2022 Year in Review

Its that time of year again, the end, where we look back at what we’ve done, and think about what is to come in the new year. 2022 has been a much better year than 2021, though having ended 2021 in the hospital having surgery two days before Christmas set the bar really low for the year to be better. The good news is, by the time I made last years Year in Review post, I was already well on my way to feeling better. I have been (knock on wood) healthy through 2022, and am incredibly grateful for our Canadian Healthcare System that got me there, despite is problems and challenges. May those in power who seem more interested in driving it into the ground and privatizing it never succeed.

But, you don’t come here for political moaning, you come here for trains (and I am eternally grateful that so many of you do). I have no illusions that I am the best modeller, or the best writer, but I enjoy sharing my ramblings and adventures, in the hopes it helps a single other modeller. My blog has registered over 2,000 views every month in 2022, its best year ever. Every year it seems a few more people read, and I appreciate every view/like/comment as they help to keep me motivated to keep working on the layout and keep writing about it.

Liberty Village Layout Panorama, December 29, 2022. It really does make me happy to see how it looks!
The Canyon Road Diorama, finished in February, a nice start to the year finishing a big project.

Projects Completed in 2021

  • Canyon Road Diorama – See this page for all my posts on the project.
  • Freight Cars – Much to the chagrin of my friend Pierre Oliver, I have built every resin kit in my stash most of them from his Yarmouth Model Works, thus far I have not been tempted to buy more. I am close to as many cars as my layout can handle. I need to actually seriously work on preparing waybills for operation rather than add more cars!
  • Go Transit “MP-40” Stand in for the Toronto Railway Museum. A quick-ish repaint of an MBTA MP36 to be a display case stand in as the Museum has never gotten a factory GO Model for our display
  • Non Train Things – Lancaster Mk.X VERA, Iron-Man, 1966 Ford GT40, Riddles in the Dark

Projects In Progress

  • Building Liberty Village Layout – Did lots on this again in 2022!! See page here. This whole post could really be a look at the layout, but that would sell short the other things I’ve done. I will say that I am really pleased with the progress this year, structures and scenery progressing, my freight car fleet is really there
  • Another Diorama – I have an HO Scale 12″x12″ non-train diorama on the go. No details on what it actually is to share yet, but sometime. I did post about it though here, here and here.
  • Freight Car Kits – I actually finished almost all the cars in my stash! The only kit in the drawer is a Tichy USRA Rebuild, and I need Speedwich Media to re-run the correct doors, and order the decals from National Scale Car to advance it, so it sits in limbo land for the foreseeable future. I also have a second half built Tichy steam crane kit. I should really get back at that someday soon too.


  • Cricut Cutting – I bought a Cricut in February, for a variety of reasons, but largely as I have seen people using these craft cutting machines on model railroad projects. They have been derisively I think called a “poor mans laser cutter”, and while I see why, that is grossly unfair to them. They are not trying to be a laser cutter, but they can do many of the same things. They have many of the same uses, but don’t obviously work the same way. For my purposes, the Cricut has advanced a lot of building on the layout, and will continue to do so by making one of the worst parts of structure building, the cores and rough cut window openings a faster process.
  • Weathering – I have, done a basic weathering/tone down job on about 95% of my freight car fleet. I have a handful of tank cars and oddballs that require some more care to do, then I can look at applying myself to more intensive weathering on some cars.
  • Scenery – Doing it again. Actually taking the skills I have built, and going back to an area I wasn’t happy with. This was a big leap for me, but one I am really happy I did as the area at the closets edge looks light years better.
  • DCC/Electronics – Gremlins, oh electrical gremlins. I have fixed some, others are still baffling me. All part of learning from my mistakes as if we ever find out why one switch in particular hates me, we’ll hopefully not have to go through the extended stress in the future and I can come up with a maintenance/cleaning/operating routine that keeps things working!
  • Operations – I don’t know if this is a skill, or a project in progress, but someday I intend to operate the layout, both on my own and with friends over (visitors, what?). I took some further steps into this world, though largely in the area of maintenance and layout work to make it operate well. Need to put some hours in 2023 into working on paperwork to make operations actually happen.

Thing’s that actually arrived in 2022

That’s a lot of things that don’t belong on the layout, but I have wanted a GO Transit F59 for as long as I’ve been back in the hobby seriously after I finished University in December 2002 and started working in early 2003.

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in 2023

  • Bachmann LMS Patriot “The Unknown Warrior” – See Here
  • Accurascale British Railways Class 37 37043 “Loch Lomond” – See Here
  • Kernow Model Railway Centre Great Western Railway Steam Railmotor – See Here I haven’t actually ordered this, but I really want to, why? Why not? I can already hear Mears and Marshall typing comments and emails to try and enable me into buying it! Just have to decide on As Preserved 93 or the GWR Chocolate & Cream version with nameboards for the Severn Valley Railway…
  • Walthers SW9/900/1200 Undecorated – An actual layout project. Modelling an early CN switcher in the black paint scheme. As much as I love my SW1200RS and GMD1, neither are really appropriate for Liberty Village. While I have my brass O-18a steam locomotive as a long time project, something more representative of early diesel industrial switching in Toronto is needed.

Strangely, most of those have nothing at all to do with or on a layout set in Liberty Village in the 1950’s, but that’s what display cases are for! I’m sure there is more stuff out there to tempt me to open my wallet. I have seriously looked at a 3rd Atlas Alco S-2, as CN also used these, but I already have a pair on the CP end of the layout!

All things considered, it has been a very good year. I have finished some models, made progress on the layout, and chased a lot of trains in the real world. In just about 4.5 years my layout has gone from an idea on paper and a bare room in our new home, to something that resembles what I envisioned, and that even kinda runs when you try to run trains on it! I’d have never predicted that when we moved in, but here we are, I continue to surprise myself with the progress being made.

In terms of where I am going, I won’t be doing a 2023 Preview Post, but much like a year ago, I really want to finish the large Hinde & Dauch Paper company in 20223, that I had hoped to finish in 2021&2022. I have made progress, but it’s one of those projects that has kept getting pushed aside. I did advance it, along with a lot of smaller buildings. Hinde & Dacuh is the 2nd largest structure on my layout. One thing I do want to address in 2023 is my display situation. Over the CN staging I have two small cabinets. I would like to replace them with one larger 36″ or 42″ wide unit so that locos and cars can be displayed in context. It would make much more display sense if things were in context, and let me get some passenger car models out of boxes!

My one 2023 “preview”, getting a better display for this area to actually have short trains together on display.

So, with that, I hope you have a wonderful New Years Eve. We are ordering a Banjara Indian Feast for dinner and I am going to torture myself watching the US NCAA College Football playoff games (Go Blue!), because that seems as good as anything else to do on a Saturday night! Stay well friends.

Stephen Gardiner
December 31, 2022

52 for ’22

Something I don’t think I’ve done before. After two years of disruption, I made a conscious effort to get back to reading. Through 2019 and into early 2020, my daily commute was about an hour and a half each way, an hour or so of which was on the Subway. So long as I got a seat, I was reading. I know I was doing close to a book a week, but I wasn’t keeping track. Then, March 2020 happened, and well, I kinda stopped reading for a while. It turns out, my routine was so topsy turvey for a while, I couldn’t bring myself to read. Being in the house, I was too distracted. The transit time every day had become my reading/decompressing time, and finding it at home was a challenge. Chores, trains, TV, bed, so many things just overtook it. Then, for a large part of 2021, getting slowly worse during the back half of the year, I was sick, eventually leading to surgery December 23rd last year to remove a 16mm kidney stone (that’s around the size of a Canadian dime for anyone keeping score). So, for 2022, I decided to keep a list of how many books I read, partly I think to motivate me to get back to reading, but I absolutely started without a goal in mind. Then, about half way through the year, we had a week away at a rented Cottage, and I read 7 books in 7 days sitting by the lake, and I realized, that I was more or less on pace at that point to average a book a week. I didn’t know if it was possible, and certainly some books were longer than others, some easier reads, but only one (Adam Savage – Every Tool a Hammer at the Cottage) was a re-read. No, I didn’t buy all these, I own 4 of them, 1 was borrowed from a friend. All the rest were borrowed from the Toronto Public Library (Other local Libraries are hopefully still available where you live). All but one of them are physical books, one – “You’ve Got Red On You” was the first e-book I have read. I read all my magazines digitally now on my iPad, but I wasn’t sure how an actual book would go. It was OK, but I prefer a physical book and one of my stack of leather bookmarks (largely from places I’ve been in the UK where they are a pretty standard cheap souvenir).

At the end of the day, I feel better for this, “forcing” myself to make time to read in my routine, There have been as many days where I’ve fallen asleep reading as there have been ones where I’ve been enthralled and couldn’t but it down, but on balance, I feel its been a good year. I learned things, thought about things, and generally feel better for having pushed myself to get back to reading (being back in the office more helps with the baked in reading time on the subway for an hour each way). I am not reviewing the books here, and I’m not going to tell you which ones I thought were good and were bad, everyone finds their own interests and writing styles they like, but there were a range of good reads, and toughing it out for others.

So with all that, here’s the 52. Hopefully you find something that peaks your interest too!

And, because I reached 52 books so quickly, I finished a bonus book. I thought I might have finished another, but even with not doing anything at Christmas, I haven’t done much reading this week! No, you don’t need to be nuts and read a book a week, but I encourage everyone to read, be it fiction or non-fiction, its a good way to keep the mind sharp and improve yourself. To the Bonus Book!

Riddles in the Dark…That’s No Train Part 13!

What has it got in its pocketses?” The sound came hissing louder and sharper, and as he looked towards it, to his alarm Bilbo now saw two small points of light peering at him. As suspicion grew in Gollum’s mind, the light of his eyes burnt with a pale flame.
-The Hobbit, Second Edition (1951), John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

This is, an unabashedly Tolkien loving household. We have art, Lego, toys, tattoos, all manner of things Tolkien. When we were in Oxford at the end of 2017, we were the first in line for lunch at the Eagle and Child pub and sat beneath the famed letter written by Tolkien and CS Lewis among others in the “Inklings” who used to gather there. This is a bit of a different “That’s no Train” post, as this mini-diorama using gaming miniatures was a Christmas Present for my wife, instead of something more to clutter my office and layout room. You can read about past “That’s No Train” projects here.

This is my second Lord of the Rings diorama made using gaming miniatures. I previously did the Bridge of Khazad-dum with Gandalf and the Balrog. For this, I was in Meeplemart last summer, a board gaming store on Spadina Avenue here in Toronto. I was in picking up some paints and supplies, and I started looking at the LOTR gaming miniatures. I saw the Games Workshop Middle-Earth set of Bilbo and Gollum and the “Riddles in the Dark” scene where Bilbo, having found the ring, has to outwit its previous owner Gollum to save himself and escape and find the company of dwarves escaping from the Great Goblin beneath the Misty Mountains. The figures are very simple, basically they need cleaning up from the sprues, and painting. I tried something new to me, as I am learning more about painting figures. The black helps to pre-shadow them so that when detailed colour is added, they naturally have shadows and shading. The final thing I tried, was to apply a light reactive luminescent paint to Bilbos sword Sting. We bought this for a 3D printed light switch plate for the Doors of Durin from Moria a couple of years ago. I figured a little bit on the blade and it might just glimmer in the dark at the end of the day.

Painting figures. Trying something new with black primer. Helps pre shade the figures. Also used a luminescent paint that glows in the dark for Sting. We have it for a Doors of Durin light switch cover we have never gotten installed!

With the figures done, that meant I could focus on how to build a diorama to display them. Thanks to sites like Etsy, people sell all kinds of things. I was able to find a 3D printed bowl, in gold that was the One Ring. This would be the perfect base, Bilbo and Gollum having their meeting inside the ring they traded riddles over. Once the ring arrived, it was clearly too deep. Using the leftover insulating foam I used on the layout, I cut out a circle and filled it. Using off cuts, I made a base for the figures and a depression for the dark lake beneath the mountain. I had rock casting molds from doing my previous LOTR diorama, so once I cast a bunch up, I worked them into a look I liked, and glued them in place, I filled the lake area with plaster sheet to ensure it was water tight for pouring, and painted. I again used the black primer, so I could tone and tint the stone with a variety of thinned grey and brown paints until I was happy with the look. The last challenge was pouring water. I have tried this precisely once before in my life, and it was a disaster. Back in University for a design studio model, I tried to pour water. I was using the old Woodland Scenic pellets that you melted on the stove and poured. I swore to never do water again after that experience. 20+ years on, it seemed an unreasonable phobia to continue to hold. I spent a fair amount of time looking for something that was the right balance of cost effective, and seemingly easy to use. I settled on the Vallejo “Still Water”. It can be tinted with paint, and is poured in thin layers that take 24 hours to cure. After I bought it, I made a mini box, and painted it black like the diorama, and started messing around with tinting and pouring layers. My test pours worked well, so I moved on to pouring in the diorama. First layers tinted black, then murky greys, and the final pour was clear. I think to build up the depth I needed I did four pours before installing Gollum’s raft, then one final clear pour to sink it into the water.

Building a base inside a 3D print of the one ring. Using leftover insulation from the layout for a base, then resin rock castings, and finally after paint, pouring water.

With everything painted, I determined where Bilbo and Gollum would be standing, and proceeded to drill holes in their base to go into holes drilled in the rock, and glued them in. I decided since this was going to be a Christmas Present, it needed a display case. I found a round base and globe just big enough, and the box provided a convenient way to wrap the present too. Yes, I broke our house rules on presents for each other in that it didn’t fit inside our Christmas stockings, but oh well, I think it was worth it! We managed to find the perfect lamp as well for it after Christmas, and now its going to live in the corner of our living room!

All done but putting it in a globe, wrapped and under the tree (its the biggest one at the back), and beneath the new display lamp we got for it in out living room.

With that, another non-train project is checked off my list. Getting the number of these in the house down perilously close to zero , and thus far, inspiration on others is not striking, which is good, keep me focused on the layout!

Adding a pair of Hoists

A nice quick Christmas Eve project. I built a pair of hoist kits from Rail Scale Models. Of course, I didn’t build either as the kit suggested you should! I basically used it as a source of parts. One is mounted to a pole and can swing at Brunswick Balke’s powerhouse, and the other is wall mounted at Toronto Carpet. This is a really nice little kit. It comes with a 3D printed hoist pulley in two parts, a bit of I bar styrene, a length of brass wire, a 3D printed hook and a length of chain. I replaced the chain with some pre-blackened A-Line 40 link per inch, as I don’t have chemical blackener for the brass chain provided.

For Brunswick, I have a picture of a pole mounted hoist over the side door into the power house. It was a nifty looking pole, and figured with some quick styrene adds, I could re-create it. The Toronto Carpet one is a bit closer to the kit, I added styrene bolt plates at the wall, and used a single support guy wire. There is a hoist arm like this on the building, but in a different location. Because of my selective compression, instead of facing Liberty Street, I am using it to help fill the gap between the building and the track on the side. I think its a good compromise.

Two quick hoist kits, with a little bit of effort, the same kit gives two very different looks.

I actually painted the hoists tonight in a batch of stuff. I need to finish the assembly of adding the chain and hooks now that everything is painted, but its little things that help fill in the layout like this that are nice to have instead of imposing feeling building projects sometimes. Good for the motivation to see things advance!

Tuesday Train Extra: It was 20 years ago today…

It was 20 years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years
Stephen Gardiner’s Railway Photographs…

With all due apologies to the genius of The Beatles, this is an extra Tuesday Train. It was 20 years ago today I took my first railway photos with my first Digital Camera (a Panasonic Lumix LC20, see here). The two photos below of VIA equipment at the Toronto Maintenance Centre was taken on a grey and rainy December 21st from the window of a Lakeshore GO Train from Union Station to Oakville. I had taken the train from Oakville to a job interview downtown and was on my way home, having just finished university earlier in December. I was looking for my first job out of school. I guess it was a success, as I was hired at the firm in February 2003, and worked there for 15.5 years before I decided it was time for a change and to move on to my next challenges. These two blurry shots taken from a GO Train window are the real start of me getting back into trains. It would be a few years before I really got serious, but coming out of school, I started to get back into modelling with my Georgetown Layout in my parents basement before I moved out after a couple of years and into the City. This is a long way of saying, all the time I have spent getting out chasing trains to stay sane since March 2020 in particular started here.

Two blurry photos from a GO Train, the start of railfanning photography for me. Anything before that was really ad hoc when I was shooting film.

As always, when I use music in my nonsensical ramblings, here is the original is here: