Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Review: TRUX Mercedes Mini Bus


If you're a model railroader, then you've gotta love a model of a bus that displays the words THE TRAIN on the destination board. Parked out front of your model train station, this one simple prop conveys the idea that your model railway connects to something bigger in an instant. All too often however, you'll come across a hollow-shelled bright plastic toy bus that actually detracts rather than enhances an otherwise finely modeled station scene. Although now no longer produced, Top Gear put out a range of finely detailed Australian model buses under their TRUX brand, one of which was a Mercedes Mini Bus that makes a perfect candidate to add beside the train station on a model railway.

The TRUX 1:76 scale Australian version of a Mercedes Mini Bus for the Toronto Bus Service is finished nicely.

The 1:76 scale OO gauge Mercedes Mini Bus was made available in just a handful of liveries. The Toronto Bus Service model that I purchased on eBay is actually a model of the bus that replaced the 620/720 series diesel trains once used for passenger services on the Fassifern to Toronto Line in Newcastle back in 1986. I've also seen this model Mercedes Mini Bus painted for Surfside Buslines on the Gold Coast, Shorelink Buses on Sydney's North Shore plus one other that I can't remember but I think may have been a bus company based in Adelaide. True model car collectors would probably cringe at the sight of this model out of its box, but standing alongside Philden Station, the Mercedes Mini Bus looks right at home on my model railway.

The Toronto Bus Service replaced trains between Toronto and Fassifern near Newcastle back in 1986.

The model is quite well presented, with true to scale NSW license plates and a list of other details such as molded windshield wipers, emergency exit signage, a fully detailed interior and even the famous Mercedes badge on the front grille. To give the purist car collectors a pure fright, the tyres and bright red wheel hubs in my opinion look like they could do with a little weathering treatment.

8633 says g'day to the new Mercedes Mini Bus as it arrives at Philden Station to connect with the next train.

The resale price of these TRUX range of model buses varies greatly. There are two versions of NSW PTC buses as used in Sydney and Newcastle in the 1980's through to mid 2000's that I'd love to add to my layout. However, they can regularly fetch up to $100 each plus postage. For that price I'd rather be saving up for a new locomotive. Modelers looking to add a 1961 Leyland Atlantean double-decker or a 1952 AEC Regal Sydney single decker bus to their layout will be more easily catered for, as there are usually heaps available for around the $25 to $40 mark. Although the Mercedes Mini Buses tend to be listed around the $50 to $90 vicinity on eBay, I guess I got lucky when my buy-it-now offer of $25 plus postage was accepted. For that, I am grateful to be able to rotate between parking my Deluxe Coachlines 1981 Denning Road Coach and now my Toronto Bus Service Mercedes Mini Bus outside Philden Railway Station to connect with the train. It will be a little ironic when the 2 car CityRail 620/720 diesel train that I've pre-ordered through Eureka Models ever arrives at Philden Station. There may be some evil stares across the platform between the train, and the bus that ultimately replaced it!

Review Card: TRUX Mercedes Mini Bus by Top Gear (no longer available)

 (3.5/5)

Final Thoughts: This rare little model of a rare little prototype captured in OO guage 1:76 scale is becoming increasingly hard to find, making it highly collectable in its own right.

See also; Review: TRUX Denning Road Coach

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Review: easy Rustall weathering method


Freight cars aren't meant to stay looking clean forever. So after 18 months of watching my shiny new Australian HO scale models ply the rails during Philden's construction, I decided to get down and dirty with a pair of models on the dining room table. All jokes aside however, weathering a freight car can be a daunting prospect if you haven't done it before. I've tried many different ways in the past, from India ink, pastel chalks, and acrylic paint washes sealed with Testor's Dullcote. While all have given mixed results, when it comes to weathering a freight car or wagon, there generally isn't a right or wrong way, providing the end result looks believable. So after getting a pleasing result when weathering my railway station and goods shed using Rustall, I once more turned to what is quickly becoming one of my favourite modelling tricks, and weathered up a pair of Australian freight wagons.

Step 1 is applying the brown rust solution.

Rustall is a 4 part process. Bottles 1, 2 and 3 are in liquid form, while bottle 4 is a fine powder with semi-adhesive like qualities. I started with bottle 1, (the rust like brown wash), using a fine tipped paint brush to follow the raised line profiles and moulded seams on the On Track Models V/Line VLCX louvre van, (shown at the top) and followed with the SDS Models NRNY 38' foot ice-chilled reefer shown above. The solution magically pools in a somewhat sporadic fashion. Which is fine if you want to let the Rustall decide what areas it wants to highlight with concentrated patterns of rust, but it can also be manipulated by dabbing away at the areas where it has pooled with the same paint brush until you achieve the desired effect. Using real photos from the internet as a guide, I simply highlighted the areas on the model that I thought would be prone to showing rust, and waited a few minutes for the wash to dry.

Step 2 is applying the darkened highlights.

Bottle 2 is the darkened highlights wash. Using a flat 5 mm wide paint brush, I coated the entire roof area in a fairly liberal coat, dried the brush tip then simply brushed away any excess solution. For the sides of the model I used the same brush and worked in steady strokes from top to bottom, being sure to work the wash into any nooks and crannies. The solution in bottle 2 also tends to build up around the rusted pattern formed from bottle 1, simulating years of accumulated dirt, rust and grime. At this point it is still possible to go back to bottle 1 and add some more rust until you've built up to the desired effect.

Step 3 is a coat of a clear solution which acts as a toner and sealer in one.

Bottle 3 is a bit like a clear toner, which blends both elements together and gives the silver plastic roof line an even tarnished metal look. Once more, I used a flat 5 mm wide brush to apply it liberally, dried the tip and then smoothed away any areas where the number 3 solution wanted to pool. It also plays the part of a sealer, and when dry the model can be handled without the risk of fingertips wiping away any of the weathering.

Step 4 is a dry brush finish of fine grey-brown powder that adds some earthen highlights. 

Bottle 4 is interesting in that it is just a fine powdery dirt. The instructions recommend placing the model with some of the grey-brown powder inside a paper bag and shaking it until you reach the desired effect. I just couldn't do that given the price of today's highly detailed and delicate model trains. So I used an old flat brush dipped in the bottle to dirty up the walkway on the white ice-chilled reefer. It worked okay on the patterned walkway on the reefer, not-so-much on the smooth roof line of the VLCX red wagon. To be honest, I achieved the look I was after with just bottles 1 to 3, so I'd be tempted not to bother with bottle 4 except for areas such as around the roof hatches on the white NRNY ice-chilled reefer, where the light dusting actually made a big difference!

So from this....

Before photo of the SDS Models NRNY ice-chilled reefer.

....to this.

After the same model has been given the Rustall makeover.

And this....

Before photo of the On Track Models VLCX wagon showing the toy-train-like silver roof.

....to this, the Rustall provided an easy platform for even a first-timer to try their hand at weathering.

After photo of the same model. Look closely and you will see small rust spots and rust showing through the lettering.

While the product is as simple as 1, 2, 3, 4, the subtleness of the finished result is still determined by the modeler. With both the wagons shown above, I could have made them as rusty or grimy as I wanted. But for a VLCX wagon that is meant to look like it has had 15 to 20 years work since it was last repainted, I think I backed-off at just the right point. With a set of steel coil open wagons soon on their way, I plan to keep the weathering standard uniform with the VLCX wagon shown above. So for that, the Rustall will be kept within easy reach. As for the white NRNY reefer.... it has just been withdrawn from service on Philden to be auctioned off on eBay. For anyone interested in making it theirs, the link will be on my collectibles page this afternoon.

Review Card: The Original Rustall

My Rating:

 (4/4)

Final Thoughts: Everyone has a go-to trick up their model railroad sleeve, and this has become mine. Just see the results I got with my NSW goods shed below to see what I mean!

See also; Goods Shed Part Three - let's rust this thing

Friday, 2 December 2016

Philden's Snelson Collection additions


Its been a week of unpacking boxes and sorting through over a Century of railway memorabilia. Having been one of the many pre-registered online bidders at Ardent Auctions' recent two day marathon auction of the Snelson Railway Collection in Canberra, two separate shipments of railway memorabilia this week arrived safely on my doorstep on the Sunshine Coast. For a train enthusiast, it was like a little bit of Christmas arrived early.

Barry Snelson's railway collection as appeared in the Canberra Times took up two floors of Ardent's auction house.

The Snelson Railway Collection was a once in a blue moon event, rumoured to be the largest single collection of railway memorabilia to go under the hammer in Australia. The man behind the collection was a humble collector by the name of Barry Snelson, a 70 year-old man from the A.C.T. who had spent the past three decades amassing a collection of railway memorabilia that would rival a museum, only to hold his deceased estate auction while he was still alive so that he could help his daughters put a deposit on a house. You've got to admire a bloke like Barry. Not only has he got a good heart, but his collection took up two floors of Ardent Auction's premises in Fyshwick, A.C.T. An article (including the above photo), appeared in Sunday's Canberra Times on November 12, 2016.

A pre-World War One lineside marker post, paperwork and throttle notch markers from an Alco locomotive.

Of the 700 or so lots that were put up for auction, some items such as cast iron signs fetched up to $1,400 AUD. A working railway ganger's trike went for $2,000 AUD. While I spent 4 hours on both the Saturday and Sunday logged into the live online auction feed through Invaluable's website, I was mindful of the weight involved in shipping any winning items interstate. So I tried to limit myself purely to items that would enhance the museum quality presentation of my model railway when displayed alongside my layout. In the end, there were 22 lots from the auction that were successfully bid on, carefully packed, shipped and this week opened on the floor beside Philden. Along with the early 1900's railway lamps shown in the top photo, there is the pre-World War I line-side milepost (above), and the water gauge (below) from a long scrapped NSW steam engine that will become restoration projects over the coming summer. The steam engine water gauge is solid brass, measures about 23 cm across and when restored is going to be mounted on the end panel on my layout's staging extension, while the red 1900 NSW shunters lamp will be repainted bright red and sit on my Station Master's desk.

Some of the NSWGR rules and regulations books are 480 pages long and date back to 1935. The brass steam locomotive water gauge is solid brass and will be mounted on the end of my layout.

Also added to my growing railway collection are a number of timetables and NSW Railways rules and regulations books, with some dating back to 1935. Unfortunately, having to bid on these as a lot rather than individually, meant that I now have several duplicate copies of the same book. In some cases there are four copies of the same book. So along with what artifacts I am not able to display on my desk or incorporate into my layout's presentation, the balance I will be offering for sale on eBay in the coming weeks, with a live list of links to each item displayed on my collectibles page here.

Purchasing a small part of a railway collection such as what I've shown above isn't a cheap exercise. In my case, the final bill amounted to a little over $700 Australian by the time I paid the buyer's premium and freight costs. But the opportunity to secure a part of history, in this particular case to preserve a small part of the Snelson Collection, in the eyes of a railway collector is priceless. Missing from the above photos were some more modern items, including an original embroidered Countrylink wool jumper as worn by the onboard train service crew in the 1990's. It will become my winter uniform to wear whenever I exhibit Philden at model railway shows in the coming years. Over the summer, I'll be posting a couple of photos of each item as its restored downstairs in the garage before it settles into its new home alongside my layout.

See also; Memorabilia makes modelling better!