Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Retracting the Rapture in the O-Gauge Zen Garden

Where is everybody?

There's always something that bugged me about larger scale train layouts. And it's something I've been guilty of myself. 1/43 diecast vehicles look great on an O-gauge layout. But they don't come with drivers or passengers. And that's a problem.

Look closely at this traffic jam below on my O-scale Zen garden.

Luke 17:34-37
It looks like the Rapture's just hit, and all of these cars are now suddenly empty (too bad about that sinner walking down the street).

Once I noticed that diecast vehicles out of the box were driverless, I started noticing them on every layout I saw.

Fortunately, it's an easy problem to fix -- sort of.

Drivers wanted!

Seated figures are readily available for modelers. I decided that rather having folks seated at the station, I'd use some as drivers for my seemingly abandoned cars.

I purchased two sets of seated figures. One set was true O-scale, the other slightly smaller, about 1/50. Because I bought them separately, I didn't realize they were two different sizes. But it turned out to be a good thing I had both. As it turned out, some of my scale diecast vehicles weren't so scale after all.

Open up

Virtually all my diecast vehicles, regardless of manufacturer, share the same basic construction. The chassis was secured to the diecast body by one or two screws. In some cases, the seats were molded into the chassis. In others, the cabin with seats and dashboard was a separate piece that usually was just held in place by the chassis' screws. There were a few that used rivets -- those I'll have to relegate to parking lots.

This vehicle only had one securing screw. Most have two.
To open up the vehicle, unscrew the chassis. I recommend using a magnetized screwdriver. Most of the screws were deeply recessed and very difficult to remove.

Make sure you place the screws someplace safe. They can be difficult to replace. Once the screws are removed, it's best to open the car up slowly. Sometimes the chassis is the only thing securing bumpers, lights, and other small pieces to the body.

In the case of the Russian car, the rear bumper had to be removed to get to the seats.

The Procrustean Pontiac

When it comes to the seats, one size does not fit all. In most cases, I had to cut off the legs of the figures to make them sit properly. While the bodies may be scale, the interiors usually scrimp on leg room. And often the steering wheel was almost touching the seat.

Once I prepared the figures, I secured them into place with a mild fixative.

You might be able to notice the shortened legs in this shot. Add
 the tinted windows and limited vantage points of the car body, and you won't.
The fixative is important to two reasons. First, in most cases, I had to turn the car upside down to get all the pieces back into place. Second, although I won't be moving these vehicles around much, they will get relocated from time to time, and be subject the vibrations of passing trains.

I'd prefer not to have my drivers all slumped over. Going from modeling the Rapture to an Andromeda Strain outbreak isn't much of an improvement.

Ready to travel

 I have to say I was pleased with the end results. Even just sitting on the workbench, this car looked way better.

And here's the final result. Having people on board adds to the realism of the scene, I think. 

Of course, I still have a passenger train with brightly lit cars full of empty seats. It's the least successful railroad ever. But that, too, will soon change...

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