going to make. The model presented some real challenges including opening that door and having to mold a new windshield out of 0.010" sheet styrene in a Sculpey mold after the original cracked in half. I also had some paint problems doing it outdoors (pollen infestation). All that's missing is the tiny GTA badge that goes in that blank space in the racing stripe and a final polishing. The 66 Fairlane GTA was a nicely proportioned car. They got much bigger in later years.

GTA Almost Done 1

As I was crawling around the layout setting up the backdrop I came to the awful realization that my city streets need to be ripped up and redone. The Strathmore-on-green foam was a failure on many levels, but since the dishwasher leak, the moisture put the nail in the coffin and has the paper delaminating all over the place. It looks like crap and doesn't meet my standards. It's a miserable job to do now since all the structures and landscaping is all around. I may remove paper and use grout as a road surface. It looks very real and hopefully won't delaminate. I may just paint the foam directly, or use thin Masonite as a road surface. Anything but what I've got now.


Images (5)
  • Bernheim All Flash 3
  • Bernheim Final 3
  • Bernheim Photo Setup
  • IMG_7498
  • GTA Almost Done 1
Last edited by Trainman2001

Thanks Mark! I added one more detail to the Ford before putting it on the shelf, a set of scratch-built semi-scale hood hinges. I found pictures of a set of 66 Fairlane hood hinges on eBay which I then used as a template to draw a detailed drawing on CorelDraw. I pasted multiple copies of the drawing onto some styrene and cut the parts out. I used some photo-etch brass free material for some of the smaller arms, and use 0.025" round styrene rod for pins. Because of all the plastic, the hinges are not robust enough to actually operate although they are mechanically correctly and do move properly, but they're flimsy, so I applied thin CA to the assembled hood to lock it into place.

GTA Hinges Installed 1

All that's missing are the counter-balance springs. If I were to build another car model AND wanted to make these fancy hinges workable, I would make them entirely out of brass and add some springs (either real or simulated). There would be so much drag in the mechanism that it would hold up the hood regardless.

Now… onto Nighthawks. As promised I started back at work on it today. I got the second floor (first floor ceiling) fitted. I had to notch the heck out of it to clear the widen window boxes so it would settle down onto the floor supports. The second floor will not be decorated and will be blacked out, so the way the floor fits is immaterial. I did not attach the floor yet since there's a lot to do before that point.

NH Ceiling Fit

But, what I did do was get the lighting installed. I used the very small surface mount LEDs soldered to adhesive copper foil laid out in a series pattern. I found that these small LEDs, while very bright, are also very delicate and heating too long while soldering does seem to kill them. I test them when isolated and then again when soldered into the foil and then again as a circuit. I'm now using CL2N LED driver chips. These little marvels eliminate all the guess work about what to do to limit the current in the circuit. You put the plus voltage on one of the three leads and the minus on the other end (the middle lead doesn't connect to anything) and regardless of whether you put 5 VDC or 90 VDC all you get out is 20 milliamps, which is just what the LEDs love. The limiting factor is the voltage drop across each LED. Each drops about 3 volts, so in a series circuit, with 4 LEDS, that's a 12 volt drop and I'm driving it with a 12VDC power source so all's well. If I was using a 6 volt source, I would use two drivers in a parallel circuit with 2 LEDs in each leg so each leg would drop the 6 volts. Again, I no longer have to worry about current. So with a 90 VDC power supply I could drive 30 LEDs in series with just one LED driver chip. This is so much easier than calculating the resistor values needed in conventional LED systems.

Here's the lighting under test.

NH Light Test

And here's the array. The positive and negative terminals are on the bottom of the LED. They're close together so you cut about a 1-2mm gap in the foil, tin the foil, hold the LED on the solder and then heat each side until the LED settles in, and then get off. Again… too much heat and you can kill the LED. They're only $0.29 each so losing one or two is not a big deal.

NH Light Test 2

I form the copper tape corners so I don't have to solder them. This is a trick I learned in the 70s when I was installing old school burglar alarms with the led foil tape on the window glass. The foil had to be continuous so you bend it back on itself, turn it 90 degrees and keep going. From this view you can see the widened window boxes. I will put on "sheet rock" to make regular looking walls.

I then masked each LED with a small piece of tape, premiered, and painted the ceiling flat white.

NH Ceiling Paint

The last thing I did today was add the Plastruct stone wall appliqué to the bottom scale 3 feet of the building. This will be painted to simulate stone. I'm letting it dry over night and work on it tomorrow.

NH Stone Glued

The Plastruct stone worked well in this application since it had nice smooth courses  and makes a nice straight top edge which building foundations have. The windows mount from the inside to reveal some brick wall thickness. I'm using conventional Tichy windows turned upside down and mounted from the back which puts the upper sash on the outside and the lower on the inside as it should.

I realized today that the small, bottom, upside-down turret is nestled into the building so 3/4 of it is exposed. That means that the piece has to have a 90 degree notch cut into it, or I have to cope cut the buildings wall so the turret slips into it. I will probably be easier to cut the turret, but it has a ball bearing epoxied to the apex and an aluminum shaft that was used to hold it in the lathe chuck when I made it. I believe that an abrasive cutoff disk in the Dremel could handle the metal parts. We'll see.

I'm at a point where I have to pre-plan the assembly carefully. The interior probably has to be completely fit before the front window assembly goes in since it will hard to do it from the top down. It's also tricky just getting the floor plate into position without any walls or furnishing in place. I spend a lot of time just staring at what's built so far and building it in my mind to figure out the best approach. That's the one challenge with scratch-building that people don't speak about much…no instruction sheet. I also have to figure out the best time to paint the exterior since I can have the windows installed so painting should happen soon.


Images (6)
  • GTA Hinges Installed 1
  • NH Ceiling Fit
  • NH Light Test
  • NH Light Test 2
  • NH Ceiling Paint
  • NH Stone Glued
Last edited by Trainman2001

I really appreciate the work you've put in on the LEDs.

By the way, a friend I road raced with 40 years ago restored a 66 vintage race car, the Fairlane, like your model and campaigned it in the SVRA. The chassis was set up basically like the racing Shelby GT 350s since they're so similar to the early mustangs.

Great work as always

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