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There’s value in doing hard things; in setting a standard and doing what it takes to meet that standard. At the end, there’s a sense of accomplishment that only those who have done it will understand.

Having a standard means making judgments. If I’m working from a specific car or building, then that object becomes the final authority for evaluating the model. At each step of the way, I have an objective benchmark to judge the work against. I accept that there are limitations to materials and tolerances when work is reduced as much as our models are and, I’m happy to use a simpler process, as long as it helps me achieve or exceed the results I’m after. However, there’s a distinction to be made between easing the burden of a task while maintaining a measure of quality versus doing things the easy way out of laziness. Spending time building models is a choice I make and, just because it is a hobby, that doesn’t excuse indifference. If you don’t care about work you’ve freely chosen to do, then why bother?

The photos and captions in this post are excerpted from Tony Sissons’ book that we published in 2017. On the surface it looks like a book dedicated to a single project and I confess in my own shortsightedness, that’s how I’ve promoted it. However, after reading the feedback from others, I see that the true value of the book is to see it as a collection of mini-tutorials. The individual chapters cover aspects such as detailing the trucks and chassis, building a new fan and grille, and modifying the pilots. Each could stand-alone and provide value for any locomotive project. The chapter on painting and weathering is a masterclass in technique and observation skills. It shows how even a modeler as skilled as Tony still has much to learn. His humility and willingness to embrace failure is refreshing in a hobby culture overflowing with experts.

As one writer kindly noted:

The hobby has room for books that are greater than the work they instruct in the creation of. Books that discuss the relationship we have with our models, as we’re creating them. Books that provide a place to receive a discussion on why you made the choices you did. I believe we learn more from others if we learn why they made that choice, how they arrived at it, and why it felt right.

Comparing the work with my photos, it was evident that the center area and cross lines required widening. For this I used a very small piece of 2000 grit wet/ dry sandpaper held with tweezers and gently rubbed the areas to create the look of rust that was starting to spot. Along the larger rust lines I added a light touch of black AIM powder and blended this into the brown. With the cab edges more or less done, I left the final blending of the rust areas until close to last. -Tony Sissons

The blade on the right allows me to alter the angle of my wrist so that I can rest it on my bench. I use the other two from above, which requires more control. Out of the two, I use the flat edge of the larger blade for removing paint along the centerline and other wide areas. As I need to bring the width down in size for the finer streaks, I use the corners of the larger blade followed by the smaller. -Tony Sissons

Many people are quick to throw their hands in the air and declare the onslaught of ready-to-run models has killed any incentive modelers have for scratchbuilding. Blanket statement such as: “no one scratchbuilds anymore,” reflect the shallow thinking of the one approach for every taste mentality. As I wrote in the previous post, I don’t subscribe to that idea.

Scratchbuilding articles used to have a depth that is less common today. Reading the text and looking at the work, you could tell who loved the process and who was just banging something out. Today, text is minimized in favor of photo essays. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, according to the proverb, it doesn’t convey the thought process of the builder. We still need a well-written comprehensive text that helps the novice understand the path taken to arrive at the stage the images show. This is why I still have a small collection of fifty-year old magazines with content that is as relevant today as it was back then.

The opportunity to teach our skills should never be taken for granted. However, I’m fully aware that many hobbyists, perhaps even a majority now, aren’t that interested in any of this. That’s fine. The book isn’t for every taste and was never meant to be. It’s an anchor stake in the ground for modelers who want to pursue their own growth and development by building things in a meaningful way and knowing the pride of accomplishment that results. There’s value in doing hard things and our craft still has plenty of room for such things.


Prince Street blog



Tony Sissons turns a garden variety model into a show-stopper. Each chapter is a mini-tutorial in its own right with  techniques that are applicable to any model in any scale. You will learn how to evaluate a project, how to modify and scratch build the details you need along with extensive coverage of his weathering process.  The book comes in both print and ebook form. It also comes in a bundled offer that includes both formats.

Diesel Locomotive Modeling Techniques Print and Ebook Bundle