Comics Creators

Makin' Models! The Super Model Thread!

Howdy! This here is the place to talk about making models, miniatures, robots, trains, boats, aircraft, spacecraft, wee little metal men with perfectly painted pantaloons, little bitty tiny models and great big models used for movie sets like Minas Tirith!

I know you’re out there. I’ve seen your work!

Don’t know if I ever mentioned it, but Once Upon A Time even before I went to Cave College I was a near-professional model builder. Won awards and stuff for fine scale model railroading, and was expanding into other types of scale reality. Built a couple models used in movies (no, you never heard of the movies, they were either student films or never released) and a few sold. (So I was a “pro” then, technically.) Then came college, I got hooked, became a psych major and graduated. There came the problem. My mentor and master teacher wanted me to go to work in a psychiatric hospital to get lots of hands-on experience. Meanwhile, growing up in Hollywood, all my friends wanted me to get working somewhere in the movie industry and keep writing. (I did that too, with stellar success. Not.) With this I got an interview at a rather cruddy warehouse in Van Nuys with a guy named Tex. He offered me a paid job (barely) making models for this big science fiction movie they were making. I had to decide. A solid career, much room for advancement, in the field I had a degree and interest; or work 22-hour days for a pittance and no benefits building models. I rather grudgingly chose to work in the hospital. The warehouse in Van Nuys was Industrial Light & Magic and the film they were making was Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Imagine how many hairy nights at the hospital I wished I had chosen to build the Millennium Falcon!

That’s my sad story. Couple of days ago I picked up a copy of Railroad Model Craftsman, and. my word!, things have changed radically in the last thirty-odd years! HO scale locomotives have remote control, full sound systems, LED lighting, itty-bitty batteries so the locomotives really have their own power inside, and run about $600 the locomotive. More with advanced sound and electronics. The tech has driven rolling stock through the roof, cost-wise. Thirty bucks a boxcar? Ouch!

Structures have changed. The kits now are laser-cut to outstanding precision, but one still glues paper printed to look like brick on a styrene or wood backing. Photoshop is a required tool. Next required tool will be a 3D printer, and those are already in some homes.

Before the fine scale stuff, it was Aurora monsters and ships and planes, and one of the first of those was the Nautilus the first US nuclear-powered submarine. I think that kit had about 234,156 pieces.

For a short time due to a found box full of lead Civil War soldiers it was miniature painting and diorama re-enactments. The last period when I did anything model-wise was building some small dioramas, about 9"-10" long and 5" wide, super-detailed and realistic and ready to drop right into someone’s layout and shame their oatmeal-box silos.

So here we go! Pictures are always good. So are helpful hints and handy suggestions!

Hi-Yo Gundam! AwaaaaaaaaaaaY!

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This was a misleading title.

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I wonder how that might have happened?

Let’s get started, quiet ones. Here’s a link to a short layout tour, this a logging railroad in On3 scale. It demonstrates DC sound, which is sort of the Commodore 64 version of DCC sound; both are new to me. What we do not see are new type working smoke from the stacks and cylinders, which looks mighty good. Apparently, this is another modeler who loathes anything but the shiniest of plastic figures, so while everything else is weathered, the tiny figures are all shiny. Come on! Spray 'em with some DullCote, willya?

One may have to register. No big deal, just uncheck e-mails you don’t want. They are a trusty publisher since 1930 or so - talking Kalmbach Books and both Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman magazines - now available on line. “Subscribers” - which I will be in July or so - have access to TONS of super-valuable articles and films and photos and track plans, and MR for sure has a library of ALL issues since the beginning! I read probably 95% of all issues of those and Trains and Narrow Gauge Digest ( a personal favorite, quarterly) and whatever else was available in the used magazine section of my nearby model train shop.
Long live Ed Kielty and Troxel Models! (btw, “Ed Kielty” was the name of the Vice President in Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor and Executive Orders - Clancy’s Kielty was a foul creature, the total opposite of Ed and his friendly shop where he let me fantasize about owning brass locomotives and drink the 6½-oz. Coca-Cola from the classic bottles out of the classic 1930’s machine. Good … no, great times!

The first locomotive is a Shay, a type that’s a big favorite of mine. They are slow, but massively powerful, some able to pull some able to pull up to 150 loaded log cars (and them logs are WET!) up ridiculous grades of 6% all the way up to 12%. One can still ride behind a masterful example of the Shay locomotive on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad - .

Shay #10
Built by Lima Locomotive Works of Lima OH. in March of 1928 for the Pickering Lumber Corporation’s West Side Lumber Company’s operations in Tuolumne, CA. The largest narrow gauge Shay built. Purchased from West Side Lumber Co. in 1967 by Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and assumed the starring role as the only steam locomotive on the old Madera Sugar Pine Company track.”

When the YMSPRR was fairly new, with only a mile and a half of track, ol’ Silver Tongue here managed to talk his way into the locomotive cab, then to be allowed to use the brake, and then to run the two-car train backwards that mile and a half back to the depot. Guess my time with the Orange Enpire Trolley Museum and associated Orange Empire Railway Museum was worth the hard work in the high desert learning to operate the 2-6-2 Prairie loco from Baldwin Locomotive Works (1922 - restored) from the Ventura County Railway. That’s on a ten -mile loop (or was, circa my heavy railroading and modeling circa 1970-1974. I got the Prairie up to 25 a couple of times! So, when offered the opportunity to operate that magnificent Shay, i was ready, willing and surprisingly able! I think I actually had an orgasm when I let off the air brakes and there was that tremendous WHOOSH!

Also belonged to several clubs - tell you about them later if this thread comes alive.

@Sabrina - Are you still painting miniatures?

@Lorcan_Nagle - how about them Gundams?

@YouGamers! - you must have painted dragons and castles and such! Show off!

Model-making is my artistic expression, creating what is basically 3D sculpture with some OCD tendencies thrown in (another topic for later) to specific scale and life-like enough to appear real when photographed. Yep, I like scale photography too; and I am so delighted with digital photography! I went through literally hundreds of rolls of film and processing and in the end considered the whole exercise utter crap. Not one photo I would submit for publication. My digital camera, now, has marvelous close-up features: the “document” setting works particularly well for static shots. It is also the tool for me to wander about the Rocky Mountains and take landscape photographs for modeling diorama ideas, still-existing roadbed and railroads (we have bunches of small railroads still!)

Last word for now (whew!) is on scales. “Scale” indicates the ratio of the prototype (the real thing) to the size of the model (which means ALL components). It is expressed as a ratio 1:48 for example. Current popular scales are known by letters.

Outdoor/garden railroads - G scale, 1:22.5, very large, often used for garden railways. Oddly, as large as the models are, they are quite toy-like.

O Scale, 1:48, the first scale to be defined in model railroading, and the size Lionel Trains use. (I don’t know if Neil Young still owns Lionel, but he did.) O scale is harshly (by modelers) differentialted from “Lionel trains”. O scale is fine-scale modeling at the largest reasonable size, Lionel tracks are also the horrid three-rail system never seen anywhere else, the rails absolutely gigantic in scale (like 2 feet tall!). Lionel is for fun and to run around the Christmas tree, not for scale models.

S scale, 1:64, often seen as the neglected step-child with the least commercial support, it is a striking size that produces many excellent models. As with most narrow-gauge modeling, fine scale is often the trademark with S scale. It is most popular at train shows!

HO scale, 1:87.1, the most popular scale by light-years. Literally “Half O” it’s not a precise half, but close. The 87.1 ratio was chose so rails and turnouts and such could be manufactured in inch measurements, such as 18" radius track or 22" radius tracks. It became a standard early on.

N scale, " Depending upon the manufacturer (or country), the scale ranges from 1:148 to 1:160." 1:160 is considered “original N scale”. One of the smallest, the technology to produce accurate locomotives and rolling stock has improved to the point where it’s near HO. N is the second-most popular scale, mostly for the convenience of being able to model in smaller spaces.

Z scale is an up-and-comer at 1:220. That is TINY! But for operations (fancy word for just running trains) and transportablity and having a “briefcase layout” or “coffee table layout” it’s ideal for NYC apartment dwellers, who are the folks who created it.

Miqque Facts:

“Gauge” is the distance between two rails, measured mid-rail to mid-rail. Standard gauge in most of the world is 4’ 8½". Russia is notable for having all their massive trains run on a gauge of exactly 6’ between rail centers.

Gauge also varies wildly due to usage. Some rail service is as small as 1½’ - seen in mines, mostly. 2’ gauge is used places like sugar plantations, small islands, and where a dinky train has to make sharp curves. Not so good for steep grades due to the small engines. Go to 2½’ one finds small logging and mining railroads, plenty rare. Next step is 3’ gauge, which turns out to be rally popular. The general term “narrow gauge” usually refers to 3’ gauge. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine, above, runs on 3’ gauge - even though it runs the largest Shay ever built. Width does not restrict weight!

In terms of modeling, we write narrow gauge after scale then specify.

On3 -
1:48, but the rails are a scale 3’ apart.
Nn3 - very rare
Z - too small for narrow gauge, the wheels would just jam up.

There you have it. A major article written on Mark Millar’s comic book site to explain model railroading.

There are very famous railways in Great Britain, and I’d cite The Flying Scotsman and of course the Hogwart’s Express as good examples. GB runs all sorts of rail equipment, Diesel, coal, electric, gas and still some steam. From the inside, some grumpiness oft due to other passengers. Guess some trains are best seen from the outside!

Feel free to talk about riding the rails, commuting, subways - heck, any sort of transportation by rail! To end this massive post, here’s a photo of a monorail invented in Ireland that ran for a good while!

I’ve actually started back doing anime models recently, thanks to a friend starting to stock kits in his shop - mostly Gundam, but there’s other stuff as well, and we’re doing a monthly Gundam club to meet up, make kits, play games and chat.

The next meeting is tomorrow, and I literally just finished painting this GM Custom for it:

Laura got me a kit of the Ingram from Patlabor for Christmas, and I finished painting it recently too:


Lookin’ good, Lorcan. When you take your models places, how do you go about transporting them? Do you have Anvil cases or a bunch of bubble wrap?

btw, off topic, I’ve been noticing where items are manufactured, so let me pass on my thanks to Ireland for making my albuterol inhaler! So much better than the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button from last year!

They tend to get wrapped in bubble wrap and put in boxes, Bandai’s ABS doesn’t scratch easily, which is nice.

On the inhaler front, there’s quite a large medical manafacturing industry in Ireland now. I’m actually working for one of the industry leaders now!


It’s crazy, what some people have in their back yards.
How much money do these people make?

This is what can be done with modern equipment. If we move to the next step in tech, we can Photoshop out the annoying ceilings, and most of all the occasional annoying giants. Don’t be afraid to skip around, there are some long boring sequences as this is one continuous shot. Yep, like Birdman. Go for the moments you are taken out of the world and into the hobo’s-eye seat.

Here’s a major thread necro, but I felt this was a better place than the toy thread. I’ve been getting more and more elaborate in my modelling and photography of same, and this is my most recent result:

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Working on a Real Grade Zeta Gundam kit. Painting is pretty much finished, next is about 100 decals, then weathering and varnish:


I’m only getting error messages for your images @Lorcan_Nagle.

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Does this one work?

New photo by Lorcan Nagle

Edit, wait, that seems to just crop the middle of the shot…

It does and it does crop the middle of the shot too.