Brass Technical Tips
July 1998 Brass List
"Packing and Shipping Brass Models"
Chances are that one day you, as the owner of a brass model, may have to ship it somewhere. Whether you are sending a model to Caboose Hobbies for consignment sale, repair, painting or selling it privately, you want the model to arrive at its destination in prime condition. Here, then, are some guidelines and thoughts on how to give your prized model(s) the best chance for survival during its shipping experience.
Packing the model in the model box:
Most model damage falls in two main categories. Most common is structural damage due to the shipping carton having been dropped or thrown. Less common, but still noteworthy, is surface or paint damage due to contaminated or inadequate model wrappings.
The first level of defense, then, is to assure that the model has the best protection possible within the model box itself. In most cases, the factory box and its foam inserts, wrappings and other accouterments are adequate. It is important that all the 'little pieces' of foam and Styrofoam be retained and reused in their intended places. These typically offer additional cushioning and support to delicate parts, such as handrails, horns, headlights and other delicate parts, especially protruding parts. Some foam pieces are designed to fit between the frame and pilot/trailing trucks on steam and other locos, to prevent scratching of painted parts. This level of protection is becoming more prevalent , as more and more models are being delivered with factory paint.
Some interior packaging of older models, from the 1960's, may offer only marginal protection, at best. An example of this is the corrugated cardboard wrapping and shredded filler material used in early PFM and Akane model packaging. Additionally, some early foam inserts tend to deteriorate over time, and disintegrate into a powder. When this starts to happen , the foam has largely lost most of its resiliency and provides severely reduced protection. It should be replaced before shipping the model. A specific and widespread example of foam deterioration is that which occurs to the yellow foam used in PFM and Tenshodo models.
To offer the best protection, the foam inserts must be soft enough to cushion the model and delicate parts, yet be firm enough to prevent the model from moving far enough to contact the box itself, in a 'dropped carton' situation. Generally, the heavier the model, the more important it becomes for the foam to have adequate firmness. Most model damage usually occurs to the front or rear ends. This happens because a shock or collision of the model with the box is concentrated over a relatively small and weak area, as opposed to the side, of a model. Steam locomotive pilots and the rear of cab roofs are especially prone to this. If the pilot alone is supporting the model in the foam, and the box is dropped hard enough for the pilot to hit the end of the box, the pilot will almost always bend or break. For this reason, it is important to make sure that the foam packing provides equal support to the smoke box front (or the cab front on diesel models). The rule here is; the more surface there is to absorb a blow, the less chance there is for damage to a surface. The corollary to this is that a large surface will resist movement better in foam than a pointed smaller assembly.
On very heavy models, such as O scale locomotives, even very firm foam may not be enough to prevent a collision of model and box. For this reason, some large heavy models are packed with an L- shaped metal plate, which is screwed to a solid part of the model (usually the bottom of the cylinder saddle on steam locomotives). This plate is inserted through a cut in the foam to the end of the box in front of the model, such that the right angle of the plate rests between the foam and box end. This approach does a very good job of restricting fore and aft movement of the model and keeps it nicely within its foam nest.
The weight of a model also directly affects its inertia and hence its ability to move within the foam. For this reason, it is sometimes advantageous to ship the model with the lead boiler weight NOT installed. This used to be the common way steam locomotive models were factory packaged. The boiler weight and its attaching screw(s) were packed in a separate niche in the foam, and it was the buyers chore to install it. This has become less common now, though, as models have become more detailed and hence more intimidating for the average person to disassemble and reassemble. Most weights are now factory installed.
Most of the importers are trying new packaging approaches to protect today's level of model exotica. Overland Models, Inc., for instance, has tried a number of innovative interior packaging designs to protect its models, particularly its prolific line of diesel models. These include either a three or four sided cardboard wrapper to surround the model within the foam and keep the trucks aligned with the model. The top segment (if present) also has foam pads to keep the cardboard wrapper from directly contacting and damaging roof details.
There are a couple of considerations to think of when applying this wrapper to the model. The first is that the paper and clear wrappings should usually be applied to the model before the cardboard wrapper. The second is to make sure that the cardboard wrapper is not flipped end for end relative to the model. Most of these have a front end and a back end. There will usually be openings in the sides. These correspond to where the cab goes, and are there so the cab sunshades will not get crushed.
Then too, the foam pads on the wrapper top are positioned so that they fit the roof of the model only one way, and hence rest only on flat and solid roof areas. If installed in reverse, the wrapper and its pads can actually promote damage to protruding roof details, such as horns, antennas etc..
Installation of Kadee or other couplers on your model that utilize a trip pin can benefit from a simple modification to the foam. Simply cut a slot for the trip pin to slide into at each end. This avoids damage to the coupler or pilot from just jamming things down into the uncut foam. We cannot leave the topic of foam without a short word on the infamous 'Red Stain' malady. This was common, at one time, on certain Sunset and other importer's models that used a particular red foam. The red dye in this would leach out over time, and actually stain the clear wrapping around the model. This stain would then impart itself to the clear coating on the model. This in turn would sometimes remain damp enough to soak down to the brass surface itself.
Removal of these stains usually requires stripping of the model with paint remover or bead blasting. This all can happen unbeknownst to you while your model is resting in its factory wrappings, safe and secure......... you thought! Check for this in Sunset, Key and Westside Models boxes, and any others from the 1970's era that use a red foam. Check the foam itself for any sign of a red dye emission or dampness. Check the wrapping and the model itself. It is suspected that this process takes place when a model is stored wrapped up and with no air circulation. It may be further aggravated by storage in a damp or environment, e.g., a humid part of the country or a basement..
Paint or finish damage is the other type of model damage that can be the result of poor or improper packaging and/or wrapping techniques. It is more often a result of the storage process (model stored in box for long periods), rather than a result of shipping (unless one was shipped surface mail on the White Star Line). The function of soft wrappings, clear and/or paper, are to protect the finish and paint on a model, including protection against abrasions from the foam itself. Furthermore, the soft wrappings protect details by preventing them from getting snagged and damaged when removing or replacing the model in the foam. The usual wrapping for unpainted models is a clear 'plastic' wrapping. This is enough to protect the details and keep out excess moisture over short periods. (Bear in mind, though, the factory's idea of a short period may just be that time to get it from S. Korea to the USA.).
The ideal wrapping setup for painted models is two layers. The first, next to the model's surface, should be a flexible white paper on the soft side. Paper is not as apt to chemically attach itself to the paint as the clear plastic wrap is. The white tissue paper available at Hallmark stores is very suitable for this. The clear wrap is the outside layer. Pay particular attention to the wrapping of recently painted models (especially those painted with solvent type paints). If the painted surface is just dry, but not cured, the wrappings can tend to bond to the finish from time and the pressure of packing. When unwrapped, the surface of the finish can be severely marred. This typically can happen to the final clear coat finish, and even factory painted models occasionally show up with this problem.
Another potential problem to watch out for is soft wrappings which have become contaminated with excess lubricants from the chassis or trucks. This is sometimes hard to see, but lubricants travel (creep) on a surface and can come in contact with the models surface, especially in a re-wrapping process. This can wreak havoc on a painted surface. We occasionally receive models for consignment that have been over-lubricated to such a degree that both the wrapping and model are wet. Bad news! If in doubt, use new wrapping material.
A word or two on tube type clear wrapping. Personally, I do not like these, be they open at one end or two. It is difficult to insert a model in these without the wrapping snagging on something, usually the finest and most delicate of details. A clear wrapping, large enough to provide for several layers and adequate overlap at the ends, is preferable.
Packing the Model Box in the Shipping Carton:
The proper packing of the model box in the shipping carton provides a significant proportion of the protection. It protects both the model box itself and hence, the model within.
The shipping carton, in conjunction with the packing material filler, is intended to absorb any shocks or other collisions of the carton with floors, sidewalks, airport tarmacs etc..
The best packing material filler available today is in the form of the common foam 'peanuts'. These are designed to be firm enough to keep the model box secure in its position, and yet have enough 'give' to provide a cushioning. Additionally, they have enough resiliency so that they tend to return to their original shape, after giving a bit in a shock situation. Thus, the model box will tend to return to its original position within the carton, and still be protected from future accidents.
Some materials should explicitly NOT be used for packing filler material. Newspaper, whether it is rolled, loose, or wadded up is a very poor choice. It does not offer the three characteristics of foam peanuts that are so very important; firmness, cushioning and resiliency.
Caboose Hobbies' shipping department personnel have an excellent track record in packing brass models; hundreds of them each month. I consulted with them as to their recommendation on the thickness of filler to use between the model box and shipping carton. They recommend two to three inches of filler on the sides and three to four inches at the top and bottom. Unusually heavy model boxes get at least the maximum of these ranges. If packing two to three models per carton, stack the model boxes together, with the largest at the bottom. Then fill at least to the thicknesses at the upper end of these ranges. Of course, the shipping carton has to be selected to be of sufficient size to allow the proper filler thickness or depth. Use cartons of stout shipping quality cardboard, in good condition. Seal all flaps, seams and joints with a quality shipping tape. Scotch magic transparent tape doesn't even come close. Lastly, do not forget to insure your shipment for full replacement value.
In the unlikely event that you receive a model that has been damaged in shipping, be sure to save the shipping carton and all packing materials. The shipper will want to examine these as part of the claim filing process. Hopefully, though, your model will arrive at its destination in the same condition it was sent. If reasonable packing precautions are taken, chances are it will.