N Scale Nostalgia: Arnold Universal Structure Kit

I was fortunate to get an un-built version of this old kit from Arnold.  What I like so much about this kit is how ahead of its time it was (and is!)!
The above and below photos show the various pieces that come with the kit.  Essentially the system revolves around the clear plastic boxes,and the various fascia you would glue to these 'boxes'.
The included instruction sheet provides some ideas of what a finished model could look like:
On the reverse side is a more detailed breakdown of various combinations.
The below scans from the 1968 (really!?  That long ago!?) Arnold catalog and illustrates the different options of the 0679 Universal Building Kit.  Note that the copy in the catalog acknowledges that it took nine (9!) kits to make the model shown on the page below!
While the below page from the same catalog isn't specifically about the 0679 Universal Kit, it does show the very 'modular' thinking at Arnold at the time.  Some interesting models were clearly created from similar components as the 'Universal Kit'.   Not sure of the architectural style that these would fit into....I think we all can definitely recognize the style as that proto-futuristic mod-style from the '50's and '60's (which I find quite interesting in retrospect!)
The bottom line?  What a cool idea!  Greenmax has certainly been the only modern attempt at something 'modular' that can be customized by each builder (I'm ignoring the transition era brick DPM modulars on purpose),  which is too bad since I think modern/retro-modern architecture really lends itself to this modular component style.  I for one would be happy to see the 'new' Arnold (under Hornby ownership) release these kits again!


Viaduct and Roadway Bridge

I've been focusing my scenery efforts on specific areas of the layout.  The purpose is to try out some new techniques in a smaller area so its not too overwhelming!

These photos show the work I've been doing on an area that extends from the edge of the city along the backdrop to a road bridge that crosses over two of the lines and then meanders off to other regions of the layout.
The photo above obviously shows the rough start, while below you see the beginnings of the stone viaduct that I began to create out of sintra:
The stone viaduct section of the bridge, now with its walls, connects to a more modern structure to cross over the 'main line' to get to the edge of the city (None of my cities / neighborhoods have names...something I'm realizing could be useful!):
 "Sculpt-a-mold" is applied below, and the contours of the hill begin to take form:
After the plaster, the fun part!  Adding the greenery!  You will notice the viaduct now has a 'stone face'.  I didn't save the packaging, but I believe this was Noch 57218 "HO Cobblestone Streets".  The texture is actually pretty nice and looks pretty good.  I also like the fact that the material is self-adhesive!
Lights are added to the bridge, signals were also added to the siding under the modern section of the bridge.


Locomotive Roster: G2000; Mehano 55546

Here's a locomotive that has been one of the nicest surprises I've ever had in terms of train acquisitions!  This is the G2000 Locomotive from Mehano...technically Mehano Prestige (as it says on the box).
The locomotive comes in a somewhat large variety of liveries...primarily all from modern private railway firms on the Continent.  There's something about black that I like on a locomotive, so went for this MRCE version.
So many nice things about this locomotive....the details, the running qualities (quiet, smooth, etc...) excellent use of white SMD LED's for the lights.   Overall this thing just oozes quality.  From what I understand, that's quite a difference for Mehano, who has historically had a reputation of lower quality product.  Not in this case!

Removing the shell to install the decoder was a bit trickier than most locomotives.   The cab ends need to be removed first, and then the rest of the shell can be pulled out of the slots that hold the engine cover shell onto the chassis.  This was a very anxiety producing experience!   The fragile handrails along the sides are also in the way of you getting a good grip on the shell to press in on the bottom of the shell where the slots are.  May be a good thing to remove the handrails (which also hold the detailed walkway pieces on) before attempting to remove.
Once removed, the NEM 651 socket is very obviously right on top.  Fortunately, one of the standard plugs without a harness can be used (I was a bit concerned that there wouldn't be enough room and would require a work-around, but no such problem).   I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the decoder was able to be read right after installation.  After so many annoying Minitrix NEM 651 decoder issues (that is, the poor contact the Minitrix sockets have with most NEM 651 decoders - requiring careful modification of the decoder or soldering), its nice to see a design that really is plug and play!
Again, the detail on this model is just superb.  The close up below shows the diamond plate pattern on the walkway and the excellent printing of all the lettering.

And of course, a 'drama' shot.....
Another close up of the cab/front:
Bottom line? Excellent job, and a decent price!  Whatever demons Mehano may have once had with quality in the past, this model clearly illustrates a radical change for the better!  Its so convinced me that I will now be looking specifically for other Mehano models in the future!


Faller 2293 Kitbash Complete!

I've been planning this building for well over a year and started construction last August!  Finally I can say its done! It started off as 4 old, used built models, and 4 new-in-box models:
I detailed my early dis-assembly and cutting of the original kits in my first post on this building last August, so we'll skip ahead now to where I am creating the new building structure with styrene strips.  I've always really liked the looks of this building, but the shortness of the floors compared to my other buildings really bothered me, and was a reason I never intended to use any of the original structures on my layout.  The styrene would replace the 'blue' building sections and those sections would be about twice the height of the original building.  I used my handy 'chopper' tool from Northwest Short Line to get precise cuts of each piece of styrene.  Wow, does this tool ever come in handy for these kind of projects!
The below photo shows the dramatic increase in the height of each floor when you compare the 'old and new' next to each other!
I had some difficulty trying to determine what the best colors would be for this building. Even if I wanted to maintain the white window frames, the old plastic had yellowed quite a bit, and plastic always looks better with a coat of paint!  Below was both my 'jig' to hold two sections of windows together to create a the double-length windows.  This was probably the hardest part...trying to glue the tips of the frames to another section proved somewhat frustrating, and did not always turn out well.
The cut and assembled styrene and the window frames were glued to sheets of clear acrylic, which would be my base for the model.  The square was used to ensure that each layer was square while I was gluing these onto the acrylic.
With the face of the building complete, it was time to add one of the side walls.  You can see the building starting to take some shape in the below photo.
Again using a square and as carefully as possible, I was able to attach the windows and building exterior to the new side wall.  At this point I still wasn't' quite sure what to do for the ground floor, or the top, but I had several ideas....
Once all the windows were in place windows that would remain transparent were covered with tape, while the rest of the interior of the building would get at least one coat of black spray paint to stop any light leakage - except from the appropriate windows.
 After the paint has dried and the tape is removed, you get something that looks a bit like this (on the inside surface)!
I had decided to do a kit-bash of the ground floor of the Tomix high-rise for the ground floor of this building.  I like the columns and the recessed glass entrance.  Using my razor saw (a new tool that is really quite awesome for these sort of things), I was able to get something that was about what I wanted.
The final version turned out quite well I think.  A few signs or posters on the columns would add a nice bit of detail.   The columns were painted blue...partly out of homage to the original blue and white Faller 2293 kit.
What always takes considerable amounts of time is the planning, preparation, and installation of interior details.  As this building is planned to be in the foreground area (and therefore highly visible), the interiors needed some detail.  About half of the interior floors were salvaged from an older building project.
The other half of the floors were detailed using primarily the 'office furniture' materials from Luetke Modelbahn.  Difficult to make out in the small photo below, but if you click on it you will get a larger version.
A close up of one of the floors and the interior:
In total, I ended up with twenty stories....one of my larger buildings!  The logos on the top of the building are from the original Faller kit.  Again, in homage to the original, I wanted to try and capture some of the elements from the original kit in a subtle manner.
Overall building exterior color selection was the most agonizing part of this project.  I wasn't inclined to paint the whole building 'blue and white' like the original, but I was also tempted to try and give the building a color scheme a little more different from my other buildings.  Ultimately, I went conservative and used Model Masters "Camouflage Grey" for the main color, with dark bronze metallic spray paint for the window frames.


2011 Wish List

My last post was really 'catching up' on a few 'wish list' items from the past year.  This post is more focused on new releases.  Its also a wish list assuming I had relatively unlimited funds!  Hopefully a few of these are on your lists as well or, maybe better, this is a list which might even have some new item you weren't aware of!

One of the pleasant surprises in the past several years (which I also mentioned in my last post) was the entrance into N Gauge of 'newcomers' to the scale...surely a really positive sign for the health of the scale!  A.C.M.E. is another one of those.  They have announced production of this somewhat unusual and intriguing looking trainset for both Swiss and Italian prototypes.   Although this was apparantly announced for 2010, so perhaps it belongs on my last list....  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Kato/Lemke/Hobbytrain BR 193 Vectron Electric Locomotive
This is a tough looking electric from the folks at Siemens! I like the looks-and I like Lemke/Hobbytrain's typical quality/price!  Not so sure I'm that thrilled about any of the three paint schemes its coming out it currently.  I may wait until a real paint scheme is produced.

Mabar SNCF  A1A A1A 468010
Mabar is another smaller producer filling niche's ignored by the big companies.  The 'blue version' of this locomotive was recently released and looks stunning! So why do I want a certainly more conventional green 'Fret' version?  A photo I recently saw of the model in this scheme looked just as stunning....and its a paint scheme I don't have yet!

Piko SNCF BB 525630 Ile de France 

Yet another locomotive from Piko in SNCF colors!  Thanks Piko!  Finally it looks like a locomotive in the livery of Ile de France (now all I need are some of those double-deck coaches to go behind it (VB2N?)!).

Rocky Rail SNCF "Prima" Electric Locomotive
Rocky Rail has apparently worked out a deal to have Mehano produce this modern French locomotive (something I believe I read somewhere but can't find the source for...sorry!.  That is convenient for me because I like the sleek yet strong looking lines on this engine!   There are similar diesel versions of this locomotive - apparently over 1700 have been produced and are used worldside.  The locomotive is made by Alstom, EMD, and Vossloh.  American modelers will note that this locomotive is in the same family as New Jersey Transit's PL42AC diesels.

MicroAce Kiha261  "Super Tokachi"
I have to say, I kind of have a liking for colorful, modern DMU's, and Japan has quite a few of them. I also kind of like the whole 'cab over' ends that are quite popular in Japan (and are the distinctive look of the NS Koplopers).
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Kato/Lemke M6 Duwag Tram
Even more trams from Kato!  As I've still to get the older versions of the Duwag tram I mentioned in my last post, I shouldn't be including these much more modern version, but what can I say? There's something really appealing about trams.  The fact that these are relatively modern, but not too modern, means they could easily fit in any 1970's to present urban landscape....

Fleischmann Rh 242 Electric Locomotive from Sweden

This class of electric locomotives seem to be everywhere these days, but Swedish locomotives in N Scale? Not so much! This one is going to be tough on the wallet...so unless I'm really lucky this year, or Santa is feeling really generous, its hard to see my shelling out this much for a locomotive right now (yeah, and the USD to Euro exchange rate is not helping a whole lot!).  However, it does come equipped with DCC and SOUND!   Some of the newer private roads in Europe have liveries that are, well, let's just say it makes the old state-sponsored paint schemes look attractive!  This paint scheme is interesting. Very bold and strong in my view, even more so with the lines of the engine.  I'm liking it!

Minitrix Class 150 Z 
This is a 'wait and see' since I have to 'wait and see' what the model ultimately will look like.  From photos of real prototypes, and HO models (ugh!), there are some great looking steam engines from the SNCF (and some great ones in brass as well, but those are well outside of my price range!).  Minitrix also has some nice goods wagons/freight cars in its catalog this year, beyond that, I don't see a lot from them this year.

There is also some rumor that Star Train may release a large French locomotive of the 141 R, but I couldn't find any information other than a mention on a forum. 

Trucks and Cars from Herpa
A bit more realistically (from a budget perspective) are some of the new truck releases from Herpa.
 Not just trucks, but these little coupe's look pretty spiffy as well:
Photos courtesy Herpa.

If your looking for things in more of an agricultural line, the company Mo-Miniatur Modelbahn makes a nice assortment of farming tractors and the like.  Of course, if you've seen my layout well, you'll understand why they wouldn't quite fit on Quinntopia!

Cars and Trucks from Minis
Some really nice looking VW's from Minis  (via Lemke)
Always something interesting to add to the layout...I sort of like this truck with trailer for some reason.
Photos courtesy of Lemkecollection.

TomyTec Car Collection Vol 14
Can you ever have enough cars?  Well, maybe.  Its hard for me to pass up on TomyTec's cars.  In terms of price and quality they are hands down the best in N scale (well, the 1:150 kind anyway, which is hard sometimes to tell the difference with anyway).

I think that's about it.  I expect there were quite a few things that I missed that I'll kick myself for not adding to this list.  I'm in 'wait and see' mode for the new yellow and gray Star Train Class 1300,  and I can't afford the current versions of the SNCF BB 12003, and I'm tempted to get an older model of the FS E.424 (Italian railways) but there is only so much time...and money of course.  But its fun to look, right?  I hope you enjoyed taking a look at a few of the things on my wish list this year.  Next post...back to layout updates!