A staging yard of half built freight car kits

I am nothing, if not scatterbrained sometimes when it comes to building models and projects, I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, but knowing yourself is important. Motivation and desire to work on things or do certain tasks ebbs and flows within me. Some days I really am excited to ballast track (the hell??), others, I want nothing to do with it. The same goes for building freight car kits. Some days I am totally in a groove to do fiddly underbody details and piping, other days, the thought of that has me thinking of seeing how far a 40′ boxcar will fly if i take it out side and pull back and launch it across the courtyard! Because of this, I tend to have a lot of projects on the go in various stages of completeness.

My “unbuilt” kit pile. Most of these are started and on the layout half built. It’s small compared to a lot of people’s!

I don’t need a lot of rolling stock for my layout (we’re talking in the tens of cars, not the hundreds like some large layouts), and at the moment, I have 11 kits in hand, 10 of which are in some form of having been started. I’ve also “finished” three kits to the point of being ready to weather this year, though those three are a CN Auxiliary Train with a crane and not really for operations!

CN Staging next to my workbench full of half built kits! The 3 in the back are ready to weather, the other 10 are in various stages of almost ready for paint to barely started!

So, while I hate to set goals artificially, I’m going to set one. I would like to have at least half the cars in the picture above finished, painted, decalled and clear coated by the end of December (December 2020 for those keeping score). That’s five cars. Of them, one hiding is missing just end number decals, and clear coat; one is basically done except for one piece of wire pipe; and one is just missing trucks. So really, I’m setting a goal of finishing building 2 cars, and painting/decaling 4. I think I can do that in two months, especially as I am taking a week off in November to literally just work on the layout, and some time off at Christmas where there is lots of English football to watch to forget about the fact we probably won’t be getting together with friends and family to end the year, such is 2020 though right?

Eureka!!! It Exists The E.W. Gillett Mill and Elevator!!

Well, after what seems like an eternity (Here, here and here), a picture of the E. W. Gillett Mill and Elevator exists!!! Look, there it is, an actual picture with more than enough detail to actually start figuring out how to model it, not another aerial from miles up!!

It was real!!! You’d think there would be more pictures out there of a building that existed until 2004, but until today, my search was without results! (Image courtesy Toronto Archives via City of Toronto Staff Report to Council)

So where did I find this? It was after all that time, in the Toronto Archives holdings, but in non-scanned materials, which to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t gotten around to going through as you can only request so many files/folders in advance for weekend visits when they were open to researchers pre-covid, and I couldn’t spend every weekend requesting five boxes and taking hours to sift through the archives. So how did I get it you ask? Through a City of Toronto Staff Report on designating the property as a Heritage Building under Ontario’s Heritage Act going to Council in November. The report has all kinds of materials in it that are not available to the general public, like 100 year old Building Permit plans. Sure, the reproductions in the report are not great, and unfortunately, as general public I can’t just go and request them, but every little bit helps! A sampling of the plans from the report is below.

The link to the full report on the E.W. Gillett site is below:


So with that, a periodic reminder that if you are researching old buildings, a great resource is your local Planning Department, as they should be posting their reports to Council online for you to find!

Tuesday Train #218

While BC Rail no longer exists as an operating railroad (the BC Government still owns it all, but its all leased to Canadian National), some locomotives still hard at work for Canadian National still carry BC Rail’s colours. Seen here is 4605 leading a CN Manifest freight (I think I heard him calling as Train 570) through Halton Hills Ontario on October 24, 2020.

A quick “kick shelf” in the corner

Two of the switches where I have installed my bullfrogs are located in the corner of the tightest part of my layout, the entrance to the closet where I took the door off to extend my layout into the closet for the CPR Staging. Since I installed the switches a few months back, I have caught the pulls to throw them a number of times. Not hard enough to do any damage, but hard enough to make me pause and consider my next move and how to not damage them as I move away.

In thinking about other layouts, I was thinking about how my friend Trevor had brass switch stands on little jut out shelves, and figured a small piece of 1×4 cut to size would angle off the corner so it would be harder to catch the levers but wouldn’t unduly take away any more room for movement for me or any future operators getting into and out of the closet.

A quick corner shelf, just enough to keep me from bashing the switch pull levers.

This was a simple little project, I held a 2′ long piece of 1″x4″ pine in place, traced the arc of the benchwork, marked the width of the board off and cut the 2nd line with my jig saw. Then I clamped it in place, pilot drilled 4 holes into the fascia, and mounted. I am not going to glue the shelf, I haven’t decided if I am going to paint it, or just seal it with clear shellac, but for now, it is in place and doing its job of protecting the switches (and becoming yet another place for me to throw things in close reach as I do scenery!).

Tuesday Train #217

Canadian Pacific ES44AC No.8868 leads train 113 west (north) through Caledon Ontario kicking up the leaves on a nice fall day (October 16/2020). While I was at this spot waiting, I had to call in broken crossing signals to the CPR police as they were active but not off long before this train arrived and while there was no traffic. The maintenance crew had fixed the signals and was waiting on this train passing to confirm they were now working.

A photo cube for project photos

For years when taking pictures of models I have built, I have just bodged something together with bristol board sheets. Its worked, but frankly, it has never been the perfect solution. In one of those enough is enough moments, this week while looking for sometheing else photo gear related, Amazon served up a bunch of photo box options. Looking through them, I settled on one that was $45CDN and offered a $9.00 off coupon (who knows, I don’t understand Amazon’s algorithms). It came with a photo box, six backgrounds of different colours, a carrying case for when its folded flat and has built in LED strips. It also had a tripod clip for a cellphone, which was what I was actually looking for so I can use my cell to take videos when I am out photographing trains by putting it in the clip. I also have a Bluetooth shutter release for the phone, so in theory I could also mount it at a different angle to take pictures remotely now. Time will tell.

Back to the item at hand. The booth is a heavy plastic formed piece that clips together when you fold it out, and folds flat for storage in its case. There are six heavy foam sheets for the backdrop in different colours (white, black, red, blue, green and yellow). The LED strips provide a good base of lighting, and I will experiment more, but will likely use my flash still with my SLR for taking finished project photos for posting.

A new photo cube for taking product photos from Amazon. Not bad for $36. It will do what I need for taking pictures of models when I finish them.

First impressions, is it perfect? No, but for the price, it will do what I want for a while. This is one of those things I’ve said I should buy for years, and I haven’t, so now I’ve effectively bought a starter set. If I find I am making a lot of use out of it and finding limitations, buying a more expensive one might make sense. This is a lesson I have learnt over the years for a lot of things. I have bought tools, if I was unsure if I would use it a lot or like it, I maybe bought a cheaper version, and then have gone back and bought better tools. While I strongly believe in buying the best tool for the task, I am also a realist in terms of budget. For something I am not sure about, a $36 outlay vs. $100 is a smart investment, even if I do go back and buy a more expensive replacement later. This to me is the equivalent of training wheels. In a year or two if I do replace this, I will have more than gotten my moneys worth from it, and if I don’t, the money saved will hopefully mean many other projects or tool purchases happen, its a balance.

Just some quick shots with my iPhone of models that were close at hand. I think once I get out the SLR and the Tripod, this will do just fine for taking pictures of models as I complete them.

Now I need to actually get off my rear and finish some of the half built freight car kits on my workbench to have something worth photographing! Back to the workbench for me!