2021 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. Sadly again, 2021 has been a year dominated outside the modelsphere by the ongoing bad news of the pandemic. Fortunately, we have given the pandemic a pass and remain mostly cloistered at home and have not gotten sick with Covid (knock on wood). I have however, had the second half of my year impacted by illness, leading to a slowdown in progress on model making from August on when I was diagnosed with Kidney Stones. Initially, my illness didn’t impact me much, but as the months rolled on without getting any progress into November and December, my work rate definitely slowed down as all my energy was needed to stay on top of work for my day job, leaving not a lot of energy or motivation for modelling. By a couple of weeks before Christmas, I found myself in the ER in absolute agony, followed by surgery to remove a massive kidney stone two days before Christmas. The up side of this, is that I am feeling so much better than I have the past few months. Still some slow recovery time to go here into January and the requisite follow ups, but it is really nice to feel well again, its the little things. I don’t think I’ve been taking my health for granted, but clearly there is room for improvement given the past few months.

In the hospital waiting on going in for my surgery to remove a very large kidney stone. I am feeling much better but almost 5 months of dealing with the stones before surgery became the only option wasn’t great for my 2021.

Despite having been unwell in varying degrees for about half the year, it was a good year. A lot of the progress on the layout is incremental. Sometimes I don’t even notice it when an hour here or 15 minutes there add up to things getting done, but they do. As such, my review bellow really is a high level of big things, where so many things just sort of add up to make a whole.

Liberty Village Layout Panorama, December 30, 2021. It really does make me happy to see how it looks, even in a half finished state!
Looking along Liberty Street at Atlantic Avenue. Buildings and Scenery here are nearing completion. Still some weathering on the buildings and work on the road to paint/weather to go.
Canyon Road Diorama. I pulled out my Rapido Canadian to get the FP9’s, and pulled some equipment off the layout for a quick photo shoot of its progress. It is definitely starting to give me the feel I was aiming for as a photo diorama for models.

Projects Completed in 2021

  • Switch/Turnout Controls – As of July, all 12 of the turnouts on my layout now have Bullfrog Manual Turnout throws installed. They still need some minor adjusting as I use them, and eventually the grabs on the end of the control rods will need upgrading, but this means that not only is all the track on the layout laid, its all operational.
  • Freight Cars – I actually did finish some kit builds this year. At least 7 freight car kits for the layout were finished in 2021. Some have received some weathering, some haven’t, but they are all presentable and operable.
  • Non Train Things – Pop Vinyl Selfie, Darth Vader Diorama, Lego Batmobile

Projects In Progress

  • Building Liberty Village Layout – Did lots on this!! See page here. This whole post could really be a look at the layout, and I decided for this year, I didn’t want it to be. I want to touch on some highlights and things that mostly make me feel good in a year where feel good has been in short supply at times.
  • Canyon Road Diorama – A new project, a chance to work on something different and scratch some itches for scenery skills and things I don’t need for Liberty Village. Made good progress. Might have even finished it in a year had it not been for my August on slowing down of work progress on models. See this page for all my posts on the project.
  • Freight Car Kits – I did actually finish some this year, and even get to first attempts at weathering. I had set a mini-goal in early December when I thought I was feeling better to get the three partially built kits finished by new years, I don’t think I will, but such is life. Once those three are done early in the new year, I have 8 more kits sitting in the pile waiting to be started. Plenty to keep me busy in 2022 even if I don’t buy any more kits!

Skills

  • Weathering – I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, but it was finally time to actually get on with doing it. I re-created weathering on a container well car from prototype photos, along with applying basic fleet techniques to cars on the layout to start making the equipment look used instead of fresh from the factory.
  • Scenery – Lots of progress on this, both on the Liberty Village layout and on the Canyon Road Diorama. I’ve gotten confident at Static Grass, creating basic topography, and even worked on making trees again.
  • DCC/Electronics – After starting the year with a bang (literal not proverbial sadly), I did make some progress with my wiring. I successfully installed keep alive capacitors in all my layout locomotives, and worked out a bunch of other little electrical gremlins and shorts on the layout that were causing problems.
  • 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 tentative steps into this world, mocking up car cards, setting up a session and running some trains. I need to do it again along with start the work of making car cards for all the equipment on the layout.

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in Stores in 2022 (This list doesn’t seem to move some years)

  • Rails of Sheffield Caledonian Railway No. 828 – See Here
  • Bachmann LMS Patriot “The Unknown Warrior” – See Here
  • Rapido Trains GO Transit F59 & Bombardier Bi-Level Coaches – See Here
  • Athearn Genersis Canadian Pacific SD70ACu – See Here
  • Accurascale British Railways Class 37 “Loch Lomond” – See Here

Strangely, none of those have anything 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!


So, this wasn’t the year I thought it would be, I had been feeling really good the first half or so, making progress, then, health issues started to get in the way. A lot of the pandemic related and work related stresses I had been dealing with in 2020 got resolved early in 2021, so for a while I was in a real good space. Hopefully, as I write this and am slowly feeling better from the surgery last week, 2022 can slowly pick up speed as I continue to recover and be a good year, and a year that brings us to the point where we have gotten on top of Covid, and things like travelling to see friends, or friends travelling to visit us can happen again. It will be two years in February since anyone saw the layout in person other than me, I think by then it will be tidied up enough in the layout room that I could even have people over to operate. I don’t know if it will happen that early in the year, but I am going to be positive with the hope it does happen next year.

In terms of where I am going, I won’t be doing a 2022 Preview, its pretty obvious what the big goals are, finish the Canyon Road Diorama, and keep on plugging away on the Liberty Village Layout. I really want to finish the large Hinde & Dauch Paper company in 2022, that I had hoped to finish in 2021. I have made progress, but it’s one of those projects that has kept getting pushed aside. I think my 2022 goal will be to try and stay more focused on the core projects, rather than looking for side projects (he says knowing he has another side project he is collecting stuff to build next year…).

So, with that, I hope you have a wonderful New Years Eve. We are ordering all the Chinese Food 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 Friday night! Stay well friends.

Stephen Gardiner
December 31, 2021

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!

Rapido Trains Dealer Event

As many who know me know, I am an active volunteer with the Toronto Railway Historical Association, the volunteer organization that has built and operates the Toronto Railway Museum in the former Canadian Pacific Railway John Street Roundhouse in Toronto. The museum is a dealer for Rapido Trains, the Canadian manufacturer of model trains. Shameless plug, if you want to support the museum and buy model trains, get in touch with the museum through the website and order your Rapido models from them!

6992789588_3d849b2d93_oThe Toronto Railway Museum store is inside the passenger waiting room of Don Station, if you’re downtown Toronto visiting the museum, it’s got all kinds of train themed gifts including a limited selection of Rapido products, but we can order anything they’ve announced for you!

Last week Rapido hosted their annual dealer event at their world headquarters in Markham. This is the third time I’ve attended on behalf of the museum. Its an interesting event for me as I am friends with some of the Rapido staff, and have gotten to know most of the employees at least a little bit over the years by virtue of that. As I don’t work at the museum store full time, I only help out with looking at models to sell, I don’t have as much invested as most of the other attendees at the event whose business is running model railroad stores. Retailers from stores across Canada were in attendance, along with suppliers like ESU who provides the DCC boards and sounds for Rapido. Its a chance to network, and catch up.

Jason Shron, President of Rapido Trains addressing the assembled dealers, and showing off this years Thomas Birthday Cake

Jason Shron, the founder and president of Rapido also had the company bus out for rides. Its always fun to be out in the Rapido bus, as you get strange looks from people at bus stops and inevitably someone who wonders why you aren’t opening the doors to pick them up as you go by!!

Rapido Bus ride with Jason Shron at the wheel.

Fortunately for me, this years announcements weren’t anything I need or want, but the core of what was announced will be awesome for N-scale modellers. Canadian FP9’s, VIA Rail F40’s & rebuilt F40’s, LRC Coaches, and The Canadian stainless steel cars in N-Scale. For anyone who has never seen Rapido’s products, these will be some of the best models out there when they arrive. Their only HO Scale announcement was more Canadian RDC models.

Rapido Engineering Samples from partially completed molds. VIA Rail Rebuilt F40, LRC Coaches and Park Cars in N-Scale.

As a disclaimer, Rapido’s offices aren’t a store, they aren’t open to the public in the sense that you can’t just show up and wander into the offices where future products are being designed, or the warehouse. If you show up unannounced, you’ll be able to sit in some comfy Ex-VIA Rail coach seats in their lobby, and talk with their wonderful receptionist, but you won’t be able to buy anything or see anything secret!

IMG_8835
Who keeps a Tardis in their warehouse??? I mean really!!

What a difference a Year Makes!

Wow, its hard to believe that a bit over a year ago we bought our house. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of our actual moving day. A year ago this week (June 18th, 2018), I posted a quicky post with first pictures of the layout room/home office. I meant to do this post on June 18th this year, but was busy and didn’t get the chance. Truth be told, I haven’t done anything in the layout room since Tuesday other than play with my Rapido Royal Hudson, but that’s another post for the weekend! For now, one year of change in my Layout Room, can’t wait to see what it looks like in June 2020!!

img_5481IMG_8773June 2018 and June 2019, Boy do I not miss that fuzzy wallpaper!!
img_5482IMG_8772June 2018 and June 2019 looking the other way in the room. Clearly showing the next big to do, proper layout lighting!!

I can’t wait for year 2 of the layout building adventure. So much to do!!

40 for 40

I’m shamelessly stealing this idea from a good friend of mine who does an annual list on his birthday. I’m doing this this year as a one off for no other reason than I’m turning 40 today, and over the past 12 months or so I’ve pretty much turned my life upside down with buying a house, a new car, and changing employers for the first time since graduating university (over 15 years in one small business). I’ve never been a big birthday person, I never liked being the centre of attention. I always just think its just another day and I’d almost rather it pass me by.

That said, 40 is a significant round number, and if the past year qualified as a mid life crisis turning everything around, then my 40 for 40 list is about putting the proverbial pen to paper to lay out a lot of things I think about, but in a way where I can hopefully look back in a year and feel I’ve kept making steps forward to being the me I want to be for the next 40 years of my life, as I feel it’s taken me the first 40 to have any idea of who that person is.

Begin Here on May 9th, 2019

  1. Listen to 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins, because, 40 years ago…yeah, I know. Was best song I could think of that’s either about the year or got 40 in the title.
  2. Followed by the best 4 albums of 1979 – Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty (RIP), London Calling by The Clash, Highway to Hell by AC/DC and The Wall by Pink Floyd
    • Bonus for on Vinyl
  3. Actually post this on my Blog and acknowledge that I’m setting myself out on some mid-life ish year goals.

The Easy

  1. Thank my friends for being there, through good and bad, thick and thin. I’ve not always been the greatest ray of light in the room, but you’ve all stuck with me, here’s to many more good years!
  2. Continue with the decisions made as a 39 year old to put myself first and hold onto the work-life balance I’ve found for the first time in my adult life.
  3. Continue to get 7+ hours of sleep a night, fight the urges to keep puttering at 11pm just because I don’t feel tired.
  4. Continue to get up when the alarm goes off (6am seems awfully early after a decade plus of 7:30-8:00am most days) and have the time to start my day properly rather than straining for every last second of not getting up and then struggling to start my day.
  5. Continue to eat breakfast everyday (something I only started to do at 39 because of a high blood sugar diagnosis).
  6. Keep reading at least 2 books a month making good use of my subway time commuting.
  7. Watch the 40 Year Old Virgin (I haven’t seen it, and I couldn’t think of any other movies about being 40).
  8. Read a Harry Potter Book. I’ve never read any of them.
    • Bonus for each book beyond the first read.
  9. Watch a Harry Potter Movie. I’ve only ever seen the first one, and honestly I wasn’t paying attention when I did.
    • Bonus for each movie beyond the first.
  10. Watch Dirty Dancing. No seriously, I haven’t watched it, I’ve steadfastly refused to.
    • Bonus if I watch it with my wife.
  11. Attend a concert/show at 4 Toronto Music Venue’s I haven’t been to before.
  12. Actually cook some of the recipes from one of the cookbooks I own.
  13. Secret
  14. Go Skating, I haven’t gone skating in several years, and I miss it.
    • Bonus if a return to Friday night High Park shinny happens.
  15. Visit the ROM. I realized I still have not been since before the Crystal Expansion opened, it’s a bit past time.
  16. Try a beer from 40 Breweries that I haven’t tried before.
    • Bonus if all 40 are Ontario Breweries

 

The Obvious – Train/Model Railroad Related Stuff

  1. Run a train from one end of my layout to the other without it derailing or losing power. What? It’s taken me 40 years to actually be building a real layout, that’s a decent goal!
  2. Learn or make major improvements in at least 4 new model making skills/techniques
  3. Ride a steam excursion at the South Simcoe Railway, Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway or Waterloo Central Railway. I travel to the UK and US for steam, but never visit those in my backyard.
  4. Go railfanning once a month, somewhere I haven’t been (recently or regularly at least) and outside of Toronto (camping out along Lakeshore photographing GO Trains doesn’t count).

The Challenging

  1. See a CFL Game in Montreal to complete the Eastern Division Stadiums.
    • Bonus if somehow I tick off any of Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton to have been at games in all the western CFL cities.
  2. Make a batch of Home Brewed Beer.
  3. Ride my bike at least to the subway once a week from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving (3.5km each way on the route that avoids the busiest streets, 2.8km each way most direct).
  4. Walk home from the subway at least two nights a week through the summer, and find an alternative walk for the winter when walking in the suburbs isn’t pleasant.
  5. Ride my bike from home to work (26.7-29.2km depending on route and major road avoidance) at least once in the same summer season.
    • Bonus: Ride home the same day
  6. TBA Health Goal
  7. End the year in a more secure financial state where I have at least two month’s worth of mortgage payments in a TFSA.
  8. Do something to raise funds for a Charity.
  9. Score two goals in a Rec Soccer game. I’ve done everything else I’ve wanted to do, scored left and right footed, a header, a penalty, but I’ve never in my life scored twice in a game. Given I play over half my games as a keeper, and, to be honest am not particularly fast at running, scoring goals is a rare occurence for me.

The improbable/Travel (because this is my way of having a mid-life crisis)

  1. Take a lap of Mosport (in a car, I’ve walked the track before after racing was done for the weekend).
    • Bonus if it’s in my car.
    • Double Bonus if somehow I get an IMSA Hot Lap during the Sportscar Grand Prix Weekend.
  2. Drive a Corvette.
    • Bonus if its somehow integrated with a lap of Mosport.
  3. Attend a 24 Hour Car Race, or book tickets to attend Le Mans 2020.
    • Half Point for attending Petit Le Mans or Sebring 12 Hours or a World Endurance Championship race (mostly as they would involve lengthy travel).
  4. Drive & Fire a Steam Locomotive for a day.
  5. Attend a Railway Prototype Modellers Meet in the US (Napierville/Chicago, New England or Cocoa Beach).
  6. Finish my provincial checklist (Alberta and Newfoundland) so I can move on to the North (Northwest Territories, Yukon & Nunavut).

End here on May 9, 2020

  1. When the birds can be heard above the reckoning carts doing some final accounting…own up to how well I did come May 9, 2020 (RIP Gord).
  2. Arrive refreshed and ready for the next 40+ years of my life.

My 2018 Model Railroad Year in Review

Whew, what a year it has been in 2018 for my hobby. I have a layout under construction!! Since I last wrote a year in review post at the end of 2017, it’s been a whirlwind. We bought our first house, moved, I finalized the layout plan for The Liberty Village Line, and about 85% of the benchwork is in place (only the peninsula to go once track is up on the wrap around the walls). 2019 promises a lot of excitement as track starts to get laid, and trains hopefully run, but in what has been an amazing year in the hobby, I’ve done a lot, and made a lot of progress, but haven’t finished many models compared to past years, but that’s OK all things considered. Did I mention I started construction on a layout?? A summary of my year is below, followed by some brief thoughts on things:

Projects Completed in 2018

Projects In Progress

Skills

  • Weathering – Did some, got a bit better, still a long way to go
  • Soldering – Did some, got a bit better, still a long way to go
  • Track Building – Didn’t do any.  Will need to in 2019

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in Stores

  • Rapido Trains Royal Hudson – They are in production, and should arrive in 2019, I look forward to receiving mine and writing about it when I do.

So, with that high level summary of the “plan” (insofar as one can plan a hobby), a bit of a chat on what I did is below:

Completed Projects

Didn’t finish a lot, but damn proud of the ones I did finish. A personal interest model of a place I loved to go before it was demolished (Bar Volo), a new workbench in our first home, and a freight load for the layout just because.

Finished Projects! Always a good feeling!

Projects in Progress

As many things as are listed up there, there is really only one that matters, everything else really flows from that. The construction of my layout in our new home. I still don’t have as huge a pile of unbuilt freight car kits as some people do, but I’m up to 6 or 7 now. I’ll need to get organized and start building them once some track is laid on the layout as the rails will look empty with the limited amount of freight cars I have for the layout at the moment.

Layout in many steps, lumber, to building with friends, to backdrop to checking templates to having a train run on it on temporarily set out flex track!

The other projects, finishing the BR Coach, working on the 3D print/design for the GO Coach, and the narrow gauge shelf were only peripherally worked on. The BR Coach will be done in January, I’m on the penultimate task now of installing window curtains before I apply the final decals for the first class and no smoking warnings to the windows, then it will be done.


Skill Building

This is a tough one, as every time you do something, you build the skills, but there are things I want to work and continue to get better at, like weathering freight cars so my models on the layout look better and more realistic. Same for track building and soldering. While a friend has generously offered to and is building my switches for the layout, I really do want to learn how, and will need to get so much better at soldering than I am to do the wiring on the layout.

Weathering and Wiring in action, two things I’ll get to do a lot more of in 2019!

So, that’s about it. I’ve tried to keep this years year in review short and sweet, not because it hasn’t been a good year, but because it’s just easier to be short and sweet to collect things and link back to stuff I’ve already written. All the best to you and yours, have a wonderful New Years Eve, and happy modelling in 2019!!