Condensed from a series on Motorised Dandruff in June 2009 Diesel in a day: DFT from scratch
Condensed from a series on Motorised Dandruff in June 2009 Diesel in a day: DFT from scratch
Before you ask, it’s not going to be cast, RP’d or etched. Instead, it will be quick to make, cost next to nothing and require almost no skill. And as long as you don’t make a complete bollox of it, will look just as good as a cast, RP’d or etched top from three feet away.
For those who haven’t scratchbuilt in NZ120 before, it’s really quite easy, so much so that I’m going to try to make it in a day if I can, and then, assuming I remember to take a few pictures, will write up the experience for a few posts on the blog. Starting now.
The night before the day following.
If you want to play along at home, you might have your own plan, but if not, never fear, for I’ve included (attached to the end of this article) one I hodgepodged up this evening, based the drawings in an old Rails article. Interestingly, or perhaps strangely, that original plan had a nose that was way too steeply raked and the position of the cab windows was incorrect as well, as were quite a few of the DFT details. To fix these I found a side-on picture of a DFT I’d taken, placed it behind the plan so it was partially see-through, and traced in the new details. I won’t promise it to be a million percent accurate, but its not bad. But I digress.
Beside several copies of the plan, I’ll also need…
- A sharp knife with a fresh blade or two
- Metal straight edge ruler or something to guide that sharp knife.
- Styrene (various)
- Clear styrene (or business shirt boxing – anything see-through, thin and flat) for windows
- Wire for handrails
- Mesh for the rear radiators
- PVA, plastic, contact and super glues
- An old US N scale loco shell (almost anything EMD will do)
- Miscellaneous bits of miscellaneous stuff – wire for brake hoses, misc bits of plastic and paper of various gauges and who knows what else.
- If we get that far: paint and decals.
Oh, and eventually an N scale sd40-2 chassis (or a dash 8 if you must) to put it on. Kato would be nice if you have one handy.
Right… I’m off to get that stuff together and clear off a few inches on the workbench. I’ve got a busy day ahead.
Note: I don’t know what the blog software or your printer will do to this plan, but you’ll probably have to scale it down until the length over couplers (the "16688" dimension on the DFT side view) is a smidge over 139 mm. For folks running Windows 1992, even you can right click the above, ‘Save Target As’, open with Microsoft Paint, and in print setup, there is a scaling function. Or use a photocopier. Or maybe you have your own plan already. Some conditions apply. This offer not available in the Chatham Islands.
Diesel in a day: DFT Part 2
DB says: The time is 1:10pm. Gentlemen, start your modeling knives.
Let’s do the painful bits first, so grab those plan copies (you did print out some plans didn’t you?)and we’ll make some hood sides. A long time ago I used to painstakingly scribe the hood doors into plasticard, but hit on this idea in the late 80s when I used to have 1/64 vision: cut out the doors from a photocopied plan and stick them on the styrene long hood. It gives the model a 3d look, the panels are marked out nice and square for you, the printed panel, hinge and door latch detail will faintly show through the paint (then again you could always cut those out too if you were mad). And if that hasn’t swayed you: it’s less work than scribing and virtually impossible to screw up. Of course if you’re more comfortable scribing, scribe away.
(Above) So here we go – paper cutouts are stuck on the hood sides, the port-side blower duct and side air ducts (from layered rectangular styrene rod) have been built (one attached), the cab paper bits have been stuck onto clear styrene and a floor plate has been cut out of 1.5 mm plasticard to fit the chassis snugly.
I’ve made a rear cab wall out of plastic to give the cab more strength as well, made in reference to the front cab wall, not to the plan. If I made it to the plan, inevitably I’d end up with different front and rear roof profiles, and this is quite the pain to deal with later.
I spent some time thinking about the corner angles on the long hood roof, but fell back on an old ‘cheat’, where I added one thin piece of sheet on top to keep the sides together, and then attached a 1mm thick piece the width of the
on top. This gives a stepped profile that you can see in the pictures rather than the nice flat angle you’d expect – but never fear, we’ll cover that with paper (the new miracle product) in the next step. The reason I do this rather than scrawking styrene to the angle or sanding balsa is that this gives me a nice straight roof profile – there’s no way I’d sand something this straight. The paper with its glue and paint is plenty strong as well – the DF6277 and 6064 shells were built about 16 years ago with this technique.
Diesel in a day: DFT Part 3
DB continues from where we left the last episode….
Now it’s time to start attacking that N scale donor shell for some detail parts. I used the SD40-2 top’s dynamic blisters (sanded down a little to make them a little less angley) and an SD70 fan for the dynamic brake fan (as it’s larger than the dash 2 fans, although you can get away with either). The main intakes can come from almost any American engine shell, but I used the SD70 ones again – they’re a little bigger. On the DFT, the one on the port side is longer, extending further aft. Avast landlubbers! Raise the mainsail and deploy the sphincter to leeward! I know these aren’t the ‘official’ locomotive-navigation terms, but they make far more sense to me than No1 end, A side. Note also the rear horn recess made by pushing the paper panel down into the notch created for it earlier (just north of the south radiator at about 2pm). The DFT roof adornments took longer to make than expected given that they look pretty simple. I scrawked a thickish piece of plasticard for the raised manifold cover (it probably should be a little taller) and used the exhaust port from the SD70 shell after severely thinning it in most dimensions. Close enough.
With the heavy lifting done, I figured it was safe to install the cab, and a minute later it was in place. A nose was then made from thick plasticard and left to set. Cripes, it’s been a long afternoon. Time for dinner methinks. Time is 6:30.
You may also be able to see how I deployed my 25 year old razor saw to cut a notch along the front of the anticlimber. Later on I’ll stick a handrail in there.
9:25 pm and I’m pooped. Technically that’s the top done in a day. At least the top of the top. Less than a day really given the 1pm start. I should go on to add headstocks and the undergubbins to finish it off… but… the only TV show I watch – Two and a Half Men – is about to start.
Diesel in a Day (or two): DFT Part 4
A few days hence, DB returns to the safety of the train room.
When we left our last exciting episode, things were pretty much complete above the side sills, so that left the nether regions to do. The DFT s(and DFs) have a big girder under the sills, but I don’t have any plastruct girders and attempted to make something credible up out of some flat strip with a tiny square rod stuck on one edge. These are lying under the DFT cab in the pic below although they’re pretty hard to see in this pic.
I also fabricated headstocks – the front one has a little more detail than the back as I rarely look at the back of these things when they’re chugging around a layout. These were each attached to a big square styrene rod to keep things at 90 degrees to the floor. These rods will also be the mounting place for the couplers later on. Speaking of couplers, as I’m not 100% sure where they will sit at this stage, I made a reasoned guestimate and cut a decent sized hole for them in the headstocks that I can with paper later on if need be. Good old paper.
The homemade faux-channel was then glued under the floor between the ends of the rods – all carefully calculated so the ‘girders’ would sit outside the Kato mech’s pickups.
For my other DFs I made all the fairings, steps, jacking pads/sandboxes/etc by cutting them out of the paper plan and simply glueing them on. These have for the most part held up pretty well over the past 20 years but this time I went to the other extreme and made them all out of styrene, mainly out of solid rodding (I just love all those strips and shapes and squares and rectangles and things).
Despite that comment, those with 20/20 memories may have detected that the cabsides (and the previously grossly oversized MU connector on the nose!) have been replaced since last time. I was going to make a black DFT with powdercoated sliding side windows, but have since decided to do 7132 in blue, which still has the original style side ones.
Diesel in a day (or three): DFT Part 5
I ended my second afternoon of DFTing by painting her up blue, yellow, gray and black, and now that the paint is dry, its now time to wrap things up by documenting the third visit to the trainroom.
I absolutely loathe doing handrails, but once they’re done they make everything look more finished. I used very fine brass wire this time instead of my usual piano wire and the superthin ones look waaaaay better. The light attached to my workbench (the black thing in Ev’s workbench post) has a (scratched) plastic magnifier built in that has never been used until painting those handrails. Boy does it make that job so much easier. My eyes must finally catching up the rest of me.
Tranz Rail’s flashy decals were from the superb Etchcetera (Andrew Wells) DC set – the cab numbers aren’t the right font for the blue livery, but they will do for now. I gave the loco that ugly ‘patch job’ look with one more wash of the gray paint in an approximate rectangle. For some reason, many of the DFTs got a much lighter patch than their underlying blue paint. I might cover some of these ‘finishing’ steps in more detail in future models/blog posts because I forgot to take pictures and I’m sure you’re getting sick of DFT tops by now.
Finally, a Kato SD40-2 chassis for it to sit on: I pruned the shock absorbers and some of the ‘underbrake’ bits off the bogies and made battery box sides from strene. The -2 fuel tank was simply shortened to save time as the end profiles are similar.
Having not seen a lot of real DFTs in action, I must confess to not being a huge fan of them …last week. This project started out more as something that would be ‘good for the blog’ rather than a loco I just had to make, but once the thing started to come together, I started to enjoy that feeling of making something from scratch and am now quite in love with a model which turned out really well.
Dangerously close. Ditch lights in, but needs headlights.
Having said that, if you are going to have a go at scratchbuilding for the very first time, I’ll warn that the DFT is a more difficult model than I’d thought. There’s all the lumps and bumps, the underframe stuff, the painting of the raised walkways and yellow stripe – that make it quite a bit more tricky than doing, say a DC, which would be a more straightforward scratchbuilding project.
And -before I forget – something I forgot to do on this DFT, was to make the whole top about a mm shorter than it should be as I did with my DFs. This would have tightened up the gap between the rear bogies and the back end a smidge, although looking at the pics above it doesn’t look too bad.
I started this project with the comment “Before you ask, it’s not going to be cast, RP’d or etched. Instead, it will be quick to make, cost next to nothing and require almost no skill.”
That wasn’t intended to be a swipe at the technologies that will turn NZ120 upside down in a few years. But… isn’t that what everyone said ten years ago? I’ll reiterate from a few months back: manufacturers rarely produce products for love, the market is tiny and bringing products to that market is an incredibly time consuming and expensive proposition. You do the maths.
My point is this: you can wait for things to drop into your lap, but you can also make something out of nothing today, and get a great feeling of accomplishment from doing it. Surprise yourself and then surprise someone else with it and perhaps get them interested in the scale. Given the usual 2-3 foot viewing distance, there’s no better scale than NZ120 for scratchbuilding stuff; which is a good job given the incredible number of fancy kitsets and RTR items available.
So get of that armchair, bring that beer with you and have a go. After all, this DFT top isn’t too bad for a ten dollar, paper-and-plastic, two and a half day effort eh? As Bruce Forsyth used to say : “Hope you’re all doing this at ‘ome!”