Raildig.com https://www.raildig.com Model Railroading Digest Sun, 12 Jan 2020 02:15:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 Stripping And Repainting | Rokuhan Shorty Locomotive https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/stripping-repainting-rokuhan-shorty/ Sun, 12 Jan 2020 01:57:43 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3587 5:28 6:30 / 7:54 Stripping And Repainting A Z Scale Rokuhan Shorty Locomotive Shell

I had a little free time last weekend and a couple of Z scale Rokuhan Shorty locomotive shells kicking around, what else was I going to do but try my hand at stripping and repainting them? This is both a sad (well, not too sad really) and happy tale about my first attempt at this kind of repainting work.

At around $9.00 per shell, this is actually a pretty good and cost effective gamble with the upside being I come out of it with a cool new Rokuhan Shorty shell in a color not available from the manufacturer. Also, I get to learn what not to use to strip loco shells in the future!

I also got to do a little shell modification on this Shorty that was inspired by another YouTuber, this and other related links are in the video description over on our YouTube channel.

If you’re into Z scale, this is a cool project to play with for a small investment. Have fun!

Using A Purple Coin Cell Holder For A Model Train LED https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/purple-coin-cell-holder/ Thu, 02 Jan 2020 20:37:57 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3579 Purple Coin Cell Holders

In our last video project we used several of the purple, LilyPad style 3V battery holders with a built in on/off switch. I like these so much for small projects I thought I’d make a video talking about them a bit more. These really are idea for spots when you don’t want to get involved with more complex wiring but you still want some LED flavor.

These holders were originally designed to be used in textile projects where the holder can be sewn right into the fabric using conductive thread. Even the mounting holes are actually called “sew tabs”, though with a little hunting we found metric screws that are an ideal substitute when mounting these holders on solid material.

As most hobby white LEDs are 3V 20mA, a typical 3V 220mAh coin cell can be used without a resistor and last for up to 11 hours. Your mileage may vary of course depending on the battery brand, but we’ve found this to be a pretty accurate estimate.

Rokuhan Shorty Christmas | Z Scale Model Train Christmas Layout https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/rokuhan-shorty-christmas-z-scale-model-train-christmas-layout/ Wed, 18 Dec 2019 08:44:22 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3571 Rokuhan Shorty Christmas LayoutThis is one of those projects I’ve wanted to build for a while now. A tiny little battery powered layout on a basswood round I’ve seen in craft stores. I finally got to it this year and couldn’t be happier. This really does remind me of the old Marklin Z scale Fun Sets, a tiny oval of track and a loco.

Those little Fun Sets were the launching point for lots of model railroaders, we all have to start somewhere after all, why not have fun on the first step? As a nice bonus, pieces like this can be tucked away with the Christmas ornaments in January and brought out again and remembered and rediscovered each and every Christmastime in the future.

Looking for a first layout for your children or a fun weekend project for yourself? Why not build one of these micro-layouts now!

Trainini Magazine https://www.raildig.com/introduction/trainini-magazine/ Wed, 04 Dec 2019 08:06:15 +0000 http://www.raildig.com/?p=60 Trainini magazineLatest Issues: October 2019 Issue

Beginning in January 2018, Holger Späing, Editor-in-chief of Trainini Magazine, has let us know that Trainini will be released in an English language International Edition as well as still continuing to be produced in German. WOW!

Here at Raildig we are thrilled that Trainini has found the people to do the German to English translation and for the first time, we are very happy to present these English language versions to our readers in the Trainini International Editions. A big thank you to all on the Trainini team for making this happen!

Trainini 2019


Trainini Magazine 2018


Trainini Magazine 2017


Trainini Magazine 2016


Trainini Magazine 2015


Trainini Magazine 2014


Trainini Magazine 2013


Trainini Magazine 2012


Trainini Magazine 2011

Bad Bayou Halloween 2019 Video https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/bad-bayou-halloween-2019-video/ Tue, 08 Oct 2019 07:12:25 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3546 Happy Halloween 2019 everyone! Just a short follow-up piece on the Bad Bayou shadowbox (or is it a diorama?) we’ve featured over the past 2 years here on Raildig. No real changes to the piece this year but I have shot a short video with the LG G6 and a motorized dolly.

I’m probably one of the last adults on the planet to get a smartphone, as I wrote in a previous article, and I thought I’d show off the flashing lights of the Bad Bayou this year. I still have miles and miles to go until I produce “good” video, but we all have to start somewhere.

Most of this video was shot using just the LED lights in the box. I got a little carried away with sound effects layers, but it IS Halloween after all.

Enjoy, and have a very Happy Halloween (and spooky of course, always spooky!).

Smartphone Video In Model Railroading https://www.raildig.com/useful-tools/smartphone-video-in-model-railroading/ Tue, 01 Oct 2019 02:28:45 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3536 Smartphone Video In Model RailroadingAs a rule, I tend not to write articles on topics I’m unfamiliar with but today I’m breaking this trend as I talk about getting our model train work captured on video and shared online. Not only am I unfamiliar with video work, but smartphones too. So this is sort of a double “I’m not sure what I’m doing” article. What could go wrong?

Until a short time ago, I had never owned a smartphone. I work from home and never really saw the need for one. Recently though the idea of the phone did appeal to me for the camera as much as the phone itself. Being able to take quick photos for my train related social media accounts seemed a good idea. I’ll spare you lots of the decision making process I went through on which phone to buy, but as I wasn’t even sure if I’d keep the phone activated, I wanted to keep it very low cost with no contract.

I decided on a used and unlocked LG G6 phone. This was, according to most online sources, a flagship phone in 2017 with a solid, if not spectacular, camera. It cost me under $100 and arrived without a scratch on it, so there’s a win.

Now I’m very comfortable with traditional DSLR photography, and I shoot most of my photos tethered to my computer. This means I rarely look at a tiny camera LCD screen as all of my camera controls and images appear on a pair of 27” monitors on my desktop. Nice. Phone cameras are just a bit different, aren’t they?

I’ve been playing with this phone for about a week now and the first thing I realized is that due to the tiny camera sensor, low light is not your friend when shooting photos or video. Newer phones are obviously better in this regard, but low light work will always be a struggle, regardless of the camera. Going forward I believe I can improve my results in a number of ways such as more manual camera control, third party camera apps, very careful lighting, post processing and noise reduction, etc.

What I’d like to talk about today though is camera motion, specifically through the use of small motorized camera dollies to add visual interest to my videos. With model trains, we already have the motion of the trains running but I’ve always liked interesting dolly shots too. As a result, I’ve ended up with a pair of these dollies and I’d like to now touch on both of them, and why I bought these two specific units.

First up is the Kingjoy PPL-06S Electric Camera Slider, I just call it a dolly. I believe this this is one of the earlier designs in the market and it got very positive reviews when it was first released. It comes with a mini ball head camera mount, spare rubber wheels and a USB cable for charging up its internal battery, which is housed in the axle. A nice little package.

I popped my camera in to a phone mount (not included with either of these dollies) and got started. I was less concerned about the actual content of picture quality of the video (as I’m new to video and have appropriately low initial expectations!) and more concerned with just how smooth the picture looked when the dolly was rolling. This Kingjoy dolly has 5 motor speeds and I found all of them worked well and the video looked good. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!

One note, I run both of these dollies of a sheet of scrap glass to give me the smoothest results possible.

This Kingjoy dolly can also be made to run in circles, so to speak. The front wheel can be adjusted to let the dolly turn while running. This is where I ran in to an issue with this design. Anything more than a very gentle turn radius will cause the unit to shudder, shake and not go in the direction you intended. This dolly has one powered wheel on its main axle and as a result (I’m assuming), smooth tight turns were not possible for me. Ok, so we’ve got great slow speeds, “iffy” at best on tight curves.

Having a slightly obsessive nature, I looked around at dolly alternatives and came across the NEEWER Motorized Dolly. This, I thought, had a much more interesting design as all three wheels can be adjusted independently. As a bonus, it comes with remote control for speed and direction. I’m always a little wary of these tiny remotes on many devices as, in my experience, they can just stop working for no apparent reason. Still, the three adjustable wheel configuration won me over and I ordered one.

LG G6 | Dolly Video Test
No trains, just some cardboard and a dolly.

Much like with the Kingjoy unit, I popped the phone on top (using a separately purchased mini ball head mount) and let her rip! Great news, this unit can make incredibly tight turns without a hint of shake or shudder. Bad news (you knew this was coming, right?), the slowest speed on this multi-speed dolly is much faster then I’d like, especially for close-up shots. Things in frame tend to zoom by a little too quickly and lose that nice, slow quality of movement.

LG G6 | Dolly Video Test
Not terribly exciting, just another test!

Since I can’t combine the best qualities of these two dollies together in one unit, I’ve decided to keep both of them. I can see the need for both slow gentle dolly movement on slight curves, as well as sharper curving shots and overall higher speeds.

I’m really just at the very beginning of my video life here, so these seconds-long tests are naturally rough. Rather than use Final Cut Pro on my Mac to tweak the videos, I just used iMovie to assemble the clips quickly and tack on some YouTube royalty free music to begin to get a feel for the process.

For being the little “toys” that they are, these little dollies are actually kind of fun and more important, I can see real value to them in creating some nice videos. On the phone camera, before too long I can see myself picking up a little 4K mirrorless camera for superior low light video performance. It makes more sense however to learn a bit about all the things that go in to producing a good video before I look to replacing my tools!

Using Solder Paste https://www.raildig.com/useful-tools/using-solder-paste/ Tue, 28 May 2019 07:32:02 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3486 Using Solder PasteI’ve been using more loose, small LEDs lately in various projects recently and soldering them can be a bit of a trick. While it is possible to use regular solder from a spool, I thought I’d give solder paste a try. Solder paste is a thick, sticky material made up of small (very small!) solder balls suspended in flux. If you look closely under magnification, the solder balls almost look like microscopic fish eggs.

In the example shown here, I’m using 0805 LEDs with solder pads. The 0805 LEDs measure 2.0mm x 1.25mm x 0.8mm. In these photos we’re using 28AWG twisted solid wire. This is small wire, but next to these small LEDs, it almost looks beefy!

A good technique for soldering these LEDs is the use of double-sided tape on a ceramic tile. This is ideal to hold the wires, as well as the LEDs, in place while working. The tile can act as something of a heat sink, though your soldering iron will only need to touch the solder paste for a fraction of a second in order to melt it. It’s actually pretty simple to do this soldering, the only real trick is to get used to working small and keep your hands steady.

Here I used a toothpick to apply the paste to the ends of the wires but you can just as easily put a small amount of paste on the tile, and then run the wire ends through the paste. I’ve used a little more paste in these photos than necessary to better show off this paste.

Depending on the thickness of wire you might use, the double row of tape that I have here holding the wire may not be necessary in your case. This is actually pretty thick wire for these LEDs, and the double row of tape is useful for holding the wires. If you’re using magnet wire, this extra tape to hold the wire may not be necessary. It’s really about personal preference and what works best for you.

From here you just want to determine the anode (+) and cathode (-) of the LED. On these LEDs, a green arrow points to the cathode, this is where my black wire will go. Next, you line up the wire ends on top of the solder pads and with a fine tipped soldering tip, just touch the wire for a fraction of a second, that’s all the heat needed to melt the solder.

Even though this is an incredibly small amount of solder, the hold it provides is surprisingly strong. In the last photos here, I actually have a bit of unmelted solder next to one of the solder pads. You can usually just wipe this off with your finger or something like a small toothbrush. For being so small, these LEDs can actually be pretty forgiving when soldering!

Of course you’ll still need to use a resistor with any LEDs or all of your work will likely result in either a small “poof” or a very brief flash of light when hooked up to your power source. Exciting, but not really what you want. So if you’re looking for something to play with on a Sunday afternoon, you can always try a little solder paste and some loose LEDs!

Lance Mindheim | Model Railroading As Art https://www.raildig.com/raildig-guest/lance-mindheim-model-railroading-as-art/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 05:37:05 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3434 Lance Mindheim | Model Railroading As ArtOften we’ll see a thread on a model train forum that asks the question, can model railroading be considered art? This question never fails to deliver a wide range of opinions that will go in circles and often end up back at the original question… can a model railroad actually be considered to be art?

When I saw the new book by Lance Mindheim titled Model Railroading As Art, I immediately ordered it and at the same time, contacted Lance and see if he’d be interested in doing an interview with us here at Raildig. We previously interviewed Lance several years back (here’s that article) and are happy to present our readers with this interview on his most recent book.

I was immediately interested when I saw the title of your new book, Model Railroading As Art, after years of seeing this topic on model rail forums. How did this book come about for you?

I’ve always been intrigued why certain model railroads really stand out. I wondered what it was about them that set them apart. What was it about them that grabbed me? For years I just couldn’t get a handle on it. In model railroading, we have a culture where prototypically accuracy is the Holy Grail. I noticed though that a model could be an award winner prototypically and still not stir any more emotion than an architectural model.

Over time I realized the effectiveness was coming from color treatment, composition, and the handling of textures, not prototypical accuracy. Once I realized I was dealing with artistic concepts, not modeling ones, the idea for book came together.

Your previous model railroad books such as “How To Build A Switching Layout”, and “8 Realistic Track Plans For A Small Bedroom” seem more familiar in some ways by addressing the planning and operating of a layout. The new book seems a little more challenging to easily categorize.

Well, we all like categorizes and neatly organized boxes for our topics!  Model railroading tends to get mired in a culture of looking at things and doing things the same way, much more so than other hobbies. As a consequence its growth has been relatively slow. My hope was to expose readers to other viewpoints by bringing in the vibrancy of other fields where the followers are so passionate, photography, painting, the arts, etc.

When this topic does come up, I often hear people say it doesn’t matter if a layout is considered art or not, as long as you enjoy it. Can we expand our expectations of what a model railroad is, or can be?

It’s more a matter of what it “can” be. If we consider the possibility that our work can be enjoyed as art, something that brings enjoyment whether the trains are moving or not, it simply adds a new dimension. Whether somebody wants to enjoy their work that way is a matter of personal choice. I just want to open their minds to the possibility that it’s another option.

One of my favorite ideas in the book looks at the difference between art and illustration. I found this a very powerful concept. Can you talk about this art vs. illustration difference?

This is a common topic in the art world. The role of an illustration is simply to convey information. Art goes a step beyond to stir emotion. An architectural drawing of a bridge is an illustration. If an acclaimed artist, such as Hopper, were to paint that same bridge, the final result would stir emotion.

Effective art is far, far more difficult to create than an illustration. This applies to our work as well. We can have a model of a station that is dimensionally accurate, nail by nail. However, if it’s not effectively weathered it’s basically just an illustration. It won’t have the same emotional impact you get if you were to go into the field and view the actual prototype subject. In the book I wanted to bring home the point that prototypical accuracy alone, while a noble cause, won’t get you to the finish line. There is a step beyond, art, and that’s much harder.

Space: horizontal, vertical and negative are not terms we regularly use, or hear used in model railroading, but it’s an important idea in the book. Why is this?

It’s important because scene composition stands side by side with coloring in importance. If we don’t have a basic understanding of the role spacing and composition play, our layouts will look “off”. We may not be aware of why but the largest culprits are spacing elements too closely together and an overly symmetric arrangement of the elements.

It takes a lot of self-discipline but if we can space things out, often at the expense of eliminating a structure or two, the overall visual impact improves dramatically. Model railroads face an additional challenge that traditional artists don’t. Our subjects are man made and are often laid out in ninety degree grids. In addition, bench work often needs to be linear.

Combining the two, we are frequently locked into an overly symmetrical composition driven by those ninety degree angles. Our ace in the hole is vertical space. We can use vertical elements such as poles, stacks, trees, etc. to break up the symmetry a little.

The way you address color really drew me in and had me thinking about my own color work… and feeling slightly guilty if I’m honest! Why is color so important?

This gets to the earlier question of art vs. illustration. I believe what all of us are trying to achieve, whether it rises to the level of conscious thought or not, is to have our model transport us. When we look at a finished model we want to have the same visceral feeling we get as when we look at the actual prototype.

The two driving factors to get to that point are effective color treatment and scene composition. Examined closely, the subjects we model have surfaces comprised of fairly complex color patterns. If we can’t represent that, we won’t hit our goal. To get there you need to move from a “paint by numbers” monotone approach to color and think in terms of layers, blends, feathering, and transitions. It’s not easy and takes practice. The first step though is knowing the importance of the issue.

“Pick The Message” seems an important idea in the book, can you talk a little bit about what this means?

For most of us the ultimate goal is to feel transported. There is something we saw in the field, or an image in our mind that stirs positive emotions. We need to identify what that emotion is before we can represent it in model form. Is it calm melancholy, serene peacefulness, power, the energy of human activity? For each person the goal is different but you need to know the destination before you start the journey.

The way a scene is composed can often be a matter of studying the prototype and then freelancing a bit. Can we approach layout composition in a different way?

Yes, and it comes down to awareness and mindset. Composition is an area where many modelers struggle. They don’t understand the overwhelming importance of the subject or how to go about it. Also, there is an overriding fear that a layout will be boring if every possible scenic feature on our wish list isn’t somehow sledgehammered into our limited working area.

If you make an assembly or coloring mistake on a layout it’s generally easy enough to correct. If the composition is off from the beginning, it’s almost impossible to fix. The biggest composition error? Without question it’s trying to put more elements into a scene than the square footage will support visually.

I really like this line from the book, “Learn to see. Ask yourself, “What am I really looking at?”. How does this line apply to building a layout?

Prior to writing the book I spent a lot of time reading the biographies of famous artists such as Hopper, Rockwell, etc. The one thing that stood out was how long they studied a scene before painting it. The time was measured in days or, in some cases, weeks. They didn’t just role up, take a quick glance, and then start slapping paint on canvas. When we look at a prototype subject there is something that subconsciously grabs us.

We need to get a handle on what that “something” is if we’re to represent it in model form and evoke the same emotion. It’s not easy. Is it the color patterns and weathering of the structure? The complex blends, textures and shapes of the dead grass in front? Before we start to build the model we need to identify where we need to direct our attention or we’ll just end up with a soulless architectural model.

You talk about concepts for viewing our model railroads in person, as well as the dynamic nature of photographing our scenes. Are these aspects we don’t give enough time and attention to?

Absolutely!  This gets back to my audience of one concept. Experiencing our work photographically isn’t about impressing others, it’s about ourselves. It’s a totally selfish pursuit. For those that are willing to dive into photography it opens up an entirely new world in terms of experiencing your work.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, there seems to be a lot of apathy, fear, and resistance to the subject within the hobby population. With the quality of modern cell phone camera’s, excellent images can be taken be even a novice.

Model Railroading As Art

Book link on Amazon.com

We’re nearly at the end here, and like many of those earlier mentioned forum posts I find myself again asking, is model railroading art? What would you like readers to take away from your book?

I think the main takeaway is an understanding of what is specifically going on with a highly effective model that separates it from the pack. If we don’t understand what’s driving the appeal, we can’t develop and employ those techniques ourselves. If the reader understands that the reason what they’re looking at is so compelling visually then they can isolate those areas, focus on them, and improve their abilities in those specific areas. You can’t move forward if you don’t know what you don’t know.

Last question, what’s next for you as far as upcoming projects?

The larger the surface area of a modeling subject, the more important it is visually. If a tiny pin prick of a detail is off it will likely go unnoticed. If something with a large surface area is botched, it really stands out. One “large surface area” scenic feature is plain old grass and weeds. It’s surprising that given how common it is, how much area it covers, that effectively representing it gets so little attention.

Grass scenery products have improved dramatically in recent times but the one, massive, glaring hole, is the absence of earth toned dead grass, the dirty mudding grayish browns. I’ve been doing a lot of R&D lately on using powdered dyes to produce these earth toned grasses. I’ve dialed in the coloring, the next step is to experiment with different application techniques so that when the grass and weeds are placed on the layout they don’t take on an overly uniform appearance.

Article Links

Lance Mindheim Website

Model Railroading As Art | Amazon Link
Purchase on Amazon

Other Books by Lance Mindheim | Amazon Link
Purchase On Amazon

YOCTOSUN Head Mount Magnifier https://www.raildig.com/useful-tools/yoctosun-head-mount-magnifier/ Tue, 01 Jan 2019 09:44:14 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3406 YOCTOSUN Head Mount MagnifierFor years I’ve used a simple swing arm magnifying lamp when I need to do close-up model work, and while it’s not particularity fancy, it does a reasonably good job. I recently saw a few folks using a new style of lighted headband magnifier and thought I’d pick one up over at Amazon. The new magnifier is pretty inexpensive at around $15.00, made by a company called YOCTOSUN. I saw units that look identical for a few dollars less but at this price I figured I’d try out this ‘name brand’ first.

These glasses come with 5 interchangeable lenses of different magnifications: 1.0x, 1.5x, 2.0x, 2.5x and 3.5 times. Also in the package are 3 AAA batteries to power the dual LEDs, a microfiber cleaning cloth and an elastic headband that attaches to the arms of the glasses for a more secure fit. All in all, a nice little package for the price.

This is very subjective of course, but right out of the box the arms of the frames have a very plasticky feel to them, almost like children’s sunglasses. You’ll definitely want to handle these carefully. The battery compartment and the adjustable front portion of the glasses, while still made of the same plastic, seem well enough engineered.

The 5 acrylic lenses come in a separate storage box, and slightly surprisingly seem to be of fairly good quality. I was sort of expecting to see something similar to inferior drug store reader glasses, but was pleasantly surprised at how crisp things looked through the plastic lenses, with little distortion.

The glasses actually have two moving parts up front, the section that houses the LEDs and a black clip that holds the lenses. These are handy for making adjustments to the light and lens angles. The lenses are a simple press-fit in to the black plastic bracket, this makes for quick lens changes and the lenses seem to hold in this bracket very nicely.

The lighting on/off slide switch is located right behind the two LEDs. These LEDs don’t throw a ton of light, as you might expect but they are nonetheless useful.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised by these magnifiers. Yes, they do feel a bit on the cheap side due to the plastic used, but they’re also well engineered and at just $15.00, they’re worth having around. I’ll still use my swing arm lamp for many of the more common tasks, but to get in even closer for the detail work, I’ll be trying out these YOCTOSUN magnifiers.

Article Links

YOCTOSUN Head Mount Magnifier
Amazon Link

A Little Early Christmas https://www.raildig.com/blog/a-little-early-christmas/ Mon, 03 Dec 2018 04:44:45 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3385 Early ChristmasI wasn’t going to start listening to Christmas music early this year… until I did. Ah well, can you really ever have too much Christmas, too early?

Yes, I know it’s sappy, over-sentimental, cutesy, cornball, mushy, saccharine, etc., etc.

Hey, I play with trains all day, so I’d be right at home in this little village! Here’s something nice to pop on your screens as you work.