CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Saturday, November 30, 2019

T-Trak Japan: The Start of Something New

The Japanese have a saying: 兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず.

I bet you have no idea what that says. I don't blame you... I can't read it either. It means "One who chases after two hares won’t catch even one." Or, put differently, those who try to do two things at once will fail at both. That is the essence of my modeling career. I need new projects like I need a hole in the head. I have an HO scale layout; a small N scale layout that I built for my wife; another old N scale layout; my live steam trains; my G scale trains; and various other projects. I don't need more. But, something has been nagging me for a while and I thought I would give it a go.

Every once in a while I would look on EBay for random N scale things, and I would find lots of Japanese themed structure kits. I love kits, so they looked like fun. A friend recently put together a model of a Shinto temple for a miniature wargaming project that I gave him some advice with, and it was a neat model. But more importantly, my wife loves everything Japanese. And she loves N scale. And I love my wife. So, it seemed like a way to combine our hobbies (more so then dragging her to train shows or live steam meets or railroad museums or tourist railroads or...

At one time I considered joining the local Albany Albany N-trak club. However, fitting even one 2'x4' module into my car is difficult. And, I didn't want a large layout module that size which I would need to store for 99% of the year, only to get to run it about 1% of the time (if that). It just didn't make sense. Then I remembered T-Trak, the concept of building even smaller modules (some as small as roughly 14" square) with Kato Unitrack on the ends to link them together. Here was something I could do. Of course, I automatically defaulted to the "triple" module which is roughly 36" wide but I had in my head an idea for the scenery and realized I needed space.

But, it would satisfy several creative itches I had and still be small and easy to store. It would also allow me to join a club where my wife could run her own N-scale collection of equipment. When I discussed the idea with her, her first reaction was "I would love it if you would join an N scale club." Sold! So, I reached out to the Albany club again to confirm what standards for T-trak they were using, and they were pretty helpful. I also found the Toyko in N Scale blog, which was pretty useful.

I explored EBay and the internet to find what structure kits are out there. If you search on Ebay for the brand "Tomytec" (or "Tomix," which I guess is a corporate sibling) there are lots of cute Japanese themed building kits that are small and look fun to put together. Tomytec sells them prepainted, or perhaps molded in the colors shown but I may repaint them as I see fit. I found the dimensions of lots of building kits, drew up the dimensions of the bases on metric graph paper, and then shifted them around on a piece of posterboard cut to the size of the module. Other companies sell more modern, realistically proportioned kits but I avoided those. There are lots of paper-structure kits too, which I didn't consider. Having realized I could fill my layout with interesting buildings, I then decided to get serious on the project. Depending on how nice this module turns out, maybe I will mount it on the wall on shelf brackets and display it in the house as a diorama.

I researched prefabricated benchwork kits and ordered one from Masterpiece Modules. It was about $50, so certainly not as cheap as building it yourself... and the web is full of ideas for building them out of cardboard, pizza boxes, foamcore, regular extruded foam, dimensional pine lumber, shipping crates, etc... but I wanted my focus to be on the top of the module, not the framework for it. Kato Unitrack was ordered too and for now I am having just a plain double-track mainline across the front. No switches means no derailments or stalling problems. Wiring is super simple if you only have two mainlines and not much else to deal with. But what to actually build? Humm... 

My wife loves Japanese food, Japanese games, Japanese music, Japanese culture, and especially Japanese cartoons known as Anime. I sometimes watch them with her, but she prefers to view them in the Japanese language with English subtitles which I find hard to follow. But, as a fellow cartoon fan I can appreciate her passion. My favorite anime movie is "Whispers of the Heart" by Hayao Miyazaki. It is about a couple of teenagers in school who are preparing for college whilst dealing with the issues of regular life. While watching anime with her, and especially this movie, I have seen many common themes that I thought would be fun to include on my layout, including... 

(1) A bustling city with lots of tiny stores selling fun things. 

(2) An open air market or a festival where people are dressed up and celebrating something. 

(3) A train station, as public transit is very popular in Japan. 

(4) A grade crossing, as nearly every Anime we watch has people waiting to cross the tracks or the crossing bells ringing in the background. 

(5) A scenic portion with something secluded at the top of a hill like a temple, bath house, or country inn. 

That's a lot to cram in a space 14" deep by 36.5" wide, huh? 

When the module kit arrived in the mail I put it together with wood glue. It didn't fall into place exactly how I thought a laser-cut kit would, but it came out fine. It is super light, but feels sturdy. The corners of the module contain 1/4-20 threaded inserts to attach leveling screws to allow you to raise or lower your module to match it up with others. There are also several holes in the back for passing wires out. It also included a scrap of sandpaper (I used my belt sander instead) and some screws to mount the Kato Unitrack. Having the mounting holes pre-drilled was pretty convenient. All in all, it went together in about 30 minutes. After the glue dried, I then painted the top with brown paint similar to that used on my HO scale layout.  
Then, I mounted the Kato Unitrak. This stuff is very popular in Japan where many people temporary layouts, but it felt flimsy to me. It seemed ready to break at the connectors when I lifted up two connected pieces. But, once screwed onto the base (the mounting holes were conveniently drilled into the benchwork already) it was fine. I hate the look of shiny rails so I painted the sides  with Model Master acrylic Flat Railroad Tie Brown paint (#4885). This helped a lot. Then, to eliminate the plastic-like look of the track, after the track was secured I also applied several coats of an india ink and alcohol wash which also toned down the base. While not perfect, I think it looks a lot better than stock Kato track. 

While waiting for some of the Tomytec building kits I had ordered from Japan to arrive, I allowed my imagination to wander. I looked into building interiors for them, and lighting them up with LEDs (and even purchased some from EBay), and sealing the interiors and corners to prevent light leaks. I also looked into attaching the buildings with small rare earth magnets to make them removable, and considered what I would do with the roofs. Then, my first building arrived and I was a bit underwhelmed. It is a cute kit, a combination of two buildings that together make up a "Country Inn." The pieces for each building were sealed in small bags with extra air for protection, and rolled up into a box.

The instructions were in Japanese but included a general assembly diagram that was pretty easy to understand. Most of the parts were prepainted, though not to the standard I would like, and some parts were already assembled. The window frames and glazing were already installed, details were painted, etc. Oddly, some of the color choices didn't match the image on the box.

Unfortunately, at that point I realized that some things I wanted just weren't going to happen. I don't know if these kits were designed to be put together and taken apart repeatedly, but the corner joints were very loose. The plastic is a soft, flexible type that did bond together with MEK solvent but I had to hold each joint together for a while to overcome large gaps in the edges. Having everything line up square without the aid of the base (which I didn't want to use) was a struggle. There wasn't much room in the corners to add additional bracing. It was, honestly, disheartening. The first building I worked on had the end walls brown and I wanted them white so I repainted them, but white doesn't cover brown well and getting nice clean, square edges in the trim was tough. I also repainted areas that suffered from glue marks and sloppy painting from the factory. Thankfully, it is N scale and trees will cover some of the view lines.

But, I have another four of their buildings in the mail. This experience has tempered my expectations and now I have a better idea of what I can do, and what I can't. I might still add lights to the building, but interiors will likely be a no-go. I will instead focus on detailed scenes outside. As for the finish of the buildings, I will just try and get them as close to what I want as possible. Perfection it cannot be. Unlike American kits (and perhaps kits from other Japanese manufacturers), these Tomytec kits are more like "toys" than "models." That might be how they are advertised in Japan, but I wouldn't know. Still, there is a lot to like with them.

I started working on this project on November 4th, and about a month later I am pleased with my progress. I am not rushing it along, but just enjoying the diversion it is providing. I began working on my scratchbuilt D&H bobber caboose too, so several things are going at once.

Maybe this is the time I will catch that hare...

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lots of styrene!

I frequently run out of sheet styrene that I need for my scratchbuilding projects. The local hobby store has some in stock of the smaller sheets, and even some of the oversize offerings that Evergreen Styrene sells, but I can't always get there and sometimes I have found that the thickness I need is missing. So, I called around and found a local plastic distributor (Piedmont Plastics) that was willing to work with me. They are a national chain but have a local branch about 10 minutes from my house. I asked if they had any 0.040" thickness styrene in stock but they didn't. They offered to order a 4'x8' sheet from another one of their locations, in this case Chicago, and they said it would only take 2-3 weeks to have it in Albany. In this case, it took two weeks exactly. I worked with a helpful woman named Sarah who was very pleasant, and the total cost including shipping was less than $20. That comes down to $0.004 per square inch, which is much cheaper than Evergreen's "economy pack" of 8"x21" x 3 sheets which sells for around $15 and equals about $0.030 per square inch. That is about 7x as much. And, I can cut my large sheet into any shape I need without having seams.

The only issue was that I couldn't fit it in my car. I figured I would bring a knife or scissors and cut it up in the parking lot, but then I realized I could just roll it up. It wouldn't snap or break on me so it seemed like a good plan. Apparently, no one has ever asked them to do this before as the loading guy I talked to had to discuss it first with his manager. Then, we tried to secure it with plastic wrap stuff and it kept slipping. Next time I go, I will bring a roll of tape and just do it myself.

Either way, I now have a ton of styrene to work with. The process was so easy that I will probably go back and order a couple of other thicknesses (0.060" is my favorite) for the future.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Visiting Mike McNamara's Northeast Kingdom layout

I had a bit of an adventure over the weekend. Mike McNamara, who models railroads around St. Johnsbury, Vermont in 1980 and whose layout is titled the "Northeast Kingdom," participated in a recent set of open houses. Having been a fan of his website and blog for several years, I decided to go and see it all first hand. Unfortunately, it was bound to be a long trip (4 hours each way) and I only had maps and a flip phone. So, in preparation of the drive I purchased a brand new GPS (yeah baby... I'm now in the 21st Century!) and figured out how to use it. In addition to Mike's layout, I also planned to get a cheesesteak so I researched good places near where he lived. All in all, it was set to be a nice drive weather wise and I was looking forward to putting the layout as I visioned it with the layout as it actually exists.

I wish I could say something interesting happened but because of the GPS it was a pretty uneventful drive. I didn't get lost. Mike's place was easy to find. People in NJ drive crazy (but I suppose they say that about NY drivers too.) More to the point, I found Mike to be a gracious host and while I was there his layout operated near perfectly. I swear I was studying the details in one section so hard I willed a boxcar truck to derail, as for the rest of the time when I was in the other room it ran just fine. Beyond that, his layout exceeded my expectations and I came away with a ton of great ideas for my own railroad.

He had three trains running unattended during the open house, and I appreciated that one was an Amtrak train. Too many people these days just ignore Amtrak, but if you want to model passenger trains in the last 40+ years (I know I do) then Amtrak is generally the only way to go. His layout sections were extremely well detailed, and showed a focus on creating realistic scenes instead of just making funny cameo poses. Nothing seemed out of place, and nothing seemed forced. His trackwork was very well done and I loved that nearly all of his switches were controlled by edge-of-layout ground throws. That is what I converted my layout to.

Like any layout, there are areas that he still needs to finish. I can't imagine the frustration of not having any projects to work on, and hopefully in the future I can come back and see what future progress is made. I do wish I had a track plan of the layout and Mike said there is one on his blog somewhere (update: see link in the comments section), so next time I will print it out in advance to get a better idea of how it all comes together.

I don't plan to add many comments to these pictures. I think they speak for themselves. I will only add that his layout looks much better in person than my pictures portray it, and despite spending much of my life in the Kodak city I still consider it a victory to remember to take the lens cap off before pushing the button.


Friday, November 15, 2019

Cleaning up the work bench

Over the winter I was moving along full speed on some rolling stock scratchbuilding projects when I hit a couple of snags. Some large scale (1/8 size) trains I had ordered as kits arrived... one for a battery powered diesel engine, another for a bulkhead riding car... and I wanted to get them finished for the 2019 season. A friend also offered to help me with a project involving my 1/8 size caboose, so that too was put on the work bench. Actually, I have a sturdy full size banquet table I mounted on casters that I use for these larger projects that I roll around when necessary. Then, when they were done I decided to finish ballasting my layout (and replaced every track switch along the way) and finalize my M.M.R.- Civil which consumed another three months. With only so many hours available, my smaller modeling projects were put on hold. I am only now able to get to them.

Unfortunately, the eight months of not using my workbench had turned it into a convenient place to dump junk. Projects, tools, papers, files, concert programs, etc. all got put there. Plus, I discovered that my needs had changed and I wanted to reorganize my tool and part storage area. And that killed any buzz I had about jumping back into my ongoing projects.

I looked at MicroMark, Amazon, and other online places for desktop organizers and found some really nice ones. But, they didn't fully maximize my space and cost more then I wanted to spend. Worse, they weren't really expandable and I still don't know exactly what I want. I didn't think purchasing something that might prove to be wrong for me was a good idea, so instead I went to Home Depot and purchased a 1" x 12", a 1" x 6," and a square dowel and made something on my own. It cost around $50 and only took about an hour (word of warning: don't rely on Home Depot for critical cuts). It is basically a box with no bottom and a shelf that is perfectly sized to hold some plastic storage containers that I had. Nothing fancy.

My previous design had holes drilled in some 1" x 4" lumber for screwdrivers, pliers, scissors and the like. That worked well but I didn't have enough holes for my growing collection of pliers, the screwdrivers were too spread apart and wasted space, and I had other things there that I didn't need. So, I laid them out differently. It is essentially three 1" x 4" boards glued into an C-shape. Since the wooden frame is somewhat tipsy I screwed it to the board below. I tried drilling to more holes on the right but the wood was so dry that it split. If I attempt it again I will clamp the wood first and then drill. For right now, though, it works.

To hold lots of my smaller things I was a bit stumped. I looked on Ebay for small wooden pencil boxes and there are many cheap ones but they were too large, and other containers weren't tall enough. I didn't really feel like building my own out of wood, so I wandered over to the plumbing section of Home Depot and found all different sizes of PVC pipe couplings. They are generally smooth on the outside with a thin ring on the inside. For about $15 I bought about twenty in various sizes and a can of PVC pipe glue. It smells horrible (normal hazard warnings should be heeded) but worked well to attach everything to some 1/8" thick styrene I had on hand. It just sits on the shelf without being attached.

The MEK holder has a small pipe on the back
to hold the long, removable tip to protect it.
For my primary styrene glue, MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone), the stuff is pretty toxic and if it spills on your model your paint will be damaged or worse, your parts will be deformed. I was using a needle applicator bottle from A-West (1" tip, size #16, their smallest) but it clogged. They had provided a tiny wire to clean it but even finding the wire was a pipe dream (get it, eh?). So, I had to use a small brush and the bottle of MEK with just the regular screw cap. It tipped once, which was enough to convince me to get a better solution. I purchased some replacement ones from Hobby Masters (#27RW Gray), including some replacement tips. Still, there are times when I want to use a brush to apply glue, and I also want to keep track of where the two bottles are. Looking at my collection of spare pipe couplings, I also whipped up a glue bottle holder. With one extra one, I made a paint bottle holder too (with another smaller pipe coupler inside to keep the paint bottle from slipping down.

Now I have a nice, clean workbench and am ready to get started on my smaller projects. Which might just happen, or might not, as I decided on a whim last week to begin construction of a Japanese-themed T-trak N scale module. Long story... perhaps a future post... but the empty workbench sure proved handy!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Roster Review: D&H C424s in 1984

#463 (December 1984)
The next entry on my "Roster Review" series are the Alco C424 engines. Yawn. Out of all of the engines that the D&H had in 1984, these are probably the most uninteresting to me. I don't know why, as I love the classy paint scheme. In my opinion, for reasons that will be discussed shortly, they kept their good looks for longer than other engines. But, they were all the same. Literally. Aside from road numbers, there weren't any funny variations like paint schemes, lettering styles, chopped hoods, rebuilt parts, etc. But, three of them have a special connection to a local shortline I like so maybe they will grow on me.

#462 (June 1980)
They were all (#451-456) acquired secondhand between 1979-1980 from Conrail because the D&H was hurting for engines and needed some fast. Even though Alco had closed a decade before the D&H still loved its Alcos. Their workforce was also pretty well familiar with maintaining them so perhaps the D&H saw a good deal and jumped in. Most of the engines were originally ex-Erie Lackwanna, but a few were ex-Reading. I am not an expert in either railroad so any outward differences are lost on me. Things like horn location, classification and headlights, sun visors, etc. all seem the same.

#452 in Enola, PA (June 08, 1985)  Ooh, I love that Conrail!
As a result of Conrail and the D&H's routes expansion, the D&H had haulage rights to take loaded salt trains to interchange with the Genesee & Wyoming at Retsof in western New York. This was, of course, when the G&W was just a small shortline. Apparently the D&H motive power wasn't always up to the task and the G&W demanded something more reliable so they financed the rebuilding of three C424 engines (#461-463). Some sources say that there were ex-G&W engines, and other resources say that they came directly from Conrail. Regardless, after the D&H became part of Guilford in 1984 the three engines were returned to the G&W.

#452 & #4075 on a passenger special (October 08, 1980) 
The units were rebuilt by General Electric in the old Erie Railroad shops in Hornell, NY. At the time, G.E. had a locomotive rebuilding facilities there. To my knowledge these were the only D&H engines that went through the Hornell paint shop. G.E. must have done a better job of stripping and cleaning the frames and bodies of the already-well "seasoned" engines before applying new coats of the Zebra stripe paint, as these nine engines looked a lot better years later than other D&H painted blue dip engines. The paint didn't wear and peel off like engines painted in Colonie by the D&H.

All lasted through 1984 in much the same condition as they arrived in 1980. I mean really, what could have happened to them in the span of just four years? Except for the three engines returned to the G&W, the remainder lasted on the D&H until 1994.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Ground Throws, Frog Juicers, and crazy knife switches!

I was struggling for a while with how to control my new turnouts. Originally I installed Tortoise switch machines but I didn't like the rocker switches I used to control them. They felt weird under my finger. A small issue to be sure, but one that bothered me. Also, I didn't like how it added extra wiring underneath the layout. But, they powered the frogs (something that was important to me), they worked on both DC and DCC, and they were done. DONE!

Waiting for the wood glue to dry.
Replacing my broken Micro Engineering switches with Pecos required me to remove the Tortoise machines from the underside of the layout because their throw rod locations didn't match. I never reinstalled them. Instead, I assumed I would move the points with a control wire in a tube that ran to the edge of the layout. While common on British exhibition layouts where they are mounted behind the backdrop, in the USA people usually put them right next to the switch where their massive size sticks out. A picture of some installed on Mike McNamara's Northeast Kingdom layout shows how inconspicuous they can be. Recently, I operated on two layouts with ground throws and enjoyed the little process of moving the lever back and forth.

The tubes had a tendency to shift around
I was worried about powering the frogs for my DC trains if I used a Tam Valley Depot Hex Frog Juicer, which apparently only work on DCC. So, I purchased some micro slide switches to see if I could utilize them instead. At about twenty-five cents each, they were dirt cheap and easily controlled the points. But, cutting into the plywood benchwork top to mount them flush would be difficult. So, one afternoon I fabricated a wooden jig and then cut and glued styrene up to make mounting boxes for the toggle switches. They worked fine but were too tall and looked kinda silly. So, I nixed that idea.

So, I decided to just move on and install the ground throws and get it over with. The analysis paralysis was killing me. In the course about about 90 minutes I had cut and gently formed enough 1/32" K&S brass tubing (#1144) and 0.025" (#500) steel piano wire to control all six switches. The Caboose Industries sprung ground throws (#5218S) were drilled to accept the wire and installed. A nail punch really helped. The rods were taped down and yellow glue was poured over the tubes to secure them, keeping away from the ends. (I first tried a staple gun to but it crushed the tube... doh!) Once the everything was spiked, glued, and painted, it looked a lot better.

While listening to a 2 hour long Mozart concert, it suddenly hit me how to use frog juicers and still run DC trains: make the frog juicers optional. They are powered with two wires that connect to the DCC bus lines. If I inserted into that connection an easy to reach, easy to break switch that would disconnect those wires, then the frogs would become un-powered. That would allow regular DC trains to run over them. Oh sure, I agree that having powered frogs for all trains is a good idea. Especially the older type of DC ones I might want to run in the first place. But, this will work. I bought a cheap knife switch on EBay and installed it. It is easy to see when I look under the layout. It reminds me of something that might be in Frankenstein's laboratory.

I wish Tam Valley Depot made a 3-frog juicer, as all four of my layout sections have exactly 3 switches each. Here, I combined two sections onto one Hex (6-frog) juicer but that means I have three wires running from one section to another. (In the process, I ran out of green wire. Grr. At least I had the self-control to order more instead of substituting some blue wire I have lying around). My staging yard already has a frog juicer, and I will run the corner curved switches frog to that too.

From Mozart to Frankenstein...

Monday, November 4, 2019

Ballasting the Cohoes passing siding (by Mohawk Paper)

South end of passing siding and facing north in 1986
I still needed to ballast about five feet of track to finish the requirements for my M.M.R. Civil Certification. I decided to work on the passing siding. Unfortunately, that involved replacing two M.E. switches with Peco switches (and the associated wiring) but at least there was a lot less cutting and fitting. Like before, the track was spray painted with Rustoleum camouflage paint and then the ties were individually painted. It goes fast, and I still can't get over what a simple transformation tie color makes. I am leaving the actual spur down to Mohawk Paper alone for right now as this scene will require building up the sloping ground, pouring roads, etc. That is more than I went to get involved with at this time.

During the process, I also removed the Tortoise switch machines. When I saw the drop in elevation between the track and the top of the benchwork was less than 1" or so, I decided that using ground throws would work. I might need something more flexible like styrene tubes or perhaps some radio control airline tubing to shield the steel piano wire, but I am sure I can get it all worked out. So I pressed on.

Note the different appearance of all three tracks
My pictures from 1984 don't show this far north so I am not sure if the passing siding was covered in weeds or not, but I am modeling it in a better condition then some of the other track on my layout. Pictures from 1986 do show weeds on the spur itself but the mainline was still in pretty good shape and that is how I am modeling it. There was a lot of litter and debris along this section which will be interesting to model once I get to the scenery stage. Note in the picture that the brush from the sides of the right of way is encroaching and nearly cascading over the edges of the mainline rail. Likely the passing of the trains with their steel wheels is all that is keeping it in check.

Ballasting went pretty well though I hadn't built up the edges of the scenery around the roadbed and thus the ballast didn't have much room to spill or fall to when creating the slopes before it just completely fell. The mainline was my typical gray blend, but for the passing siding I combined some Woodland Scenics' dark gray ballast with some leftover Arizona Rock and Mineral gray blend stuff and had just enough for the passing siding. It looked okay, but it didn't capture the look completely. Again, the "dark gray" just wasn't dark enough. So, I lightly sprinkled on some W.S. fine cinders (which are black) and that worked better. I also used some dark green ground foam to represent some of the grass, without using any of the super fine green ground foam. The result are bushes and weeds popping up without making everything look like I need a lawn mower. As the passing siding progressed north (right), I used more weeds. When I apply scenery and static grass it will really pull it all together.

The northern-most switch is nearly invisible!
I also started going around the layout and cleaning up the ballast areas that might have a loose piece of ballast on the side of the rail or on top of the tie. I am not going to go crazy about it, but if I spot it I will fix it. I also purchased a bottle of brown paint that matched the rail color and am touching up areas on the switches that I had masked off from the spray can. Slowly but surely, the ballasting evolved. It isn't finished, but I am done with it for now. And with that, I am now able to submit my M.M.R. certificate paperwork (finally) and move on to something else, like my scratchbuilt cars that are sitting on my workbench.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Scenic Express prepared Matte Medium - FAIL!

Having run out of my own self-made scenic cement, I decided to take the easy way out and purchase some commercial adhesive. I had read on a prominent modeler's blog that he converted to using Scenic Express' prepared Matte Medium exclusively so I decided to do the same. Never observing the "try it first" approach, I purchased a whole gallon of the prepared stuff online. After shaking the big jug vigorously, I then poured some into a smaller container and worked on some ballasting. It looked milky white when it was applied but all of the other adhesives I had used did too, so I figured it was okay.

The next day I went to check on my layout and was dismayed. The edges of my ballasted track where the excess had pooled had turned white, almost as if someone poured skim milk on my layout and let it dry. The ballast itself showed no discoloration that I could detect, but where it pooled on the un-sceniced plywood there was white residue. When I told the modeler I mentioned above about the result I had and asked if it ever happened to him, his response was: "I've stopped using that stuff for that reason." DOH! I also reached out to Scenic Express who said they thought the age of the product might be a factor and suggested I discontinue using it. When asked, they did confirm that their product contain no talc.

Fun fact: it cost $35 with $15 more for shipping, so I have a $50 gallon of stuff to figure and no idea what to do with it. So, back to making my own scenic cement per Dave Frary. I may try and let this stuff settle and see if anything is at the bottom. I hate to throw out a whole gallon, but modeling a milk explosion on my layout isn't exactly the affect I am going for...