Alco C-855 R-T-R Build – Part 12 – Detail Parts

This week I’m covering the next part of my step-by-step build of a set of N Scale A-B-A ready-to-run Alco C-855 locomotives, which are almost finished.  You can find part one of the build here.  This step is all about adding the last detail parts and putting it all together.

I will start with the fuel tank.  This screws to the underside of the chassis with the same screw which held the original Con-Cor fuel tank for the U50/Gas Turbine.

The new 3D printed chassis section is designed to accept the fuel tank in one direction only; there is a lug at the front and a hole at the back which lines up with the screw hole in the tank.

However it won’t fit without a little modification to the trucks.  The inner trucks have a bar and hook which the original fuel tank sat over.  This stopped the trucks from swinging out too far when you picked up the locomotive.  It had no effect on the running or tracking of the trucks.

But because the C-855 fuel tank is a different shape these hooks need to be cut off to allow it to fit properly.  In the image below you can see I’ve only cut off the vertical part of the hook as the horizontal section can still run into the C-855 fuel tank.  This will still help hold the truck place.  However, the truck can now swing out.  If you plan to leave the locomotive on a layout and not handle it much then this won’t be an issue but if you plan to regularly move the locomotive, for exhibiting at shows etc, the one option is to extend the horizontal section and I’ll show you this a bit later on.

The fuel tank simply fits on the metal motor chassis with the screw hole aligning with the hole in the plastic insert.  The insert was the piece which was fitted in part 4 of the build about the chassis assembly.

The insert is not threaded.  It could be threaded by using a thread cutting tool but as it’s plastic or rather acrylic and the screw is metal it will cut in with a little effort to get it started.

The fuel tank has two holes in the side which, when fitted, will align with two clips on the shell.  This holds the shell onto the chassis. ( I used a spare shell for the test fit as the painted one had just had its decals added).  To remove the shell simply spread the shell at the fuel tank and pull apart.

Earlier I spoke about lengthening the pegs on the trucks to stop them swinging out.  This can be done with anything you have eg. a strip of plastic or metal.  I used an off -cut from the etched fret border.  The left or front truck didn’t need to be extended but the rear did.  I simply superglued the brass to the existing peg.

With the fuel tank refitted the rear truck can no longer swing out.

Next we come to the crew.  These are modeled sat at the controls and include a platform with a grab handle on the underside for easy installation.

The two crew parts are designed with the engineer being offset to the middle of the locomotive.  The grab handle will be closest to the side of the shell.

Although I always spray my shells with a primer first, with these tiny details I simply paint them directly with paints using a small brush.  These areas are so small I don’t feel the primer will make much of a difference.  I tend to use Humbrol enamel paints as they are normally finer than acrylics and better for small details.  I know there can be an issue with using these paints on the 3D printed surfaces as they have been known to stay sticky for weeks but again for such small areas it appears to be okay.

I prefer the blue as a uniform color for my crew, it looks like denim and gives a traditional feel to the locomotive.

Inside the cab on either side are two shelves.  The crew parts will sit on top of these shelves.  The rear one has a step on top and this is the locating point to ensure the crew are put in the right place.

Using a pair of tweezers and holding the crew part upside down I test fit them first.  Sometimes if there’s some print residue on the shelf they can be a tight fit and the end of the crew platform part may need to be cut down ever so slightly.  I do this with the modeling knife.

Once I’m happy they’ll fit I dab the two ends of the crew platform with superglue and stick them in place.

The crew will now be visible through the windows.

The next details are from the etched metal fret.  To the right of the fret are two small grills.  These are walkways used at the rear of the locomotive.

I cut them out using a sharp knife.  In the close up below you can see two burrs on the left of the top walkway which will need to be trimmed so it’ll fit into the shell.  The walkways are handed, ie. they’re mirrored versions of each other, and the cranked face goes against the locomotive shell.

As always I do a test fit.  There are two notches for the walkway to drop into so the top is flush with the checker plate printed into the shell. After I’ve confirmed it fits I dab a spot of superglue on each end and place it back into the model.

It’s these small details like this that make the model come to life, but if I’d designed these to be a 3D printed part of the shell they would’ve been very chunky, if not solid.

The next detail from the fret is the long walkway which goes onto the roof over the center of the shell.  Again I cut it out with a knife and tidied up any burrs.

This walkway has a reduced section on each end which is designed to fit into a slot in the roof detail just past the large roof grill.  As the shell has been painted it is probable that this slot has some paint in it, as it does in the photo below, and will need to be carefully opened up with the knife. Take care that no shell material itself is cut away.

Test each end to see if the walkway slides in.  Once it does I spot, using a toothpick, a little superglue onto the areas where the walkway is supported, mainly the four raised strips, and a little on each of the reduced sections on the ends.  Then I fit the walkway.  Once one end is in it’ll need to be slightly bent, or curved, to get the other end in.  The walkway can be pushed down and it should stick to the four raised sections preventing the walkway from bowing back up where it was curved..

To the far right of the fret are two sunscreens for the cab.  These have tabs attached which fit into holes 3D printed in the cab sides.

The holes, above the windows, are already sloping up at the right angle so all you need to do, after a test fit, is dab some superglue onto the tabs and push them into place.

Again this is another detail which greatly improves the model.

The sun shades are not handed so either will fit on any side.

When I first started making etched sunscreens for my models, such as the DT6-6-2000, they were details which simply stuck to the sides and this made them weak.  Having the tabs running into the shell gives them lots of strength and helps prevent them being knocked off.

One of the smaller details is the rear hand railing.  The C-855B has one at the front as well.  This is a cranked section located in the middle of the fret.

It fits between the two lifting lugs at the rear (And at the front on the C-855B)

Believe it or not this is one of the most fiddly details to add!  (I blame the designer). There is a tiny shelf on the inside of each lifting post to receive the handrail and it can be really tricky to get it in.  Of course that might just be me!

The last detail is the horns.  This is 3D printed and can be a bit delicate.  I brush painted it with UP Harbor Mist Gray.

Located on the top of the shell is a hole to receive the peg in the underside of the horns.  When designing these locomotives, reference photos of the roof were very hard to find and I was unsure if the C-855B had horns or not.  So I’ve made allowances for them on the C-855B and leave it up to you to decide.

The last parts to add are the sand boxes and handrails which I’ve left till last as these are the most likely parts to be damaged when handling the model. I’ll cover installing all of those in next week’s post which should complete this build.

Alco C-855 R-T-R Build – Part 11 – Lights

This week I’m covering the next part of my step-by-step build of a set of N Scale A-B-A ready-to-run Alco C-855 locomotives, which are almost finished.  You can find part one of the build here.  This step is all about adding the headlights.

These models are going to be DCC, but the same installation will work with DC as well.  The C-855 has a pair of headlights above the cab windows centered in the roof as you can see in the image below.   These lights are very small and although you can get surface mount LED of a similar size its hard to get them to look as rounded as this, or rather as the real thing.

To achieve this effect I have designed the two lamp holes to be printed into the 3D shell but the holes only go halfway into the roof.  For the other half I have designed a larger hole which can only be seen from inside the cab.  In the image below of the upside down shell you can see the larger hole above, or rather below, the windows.  This image was taken before I fitted the windows.

The hole is designed to accept a ‘2mm Lighthouse Warm White LED’ as shown below.  I use these for several reasons. They’re fairly cheep, the spindle part or lighthouse section is small but the rest of the LED is not too small to easily work with.  The warm white light is much closer to the original than the stark white of standard LEDs and the lighthouse design can be used to make a beam of light rather than just an all round glow.

It is important to note that LEDs unlike bulbs only work when the positive and negative wires are connected in the right way.  LED stands for Light Emitting Diode.  A diode, light emitting or not, only allows DC power to pass through it in one direction.  So if the wires are connected the wrong way around, it simply won’t light up.

There are three ways to tell which is the positive terminal on a lighthouse LED.  Firstly, you can see above that one metal leg is longer than the other.  This is the positive leg.  Secondly, looking inside the LED as shown in close up below you can see the split between the two internal parts.  The smaller of the two, shown at the top, is the positive side.

And thirdly, if you have your power source handy such as a 9V battery or 12v DC controller you can touch the LED contacts to the wires and it will light up when connected the right way round.  NOTE: a resistor must be used when doing this otherwise the LED will most likely burn out. This is because the LED will only be able to handle a low amount of amperage and with out a resistor to limit the current the LED, will draw all the amperage the power source has available.  The resistor can be on either the positive or negative side, as long as the power passes through it.  I will show you how I place mine shortly.

Because the LED omits light from all sides it’s important to ensure we only get light where we want it.  If you have one of the older Con Cor Gas Turbines, which chassis we are using for this build, you may remember that when the headlight is on, the whole cab illuminates.  What doesn’t help is the FUD or rather ‘Fine Detail Plastic’ material Shapeways use is porous to light.  However these shells have been primed and painted which gives a good block to the light showing through but just to make sure I always paint the inside of the cabs with a matt black.

I doesn’t have to be a pretty job, but I like it to be thick.  I also make sure I get some in the hole where the LED fits, this bit doesn’t want to be too thick otherwise the LED won’t fit.  I used to paint the LED with the exception of the top of the lighthouse to prevent unwanted light but I now have a better method  I will share with you in a minute.

The legs on the LED need to be cut down so the LED fits into the cab roof area.  Make sure you leave enough to solder wires to.  At this point the first way of identifying the positive side of the LED is no longer possible, unless you cut one longer than the other.

The LED wont go all the way into the hole because half way in the big hole becomes the two smaller headlight holes.

To stop the light filling the cab I now wrap the LED in heat shrink.  I use a tube which is roughly the same size as the box part of the LED and cut it so it will cover everything except the tip of the LED that goes into the hole.  If this part has heat shrink on it will not fit into the hole.

The box is actual bigger than it looks and the heat shrink tube is a tight fit but with some effort can be forced over the LED.

Then using my soldering iron I can shrink the tube around the LED.

The only part of the LED which can’t be covered like this is the rear of the box between the wires.  So I simply paint that with black matt paint.  A pair of tweezers are an easy way to hold the LED while painting as they naturally clamp it.

Once the paint is dry, 15 minutes with the acrylic paint I use, the LED can be test fitted.  Ideally the heat shrink should go all the way to the edge of the hole to prevent any light showing through.

For the resistor I have used a  small 1k ohm.  Being only a 4mm long it will be easy to fit into the space in the top of the chassis.  I cover the electrical connections to prevent them from touching the chassis with another piece of heat shrink.

I have soldered the white wire from the decoder to the resistor, the white wire is the front light negative.  The blue is the common positive.

The heat shrink is then pushed over the resistor, shrunk on with the soldering iron and it’s all tucked into the space in front of the decoder.

The wires can then be soldered to the LED.  Don’t forget to check which is the positive connection first.  I also used two small pieces of heat shrink to cover the joints.

With all the connections made and covered, I did quick test on the power to make sure everything worked.

Because the shell may need to be removed for maintenance at a latter date I don’t glue the LED into the cab roof.  I use a bit of black tack to hold it in place.  This should hold it firm but it can be peeled off at any point.  Black Tack is a high strength adhesive putty designed for photographers. I find it fantastic at holding decoders and other bits in place.

The head lights are now ready for the proper test and as you can see they look really good.

If your running on DC then you still need to use the resistor.  The wires coming from the LED, via the resistor, simply need to be connected to the chassis power points.  One to the left hand side and one to the right.  In the image below, taken from part 5 about fitting DCC decoders, you can see the two contact point which will also be used to connect the motor to.

Because the LED will only light up when power is applied in the correct direction the LED should only light up when the chassis is running forwards, on DC power.  If it lights up when running backwards the wires need to be reversed.

These models have not been designed with a rear headlight, mainly because I intended mine to run as an A-B-A set.  Therefore the C-855B has no lighting.

As this post turned out to be a bit longer than anticipated, I will leave the detail parts such as the fuel tank and etched details, for next week’s post.

Shapeways Special Offer For Cyber Monday Extended

Good news!  Shapeways have extended their Cyber Monday sale and are offering 15% off any model in the Shapeways Marketplace for an extra day.

This offer runs from today, November 26th 2018, and now ends at 3am EST (Eastern Standard Time) on November 28, 2018.

All my Shapeways products can be found in my Shapeways shop here.

All you need to do to get the offer is enter the code ‘HAPPYMONDAY’ at the checkout.

I will continue my step-by-step build of a set of N Scale A-B-A ready-to-run Alco C-855 locomotives next week where I’ll have a long post covering all the remaining detail parts and lights.

Shapeways Special Offer For Cyber Monday

When it comes to internet sales today is considered to be one of the busiest in the year; Cyber Monday!  And not wanting to leave anybody out Shapeways are offering 15% off any model in the Shapeways Marketplace.

This offer is only available today, November 26th 2018, and runs out at 3am EST (Eastern Standard Time) on November 27, 2018.

All my Shapeways products can be found in my Shapeways shop here.

All you need to do to get the offer is enter the code ‘HAPPYMONDAY’ at the checkout.

Alco C-855 R-T-R Build – Part 10 – Window Glazing & Wipers

This week I’m covering the next part of my step-by-step build of a set of N Scale A-B-A ready-to-run Alco C-855 locomotives.  You can find part one of the build here.  This step is window glazing and fitting window wipers.

Now that the decals have all been applied, with the exception of the number boards, I can sort out the window glazing.

This wasn’t done sooner as some of the paint needed to be finished by hand, such as the red lining over the front wwindows. I do this by hand as there are four holes for the windscreen wipers and it’s easier to paint the stripe than cover the holes with a decal and try to find them again.

If the glazing was fitted first there would be a risk of getting paint on it.

The glazing, only required for the C-855 A units, consists of 5 parts; a center section which covers the four forward windows, two side sections for the pairs of side windows and two door sections for the doors at the rear of the cab.  I cut my window glass from clear acrylic sheet.

The main section is 18mm long and 5mm deep.  The cut out at the bottom is 10.5mm long by 1mm deep; this is to avoid the chassis.  The side window sections are 6.5mm wide by 5.5mm deep. They are shown in the wrong orientation in the photo and fit into the cab turned by 90°.  The door sections are 3mm wide by 4.5mm deep.  These sizes are rough but allow the window hole to be totally covered giving enough space all around to fix the glazing in.  So if your slightly off it’s okay.

I tend to start with the main window section. As with anything like this I always do a test fit first.  With the shell resting so the nose is at the bottom I’m able to drop the window in using a pair of tweezers.  If it’s a good fit I take it out, but if it’s not a good fit I trim it down where needed and try again.

To fix the glazing I use a very small amount of superglue.  The reason I only want to use a tiny amount is because of the reaction superglue fumes have on fingerprints.  As much as I try not to I still get fingerprints all over the glazing, then, if a lot of superglue is used, the fumes stick to the prints and they show up on the glazing, turning it hazy.  So to prevent this I put a drop of glue onto a piece of card; something glossy is great so the superglue won’t soak in.

Then using a pin I put a dot of superglue in each corner of the windows, and as this is a set of four windows I also put one above and below the middle.  Then using the tweezers I place the glazing back in.  As the glazing and shell are made from acrylic and so is superglue they all bond quickly together with no fumes when the glazing drops into place.  In the picture below you can see the front glazing stuck in place.

This is then repeated for the side windows and rear doors.  As long as the glazing isn’t any bigger than the given dimensions it will not interfere with the fitting of the cabs and crew.  Once fitted the glazing gives a much better look to the cabs.

Now I can fit the windscreen wipers.  They are located in the etched brass fret on the right hand side, one for each of the front windows.

In the picture below I have cut out the right hand pair.  (Right hand as you are looking at the loco, not from the driver’s perspective).

About 1mm in from the left hand side of the arm is a half etch section on the rear of the etch; this is where the wiper arm needs to be bent in order to attach it to the shell.  I use a flat pair of tweezers to hold the wiper and push the arm over with my finger.  Because of the half etch the arm will bend in the right place.

Now I do a test fit.  The holes on the cab for the wipers are the right size and they should fit well but it is possible that the holes have filled with paint. If that’s the case a 0.5mm drill can be used to reopen the hole.

I use a pin vice for small drills like this.

With the holes open the arms can be test fitted; you can see the first arm test fitted below.

Once you are happy then it can be fixed in.  Again I use superglue for this but not applied directly to the model.  I put a fresh drop on to my piece of card and using the tweezers lightly dip the bent arm into the superglue then put it back into the hole.  You have a few seconds to position the arm where you want it before it sticks.  The main windows the engineers look out from are the deeper outer windows.

The C-855 shells are almost finished.  They still need the sand boxes adding, as well as the handrails, crew and a few other details such as the lights which I know a few readers are waiting to see how to do. This will all be covered in next week’s post.

Alco C-855 R-T-R Build – Part 9 – Decals

This week I’m covering the next part of my step-by-step build of a set of N Scale A-B-A ready-to-run Alco C-855 locomotives.  You can find part one of the build here.  This step is decals and how to apply them.

There are lots of different ways to apply decals and I’m sure some are easier than others but I’ve found a system that works for me.  I originally used to print my own decals; this has the advantage that you can get whatever you want, with the exception of white.  You need an Alps printer, or something similar for white.  But it also comes with a few disadvantages. I found that with homemade decals the color looks great on the sheet, with the backing paper behind it, but as soon as it’s applied to the model the color of the model affects the color of the decal.  This is because the layer of color on the decal is not that thick.  For example red letters or lining on Union Pacific Harbor Mist Gray went very dark, but on the Armor Yellow stays bright.  If the decal crossed the two colors it looked rather odd.  So now I tend to use specifically made decals from Microscale or Circus City.  Their color layer is thick and the decal can be placed onto anything without color change.  Also they do seem to stick well.

So how do I do it?

The tools I use are a craft knife, always with a new blade, a modeling paint brush, a pair of tweezers, a metal rule, a foil tray with some water, a sheet of paper towel, Micro Set solution and Matt Cote.

I always use a new blade because I’ll be making some small precise cuts and I want the decal paper to cut not tear.  A blunt blade may cause the decal to move slighty on the backing paper rather than slicing through it or it may cause the backing paper to wrinkle, destroying the decal.

The foil container of water is because these are wet slide decals so we need the water to separate the decal from the backing.

And the paper towel is to absorb the excess water; if there’s excess water on the decal it won’t stick. I also have a scrap of paper towel, about the size of my thumb, which has been folded a few times to give a crisp edge and is also dampened.  I’ll explain what this is for later.

Micro Set and Micro Sol are both products from Microscale for setting and fixing the decals to the model. Micro Set is a setting solution to help the decal adhere to the model.  Micro Sol is a decal softener which allows decals to be pushed onto tricky shaped areas.

Matt Cote is made by Humbrol and is a varnish that goes on clear and dries clear. It dries to a smooth, low-sheen, matt finish.

The decals are printed onto a clear film which is stuck onto a backing sheet and they need to be cut out.

Large decals can simply be cut out using the knife or even a pair of scissors but small items such as loco numbers will certainly require the knife. Strips such as the lining need to be cut out in a certain way.  If you simply run the knife around the decal there’s a chance you will cut the decal itself and if you cut the ends first it will curl up as you cut it out.  So, being right-handed, I place the rule so the edge is just to the right of the decal and run the knife down the side, starting above and finishing below the decal.

I then place the rule just to the left of the decal and cut the other side.  Because the ends had not been cut the decal doesn’t curl up.  If there is some of the clear film between the cut and the decal that is okay; if you are too close you could cut the part you want.

The ends of the decal can now be cut and the strip can be removed ready for use.

I always test fit the decals to be sure. The vents or grills on the C-855 will be blackened so I’m not going to run the decal over them. Also running the decal over the vents will hide the great detail.  Any areas such as this which do want the red strip I will touch in with paint later.

Once I’m happy with the piece I want to apply I dip it in the water for a few seconds and place it on the paper towel. I then use the brush to lightly wet the areas where the decal will be going with Micro Set.  At this stage the choice of priming the models before applying the paint pays off because of the material used to 3D print the shells can be porous and the Micro Set would sink in too fast.  But with a primer and gloss finish the decal has a smooth surface to adhere to.  Matt finish paint is coarser than gloss which also gives problems when getting decals to stick.

Once about four minutes have passed I pick up the decal carefully and push the decal on top of the backing paper and it starts to slide off.  Then, using the tweezers to grip the backing paper, making sure I don’t grab the decal, I position one end, hold it in place with the brush and pull the decal off the paper.  In an ideal world the decal lands exactly where I want it, but normally it doesn’t, so using the brush, I position it correctly.  The Micro Set evaporates fairly quickly and as it does the decal fixes to the model.  The glue which held it to the paper was loosened by the water and then reactivated by the Micro Set.  If I’m happy with the position I use the small thumb sized, slighty damp, piece of paper towel to press the decal down.  This gets rid of any air trapped behind the decal and ensures a good, flat fixing.  It’s damp to make it maleable and soft.  If I’m not happy with the position I can use the brush to put some more Micro Set onto the decal and it will start to slide again.

As well as the lining, the words and numbers on the model are important.  Under the cab will be the words ‘Dependable Transportation’.  These are on Microscale sheet 11-92.

This is a small decal and hard to see up close but I’ve simply cut out the rectangle leaving a bit of space from the edge of the lettering.

I do a quick test fit.

Then dunk the decal in the water and wet the area under the window with Micro Set.

Then, when it’s ready, I slide the decal in place.

Once pressed down the clear film around the letters disappears.  I then do the other decals such as the big Union Pacific, loco numbers and bottom red stripe.  This stripe also runs around the sand boxes but it’s easier to do the main body before they are fitted.

One of the main features of this iconic locomotive is its nose and being a UP loco, UP like to let you know it’s one of theirs.

There are areas which still need a few decals, such as above the cab windows, but these will be touched in later once the windows and details have been added.

Lastly, the decals need to be sealed otherwise they could be rubbed off by handling the locomotive. You can use an airbrush or spray can and coat the locomotive in a laquer.  I’ll be spraying the locomotive with Testors Dullcote when finished, but for now I’ll be covering the decals with a layer of Matt Cote applied by brush.  The Matt Cote is fairly thick and it’s also a solvent which softens decals so I always cover the them in one pass.  I need to be sure before putting this on because once a decal is coated in this it won’t come off without being cut off.

With all the primary decals applied I can now add the windows and most of the fine details, such as the windscreen wipers, which I’ll cover in next week’s post.