Breaking Bad Habits before they start

So last night I took a trip out to Home Depot for some lumber strips to use as a frame to support the sheet styrene backdrop (I’m buying supplies as I need them so I don’t have to find places to store things, extra trips are easier than piles of lumber).  I also went another five minutes down the road to the erstwhile “Unhappiest Place on Earth”TM  (IKEA for those not following along) to try to nip one of my bad habits in the bud.  The benchwork has been up for about a month now, and its quickly becoming a mess of storage and bits and pieces.  In my defense, 95% of what’s stacked on it is layout stuff, but I’m quickly finding myself misplacing tools or tripping over my boxes of screws and tools and such when I try to start a task.  I went to IKEA to look at a little kitchen cart I’d seen on past visits that had caught my eye as maybe being useful for having tools and supplies handy, without resorting to on-layout storage.

Raskog1.jpgNot quite as flat packed as some IKEA items, but a new Raskog Kitchen Cart for my layout room.

At the moment, with bare plywood on the benchwork, it isn’t “really” a big deal to just toss stuff up there, the problem is, in a few months time when I’ve got the layer of foam on, and start laying roadbed and track and looking at mockups of buildings and such, it will become a big deal, to say nothing of when track is laid and I actually start building scenery!!

The Raskog kitchen cart is a reasonably cheep solution, and it comes in a variety of colours to suit your tastes.  They now offer it in a blue tone, which fits the colour palates I like in my life.

Raskog2.jpgAnd assembled and getting the tools and scrap lumber supplies and such off the benchwork.  Still some more stuff to move, but now I’m getting closer to having tools handy as I move around the room, and not cluttering the benchwork.

Much as I may mock the IKEA experience (it’s not terrible at 8:30pm on a Thursday night), they do make stuff that goes together fairly well and is useful.  The cart went together in less than 20 minutes, and I transferred much of the “stuff” off the layout and into the cart.  Along with the continuing effort to get rid of stuff that probably shouldn’t have moved, the cart is now another tool in my arsenal to try to keep me from making a mess of my layout by carelessly piling tools and supplies on it.

Taking the Track Plan from the Screen to the Benchwork

Continued slow and steady progress, that’s my goal, though in some ways, it feels like I am racing along in the project to build my layout!!  In less than a year, I have gone from plotting ways to shoehorn a layout into our spare room in our two-bedroom apartment, to having built benchwork for a layout in a bedroom that’s been turned into my office/layout room in our new townhouse (and yes, that includes going from thinking we’d be renting for the foreseeable future to deciding to buy, buying a house, and moving in between!!).

June 07 18 - Liberty Layout - West.anyThe Track Plan as of August 21, 2018. Now ready to start transitioning from a computer concept into reality on the benchwork.

I’ve been doing my track planning using a package called AnyRail.  It’s free up to 50 pieces of track, and a paid version unlocks unlimited amounts of rail.  It has libraries for most if not all manufacturers track in a variety of gauges, including hand laid track like Fast Tracks that I am using for my switches.  Despite this, there are limitations to what the computer can manage when it comes to adjusting flex track curves and design. I’m not sure how much of it is limitations of the program, and how much of it is me, but before we start building switches after my order of supplies arrives later this week, I need to be sure of where adjustments to the switches to get some of the closer ones together are needed or for curve radii to start faster than the switch templates contemplate.  To do this, Fast Tracks provides print out templates of their switches and trackwork, with a bunch printed out, I started sketching out the centreline of the track on the benchwork and taping down switch and crossing templates to transfer the trackplan from the computer drawing to the benchwork.


Working my way along the layout from West (CN Staging) along Mowat Ave, to the intersection of Mowat and Liberty, and then along Liberty Street.

Using a combination of the printed templates and some “sweep sticks” which are laser cut alignment tools for laying tracks, I started my way around the room to see where switches fit, and which ones would need some adjusting.  This is one of the reasons for going with hand built switches, they can be built with the points much closer together than you can with commercial ready to use switches, creating potential to create more prototypical trackwork or achieve something closer to the tight curves in the confines of the area I am modelling (within the limitations of models to navigate the track!).

The other critical task of getting the trackwork sketched out was to make sure that locations for switches were in fact clear of the joints in the benchwork or the shelf brackets supporting it.  With one minor exception (and moving the switch may have fixed some other alignment issues from the computer drawing), everything appears to be clear of benchwork obstructions.

A friend is going to help me with building the switches once the supplies from Fast Tracks arrive.  From having got the templates out and in place, it looks like it will be necessary to build a fairly large bit of trackwork as a drop in element between the corner of Liberty & Mowat and the access tracks to the peninsula with their crossovers and such, especially as the trackwork on the benchwork off the wall will likely be laid before the peninsula is built and installed.  Seeing where everything fits together, I’ll be able to splice the templates together and give him the trackwork as a plan so that the switches can be built as larger drop in segments, to ensure alignment and help us make sure that the curves and such actually work when everything is built and installed on the layout.

IMG_5952Uh Oh, I seem to have run out of benchwork!! The two crossings here lead onto the as yet unbuilt peninsula, but making sure the track geometry from the switches to the peninsula is a critically important bit of the transfer of the track plan!

I have plenty of work to do before actually laying any track, but it was comforting to see that my plan more or less translates to the benchwork as designed, and even nicer to see that mostly the switches miss impediments such as shelf brackets of the joints in the plywood!!

RIP To the Hand me Down Desk!!

Ding Dong the desk is dead, the bad old desk, the broken desk, ding dong the junky old desk is dead!!!

Further proof as to why I’m not allowed to sing by SWMBO above.

Part way through dissassembling the desk, the hutch wasn’t so much connected so much as it was staying in place on faith.

Today in the slow build up to our moving day in late June, I took a step that had been on my to-do list for years .  My now former work bench was a hand-me down computer desk that I acquired in 2005 when I first moved into Toronto from one of my roommates.  He’d already had it for years, so being kind it was at least 15, and more likely pushing 20 years old.  One of the wheeled feet was broken off, and I’d kinda wedged it into the former hole, so when the desk was moved, it would sag over when the wheel fell out until I got it balanced just right again. It wasn’t a stable work surface for years, but I made do as it was a place to work.

As I’ve made the decision to basically take a break from modelling in the build up to the move, both so I can safely pack models and projects away, but to let me focus on dealing with being a soon to be first time home owner and all that goes with that, taking down the desk on a lazy Sunday afternoon on the long weekend seemed like a good idea.

The old desk (beige in centre). Functional, but more than a bit tired!!

With the move, the computer corner desk (an Ikea Micke) is also going to go (it’s for sale, feel free to comment if you’re interested). Because of how i use my computer, the desk eats a lot of space that I’m not getting any benefit out of it.  So I’m desinging the new workbench/desk to allow the monitor and keyboard to be there when needed, but not dominate and just take up space for the sake of taking up space.

My inspiration for my new workbench is my friend Ryan’s new workbench.  He found a 72″x25.5″x1.5″ Bamboo Kitchen Countertop at Lowes, that works perfectly as a model railroad workbench.  Because of the door location and a bulkhead in the corner of the layout room, I’ll have to shorten it by 3-4″ and make a 9″ square notch, but at the end of the day, I’ll have a main workbench/desk area that is 60″ x 25.5″ give or take, with a little extension on one site.  I’m going to use an ikea cabinet as the leg under one side for some drawer space, and regular legs on the other.  This will put it at the same 29.5″ work surface height I have today, which is the height I’m comfortable working at. Finding your workbench height preference is important, some people like higher, I like lower.

IMG_5344.JPGThere’s a hole in my office…not for long, soon to be filled up with boxes and tubs of stuff packed for moving!!

One more step on the road to a layout made with ditching the old desk and getting most of the tools and supplies packed and ready to move.

And the Packing Begins…

PackingModels.jpgBoxes boxes everywhere…at least saving the packaging means stuff should be safe during our move.

Yeah, I haven’t been doing much modelling lately.  While we don’t move until mid June, I’m trying to use the available time to good effect to pack and organize things slowly and carefully, vs. doing it in a rush.  Last night I had the tub of boxes for British Models up, and packed away all the British Models that were on display in our home office/spare bedroom.  My current goal is to pack away as many models, lego and other collectables so they are all in our storage locker ready to move, which will let me clean up the spare room, and find stuff that can be sold/donated/passed on to others that we no longer want.  By early June when the packing tubs arrive (shout out to Frogbox for reusable plastic moving tubs), I want to have the office/spare room packed/cleaned up so its open for putting tubs in once they are packed and ready to go.

I won’t be doing much modelling for the next couple of months, but will keep on with Tuesday Train posts, and I have a few things on the future layout to write, along with some thoughts on last weekends Great British Train Show 2018 over the coming weekend.

Mississauga Model Railroad Flea Market Report

As I posted the other day, I attended the Mississauga Model Railroad Flea Market today, but not as a shopper, but as a seller.  Something I had never done with any of my model railroad belongings before. I’ve never parted ways with anything in any meaningful way. Just over two years ago when I started blogging about my modelling, I mused about whether or not the effort to sell stuff was worth it.  With our decision to buy a house, and move, that pushed me to finally give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen? I could spend a Sunday and not manage to sell anything and still have to move it. Or, I could spend a Sunday and sell models I no longer need or want onto new homes, and wind up with money in my pocket for buying a DCC system and building benchwork for my layout.

IMG_5067A view of the Mississauga Model Railroad Flea Market shortly after opening. The new venue at a church in Mississauga is a really pleasant room for spending a day in.

I’m pleased to report, that it most definitely was worth the effort, but there are caveats to that.  I sold a lot of stuff, but that is in no small part because I priced my items with prices that were generally on the low side, because I am/was a motivated seller.  I didn’t actually haggle a lot on a lot of things, because people looked at the prices and felt they were fair.  This has always been one of my problems shopping at “Flea Market” type shows.  I don’t go to spend over what something is worth on something you have been dragging across the province for years until someone crazy enough to over pay you for it.  I’m happy to pay reasonable values, and was happy to sell for reasonable values.

IMG_5064My co-table mates Dan and Ryan look at my large stack of rolling stock and buildings for sale.

I didn’t bring everything I could have, knowing that I was sharing the table, but, I  brought a lot of stuff.  Two 80L plastic tubs of structures and boxed rolling stock, and 3 A-line totes full of loose rolling stock.  By the end of the day, I had one tub and one A line tote left full, so a reduction of well over 50% in what I brought.  Because I was a motivated seller, unlike some you see at these shows who are doing it as a business or a sideline, I set my prices such that my stuff sold.  Is there stuff I sold for less than its value, absolutely, but there is also stuff that even at $5 or $10, I probably sold for more than it was worth.  At the end of the day, I achieved my goals of reducing the amount of model trains that I don’t need in my storage locker, and in making some money to re-invest in my hobby.

Its certainly not for everyone, its a long day, and it helps if you are organized and have a list of what you have and want to sell, but if you are willing to make some effort, you can certainly convert models you don’t need or aren’t using into funds to re-invest in the hobby.  Will I do it again, definitely, but it may not be for years, but I will do it again when next I think I have enough items to try and sell to make it worth my while.

The Fate of the Liberty Village Line V1.0 Trackplan

IMGP7091RawConvA crumpled up Track Plan. What does that mean?

The future is a funny thing.  You think you know what you are going to do, where you are going to be, and then you go and do crazy things…. like buy a house in Toronto in 2018… which is exactly what we have done.  When I introduced the concept for the Liberty Village Line last fall, we were very much in a mindset that we were going to remain in our rental apartment for the foreseeable future (turns out, that was 8 months), and the layout design and benchwork was being created to fit the limitations of our 750 sq.ft two bedroom apartment, with 40+ year old concrete walls we basically can’t anchor benchwork into, and in a room where on top of the layout, was our guest bed, my computer desk, my workbench, and almost all of our storage space.  The benchwork dimensions and trackplan and limitations all grew out of the restrictions our space posed.

Then, about two months ago, a long and lengthening list of frustrations with our current apartment (no en-suite laundry, no dishwasher, never-ending construction on/at the building, pot smoking neighbours, no BBQ, reliance on window air conditioners, 7 years in the same space, etc, etc) caught up with us, and we made the decision to see if we could find a home that would give us a bit more space to spread out as we have just passed our 8 year anniversary from our first date and are coming up on our 4th wedding anniversary.  We’re at a point in our lives, where when we looked at the Toronto real estate market, we very much felt that if we were ever going to try to buy a home, it wasn’t now or never, though that was close, and with the bubble of 2017 having receded, the market was as entry friendly as its been in several years.

So, with all that said, instead of planning for a layout in our apartment, I am now planning for a layout in our townhouse, a 3+1 Bedroom Three Storey townhouse in a condominium development.  I get a whole room now where the uses are reduced to layout, workbench, and related train/model storage and display.  I don’t have exact dimensions yet, and will be begging an architect friend and fellow model railroader to come and help me get the most accurate measurements possible once we take possession, but effectively, I will have a room which is more or less 11′-6″ by 9′-6″ with a +/-3′ deep walk in closet the width of one of the shorter walls, and with no windows on the walls, but with a skylight in the ceiling.  Obviously, in the fullness of time I will blog in more detail about the room after we take possession in June and move in, but for the moment, this re-energizes me on thinking about the Liberty Village layout I’ve been designing, as having a dedicated room opens potential for things like a peninsula to address accuracy of the trackplan, and maybe a bit more layout to maximize what I am achieving.  It also means I get to take another shot at the track plan, and look at things that did and didn’t work in Version 1, to try to make Version 2 that much better when the time comes to build.

Exciting times, the frustrations I was having in January-February about not re-organizing the current office to start building the layout have turned into excitement about the prospects of starting a layout/workshop room from scratch with the ability to set things up the way I want from a blank slate.  I can’t wait to actually get going with it!