The Industries of Liberty Village in the 1950’s

I’ve been busily researching the Liberty Village area industries before I start any serious attempts at track planning (more on that later) for my possible apartment switching layout.  I’ve spent all my spare time on breaks at work and at home in the evening searching online articles and archives for maps and information about the area.  One of the best resources for initial information in many places are Insurance Underwriters Plans.  These maps were used by insurance companies to help set rates, and included all kinds of details about buildings including their construction, what was happening within them, and who the industry in them was.  These plans are in copyright for 90 years, which means only plans from 1927 and before are available online in libraries and archives.  Helpful, but dated if I am setting a layout in the 1950’s.

Left, the 1910 Underwriters Insurance Plan of Toronto, Volume 2, Sheet 94 showing The “Hinde and Dauch Paper Company”.  On the right, is a photograph of the 1945 version of this plan, complete copies of which are not available online.

Plans from my era apparently exist, however, I’m running into a data availability gap. The west Liberty area was in Volume 2 of the Toronto Insurance Plans.  The 1945 set of maps for “Toronto Volume 2” are available in hard copy at the Toronto Reference Library.  There is an updated set dated 1954/1955 depending on the area of the City, however, no archive or library seems to have the 1954-1955 era updates of Volume 2.  They all have Volumes 1 and 4, but not 2 and 3.  I haven’t figured out yet if this means Volume 2 wasn’t updated in the 1950’s, or if all the copies of this area got reclaimed by the publishers and never made it to any Libraries or Archives.  This means the specific chunk of the city, and the information on the industries that existed closer to the era I am looking to model for is missing.  Having the 1945 information is more helpful than the 1910 or 1923 maps generally available online, but even then there are places where I know changes occurred, or where the available plan notes businesses as being vacant as of 1945.

Despite this, I have been able to learn a lot about the major industries that were or appear likely to have been rail served in the 1950’s.  In the western half of Liberty Village, major companies based on the 1945 map that appear to have been rail served with some idea of what the specifically produced in parenthesis were:

  • Hinde & Dauch Paper Company (Corrugated Paper Products)
  • Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company (Billiard Tables)
  • Poppy Fund of Toronto (Poppies, No, seriously, if you wore a poppy before 1996 it was potentially made here by a WW1 or WW2 veteran)
  • Toronto Carpet Manufacturing Company (Carpet)
  • Thrane Company of Canada (??)
  • Barrymore Cloth Company (?? Tied to Toronto Carpet by overhead walkway)
  • Canadian General Electric – Edison Works (Likely lightbulbs based on previous corporate names ??)
  • Carbide & Carbon Chemicals – Bakelite Plastic (??)
  • Exide Batteries of Canada (Batteries?)
  • Henry Disston & Sons (Saws), by end of 1950’s this site would be the Dempsters Bakery, later Canada Bread plant that was in operation until 2013.
  • S.F. Bowser Co Ltd (Apparently made Gas Pumps?)
  • Standard Brands, previously EW Gillette (maker of baking goods including Magic Baking Powder)
  • International Cooperage Company of Canada (One assumes wood and metal for barrels at one time, by the 1950’s, were wood barrels still a big thing then?)
  • Canada Foils Limited (?)
  • Aristocrat Manufacturing, Laundry Tubs and Toilets (Incoming metal/outgoing boxcars?)
  • Simmons Limited, beds/mattresses (??)
  • Thayers Limited (Fuel Oil)

As you can see, there are still some pretty gaping knowledge gaps in terms of what was being shipped in and out.  All of the industries above wouldn’t be on a layout the size I am looking at (17 industries is overkill for just under 12′ of length), but they give options for things that could be modeled in part, or types of car traffic.  Definitely lots of boxcar traffic, which is fine, but it would be nice to mix in the occasional oddball coal hopper or tank car to challenge operators.  Based on the trackage and property maps, I can see where there were cars going into buildings, or loading docks, and what the business made.  In some cases, there are even notations for what appear to be coal chutes for hoppers unloading into the boiler house areas on the factories.  If nothing else, that gives the option for an occasional delivery of coal for keeping the heating systems going!

1958 Toronto Planning Board Map 6A w IndustriesExtract of 1958 Toronto Planning Board Atlas Map 6A with major industries that appeared to be rail served in the 1945 Underwriters Plans.  The massive Inglis and Massey-Harris plants are marked on this plan, but are too big for the kind of layout and operations I envision.

So, with a growing knowledge base on the industries of the area, I am more confident that there is something there in terms of modelling.  I haven’t yet figured out where to look for information on CNR and CPR operations in the area.  What limited information I have seen seems to indicate that the railroads switched different industries, and didn’t necessarily serve all the industries, as some could only be accessed from the CNR lines to the south.  It’s still not clear to me if the CPR trackage and CNR trackage actually interchanged, or if they just crossed (this has big impacts on model layout operations).  There was also no run around loop, and in some cases sidings were facing the direction a train would approach from, this means that trains might have been pushing cars in, or running with cars on either side of the locomotive to switch different industries.  I think, operationally, it will make more sense as a layout for operations if I provide a run around loop, as it will ease the management of trains in a small staging/fiddle yard area, and let crews make their own mistakes in shunting.

OntarioRailMap - Google Aerial.jpgScreenshot of the Ontario Railway Map Collection project, showing CPR in Red and CNR in green.  I still don’t have enough information to know if they shared rights along Liberty Street, or if the two railways operated completely independently.  There is at least a crossing that looks like an interchange in the middle of Mowat & Libery Streets at the west end.

So, track planning.  I haven’t gone very far yet.  I’ve done a first version using AnyRail as it’s free and has a good set of libraries for different brands of track.  It’s also not something that I’m ready to share yet, as it is more of a “does this generally work” plan to see if the concept benchwork will support a layout vs. any serious first attempt at planning a layout inspired by the Liberty Village trackage.  For anyone who reads and thinks they are a layout designer, I’ve included a link to a PDF on 11×17 paper of the benchwork that can fit into the apartment: Oct 24 17 – Benchwork Outline V1

My early concept is to have the Hinde & Dauch building at the east end (right side of layout), and the Toronto Carpet Complex at the west (left end of layout), and using the bit of “inspired by” rather than being slavishly accurate, have some of the industries along Liberty Street flipped to the north side to fit my space.   As noted above, I think I would design it with an on-scene run around track so a train could enter the layout, and switch cars.  Similarly, having the track along Liberty become “joint” opens up the possibility for both CNR and CPR industries and equipment, and operational conflicts between crews.  There is some interesting trackage in the intersection of Mowat and Liberty adjacent to Toronto Carpet, along with the sidings down both sides of H&D that could be reasonably accurately modeled with some liberty taken in between.

Feel free to doodle your own layout ideas on the attached benchwork sketch.  Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll reach a point where I have come up with a plan I’m willing to share.  Still need to understand the industries a bit better to determine which would have taken loads by rail, but thus far I am still satisfied that there is enough here to inspire a layout, even if its not strictly to the prototype.

Continuing Progress on the Interior of 587 Yonge Street

I’ve slowly been continuing to work on the interior details for the ground floor of 587 Yonge Street, specifically, the interior of Bar Volo, the bar located there since I posted about it last week here.  Since that post, I’ve finished the floors, mostly prepared the main interior wall details, and glazed the ground floor windows. When I originally contemplated this project, I had set a soft deadline/goal of finishing it for this weekend’s Cask Days Beer Festival run by the Morana family that owned Bar Volo.  It’s not done, but it at least looks like the building being modelled.  Frankly, I’ve made a lot more progress than I thought I was going to have made a couple of months ago on this project when I first received my 3D printed parts for the project and figuring out how to combine them with the other parts of the model.  There have been times where I wasn’t sure I’d get to the point where the walls actually went together and looked like the building being modelled, even though I am pretty sure I’ve nailed the exterior look for the diorama.


With the walls temporarily mocked back up to see how things look.  The effect I’m working on of the bars interior being visible is definitely getting there.  When the building is complete, the interior will be lit by LED’s.

I was struggling with how to create the effect of the mixed hardwood and tiled floor, when I realized I had square pattern styrene sheet.  Once I marked out the area that was tile, and cut a piece to size, I was able to quickly gave it a coat of black pan pastel (not too heavy, aiming for a dark grey/black look), and seal it.  Once the tile portion of the floor was in place, I constructed the hardwood floor section using stained strip wood.  The benches in the interior are Walthers Benches, modified to fit the space.  They need some cleanup and some paint before getting permanently affixed in place.  I have these benches on the patio area of the model as well, but the more I look at them mocked up on the patio, the more I hate them in such a visible part of the model, and am leaning towards building my own benches with strip wood.  I think in the long run they will just look better there, where the plastic ones will blend away in the inside scene.


Two views showing the interior with the floors added.  The floors are a combination of “sidewalk” square styrene sheet, and strip lumber.  The actual interior was a mix of tile and hardwood, so this perfectly matches that.

I’m almost done building the bar.  It’s pretty much down to creating a representation of the large draft line handle that was on the bar in brass stock, and some touchup painting.  I have benches, tables and chairs for the interior to finish the appearance.

The next big steps on this project are the exterior.  I’ve found a Vallejo armour weathering wash that creates the effect of water stains, and a combination of this and pan pastels will be used to create the water staining on the upper exterior walls.  Once that is done, I think the walls can be combined together.  Once the upper parts of the exterior walls are together, the next step will be adding ivy to them.  For this, I am going to use a combination of directly applying leaf scatter material to the walls, with polyfibre for where there are hanging vines. and then inserting the windows.  Once the windows are installed, the back of the walls will then get sprayed with black paint to help seal any remaining light leaks.

I think this order will stand, I’ve been back and forth on the best order of operations for these steps.  I think the windows are last, as the upper windows are a glossy black sheet material, and all of them will have custom decals applied for the various signage that was in the upper windows. I’ve debated putting the windows in earlier, but I think it makes my life easier for adding the leaf material for the ivy if the windows are empty.  Similarly, it makes it easier to blend the ivy around the corners if the walls are assembled.  There are a lot of moving pieces in this, and I’ve spend more than a few nights just staring at the mocked up walls thinking about order of operations to achieve the appearance while not creating any pain in the rear situations where waiting on one task would have eased another.

At this point, with the interior close to done, I need to get the walls up so I can figure out how I am mounting the interior ceiling, and setting locations for LED lights on the ceiling.

I won’t be getting any work done this weekend (at least not Saturday), as I’ll be heading down to the Evergreen (Don Valley) Brickworks to celebrate good beer with friends from near and far who come in for Cask Days!  As much as I don’t set deadlines for my projects, at this point, baring the earth caving in on me, the model of 587 Yonge Street and Bar Volo will be done for the 2018 edition of Cask Days!

CaskDaysCask Days 2016 inside the Kiln Hall at Evergreen Brickworks

Update – 10:30PM – I decided to take some shots of the walls mocked up on the diorama base, i think the model reads better that way, gives it a bit of context.


A potential prototype for a Switching Layout

So, in my last post, I tackled the issue of where in our apartment I could fit a layout in, and how much real estate I could find to work with.  This time, it’s the start of the process of looking at where I will set the layout.  There are a number of factors in terms of what type of equipment I like to run, and what I am interested in:

  • Era – 1950’s, even though I’m a much younger vintage than this, for some reason, late steam and early diesel is what captures my modelling interest.
  • Geographic Location – Southern Ontario, it’s home, it’s where I know and live, I have lots of reference materials and sources/archives for more are plentiful and easily accessible.  I really enjoy researching and rooting out information, so choosing a far afield prototype wouldn’t do it for me as doing research could become difficult and frustrating.
  • Setting – Urban, an industrial switching layout.  I like buildings and architecture, and in the 1950’s era, a lot of early 20th century industrial buildings were still in their prime as rail served industries.  Many of them still exist today but are no longer rail served or industrial, but are available to visit and use as references for modelling them.
  • Locomotive Power – Going with the 1950’s, it would mean run down to nearly dead steam locomotives, and new/nearly new diesels.  Ideally, I wouldn’t run any steam bigger than an 0-8-0, mixed with early diesels like GM SW-1200’s or Alco S-2/3’s
  • Rolling Stock – The era means a majority of the cars would still be 40′ long, though 50′ long cars would be starting to be more common.  There would also be a mix of wooden cars hanging on and newer steel cars.  In a perfect world, it would have industries that would generate different car types and not just generic box cars going to docks.  This helps with operations, as you can’t spot a tank car at a dock door, but the tank unloading position can force extra moves to spot or pull a car from behind it.
  • Railroad – Surprisingly, while most of my locomotive models are of Canadian National Railway locomotives, I am not opposed to a Canadian Pacific Railway prototype if that’s what works best for a prototype.  It is a definite that anything I model would be a Canadian setting.

So, with all that said, the first place that caught my eye is somewhere very close to home, that I regularly pass through on my way to and from work everyday…

f1244_it2420.jpgAerial view of Liberty Village in Toronto (dated approximately 1920’s), an industrial area west of downtown that is now a condominium residential neighbourhood. Image via Toronto Archives (Fonds 1244, Item 2420)

Liberty Village, a now mostly former industrial area in the west end of downtown Toronto ticks almost every box I mentioned above, but that’s not to say it isn’t without its challenges or issues.  Being strictly accurate to the tracks and orientations wouldn’t likely generate a layout that was enjoyable to operate or which works in the space available to me.  The plan below is extracted from the Toronto Planning Board Atlas dated May 2, 1958 (also from the Toronto Archives, and available online here):

1958 Toronto Planning Board Map 6AExtract from the 1958 Toronto Planning Board Atlas Map 6A, with the Liberty Village Trackage highlighted blue.

Liberty Street, running east-west through the district was the spine, with the CNR entering from the south along Mowat Avenue, Atlantic Avenue & Hanna Avenue; and, the CPR entering directly onto Liberty Street from the east end.  This lines up nicely with the general space I sketched out with a left and right staging access into a central spine.  Where Liberty Village starts to fall down, is the reason Liberty Village got its name, one of the two prisons that existed there, in this case, the Mercer Reformatory (aka the Women’s prison) between King St and Liberty Street.  It sits on the north side of Liberty Street, which in my space, would mean all the industries are on the operators side of the shelf, and the giant empty space of the prison is where you’d be looking.  Not really conducive to operations or a visually pleasing layout.

BenchworkPlan-3inchgridMy space, basically, its 180 degrees rotated from the map above, CPR would enter on the left of the plan (east in real life), and CNR from the right (west in real life), but allmost all the industry is in the area the operator would be standing in, which is a problem.

On top of this, two of the largest industries that generated rail traffic in Liberty Village, Inglis and Massey Harris/Massey Ferguson were not located in this part of the village.  That has both pros and cons.  The Pro is they probably generated too much traffic for this kind of switching layout, the Con is they both generate a variety of interesting loads in and out other than just box cars.

This is where the concept of a proto-freelance layout could work.  Using real industries, buildings, and load demands, it would be possible to create a layout using Liberty Street as its spine, with sidings and factories being served by both the CNR and CPR.  It would also be possible to use the real industries of the area as the basis for both the architecture of the buildings on the layout, and the sources of traffic for the railroads. Flipping the industries and spurs to what would effectively be layout north along Liberty Street would offer the opportunity to look at creating an interesting track plan.  Operationally, I suspect at least the additional trackage to create a run around loop would be required to let a locomotive get around a train to shunt cars into location.

The next step is to dig deep and find out more about which industries were rail served, and what they shipped and received by rail.  This will give me an idea about what types of cars would be coming in and out, and how much traffic would be expected to be generated.

This certainly isn’t a done deal, as I haven’t even put pen to paper on a first concept of a track plan, and I certainly haven’t generated enough information on the industries and what they shipped to be certain it will work.  This is the first step in my layout planning adventure, research and learning to find something that will work for modelling.  I am still on the lookout for other locations that may work, but this certainly isn’t a bad first option if further research bears it out as somewhere the traffic level would make for interesting operations.