And now, for something completely different….


Or not, its not a train, but its train-related!! Given all the time on my hands with no longer having to spend about 3 hours a day commuting (that was my reading time on the subway, now its extra around the house doing stuff time, I don’t seem to be able to sit and read a book around the house), I have decided that to fill at least a little bit of this time, I want to figure out how to operate my actual steam engine.

This is something else with childhood memories of my grandfather and summer trips to Scotland. This little 1950’s vintage stationary engine ran on what the British would call Methylated Spirts, or Denatured Alcohol in North America is a real steam engine. You fill the boiler with water, and the little burner with alcohol, light the wick, and once the water boils, steam goes through the pipe, moves the piston and spins the wheel, just like a real stationary engine, and basically the same technology as a steam locomotive on the railway.

My Signalling Equipment Ltd. Model Minor stationary steam engine.

I haven’t seen this run probably since I was 10 or 11 years old. It likely hasn’t run in most of that time, as I’ve had it for probably 20 years at this point, and I’ve never made the effort to learn how to run it despite having a few friends who have live steam railway models. I need to do that now, as sometime in the near future, I’d like to be able to run it for my 7 year old nephew and 5 year old niece when they visit and continue the tradition of seeing it run and sharing trains with them as my grandparents did with us around their age.

A Call for Photo Searching Help – Pardee Avenue, Liberty Village

Seeing as most of us are being good and keeping ourselves inside and isolated to try and help stop the spread of Covid-19 (sorry, I won’t say it again in this post about train stuff!), it seemed like a good time to re-raise an issue I tweeted about last April. There is one building on my layout, and its a significant and prominent one that I have virtually no information about what it looked like. Strangely enough, because I have a survey of the site, I know the exact dimensions on the ground, but not the appearance! The Gillett Company (Standard Brands) Mill and Elevator Complex on Pardee Avenue. A small part of this building, which from the Goads Fire Atlas plans was the boiler house still survives, latterly it was the Roastery, a coffee shop which is now sadly closed. As near as I can tell, the Mill and Elevator appear to have survived until around 2004, which means there is a chance someone has decent pictures out there, and that’s my request. If you’re an urbanist, a photographer, someone in your family is a photographer, anything in Toronto who has photos of this building, I would love to see them.I have a number of aerial photographs from a long way away, but nothing even remotely close enough to see any sense of what the building looked like in actuality. I’ve been searching for going on 3 years for pictures online, in archives, at train show photo vendors to no success, so I’m hoping to use some crowd sourcing to get the word on the search out to see who can maybe find something in their collections that would be helpful in eventually building a model of the building.

As well, I’m interested in general in any picture of Liberty Village from before the 1980’s. Anything that helps me find what it looked like in the 1950’s era I am modelling (basically before the industries all wound down and buildings started finding their second lives and getting new windows and the tracks being ripped up). I have all the pictures from the Toronto Archives that are scanned and online, and have looked through some of their un-scanned materials in the research room, but I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a folio of images that had more Liberty Village stuff.

If you are able to come up with any images and are willing/able to share them with me, whenever things are back to normal, I’ll buy you a coffee or a beer or your libation of choice in thanks if you’re local, or make a charitable donation to something for our front-line medical workers in your name if you’d prefer. You can comment in the comments on this post, via social media if you come accross this on Twitter, or by email sjgardiner [at] hotmail [dot] com. Thank you for any help you can provide!

Pardee Ave in 2019, a Gillett Company Postcard, the one picture I’ve found on the internet where you can see the building up close (Image Courtesy Patrick Cummings via Flickr), and an aerial view of the building circled (Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 75).

While it will be some time before I get to building this structure, its an important landmark on my layout given how much trackage goes around it. As I’m going to be putting a lot of effort into recreating the buildings of Liberty Village in the coming years, the time spent now to find reference materials will make the end product that much better.

IMG_1391The paper cutout in front of the chimney is this building, its literally the only building on my entire layout where I have room to build the whole thing with all four walls and no compression!!

Thank you in advance for your help if you have something or know of someone with something and get in touch. All the best!

Tuesday Train #187

IMGP9061RawConvA GO Train working southbound at Pottery Road in near darkness as dusk transitions into night. My recollection is that it wasn’t nearly as pitch black as this appears, but that I metered off the locomotive headlights, which pitched everything else in frame into darkness. This is one of the new cab cars (the number gives it away), but their LED headlights are super bright and really throw off camera light meters as opposed to older incandescent headlight bulbs.

The #TwitterModelTrainShow

Another experiment in Social Distancing this weekend from the United Kingdom, after the London Festival of Model Engineering was cancelled, one of the organizers came up with the idea for a Model Train Show on Twitter, this would let people around the world share projects and ideas. Follow the link to the hashtag #TwitterModelTrainShow if you want to go down the rabbit hole, otherwise, my Tweets are linked here for anyone interested.

I saw a lot of great modelling, and a lot of people who love trains participating in this, and that’s a great thing that hopefully lifts up peoples spirits. The Toronto Railway Museum is doing its own Virtual Model Train Show next Saturday, on March 28, 2020, if you’re on Twitter and feel like taking part, I can assure you it will be appreciated.

“Train Night in Canada” A Social Distancing Gathering

A number of my friends in the hobby and I get together periodically at the pub to have a couple of drinks, dinner, and talk about what we’ve been up to. We also get together at each others homes, to work on projects at each others workbenches, using tools that some of us may have others don’t, and to run trains. Obviously, in the era of COVID-19 and Social Distancing, this can’t happen, but as a wise Vulcan once said, there are always alternatives…

In this case, our modern technological world offers a plethora of online video and audio chat tools, just some of them are Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, Webex, Zoom, WhatsApp and who knows what else. My friend Mark has a Zoom account their family has set up for our current social distancing, and he came up with the idea of a Saturday night get-together to talk trains and keep in touch. He invited a number of our circle, both in Toronto and further afield in Ontario. We wound up with five attendees, Mark, Doug, Ryan, Bernard and myself.

On the left our Zoom meeting showing us all working and chatting, on the left, my project for the night, a Kaslo Shops CPR Fowler 36′ wooden boxcar.

Bernard gave us a tour of his layout room and workshops, which was great as I haven’t had the chance to see his layout in person; Mark was showing off his work scratchbuilding a brass dumpster in O scale (no word if its going to be a dumpster fire or not); Doug showed off an online group scratchbuilding project he’s taking part in; Ryan was showing off his casting techniques and setup for his business National Scale Car; and, I gave a tour of my layout in progress.

All in all, it was a fantastic hour and a half or so on a Saturday night after a most unusual week. We will definitely be doing it again, and we now have a Zoom account as well for doing the same with family and other circles of friends. It’s good to know that despite everything, some of these mountains of tech we have are actually good for something after all!

Starting the 3D Window Making Process

While my layout may not be large, I still have a decent number of buildings on it, 14 in total based on the count from starting measuring foundations for them last week. Conservatively, 8 of them have windows that are not going to be off the shelf styrene windows. Before I did the building inventory last week, I had started an important process, creating the masters for windows for one of the first buildings I am going to build. Because I am modelling a real location, for a lot of buildings, the commercial available windows won’t do. A big part of re-creating the look and feel of real buildings is the windows. A lot of little details can be fudged in, but the windows and their patterns really make a building.

The first stage of this was taking the information I have on the building, in this case, original blueprints for the Toronto Carpet Factory from the Toronto Archives, and sketching up a not to scale plan of the different window types to determine how many types of different pattern there are. For a building segment that is 5″ deep off the wall, I’ve got 11 different styles of window, and three different doors to create!

Blueprint of Toronto Carpet Windows, and sketching out the building and the different window types and locations.

Having the blueprints for the south extension, the part of the building I am modelling is a huge help. It’s let me make sure that I’ve got the shape of the building, the spacing of windows and the design of them as close to right as I can. It will also help me to establish the scale of all the other buildings on the layout, as I am able to go to Liberty Village and compare their heights with this building, which I have known height for and which still exists.

For the windows, I am planning on 3D printing as master, making a mold and casting the windows in resin. This both will help me to build a new skill, and is cheaper than 3D printing. The resin parts will also be more stable long term. There is also a potential to sell some of the resin parts to other modellers, while there would be more work in it for me, the margins are probably better as I’ll be able to sell resin castings for less than 3D prints.

The first window done, in my 3D software on the left, and uploaded to Shapeways to check its printability.

Its been a while since I have spent much time in the 3D modelling software drawing parts. It was nice how quickly it came back to me. I’m happy with the results of the first window I’ve done, and I’ve now got a set of standards for the Carpet Factory windows in terms of minimum dimensions for the frames to be printable. That’s one down and 16 window styles to go, for the first building!!