The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hobby Time: N Scale Modeling

Two completed models, painted, constructed, and decals added.
I confess: I have reached that point in life where I need a hobby for stress relief. I need that something that helps me forget all the concerns of work and life for a while and leaves me with some tangible result. It needed to be something that could be done over a long period of time, without staggering investments of cash, and something that would both be humbling and rewarding.

I chose to return to a hobby of many years in the past that was started far too soon, but I still had the bits and pieces tucked away for later use. I have picked up N Scale Model Railroading. Yep, I've joined that club now.

Irony of ironies, I don't really care much about trains. I am not interested in running an accurate railroad or making trains run on time. As luck would have it, the first Model Railroader magazine I picked up featured a layout from someone who feels about it as I do. Both of us are fascinated by the modeling and the miniature buildings, people, vehicles, and yes, even the trains too. Building the layout and the many scenes within the layout are what drive me and that other modeler.

So, to see if I could do it, I started with the earliest and simplest model I owned. Turns out, hobby paints will last decades if properly stored (who knew). I used that first model to see if my hands were steady enough to work at this tiny scale where 1" = 10'. I could. I also used it to learn some painting techniques like washes for brick mortal and weathering. That model went well enough I moved on to another. Shown here are two completed (or nearly so) projects produced by two different model companies. The three story corner drug store was by far the more complex and challenging of the two. The donut shop was pure fun. On the donut shop, I repurposed a couple of old figures (one a drunk) by repainting them in donut shop colors and putting them to work. Painting figures at that scale requires a lighted magnifying glass and a really small brush.

I discovered that there are such things as decal papers that allow hobbyists to create their own personalized decals. This opened a whole world of possibilities for personalized decals throughout the city I intend to create. My first use of these decals was on Stewart's Advance Drugs, which is a store owned by my wife's great grandfather.

Now, the Coca Cola ad I found is one of the creepiest I've seen.
On the back the ad for Ringling Brothers includes an inside family joke as well. It was fascinating to learn that the smaller decals on the donut shop (professionally made decals) were actually far simpler to apply than the larger homemade models. I will pass along one tip. These decals lift free of their paper with water and a water soaked Q-tip (cotton swab) will allow them to be moved into position once they have been gently shifted onto the model.

This has been a lot of fun to start with and also humbling. It's a bit like theater stage set design. None of the buildings will be viewed from really close, so the imperfections seen in the close up images blend into a more convincing paint job when you back a way a bit. I'm far from perfect in my modeling yet, but I figure I've got years to develop the techniques and years of stress free hobby work to come.

This will give you a sense of the scale of N Scale with
both model buildings on my workbench.
One great advantage anyone getting into the hobby today has over decades past is that there are so many how to videos on YouTube these days to explain the basics. That is how I got up to speed on painting techniques, washes, and decal placement (both professional and homemade). I will have to buy a couple books on layout design and scenery before I have gone much further, but that doesn't bother me.

If anyone's interested, I'll let you know when the basic layout is up and running, with track in place, properly wired. After that, the slow scenery and model progression will follow. I have chosen the 1950s-60s as my era for modeling and the downtown area of Cumberland, Maryland, as my inspiration, a town I always felt was perfect for a model railroad. We'll see how that goes.

I highly recommend some sort of hobby for anyone who works in a stressful field. That and exercise are great escapes during any given day. 

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