The Val Ease Central Railroad ©
Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos © Copyright Jeffrey MacHan)
An 8 Silo Grain Terminal for Centre Val Ease: Preparing and painting a Microfigs epoxy resin building kit
Concrete grain silos are a common sight along North American railroads.
More and more epoxy resin building kits are becoming available for Z scale
hobbyists. Always on the lookout for an eye catching and unusual addition to
the Val Ease Central, I was especially intrigued with the introduction of a
series of 1/285 scale industrial structures by Microfigs. After checking the
web page for pictures of the kits, I took the plunge and ordered the Microfigs
8 silo grain storage elevator.
Considering that the scenery on the VEC is for all intents and purposes 99%
finished, it was a stroke of luck to find that the elevator fit exactly in the
space previously occupied by a station and freight depot next to Centre Val
Ease Docks. When I eventually got to thinking about it, a grain elevator made
much more sense on the dock than a freight and passenger depot. Of course,
bumping is a time honored tradition in the real world of railroads by unionized
employees however, not by buildings! In this case, the elevator bumped the
depot which bumped the switch tower in Val Ease East yard. Removing the yard
tower was less painful than expected when I realized that a series of 6
switches hardly required a CTC tower! In addition, placing the station in VEE
added another stop on the timetable.
Anyway, I digress, back to the elevator kit. It fit but it was awfully white!
The kit is undersized for Z but the advantage is that it does not overwhelm the
rest of the scene. Details like doors could be fixed and windows in elevators
were not large affairs to begin with. After months of procrastination I
finally decided to dig out my hobby paints and airbush.
The Microfigs 8 silo grain elevator kit right out ot the box. Notice the size of the door casting.
Preparing the kit
Resin kits are cast and depending on the quality of the mold will have flash
that needs to be cleaned up and, occasionally, holes (ex. air bubbles) to be
filled. The castings also may have a coating of release agent from the mold
which must be removed before painting.
After washing the three pieces that make up the silo kit (elevator building,
silos and conveyor housing) in warm soapy water, I rinsed them and let dry
thoroughly over night.
The next step was to examine the parts and remove any flash with a hobby file
or sharp knife. Fortunately the Microfigs kit had very little flash to speak
of which was quickly remedied with a few strokes of the file. There were no
holes to be filled. However, if there had been, I would have used a bit of
model putty to fill them. Then after sanding smooth the kit would be ready for painting.
The elevator kit presented a wee bit of a challenge. The deep cuts between the
silos would make airbrushing difficult and if there had been patching, the
putty would require a primer coat.
I decided to apply the paint to hard to reach areas with a wide stiff brush. I
began with the silos using a water based paint: Polyscale #414332 New Gravel.
I brushed a solid coat between the silos making sure that I had covered the
depths with paint. Since silos are made by successive pours of concrete, there
is a layering effect between pours when the concrete dries. So to avoid
vertical lines from my brushing, I dragged the brush horizontally away from the
groove to smooth the paint. I eventually decided to apply paint to the entire
surface with the brush, always painting in horizontal strokes. I put the silos
aside to dry and proceded to the next task.
Simple tools and water based paints are all that are needed however
brush painting leaves something to be desired.
The main elevator building needed some work before painting. I gently removed
the molded door frame from the casting with a very sharp hobby knife blade. I
wasn't too concerned about being absolutely perfect with the removal since I
would be adding a new door later.
The elevator has a horizontal wood siding finish so I decided to use the brush
again. The real reason was that I hadn't found the hiding place where I had
stashed my airbrush! I forged ahead making sure that I left no ridges of paint
on the edges of the casting. Here I used a solvent based paint, Floquil #R87
Depot Buff. The elevator was put aside to dry while I used the same color to
paint the conveyor housing.
I especially like the texture of the roof on the kit which resembled a rough
stone surface except for the silos which had a corrugated metal roof. Staying
true to my illogical form, I painted all the roofs metallic silver using
another Floquil product. I brushed it on using a fine brush this time since it
was necessary to gently paint up to the edges of the siding and around the
exhaust stacks on the elevator building.
When the paint was dry on all the parts, I assembled them temporarily on the
layout to look them over. Well, it was time to find that airbrush!
After a rummage through my storage boxes, I found one labeled 'airbrush' and
quickly got back to the bench. Because of the base coats in the primary
colors, the final airbrushing was over with in a matter of seconds, just enough
paint was used to even out the final coat. It took more time to clean up than
to do the painting!
The elevator is ready for weathering, piping and a sign!.
Adding a door to the elevator was a simple matter of cutting a rectangular
piece of styrene to which I added a left over light from a Z plastic kit. I
painted the door silver and when dry, I scraped off the paint from the resin
surface, applied a drop of Piko styrol glue (it's wonderful stuff) to the
elevator and placed the new door into position.
The glue held fine and the paints adhered wonderfully. I would recommend the
water based Polyscale line for their ease of use, clean-up and no toxic fumes.
The last word
The elevator now sits proudly on the dock awaiting final details like
weathering with chalks: rust along the metal roof of the silos, white patches
on the silos themselves, black for highlights on the elevator building and
horizontal streaks of dark gray around the silos to represent pouring bands. I
also expect to dig out some wire insulation for car loading tubes and wire
stock as delivery pipes to the dock itself for ship loading.
The kit was easy to prepare, paint and assemble. Despite their slightly
smaller scale, Microfigs industrial structures should be right at home on Z