Hindsight 20/20 5.0 – Virtual Railway Prototype Modellers Meet

So, two of my friends and fellow modellers are amongst the co organizers of a series of Virtual RPM (Railway Prototype Modeller) meets. They convinced me for their upcoming 5th event on December 5th, to give a presentation on my layout and the prototype I am modelling. So, with that in mind, I am making sure any readers who might be interested in listening to me ramble for half an hour on their Saturday afternoon, instead of reading the blog can do so!

There are also, lots of other interesting clinicians, that may even interest you more than hearing me ramble for half an hour! They have been enjoyable, and they can be on in the background while you work on models at your workbench! The Virtual RPM keeps the learning going, even if some of the social aspects of a gathering of model railroaders aren’t there in 2020!

Free Registration is through the Speedwitch Media website linked here. The presentations are not recorded, so this is kinda a one and done deal if you are interested. All times in the flyer above are eastern timezone. Again, it is a free event, so its a great way to learn from other amazing model railroaders.

Sunday Putterings

As we approach a return to lockdown in Toronto starting tomorrow, instead of going out and fighting the sheeple going out to malls and stores before they are closed (I hated malls in the before times, in a pandemic, with a lockdown starting at midnight, you couldn’t make me go!), I planned to spend my Saturday and Sunday taking full advantage of the fact that the English Premier League is booking four games with no overlap on Saturdays and Sundays at the moment. I managed to watch all four games on Saturday, but otherwise, I was in a funk. I had no motivation to do anything, didn’t want to work on trains, spent a good chunk of the day watching the football games from bed. This year has been a year, for us all, and I’ve written about some of my challenges with motivation and mental health. Suffice to say, as the saying goes, today was a new day. I got up this morning, watched the 7am Fulham v. Everton game, and by the time the Sheffield United-West Ham United game started at 9, I was up, showered, dressed, and had laundry going! With that, I launched into 5 non-stop hours of model train puttering in advance of plunking myself down on the sofa to watch Liverpool-Leicester City to end the days EPL soccer! What a difference a day makes. I don’t know why I felt energized on Sunday and in the dumps Saturday, but so much has happened, I’m going to focus on the good, while remembering the bad is OK too and that its perfectly normal to not have good days at the moment as well. I just know since I spend all my work week in my layout room, its easier for me to focus on my day job during day job times if I am feeling I have been productive on the layout in my time, which I now do compared to yesterday.

Unexpected Treats for modelling from my better half!

A positive start, shortly after I started puttering, my better half ordered in Starbucks (its snowing here today, she had a zoom coffee date with friends and didn’t feel like going out to get a Starbucks treat), she got me a Peppermint Hot Chocolate and a Ginger Cookie, now that’s how to start a day at the workbench!

Up First, more with the Static Grass Applicator and playing around.

First up, more learning with the Static Grass applicator. I have bought another colour of 2mm material from Woodland Scenics, its quite different in terms of feel from the WWScenics material I ordered with their applicator tool. I’ve not got test samples of all three 2mm colours of base grass I have on styrofoam shingles so I can see how they look under layout lighting. After all of this, I think I am going to use the WWScenics spring, on Tile 1. I like the bit of brighter colour pop for where I’m going to have green grass, and it can be toned down with selective additions of the Woodland Scenics darker green, and layering longer grasses.

I then moved onto my narrow gauge shelf, and added some more static grass and started to play around with some flower scatter and fabric materials I had picked up. As there won’t be a lot of grassy areas on my layout, I won’t have a lot of this, but little pops of colour here and there for a small cost to buy the two different material bundles. I am quite happy with how they look, and while I may come back and add some more to the diorama, I’ve achieved the first goal which was to use it as a test bed for learning before doing anything on the layout.

The Railway Village Diorama in 2017 when completed, and today stripped down for refreshing.

Next up, in order to continue to practice and learn applying Static Grass, I am going to do some “refreshing” and repairs to my Toronto Railway Museum “Railway Village” Diorama. This model of our restored buildings in the park has travelled around the province for the past five years going to shows, and been on display in our house. At the time, I did not have a static grass applicator, and no need to buy one, so I did the grass with my old traditional technique of ground foam. It looked fine, but it hasn’t aged well as it has caught cat hair and dust. Overall, the diorama was a bit tired looking from all the being carted about, so this is a chance to fix and improve things. Today I only cleaned and fixed the ballast, but in the coming days, I have some things I want to try with the static grass to freshen it up and hopefully improve it for whenever I go to another train show.

Working on gravel drive crossings on the layout.

In my last omnibus post of activity, I wrote about how I was starting to fix the level crossings that are not in the paved roads. I have been staining and trimming the crossing boards. They are now getting to about the look I want, they just need some more sanding and trimming to fit to make sure they don’t rise above the railheads and cause derailments.

Handrails and stairs for the entrance to 60 Atlantic.

My final achievement for the day, was a small one. Drilling four holes in the plastic steps for the front of 60 Atlantic, the building I built during my week off. The front steps and handrails are Plastruct parts. Two concrete steps glued together, and then two handrails. The two steps were the perfect width for the front door opening. They were a bit deep, but that was quickly remedied by taking a razor saw taking off the molded in landing as the steps butt up to the landing in the buildings entrance canopy. I think I’m getting close to ready to try and primer the building and paint it. Exciting times.

I’ve managed to write this during the 2nd half of the Liverpool-Leicester match, while curled up on the sofa beneath a warm blanket with an adult beverage. Now to do some cleanup of the dining table so we can enjoy the roast that’s in the slow cooker making the whole house smell delicious!

Tuesday Train #221

Wind Turbine empties at MP 30 on the Halton Subdivision. I didn’t catch the train number on the radio, but this is clearly an “extra” movement of a whole train of empty TTX heavy flatcars with cradles attached for moving wind turbine tower components. I saw a train of wind turbine blade loads heading west a few weeks before I caught this in the same location (didn’t get a picture, was driving).

A week off work full of small projects

I’m a busy body. I’m not good at sitting around and doing nothing, and last week, I took a week off, which normally means I would have gone somewhere or done something. In 2020, that isn’t a thing, so I stayed home. I sat on the patio with some late fall warm days listening to music, I watched Remembrance Day Ceremonies and documentaries, and I worked on a variety of layout tasks.

Painting and scraping, making small steps on many projects.

First up was some time in the paint booth, putting primer on the first of several National Scale Car mini-kit conversions of Intermountain 10′-6″ AAR boxcars into accurate Canadian models, along with starting to turn the styrene tube into wooden telephone poles. I need them to be hollow so I can wire streetlights, so using actual wood was out. Instead, using styrene tube, and a razor saw blade, I can create the appearance of wooden poles. They don’t look like anything yet, but once I get some paint on them, they will. This will be an ongoing project and sooner or later I will write a more fulsome blog post about them.

The other thing being painted, as you can see are 3D printed Fire Hydrants. I went out in the summer and measured actual Toronto Hydrants, these are accurate including the “Toronto Water” TW cast into them, though it’s virtually invisible on the prints. I am super happy with how my hyrdrants turned out, and once they are done being painted and installed, I’ll probably write more about them too.

Finishing the first pass of ballasting the layout. All track now has some ballast, touchups and additions may be needed here and there as I go.

Next up was some actual layout work, ballasting track. The image above shows the last stretch that wasn’t ballasted after ballast and glue were applied. It is a nice feeling as it is a “milestone”, all of my track is now ballasted, it may need to have some more added, but it is now ready for me moving on with finishing the base scenery between the track, roads and building foundations. The last bits of pink foam that you can see will soon disappear!

And another building appears, this time a compressed version of 60 Atlantic.

The next building to move from card/foam mockup to styrene is 60 Atlantic Avenue. A building that spanned the block between Atlantic Avenue and Jefferson Avenue on the north side of the tracks. I have the full block, but it is about half the actual width to fit on my layout, so I am trying to capture the feel of the building through selective compression. I am happy with it, I know what Building it is immediately, and I think others who know Liberty Village will as well when they see it. It’s now ready for paint, trying something different, trying to paint the walls and windows separately, to save a lot of masking and pain that I will have with some other buildings where the windows are already installed. We shall see in time which approach works better for me.

Undoing work I’ve done to correct mistakes

The final task was undoing something I have done. I’ve been laying gravel driveways around buildings, and I made one critical error. Railways would never have allowed gravel to be laid between the rails, even on a private crossing in an industrial area. It moves, and gets pushed up against the inside of rails and causes derailments. The same thing happens in model scale, putting ballast between the rails high enough to be a driveway creates spots where derailments happen. So, using some warm water to soften the glue, I soaked the gravel between the rails and scrapped it away back to level with the rail ties. Now I will be able to go back and add wood board crossings, a much more realistic crossing.

All in all, it was a good week. I had thought I would get more done on the layout, but, at the end of the day, I let how I was feeling drive me. When I got up in the morning, I relaxed, listened to music and started to work on the layout when I felt like it late morning or early afternoon. This is a long term project, and I was never going to finish it in a single week off work, but it was nice to clear the mind and get away from things, knowing that the layout was there waiting for me when I went to my layout room, instead of my work computer and job waiting for me. I’m back to that now, but hopefully the good feelings of relaxation last a few weeks and we can make it to my next break at Christmas.

We Will Remember Them

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Above is the 4th stanza of “For the Fallen”, a poem by Laurence Binyon, written in September 1914, early in World War 1, written in response to the early casualties in the war, but long before the real horror of what the western front was to become was likely known or understood by most. This stanza has become a part of many war memorials, cenotaphs, and ceremonies of remembrance since then.

Remembrance Day is important, for many reasons, including for me, remembering my Great Grandfather who was fortunate to be one of those who came home from World War 1. I do not see it as a celebration of war, war is a terrible thing and should not be celebrated, but it must be commemorated and remembered. To me, Remembrance Day is an opportunity to thank those who have accepted the risk of being sent to fight and possibly die by serving in the armed forces, and an annual reminder of what can happen and the waste of life when we allow ourselves to reach the point where violence becomes an “answer” to our problems rather than trying to work together. There is so much anger and hatred sometimes when you watch the news, its easy to forget we can be good and work together.

Today, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, please take a moment and reflect on those you love and have lost, whatever the reason, and lets work together to make the world a better place for us all, so that no one else ever has to have their names added to a memorial to those killed in fighting.

For the Fallen:

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon
Originally Published: The London Times (1914)