Tuesday Train #88 – 15 Years of Change at Didcot

Great Western Railway 4079 Pendennis Castle (left) and 6023 King Edward II (left) when I first visited the Didcot Railway Centre in May 2002.

I first visited the Didcot Railway Centre in May 2002, while I was attending Oxford Brookes University as part of an exchange in the Urban Planning program from the University of Waterloo.  For me, it was an amazing place, scores of steam locomotives and preserved railway cars.  And, that sunny Tuesday when I didn’t have classes to attend, a bonus of seeing Great Western Railway 3822 in steam doing crew training and running in after recently having completed an overhaul.   Amongst the many locomotives inside the shed and the workshop that day were two famous locomotives in the early stages of overhaul to operation.

One, Pendennis Castle having recently returned from a lengthy 23 year trip to Australia, and was in the initial stages of disassembly.  The second, King Edward II also in mid-overhaul, with work being done on test fitting cladding and piping around the boiler after the running gear had been overhauled and before the boiler work commenced.   I went back to Didcot for a 2nd visit at the end of May in 2002 before returning to Canada for a “Steam Day” when scheduled trains were running and rides were available.  By then, Pendennis Castle had been stripped down and the boiler lifted from the frames as shown below:

01219_n_15amvrns7n1219Late May 2002, Pendennis Castle’s frames with the boiler lifted and pony truck removed.

Both were once considered “no hopers” for restoration, Pendennis because she was stranded in Australia, and King Edward because one set of the driving wheels was cut through with a gas axe after a derailment in the 1970’s, and casting new driving wheels was considered an impossible task.  Time, money, and advances in what can be done by the volunteer and paid workforces of the UK’s heritage rail sector have brought both locomotives almost all the way back.  King Edward II returned to steam in 2011, and Pendennis Castle is in the home stretch of her restoration

15 Years later, on New Years Day 2018 Pendennis Castle (left) nears a return to steam as its restoration nears completion, and King Edward II is receiving winter maintenance following the completion of its restoration in 2011.

Buildings of Liberty Village 2 – Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company of Canada /Canadian General Electric Co. (219 Dufferin Street)

This is the 2nd in a series of posts on buildings that I am hopefully going to be building models of in the coming years as I work on building a layout based on Liberty Village in our apartment.

219 Dufferin Street, originally the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company of Canada.  Shown on the left in a drawing in the 1912 Canadian General Electric Annual Report, and in a current photograph.

This post is a building that sadly, only a very small portion of will be modeled on the layout, and not the impressive frontage in the pictures above.  Originally built in 1908, the plant was an early manufacturer of electric light bulbs.  The company was acquired by Canadian General Electric, and the plant was used for producing a whole range of products as well as serving as their corporate head office.  The Canadian General Electric Annual General Report of 1912 describes the plant as follows:

Two other large factories in Toronto, controlled by the Company, must be mentioned. The Canadian Sunbeam Lamp Company, which employs some 400 hands, is devoted entirely to the manufacture of Tungsten filament lamps under the Mazda patents, for which the Company owns Canadian rights.

If only we still described our industries in such delightful terms.  Fortunately, the building survived the years of industrial use, and the ever ongoing pressure to demolish industrial buildings and re-develop them.  The large floor areas and high ceilings are not an attractive feature, and used to market the loft office space in the building now called the “Dufferin Liberty Centre“.

Views of 219 Dufferin Street, showing the pattern of large windows on the north wall, and the power house, now a restaurant.  The 110′ brick chimney provides a landmark within Liberty Village.

As with most industrial buildings of this era, they were expanded and modified over the years as uses and owners changed. Because of the large size of the main building, most of the changes in this case appear to be internal to either the building or the courtyard created within them.  The City of Toronto added the property to the “Inventory of Heritage Properties” in 2005.  While this list is not a formal Heritage Designation, it ensures that the City monitors the site for any applications that may alter the heritage value, and is a first step to a formal Designation under the Ontario Heritage Act should a proposal that would negatively affect the heritage aspects of the site come forward.

IMG_4402Extract of Underwriters Insurance Plan Vol 2 Sheet 86 showing the Canadian General Electric Plant at Duffern St/Liberty St/Mowat Ave in 1945 (Toronto Public Library Collection).

For the layout, only the powerhouse and maybe a little bit of the main building will be modeled.  The building is located at the western focal point of the layout, the intersection of Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue, where both the Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway served industries and the trackage crossed and connected in a mess of switches as shown on the Underwriters Plan above and the extract of the track plan below:

Oct 31 17 - Liberty Layout Concept 1-FastTracks 3.anyExtract of the Western Corner of the Layout Plan, 219 Dufferin Street is building “B” on the plan.

I’ll be able to fit the entire powerhouse into the layout, with the end wall of the main building in shallow relief behind it.  There will be a car spot on the north side of the building for deliveries/shipments to the plant.  Based on the insurance plan, it appears that the plant likely received coal by rail for the boilers.  It appears that there was a single loading dock door about half way along the building, which means it would be off-layout, where it looks like doors for loading box cars were available.  As with the other industries, I need to learn more about Sunbeam/CGE to understand if they were receiving raw materials, shipping finished product, or both by rail to understand where traffic would have been coming from and going to to develop an operating scheme for the layout.

District, King Street West and Spadina Avenue. - [between 1977 and 1998]The Power House of the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company in its less than heydays of the 1970’s.  Picture courtesy of The City of Toronto Archives (Series 1465, File 51, Item 11)

The picture above also shows one significant change that won’t be modeled.  At some point between 1945 and the 1970’s, the corner of the power house was cut off and an angled wall with a metal roll up door was installed.  For the purpose of my model, I will continue on the pattern of the side walls to a square corner.  What is helpful about the image is that it shows what are likely the original style of multi-pane windows, which have been replaced as the building was modernized and converted to office-loft from industrial uses.

Tuesday Train #87

IMGP5782RawConvGreat Western Railway Steam “Railmotor” Number 93 at the Didcot Railway Centre on January 1, 2018.  The car was built in 1908 as a self propelled train, with a steam engine driving the wheels at one end, and a coach area at the other end.  The car was converted to an autotrailer coach in 1935, and retired in 1956, where instead of scrapping it was used as a service vehicle and an office, before being preserved by the Great Western Railway Society that operates Didcot in 1970.  In 2006, work began to restore the car and return it to it’s original condition as a self propelled Steam Railmotor.  The car was completed and entered service in 2013.  A full history of the car and the restoration project can be found here.

IMGP5786RawConvA shot of the powered truck of the Steam Railmotor.  A vertical boiler is located in this end of the coach which powers the two axles beneath it.

I took a number of videos of the Steam Railmotor during my day at Didcot.  They are linked below:

2017 In Review

Its been another great year in terms of this hobby for me.  Lots of good times with friends attending shows, dinners, visiting friends layouts, and working on a wide variety of projects.  I wrote about what I had planned for 2017 here and where I was mid-year here. This post will sum up the year that was in 2017 for me!!

The first part of this post summarizes what I listed as my “plan” for the year in my 2017 New Years post, following this, I get into some more detail on the projects.

Projects Underway

Projects to Start


  • Weathering – Did some, got a bit better, still a long way to go
  • Soldering – Did some, got a bit better, still a long way to go
  • Track Building – Didn’t do any.  Will need to in 2018

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in Stores

  • Rapido Trains Royal Hudson – Hopefully late 2018, Rapido promising a sample and tour early in 2018 to show off the model
  • Heljan Lynton & Barnstaple OO9 2-6-2 – Massive problems in the first run, the one I’ve ordered is now in limbo as Heljan switches factories and re-manufactures them
  • RealTrack Class 156 DMU – Likely to receive in January 2018
  • Rapido Trains New Look Buses – Both I’ve ordered are in Canada, received the first from the TTC, will pay and pick up my 2nd in the new year.
  • Mike McGrattan Memorial Gondola – Received, and displayed in honour of Mike

So, with that high level summary of the “plan” (insofar as one can plan a hobby), a bit of a chat on what I did is below:

Completed Projects

I “completed” a few projects this year, some are really done done, and others are at a point where they can be displayed even if they aren’t done (i.e. a number of passenger cars that need custom built interiors).  Projects which reached this “completed” stage in 2016 are my 009 Gauge Talyllyn, the HO Scale Dominion of Canada Shipment, HO Scale Passenger Car Nova Scotia, and the HO Scale Railway Village Model.  It feels good to look at projects and be content with them.  I know there are little areas here and there I can and probably will touch up or change.  But for most visitors to our apartment, they look like finished models rather than a pile of metal, plastic and resin bits on my workbench!

“Finished” projects from 2017, Shipment of Dominion of Canada, Talyllyn, the Railway Village and “Nova Scotia” (alongside Cape Race and Jackman).

I also did some work on a few small things not for me.  I now offer on Shapeways a 3D printed speeder in S Scale and Sn42 narrow gauge.  Why, why not? As much as I don’t normally have time to re-scale my 3D printed parts, I got a number of requests for these, and the sales have justified the effort.

Also in the Completed Projects world is my dalliance with going back to some old school plastic model kits of things other than trains.  It very much served as a bit of a reset to work on something not train related, and just scratch an itch and work on some other skills that I haven’t necessarily been using on model train projects.

Completed non-railroad projects. Scale models of Optimus Prime, a Corvette C7R and the Canadian Football League 737.

Things I’m working on

There are a lot of active projects, still too many, but key among them is one I have “started” in 2017 that will hopefully dominate my modelling for 2018, starting to seriously look at building a layout in the apartment.  The Liberty Village Layout (actual name TBD). I haven’t built anything yet, but as a planning exercise, I’m working my way though designing a track plan, and figuring out how to make a layout work in our apartment.  More than anything I’ve done in the past few years, the prospect of building a proper layout has invigorated me in the last quarter of 2017.

In terms of actual projects being worked on, I have my first test print of the original single level GO cars.  I’ve made adjustments to the model, it still has a lot of work to go, particularly on wheels and trucks before being either done for display, or something I can sell, but i can work on it.  If nothing else, the number of people who’ve expressed interest in this tells me I’m on the right path if I can work out the kinks and bring a product to market at a reasonable cost.  I’m also making slow and steady progress on building my first OO Scale passenger car kit.  The kit is a British Rail Diagram 73 First Open, I’m almost done the exterior, now I just have to get going on the interior and the final details.  I made a good start in a small narrow gauge shelf layout early in the year, but motivation petered out over wiring, but hopefully I will get back to that as well in 2018.  Finally, my biggest ongoing project is a model of 587 Yonge Street, the now demolished home of Bar Volo.  I’m almost done the interior of the building.  Once that is done, its some LED lighting and wiring on the interior, and it will be on to the exterior details and final assembly.  This is something I am hoping to make a good bit of progress on in January and have done earlyish in 2018.

Projects on the go, Layout Design for our apartment, 587 Yonge St, Hawker Siddeley GO Coaches, a British Rail Mk1 First Class Coach, and a Narrow Gauge display/swtiching puzzle layout.

Things to Come

With hopefully starting layout construction earlyish in 2018, there aren’t a lot of new projects on the horizon.  I have a growing collection of freight car kits to work on.  I think I will likely start on them and try to bring them all through the build process at around the same pace so when I set up the paint booth for priming and painting, I can achieve several projects in one go.  The cars will form a big part of the stock for the layout, and will allow me to move on a lot of commercial models I own that aren’t right for the layout or era being modeled.  I’m looking at getting as many of the “little” projects like interiors for coaches done to really put away some of the models I’m working on in advance of building a layout, as there will be ample work in building benchwork, finalizing the track plan, laying track and starting scenery, and that’s before I even start building buildings for the layout!

All in all, I’m happy with my 2017 year in modelling.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it, and hopefully there will be lots more to come in 2018!

New Look GM Bus by Rapido Trains

I got an early Christmas present to myself today, a delivery of an HO Scale “New Look” GM Transit Bus from Rapido Trains.  This one, is the Toronto Transit Commission “modern” paint scheme, which was an exclusive to the TTCShop website.  I ordered and paid for it in May, as they were being built to order, and instead of being like a Hobby Shop and charging when goods arrive, the TTC shop took payment at order.

The packaging for the Rapido “New Look” bus, and the bus with the laser cut mud flaps and decal sheet.

The bus is beautifully detailed, I ordered the Deluxe version which includes lighting and additional paint on the interior.  I ordered this version as it will be getting the Yonge 97 Bus destination signs added, and be numbered as one of the last of the New Looks which trundled up and down Yonge Street until their retirement in 2011.  I bought this version as I wanted it to help add context to the model of 587 Yonge, where the buses rolled by on the street on a regular basis.

The bus connected to a battery (you can just see the headlights on) and in the general position on the 587 Yonge St diorama.

I’ll be busy tonight applying the 97B Yonge route sign, license plates, and numbering my bus as one of the last group in TTC service in 2011.  It’s a great looking model and will definitely help set the era and location of the diorama it will be a part of.