Tuesday Train #262

100 Years young tomorrow. The Toronto Transit Commission (originally Toronto Transportation Commission) took over the operation of private streetcar lines and the Toronto Civic Railway on September 1, 1921, creating a city wide agency that continues to operate Toronto’s local transit today.

Seen here at the Halton County Radial Railway, the museum to Ontario’s Electric Railways and Transit is large Peter Witt 2424, part of the first order of new cars for the TTC in 1921. The other is 2894, another Peter Witt ordered in 2923. The cars are pictured at Rockwood Station on December 12, 2009 during a Christmas Under the Lights event.

Tuesday Train #261

Up the hill at Weston Subdivision Milepost 4.8 for UP Express 1006 heading from Pearson Airport to Union Station. The train is seen heading south coming out of the underpass constructed to facilitate the airport train and GO Transit expansion, removing a flat crossing of the CN Weston Subdivision (north south) from the CPR North Toronto Subdivision (east-west) where the CPR Galt Subdivision (the two tracks on the left) turned from north/south to east-west) and CPR Mactier Subdivision (not visible to the right) starts at the North Toronto to head north toward Sudbury.

This picture is taken from the Wallace Avenue pedestrian bridge. A great spot for watching passenger trains (you can also see CPR crossing above them) that amazingly, despite living a 15 minute walk from from 2005 to 2018, I never really railfanned at.

Tuesday Train #260

Growing Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) & Alcos in Southwestern Ontario. The Ontario Southland Railway shops in Salford have a bumper crop of locomotives growing in the fields this year 😛

In reality, this is sadly part of the dead line of locomotives not currently in service. Seen here are OSR 180, an MLW RS-18u built 1959; 500, an Alco S-6 built in 1956; 184 an MLW RS-18 built 1968; and, 183, an MLW RS-18 built 1968. Hopefully these old gems have some life left in them, at the moment I think the OSR has standardized on using GM locomotives for parts, so all their Alco/MLW’s are sidelined.

I mended something!

No burying the lede here, I am going full on Jeremy Clarkson excited about this one. I fixed one of my switches last night!

So, how did we get to me needing to fix a switch you might ask? Our tale begins with me picking up a couple of new Tangent Scale Models Pullman Standard 40′ 9′ door boxcars for the layout yesterday. A bit ago after a chat with my friend Trevor about my rolling stock needs, he pointed out that while CN and CP cars would dominate, Toronto was a “centre” of the railroad world, and cars from pretty much any railroad would be found here, so I can justify box cars from pretty much anyone. So, these cars fit my era, and provided railroads I don’t have cars from to add to my roster. The Tangent cars are nicely detailed, and are really not that expensive by today’s standards. The $65 Canadian price compares nicely to a $60 US resin kit, and I can spend the kit budget on things that are not available as RTR, which most of the Canadian cars I need are not.

New Southern Railway and Chicago & North Western Boxcars waiting on entering service in the CPR Staging Yard.

So, you might be asking yourself, how does a pair of new box cars lead to fixing a switch, and the answer my friends, is user error. After replacing the wheel sets in the cars with Code 88 Semi-Scale Wheels (all the cars on my layout have the same Code 88 wheels beneath them), and clipping off the coupler trip pins, I was rolling the cars through the switch on the peninsula to check that they were tracking, and if the truck screws were too tight, or for any other obvious adjustments needed. In doing so, I somehow, and I honestly don’t know if it was with one of the cars, or with an overly vigorous pull on the Bullfrog Turnout Machine throw, snapped off one of the rails.

Getting set to re-solder the rail. The top rail in the photograph has come off the throw bar. It required some patience to get everything back to a point where it could be re-soldered.

So, this should be a simple fix right? It should be, if I could successfully do one solder joint. As anyone whose seen my adventures in simple wiring for locomotives, that is no sure thing. To do it, I would need to hold the parts of the switch together in the correct place with the right track spacing to do the job. Fortunately, this is detailed work, but not nearly as precision as soldering on a locomotive. Once I figured out how to brace the throw bar in place with a bit of 0.040″ styrene, and slipping some bits of paper into places I didn’t want to accidentally get solder, I applied some flux paste to the solder pad where the rail had been attached, got a little bit of solder onto the tip of my iron, and then held the rail in place. With the rail in place, I held the iron down and let the flux and solder do their thing. It appears, a day on and plenty of testing, that I have a strong solder joint. As you can see from the pictures, the throw bar that connects the moving rails is a bit mangled. This was the first switch I installed a Bullfrog on, and I had some issues and for a while had a lot of vertical movement happening. I finally resolved that by widening out the hole just a bit, but not before the copper bar was weakened. Sometime I will have to brave a full replacement, but that day is not today!

Pictures of the repaired switch in both positions.
It works! Video of my repaired switch. The not quite as perfect as it could be solder joint will vanish with some paint touch-ups.

So, this is all in all, a good thing. I have hand laid switches, but I did not build them myself, my friend Dan built them as he’s both good at it, and volunteered to. But, I do need to be able to maintain them. I can’t be stopping all operations every time I break a switch or one needs adjusting to beg Dan to come over whenever we are comfortable to have people come over again! Another step in the adventure of learning the skills and doing the things I need to build my layout.

Trains and Tunes

So, I am curious what readers of my blog do to get themselves going at the workbench. During the daytime, I know I can’t listen to music while I am doing my day job, I lose focus on the work. I listen to podcasts on sports, car racing, technology and Ontario Current Affairs, basically self selected talk radio. I think this works for me because its easy to pause if the phone rings, or for meetings, and I don’t focus on it nearly the way I do to music. I have, in the past few weeks however, been reminded that when I am at my workbench working on models, I seem to find a nice groove (pun intended) with music on instead of the TV or talk radio.

My record player, nothing fancy, but it does the job. My latest vinyl addition, a limited release of Big Sugar’s “Five Hundred Pounds”, and my vinyl collection, not big, but it makes me happy.

I am, pretty boring in my musical tastes. Big Sugar is probably my favourite band of all time, though The Tragically Hip, Foo Fighters, and U2 come pretty close to them. I am however, a bit all over the place on my musical tastes and eras. I listen to bands from the 60’s on (yes, if you dig enough through my record collection/phone you will find Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, The Clash, Queen, Our Lady Peace, Nirvana, Wynton Marsallis, Notorious BIG, and all kinds of things that would make you scratch your head about my musical tastes! That said, the music that broke me out of a funk a few weeks ago and reminded me how the guilty pleasure of singing along…and dare I say dancing a little around the layout room to music as I work was the Beastie Boys! I was scrolling on my phone trying to think on something to listen to, and somehow, their Greatest Hits album that I bought in University was calling to me, and it was the right decision. After a while where the drain of working all day in my layout/workshop was keeping me from working on trains, one Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, a bit of music, probably on too loud, and all of a sudden I was puttering and doing things on the layout. It was the day I just decided to install bullfrogs on all my switches. The music has strange powers!

As I was writing this tonight I was rocking out to Big Sugar, not on vinyl, but over the Bluetooth speaker at my workbench, music just brings me back to good times. Listening to the album “Brothers and Sisters are you Ready?”. This was their most recent album when I was at Oxford Brookes University on exchange in 2002, and I listened to the shit out of the CD on my travels. Every song brings me back to happy memories of a great time in my life with my university classmates. We got into so much trouble…the good kinds mind you in the pubs of Oxford, London, Dublin and all points in between! Turns out when you have two classes on a Monday, a mandatory all day Wednesday field trip, and Tuesday/Thursday-Sunday off, you can cover a lot of ground during a six week half term! This was, almost certainly my best memory of University, and not because the other parts were bad. I actually look back on almost the entirety of my University of Waterloo experience fondly, but because this six weeks was so exemplary above and beyond what I had hoped. My birthday fell during the trip, and my friends all know I am not much of a birthday person, even 20 years ago, but the party they threw for me at The Stumble Inn campus bar at Harcourt Hill…well, what I remember is mostly the next days hangover!

University of Waterloo Oxford Exchange 2002 at South Park with the dreaming spires of Oxford behind us. This was a great group of classmates. I am probably in touch with about 1/4 of them still as friends or professionally. I miss my hair…and I didn’t have a beard back then (no, I’m not going to circle myself in the picture!)

So, I guess my point, other than some rambling about my tastes in music, is I am curious what you do at your workbench, and what gets you going while you are working? Leave a comment, let me know how you find your mental mood to work on your hobby, I am genuinely curious to know!

Three Years of Liberty Village

Time flies when you are having fun…Three years ago today, three friends came to our house and helped me build most of my benchwork in a day. Since then, I have made lots of progress on the layout, both with friends helping and alone as the pandemic has sat on us the past 16 months or so.

Benchwork at the end of the day on August 11, 2018 top, and today, August 11, 2021 bottom, an almost unbelievable amount of progress, far more than I had thought I would make.

Its hard to imagine how far I would have gotten without having Trevor, Ryan and Doug kindly come and help build benchwork, not just because I didn’t own the necessary power tools for the job, but because frankly, even my very simple benchwork of plywood on shelf brackets would have been very difficult to install even close to level on my own.

Looking into the CPR Staging in the Closet, again on August 11, 2018 on the left, and August 11, 2021 on the right.

When we bought our house in 2018 and building a layout became a reality, I kind of envisioned it as a ten year project to build. I think I am well ahead of that timeline in 3 years, as I have all the track laid, basic scenery close to completed, and about 1/3 of the buildings well on their way. There is still lots of work to do, but I have passed some major milestones in a short period of time, and more importantly, it continues to make me happy and I want to continue the project on to completion. I am eagerly awaiting the day where I can again have friends over to visit, and see the progress that has happened, instead of sucking them in to do hard labour and help me learn the techniques for so many parts of building a layout!