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!!

Social Distancing and The Hobby

First off, everyone in my house is fine, healthy, and working from home. I hope you and yours are too. As we all know, the past week has seen things go really crazy as the world deals with Covid-19 and a pandemic and our response. In the past week I’ve gone from worrying about being on strike as of 12:01am last Saturday (spoiler, my Union and employer reached a deal, whew), to being at work Monday and Tuesday panicked about taking transit and being around my co-workers as it became clear that things were no longer normal because of Covid and fears of getting sick from a colleague or an applicant if we had in person meetings. Before we could be sent home, we needed to figure out if there was a way to work remotely, which isn’t easy at a government organization without the infrastructure already in place to support that, and in an industry that has a lot of meetings and personal discussions to move the review of development applications forward. As my manager is fond of saying, “There is no such thing as a land use planning emergency.” Good advice, and very true. As of Wednesday, my employer has determined that planning staff are not essential to be at our offices, we are working remotely as best we can given the limitations on remote email and network access. Suffice to say, things that were keeping me up and causing stress last week, seem really unimportant and small compared to the things that were keeping me up and causing stress this week before the decision came down Tuesday that our offices were closed going forward!

So where am I going with this, for the past couple of weeks, trains haven’t been my top priority, or at least writing about something so frivolous as them hasn’t been. I’ve missed a couple of my weekly Tuesday Train rail-fan posts, and haven’t written up anything I have been working on. As I am adjusting to my new normal of working from home (which means my work desk is also my workbench), I will get back to writing about trains amongst writing planning reports and application comments, as its a welcome distraction from the world for me, and hopefully for you too!

Things I’ve worked on that I haven’t really written about. Getting close to ready for paint on the Brunswick Balke Collender factory, extending the backdrop into the corner of the closet for the sceniced part of staging, replacing the lock hasps with longer ones to work better.

That aside, model railroading is an alternatively social and anti-social hobby. We get together at train shows and events, but then we spend a lot of time on our own working on things in our homes. Fortunately, the organizers of shows have quickly responded and cancelled them. This is a good thing for avoiding crowds, but a bad thing for show organizers, dealers and manufacturers. Running a Train Show or a Hobby Shop isn’t a get rich quick scheme when things are good, never mind when they are bad. Hobbies, despite being a good way to escape your stresses, aren’t priority things. I’ve already gone out of my way to place an order with a local store for some supplies to help keep them going, and I can see me making some other orders as the isolation and social distancing extends into the weeks and months ahead. I know I will miss going to the Hobby Shop in the short term, as I find a lot of things like paint and tools are easier to buy in person when I can look at them (especially paint and colours), but being responsible means supporting our stores while not going to them at the moment. If we all pull together, this will pass and we can find the new normal going forward.

The other thing I’ll say, is the social side of the hobby, we can keep in touch by phone, text, email, and video chat. My wife has done a number of facetime/skype/something-or-other video group get togethers over the past few nights. One of my Model Railroader friends is now trying to organize one for us to talk trains and show off what we’re working on. If it works, hell, if it doesn’t work, I’ll report either way, hopefully it motivates you to reach out electronically to modeller friends of yours as well to check in and keep the bonds of our community together.

Until we can meet [again] in person, be well, please listen to your public health officials for instructions, and wash your hands!


Drawing Building Foundations

When everything seems to be chaos around us as we deal with Covid-19 and a global pandemic, for those of us with hobbies and our health, we can retreat for a few hours from the whirlwind at the moment.

For the layout, I have a lot of buildings to build, and I want to be able to work on the scenery such as ballast and roads before I get to all of them. That means, I need to make the foundations for all the buildings first. These will be blended into the scenery for the most part, but will provide me a solid and known base for building the rest of the structures later.

Recently when visiting my friend Pierre’s layout, he told us how for some buildings with concrete foundations, he had used MDF, cut to size, with sanding primer applied, sanded, and then painted concrete colour. This approach would work for me, using MDF I can prepare the foundations, install them, and scenic around them, then add the buildings later. As well, the MDF can be drilled for lighting drops for the buildings, and, for some of the buildings along the front edge, it will let me install pins to align the buildings but keep them removable.

Measuring the mockup of Barrymore Fibres (part of Toronto Carpet Factory) at Mowat and Liberty.

I’ve had mockups on the layout for a while of the buildings to get a feel for their size. As I’ve been testing trains now that the track is laid, I have started to get a feel for how the layout functions, and how the buildings feel. I have been wanting to do this for a few weeks, but having a Saturday with no sports to watch, and official advise to stay home and avoid unnecessary interactions in public, today seemed like a good day to clean the office and measure/draw the building footprints.

Using the Blue Bendy to measure the corner of the backdrop behind the building. With my high benchwork, a gap at the back won’t be visible anyways, but I want to start with attempting as tight a fit as possible.

Some buildings foundations are super easy, literally just a rectangle, and it was just a case of determining the right dimensions now that track is down. For others, they have complicated angles to the backdrop or cutouts for Hinde & Dauche around the door jam hidden behind the backdrop. At the end of the day, I have drawings now of the foundations for all 17 buildings that are going on the layout. It took 16 11×17 sheets of the graph paper (some buildings took multiple pages, other pages took multiple buildings), and am ready to start organizing to buy the necessary MDF for the job, and figuring out what tools I need to acquire or if I can get it done at a friends place who has a wood shop (though even in that scenario, I need to consider the right tools for adjusting the cut pieces here).

It was nice to work my way around the layout going building by building and thinking about what they are all going to look like, and getting a sense of how much building I have to do in the next few years, it’s daunting, but certainly not insurmountable.

A Number Plate for a Steam Locomotive

The Brant Railway Heritage Society is a recently formed group, working to raise funds to restore the Lake Erie & Northern station at Mount Pleasant Ontario and build a new museum there. As a fund raiser, they have cast resin replicas of Canadian National Railway steam locomotive number plates. I believe they have done all three of the northern’s preserved in southwestern Ontario, 6167 in Guelph, 6218 in Fort Erie, and now when I saw them at the Copetown Show two weeks ago, the Toronto Railway Museum’s 6213. Obviously, while I passed on the others previously, a donation to the museum for a resin 6213 number plate was a must.

The plates are provided unpainted, so I took this as an opportunity to see what I could achieve using cheap craft paints, not just because I didn’t want to search for complex or expensive hobby paints, but as an opportunity to learn on something that at the end of the day, didn’t cost me a lot of money, and doesn’t need to be perfect.

IMG_1835Cheap ($2-$3) artists paints from Michaels.

I decided that I would spray the brass base colour with my airbrush, and thin and run in the red to allow it to find its level inside the plate, much like how a real plate would be done, except with the real plate, paint was applied to the brass, then polished off the facing surface!

The cheap craft paints are not the best for airbrushing. They don’t have super fine pigment, so they didn’t want to spray well, despite a lot of thinning with water and upping my air pressure from my normal 30psi to 40psi. It did work, but it wasn’t my best painting experience. That said, part of the reason I did this this way way to learn. Its good to know what it takes to try and spray these paints, as you never know when a project will actually require a crazy paint choice like this.

Painting Process (clockwise from top left): Unpainted; in Tamiya fine grey surface primer; spraying the back; spraying the front; and dried brass finish.

After a day to cure, I thinned some red down so that it would flow, and used an miniature eye dropper to get the paint dropped into the plate. One advantage of this, is when I determined my first approach didn’t work, and I was getting paint in places I didn’t want and in ways I didn’t want, a quick run to the tap to rinse off the water soluble paint and start over happened. The second attempt, having learned from the first to work from one side and go across the plate so I could pick it up and tip it to get paint to flow into corners and it worked out much better.

With bright red run into the plate to surround the brass. With a shot of the real locomotives number plate on the right for reference.

The real 6213 at the Toronto Railway Museum has recently emerged from her chrysalis with a new paint job, though the detail work of painting the cab numbers or the CNR wafer on the tender isn’t done, and details like her number plates aren’t back, she looks light years better, as the paint she had been in was looking long in the tooth. My little number plate is for display with my True Line Trains CNR 6213 in HO Scale, I’m super happy with how the plate has turned out, and it makes a nice addition to the models on display in my layout room.

IMG_1834My HO Scale 6213 now with a larger replica numberplate as part of the display.

One thing I hate about Train Shows…

Is the inevitable repair list after a weekend away travelling with models. As I’ve written about before, many of my models are of the Toronto Railway Museum, and get used for train shows (here, here, and here).

IMG_1782My HO Scale CNR 4803 looking a bit ragged after the show.

This year, my victim of show wear and tear was my model of Canadian National GP7 number 4803. This is a Bachmann Trains locomotive that I have extensively detailed to accurately reflect the real 4803. Unfortunately, as you can see, a chunk of the “Canadian National” bar down the side came off, as near as I can tell, it happened in my travel container, not from someone touching it at the show.

IMG_1783New decal and looking good as new again.

I have plenty of spare decals, so taking off the existing and applying a new one wasn’t a big deal, other than spending a couple of hours after shows repairing things is time I’m not spending working on new projects.

Over the years I’ve had decals come off, parts get broken off, and a lot of nuisance problems. I’ve never had the big one (knock on wood), but every time I do a show I seriously debate if I want to keep doing them and exposing the models to the rigours of travel and potential handling by the overeager kids that I am often out trying to attract to visit the museum! Its a catch 22, but I suspect I will keep doing the 2-3 shows a year I do, if only as for every damaged model or painful interaction with someone whose off on a tangent, there are all the great interactions with excited families who want to come to the museum after you’ve met them at a show.