Continuing Progress on the Interior of 587 Yonge Street

I’ve slowly been continuing to work on the interior details for the ground floor of 587 Yonge Street, specifically, the interior of Bar Volo, the bar located there since I posted about it last week here.  Since that post, I’ve finished the floors, mostly prepared the main interior wall details, and glazed the ground floor windows. When I originally contemplated this project, I had set a soft deadline/goal of finishing it for this weekend’s Cask Days Beer Festival run by the Morana family that owned Bar Volo.  It’s not done, but it at least looks like the building being modelled.  Frankly, I’ve made a lot more progress than I thought I was going to have made a couple of months ago on this project when I first received my 3D printed parts for the project and figuring out how to combine them with the other parts of the model.  There have been times where I wasn’t sure I’d get to the point where the walls actually went together and looked like the building being modelled, even though I am pretty sure I’ve nailed the exterior look for the diorama.


With the walls temporarily mocked back up to see how things look.  The effect I’m working on of the bars interior being visible is definitely getting there.  When the building is complete, the interior will be lit by LED’s.

I was struggling with how to create the effect of the mixed hardwood and tiled floor, when I realized I had square pattern styrene sheet.  Once I marked out the area that was tile, and cut a piece to size, I was able to quickly gave it a coat of black pan pastel (not too heavy, aiming for a dark grey/black look), and seal it.  Once the tile portion of the floor was in place, I constructed the hardwood floor section using stained strip wood.  The benches in the interior are Walthers Benches, modified to fit the space.  They need some cleanup and some paint before getting permanently affixed in place.  I have these benches on the patio area of the model as well, but the more I look at them mocked up on the patio, the more I hate them in such a visible part of the model, and am leaning towards building my own benches with strip wood.  I think in the long run they will just look better there, where the plastic ones will blend away in the inside scene.


Two views showing the interior with the floors added.  The floors are a combination of “sidewalk” square styrene sheet, and strip lumber.  The actual interior was a mix of tile and hardwood, so this perfectly matches that.

I’m almost done building the bar.  It’s pretty much down to creating a representation of the large draft line handle that was on the bar in brass stock, and some touchup painting.  I have benches, tables and chairs for the interior to finish the appearance.

The next big steps on this project are the exterior.  I’ve found a Vallejo armour weathering wash that creates the effect of water stains, and a combination of this and pan pastels will be used to create the water staining on the upper exterior walls.  Once that is done, I think the walls can be combined together.  Once the upper parts of the exterior walls are together, the next step will be adding ivy to them.  For this, I am going to use a combination of directly applying leaf scatter material to the walls, with polyfibre for where there are hanging vines. and then inserting the windows.  Once the windows are installed, the back of the walls will then get sprayed with black paint to help seal any remaining light leaks.

I think this order will stand, I’ve been back and forth on the best order of operations for these steps.  I think the windows are last, as the upper windows are a glossy black sheet material, and all of them will have custom decals applied for the various signage that was in the upper windows. I’ve debated putting the windows in earlier, but I think it makes my life easier for adding the leaf material for the ivy if the windows are empty.  Similarly, it makes it easier to blend the ivy around the corners if the walls are assembled.  There are a lot of moving pieces in this, and I’ve spend more than a few nights just staring at the mocked up walls thinking about order of operations to achieve the appearance while not creating any pain in the rear situations where waiting on one task would have eased another.

At this point, with the interior close to done, I need to get the walls up so I can figure out how I am mounting the interior ceiling, and setting locations for LED lights on the ceiling.

I won’t be getting any work done this weekend (at least not Saturday), as I’ll be heading down to the Evergreen (Don Valley) Brickworks to celebrate good beer with friends from near and far who come in for Cask Days!  As much as I don’t set deadlines for my projects, at this point, baring the earth caving in on me, the model of 587 Yonge Street and Bar Volo will be done for the 2018 edition of Cask Days!

CaskDaysCask Days 2016 inside the Kiln Hall at Evergreen Brickworks

Update – 10:30PM – I decided to take some shots of the walls mocked up on the diorama base, i think the model reads better that way, gives it a bit of context.



A potential prototype for a Switching Layout

So, in my last post, I tackled the issue of where in our apartment I could fit a layout in, and how much real estate I could find to work with.  This time, it’s the start of the process of looking at where I will set the layout.  There are a number of factors in terms of what type of equipment I like to run, and what I am interested in:

  • Era – 1950’s, even though I’m a much younger vintage than this, for some reason, late steam and early diesel is what captures my modelling interest.
  • Geographic Location – Southern Ontario, it’s home, it’s where I know and live, I have lots of reference materials and sources/archives for more are plentiful and easily accessible.  I really enjoy researching and rooting out information, so choosing a far afield prototype wouldn’t do it for me as doing research could become difficult and frustrating.
  • Setting – Urban, an industrial switching layout.  I like buildings and architecture, and in the 1950’s era, a lot of early 20th century industrial buildings were still in their prime as rail served industries.  Many of them still exist today but are no longer rail served or industrial, but are available to visit and use as references for modelling them.
  • Locomotive Power – Going with the 1950’s, it would mean run down to nearly dead steam locomotives, and new/nearly new diesels.  Ideally, I wouldn’t run any steam bigger than an 0-8-0, mixed with early diesels like GM SW-1200’s or Alco S-2/3’s
  • Rolling Stock – The era means a majority of the cars would still be 40′ long, though 50′ long cars would be starting to be more common.  There would also be a mix of wooden cars hanging on and newer steel cars.  In a perfect world, it would have industries that would generate different car types and not just generic box cars going to docks.  This helps with operations, as you can’t spot a tank car at a dock door, but the tank unloading position can force extra moves to spot or pull a car from behind it.
  • Railroad – Surprisingly, while most of my locomotive models are of Canadian National Railway locomotives, I am not opposed to a Canadian Pacific Railway prototype if that’s what works best for a prototype.  It is a definite that anything I model would be a Canadian setting.

So, with all that said, the first place that caught my eye is somewhere very close to home, that I regularly pass through on my way to and from work everyday…

f1244_it2420.jpgAerial view of Liberty Village in Toronto (dated approximately 1920’s), an industrial area west of downtown that is now a condominium residential neighbourhood. Image via Toronto Archives (Fonds 1244, Item 2420)

Liberty Village, a now mostly former industrial area in the west end of downtown Toronto ticks almost every box I mentioned above, but that’s not to say it isn’t without its challenges or issues.  Being strictly accurate to the tracks and orientations wouldn’t likely generate a layout that was enjoyable to operate or which works in the space available to me.  The plan below is extracted from the Toronto Planning Board Atlas dated May 2, 1958 (also from the Toronto Archives, and available online here):

1958 Toronto Planning Board Map 6AExtract from the 1958 Toronto Planning Board Atlas Map 6A, with the Liberty Village Trackage highlighted blue.

Liberty Street, running east-west through the district was the spine, with the CNR entering from the south along Mowat Avenue, Atlantic Avenue & Hanna Avenue; and, the CPR entering directly onto Liberty Street from the east end.  This lines up nicely with the general space I sketched out with a left and right staging access into a central spine.  Where Liberty Village starts to fall down, is the reason Liberty Village got its name, one of the two prisons that existed there, in this case, the Mercer Reformatory (aka the Women’s prison) between King St and Liberty Street.  It sits on the north side of Liberty Street, which in my space, would mean all the industries are on the operators side of the shelf, and the giant empty space of the prison is where you’d be looking.  Not really conducive to operations or a visually pleasing layout.

BenchworkPlan-3inchgridMy space, basically, its 180 degrees rotated from the map above, CPR would enter on the left of the plan (east in real life), and CNR from the right (west in real life), but allmost all the industry is in the area the operator would be standing in, which is a problem.

On top of this, two of the largest industries that generated rail traffic in Liberty Village, Inglis and Massey Harris/Massey Ferguson were not located in this part of the village.  That has both pros and cons.  The Pro is they probably generated too much traffic for this kind of switching layout, the Con is they both generate a variety of interesting loads in and out other than just box cars.

This is where the concept of a proto-freelance layout could work.  Using real industries, buildings, and load demands, it would be possible to create a layout using Liberty Street as its spine, with sidings and factories being served by both the CNR and CPR.  It would also be possible to use the real industries of the area as the basis for both the architecture of the buildings on the layout, and the sources of traffic for the railroads. Flipping the industries and spurs to what would effectively be layout north along Liberty Street would offer the opportunity to look at creating an interesting track plan.  Operationally, I suspect at least the additional trackage to create a run around loop would be required to let a locomotive get around a train to shunt cars into location.

The next step is to dig deep and find out more about which industries were rail served, and what they shipped and received by rail.  This will give me an idea about what types of cars would be coming in and out, and how much traffic would be expected to be generated.

This certainly isn’t a done deal, as I haven’t even put pen to paper on a first concept of a track plan, and I certainly haven’t generated enough information on the industries and what they shipped to be certain it will work.  This is the first step in my layout planning adventure, research and learning to find something that will work for modelling.  I am still on the lookout for other locations that may work, but this certainly isn’t a bad first option if further research bears it out as somewhere the traffic level would make for interesting operations.

What to do about a Layout in a Spare Bedroom/Office?

I am currently without a layout, not that that stops me from working on countless modelling projects, but it does stop me from running trains and working on other skillsets like building benchwork, laying track, installing scenery, and operating.  I’ve written about apartment living and modelling ideas before here and here.

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting my friend Ryan’s layout on Friday night, and operating a train on his Algonquin Railway, a proto-freelance of the eastern end of the railway through Algonquin Park if it hadn’t been abandoned, but had become a short line operation.  I acted as engineer, with another friend Dan as my conductor, with Ryan watching to see if we could find any areas where he needed to do track maintenance, we operated a freight turn dropping off six cars, and returning with four.  As far as I’m concerned, the layout ran flawlessly, our derailments were purely the fault of an engineer and conductor failing to communicate and running through switches set the wrong way!

IMG_4350A panoramic view of the Algonquin Railway.  There’s a lot of railroad in about 18 linear feet, and its maximum width is around 12″.

After our operation session we were joined by Doug, another modeller in the east end of Toronto at Doug and Ryan’s local pub, to have dinner, drinks, and talk modelling.  One of the topics was the ability to make a layout work in our apartment.  My current office/train room is also our spare bedroom, and maintaining all these different functions is important.  The room itself is a decent size at about 12′-6″ by 9′-8″, though it is awkwardly laid out with window and door locations, the presence of electric baseboard heaters, and the nature of the concrete walls in an almost 50-year-old rental building which preclude a lot of anchoring things to the walls.

Office Floor PlanFloor Plan of our office/spare room/train room in our apartment (all dimensions in inches).  There is more than enough room for a layout, its where and how much layout fits without impacting the other uses of the room.

Ryan’s layout admirably demonstrates that you can fit a lot into a very small footprint if you think hard about it, and make good design decisions.  While my interests would dictate a more “urban” setting than Ryan’s northern Ontario setting, the same principles of not having too much track, creating workable realistic industries, and building to a high standard of detail all apply.  His layout is not much more than 12″ wide, and approximately 18′ long.  Just long enough to create a sense of a rural location with some industries and tracks spread around the community.  A smaller footprint in an urban setting can do the same, so long as the basic principle of making sure everything you lay out has a purpose, it can work (plenty of other modellers have done so!).  Our “short” operating session took an hour to do the switch list Ryan had prepared for us, and offered plenty of challenges to Dan and I’s thinking to order the moves so that we had space in the sidings and the cars got to the right destinations.

Ryan and I had been out a couple of weeks ago, and this topic came up then as well.  His suggestion was to start looking for industrial areas in the era I am interested in (1950’s in southern Ontario), and start looking for places with lots of rail switched industries and trackage.  While I consider myself in many ways to be a “Prototype Modeller”, I’m not necessarily wed to my next layout being an accurate representation of a specific prototype.  I am willing to look at options in taking an actual location and industries, and massaging them to fit my space and provide the opportunity for learning skills, but creating real world industries and demands and applying real operations to a free lanced location-based on a real world one.

A tour around the office (starting from top-left and moving around the room) – Day bed with cat; computer desk; workbench; storage cabinet in front of window; bookcase with TV; closet; bookcase behind door when open; door to hall; and back to daybed.)

Looking at the room, and the multitude of uses this one room in our apartment serves, there are two obvious opportunities that jump out to me, both with pros and cons:

  • One, is to use the day bed’s metal frame as a support for a layout.  This would give room for about an 80″ long scenic area by somewhere in the 18-24″ wide area.  It would be at a low height, but would be removable to allow the bed to be used by guests (or me when my seasonal sinus issues cause copious snoring).
  • Two, is to finally replace the weatherworn desk I use as a workbench which was tired when I started using it in 2005 when I moved to Toronto.  Using the furniture as a support would let me use the existing corner Ikea desk as one end, and a new bookcase at the other end of the room, along with free-standing supports in the middle, or off the top of a new desk/hutch workbench unit.  This also would put the track level somewhere in the 55-56″ above ground level, well clear of anywhere our cat gets to in her old age (even accounting for the starting point from the desk).  This creates a scenic area of around 11′-6″ with a slight dogleg at one end, with a width of not more than 15″ outside the dog leg, and the potential for removable staging at both ends of the layout.

I have roughly sketched out the options as shown below, hopefully no one who reads this is colour blind, but the yellow boxes are the “scenic” areas, the brown are staging, and the light blue is the daybed to give a sense of how it affects the room.

Office Floor Plan - W Options.jpgShowing two possible options, one an 18″x80″ portable layout over the daybed frame as its supports, and one a 15″x11′-6″ built over the furniture as its supports.  Neither probably needs a 4′ staging shelf, but that’s what I drew for the removable staging add ons.

As you can see, going over the furniture creates a lot more real estate to work with.  It also creates a layout that can stay in situ between operating sessions, or when guests come to stay.  It also blocks a big chunk of the middle of the window, even with a low (say 12″ high) backdrop on the layout.  Maybe not the end of the world, but cutting out light in a room that can already be dull is a consideration, since I can’t exactly add more lights into the ceiling.

The daybed option doesn’t block the window, but it puts the layout squarely in the path of the cat, who uses the daybed as her sleeping location when we are at work.  It also, means the layout would be moved a lot, both to protect it from the cat, and for when someone needs to sleep in the bed.

BenchworkPlan-3inchgrid.jpgBased on my initial considerations, an option like this, a 12″-15″ wide shelf, with a 42″ long dogleg over the desk at the right side leading to a removable single track staging area, and a removable two-track staging area on the left end of the layout is my available layout space.  The next step is to settle on a prototype, and start looking at track planning.

My gut is to go with the over the furniture, as it also will mean improvements to other conditions like my workbench.  If we are going to stay as renters, might as well kill two birds with one project as it were and get rid of some tired furniture and build a layout!

As for what industrial area I am considering, I will try to do a follow-up post in the next day or so to start looking at that, for now, I’m really excited by the prospect of working on further refinement of one of the options and starting to look at track plans.  I think, if everything goes as hoped, 2018 will see a big transition in my modelling from projects for the sake of projects, to some layout building.

Customer Service Shout Out

Customer service, it’s not dead yet!  I want to thank Matt from ESU-Loksound, the DCC Manufacturer for his help with a decoder install.  It was my first, and I managed to let the extra wire off the decoder get somewhere it shouldn’t, and fry the amp on the decoder, so no sound.  Matt took the time at the Brampton show to put my model of Canadian National D-1 on their test setup, trouble shoot it, and then, once the problem (of my own making) was determined, he took the fried decoder home with him, loaded a new one and sent it back to me.  I had bought the decoder from a retailler who is an ESU dealer, but since I knew ESU would be at the show, I figured I would try to cut out the middle man, and find out if I had a faulty decoder, couldn’t wire, or had fried the decoder straight from the source.  Despite it being clearly a user error, ESU quickly took care of me.  It’s something I won’t forget when equipping future projects of selecting a DCC control system down the road.

D-1 had a Cat-397 Engine after remotoring, the ESU sound files are a CAT-44 Tonner, but its a similar sound.  But now it rumbles nicely (when the Bachmann mechanism doesn’t almost rock it off the rollers (running quality is a future fix)!!