Another 32″ of Track Down

Another Saturday, and another few feet of layout progress. I spent a nice lazy day doing odds and ends around the house, and rewarding myself for getting chores and cleaning done with breaks in the layout room to work on the layout.

Before (left) and after of today’s progress on laying track.

Today saw me prepare and install another switch, a siding, some more of my main and the second non active north-south cross track which cross Liberty Street at the north-south streets in the village. This was all pretty straightforward trackwork. Mark and drill the holes for the frog wire and throwbar for the turnout, cut the rails to length and file the ends, install rail joiners, test fit everything, and lift to put down the Alex Clear silicone caulk to glue it down. Once the track is down, I did some sighting to check I was happy with the alignment, pulled some freight cars down to check that they rolled through OK and didn’t look obviously wonky rolling down the newly laid track. Once I was happy with the alignment and the quick rolling check, out came the weights to hold the track down while the glue sets.

IMG_0847Highly scientific technique for holding track in place while the Alex Clear Silicone Caulk cures. A full tub of ballast and a heritage brick!

In one of my earlier breaks, when I had the power drill out to drill the frog wire and throwbar holes for the switch I was planning to install, I also drilled feeder wire drops for the track I installed last week coming out of the closet. With the holes drilled and wire cut and in place, the next step will be to come along and solder all the feeders to the track in advance of the next big work session where the plan will be to connect the feeders to the bus, which means I’ll be able to test equipment under power on all the track.

IMG_0848No, its not something growing out the foam, its feeder wires for power/control. Black at the back to make sure I wire everything the same way using a handy mnemonic.

So with that, the gap in the two ends of the mainline that are installed is down to 40″. Its a complicated 40″ as there are three switches in that space that lead to two crossovers for the three spurs on the peninsula. Getting all this track aligned right will be tricky, and I won’t be progressing on that until I have a day with 2 or 3 friends over to get many hands to keep things in place and aligned as its installed.

The Buildings of Liberty Village 4 – The Toronto Carpet Company (43 Hanna Ave)

This is the fourth in a series of posts on the main buildings in Liberty Village that will be modelled on my layout.  The previous buildings profiled are:

  1. Brunswick-Balke-Collender (40 Hanna Ave)
  2. Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company of Canada (219 Dufferin Street)
  3. The Buildings of Liberty Village 3 – The Hinde and Dauche Paper Company (43 Hanna Ave)

This time, its another of the large industrial complexes, in this case, one which occupied the entire block between Mowat Avenue and Fraser Avenue between Liberty Street and King Street West, the “Toronto Carpet Manufacturing Company”.  This impressive complex included several buildings, all of which remain, and which have been repurposed into a variety of office and restaurant uses.

There was once a spur where the no-entry sign on the west side of Mowat Avenue (its still partly visible closer to King Street). The five storey building is Building 7 of the Toronto Carpet Manufacturing Company, the building across the bridge was originally the Russell Motor Car Company, later Barrymore Cloth (part of the carpet factory) according to insurance maps.

Now that I have actually started construction of the layout, I’ve realized that this will likely be one of the earlier buildings constructed.  It is in a corner of the room, and will hide the corner and be one of the furthest away structures from the edge of the layout.  It will need to get built earlier rather than later so the scenery can work its way out from the backdrop and so I’m not constructing other buildings in the way. On my layout, there will be spots for two cars here, one beneath the overhead bridge on Mowat Avenue, and one along the south side of the building/north side of Liberty Street west of Mowat Ave.  A 3rd car could maybe be spotted east of Building 7 (D on the track plan) on the right side of the image above, but because of space constraints, it would look lost as cars on that spur were actually switched deep into the courtyard of the Carpet Factory complex and wouldn’t have been sitting out by the street.  I don’t think I need that extra spot to make the layout work, so will likely forego it.  That also lets me skip a switch machine as the spur won’t be active.

June 07 18 - Liberty Layout - West.anyExtract of the layout plan showing the Toronto Carpet Factory, Building C (formerly the Russell Automotive plant) and D, the Carpet Factory Building 7 extension.

The main building itself I will be modelling is the “extension” to Building 7. It is an absolutely gorgeous early 20th century five storey industrial building, and luckily for me, the original building permit plans for that portion of the building are in the holdings of the Toronto Archives. I was able to visit and take pictures of the plans for the building facade, layout, window and other details. Some of the pictures of the plans are below.

Plans from the Toronto Carpet Manufacturing Building 7 Expansion, by William Steele & Sons Ltd, Philadelphia, Dated May 3, 1911 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 2351).

With these plans in hand, in the near future I am going to start working on drawings for the window frames. I am planning on 3D printing masters for the windows, and casting the ones I need in resin. This is both cheaper, and if something happens to a window, an extra resin casting is a lot cheaper than another 3D print. This will be a technique I use for a lot of buildings where there are non-standard looking windows, or windows which really define the appearance of the building. If I can use commercially available parts I will, but to achieve the look of the area and in replicating real buildings, sometimes you need to do custom work.

1945 Fire Underwriters Plan of the Toronto Carpet Factory showing the spur into the plant, the track still exists today as seen on the right.

I will write separately about the Russell Automotive plant which forms the western part of the Toronto Carpet Manufacturing site, connected to Building 7 by an overhead walkway. It’s an interesting building in its own right.

Sunday Projects and Trackwork Progress

In the past few weeks I’ve had the chance to visit and work on two other friends layouts. I wrote about my visit to work on construction on Jason Shron’s Kingston Subdivision layout, and Trevor Marshall beat me to writing about our get together to operate his CNR Port Rowan layout. This has gotten me really motivated to work on my layout and see it start moving forward again, and today, I had a free afternoon before my Grey Cup party to get going on some small projects in advancing it.

IMG_0680An easy task to start, drilling holes in a block of wood to make a pen holder for a new tool organizer unit.

I’ve been on an ongoing project to better organize my workspace and layout room. That’s starting to hit the workbench again. I bought a new laser cut wood tool/paint organizer from Amazon, it looked like it would do some of the things I wanted in replacing an old plastic tool rack. It does, but not well, so I’ve started to make modifications. The image above shows an additional block of wood drilled out to take pens and markers in a deep opening in the organizer. The next step is the tool organizer area doesn’t have tubes or dividers beneath the holes in the top. When I started to put things in they just flopped about. That will drive me crazy. I have wood I can modify to fit in the opening beneath the laser cut top panel, and then bore out holes in it with spade drill bits to create tubes to keep things from flopping about. It will take some time, but I’ll make the thing work they way I think it should.

With that simple task (it honestly took longer to clean up the sawdust from six holes and one cut than it did to make them!), my motivation from recent visits saw me move on to do some actual work on the layout I’ve been avoiding.

Drilling holes in the throw bars for the switches that are the first ones leaving the CPR staging. these will access the two sidings at Hinde & Dauche Paper.

I’ve been stalled with getting any track laying done for a couple of reasons. At one side, I need more sets of hands than my own to get the trackwork across the peninsula gap laid down, its complicated and has some tricky curves. The other end, I’ve been stalled afraid to drill holes in the throwbars on the hand made switches my friend Dan made for the layout. We broke one throwbar on the monsterous bat’leth after it was installed, which still hasn’t been fixed. I’ve been very timid about drilling the throw bar holes in the rest of my switches as free hand micro drilling isn’t one of my better skills. That said, I realized I have two spare switches that I’m not using, which meant two chances to practice before moving on to a switch I need. After taking some time, and a lot of thinking, I managed to drill two #62 holes in the throw bars on the spare switches, so I dutifully moved on to the layout ones. I managed to drill two holes in them as well. It was a slow and steady wins the race effort to drill the holes through the copper throwbars, drilling, taking the drill out to check progress and clean out the hole before moving ahead, then carefully filing the burrs out and cleaning the underside so the hole will take the turnout wire when installed.

Track from the east, gluing down the switches after drilling the throw bar holes.

With the switches prepped, the next task on the list was an outright easy one. Apply Alex Clear Caulk, and lay the track! The two switches and one short piece of siding into the backdrop were laid in less than ten minutes, and then my heritage brick made another appearance to do what it does best, and be just heavy enough to hold down track as the caulk cures! I’ve run a number of freight cars through the switches, and all seems to be good, and cars stay in place on the siding, a sign that it’s probably actually level!

Back to the west end, and starting to fiddle around with learning how to install the Fast Tracks Bullfrog Switch Machine.

My final effort of the day was to start looking at how the Bullfrog Turnout is installed, and testing the installation on the first switch at the CN end of the layout. I can see this is still something that I’m going to need to take some time on, and probably consult with friends who have installed them before on their layouts. I think I am getting close, but the hole beneath the turnout is slightly off location, and I think to make it work I will need to reverse the mechanism with a bell crank. Not impossible, but it requires a level of precision that sometimes I’m not sure I have, especially as the mounting will be straddling a layout frame support. As is often the case, every couple of steps forward brings a step sideways or backwards, but today was another day where the layout eeked closer to being ready to try and run a train on it!

A Sunday full of Small Projects

After visiting a large layout and seeing how someone is keeping on making slow and steady progress a couple of weeks ago, I have a new wind of motivation to keep going on my small layout.

With that in mind, I spent most of my Sunday afternoon doing a bunch of small projects that I’d been putting off. It was nice to be able to finish a few things. There are actually less half finished kits on my workbench and “To Do’s” on the layout scratch list after this afternoon!

Foaming the last two places that needed it, a strip along the front edge of the CN Staging, and the corner where the backdrop ends at the CPR Staging.

First up on my to-do for today was to finish getting the foam down on the layout. There were two gaps, one big and obvious, and one small and fiddly. The big one was along the front of the CN Staging yard. For some reason I used foam that was wide enough for the track, but not the benchwork here. That left an unsightly gap, that the more I looked at it I realised would look more odd with the layout stepping down when I finish the fascia than if I added a bit of foam to bring everything to the same level. I have more than enough left over foam to do this, so a few quick cuts to create the strip, and it was then cut to fit on the moving staging traverser and the non-moving section, and then glued down with No More Nails adhesive. Easy peasy!

The second bit of filling was a small uneven gap in the closet at the end of the foam where I had cut a channel for it to go around the end of the styrene backdrop. The gap was going to eventually become a problem for scenery, but it did leave me room to run the power supply for lighting in staging. Now that that is in and working, there was no need to leave the gap anymore. After a little bit of fiddling around, I had three pieces of foam squeezed into place to fill the gap and let me do scenery whenever the time comes to start working on that part of the layout.

Kanamodel Products (now out of business) freight shed, before final touches on the workbench, and then being checked in location on the layout with a boxcar and some temporary track on the Peninsula.

The second project was to finish building the freight shed for the peninsula. I had painted the sandpaper roof at some point in the past couple of weeks where I’ve been airbrushing a fair bit on projects, but hadn’t gotten around to attaching it and adding the finishing trim. That task took less than an hour including the time where I ignored it for the glue to set on the roof. A bit of black paint on the trim once installed, and some cleanups/touchups, and it was ready to set in place and see how it looks. I’m quite happy with it as a simple way to get a structure done that I have no period pictures of. With a bit more weathering and being worked into the scenery with some ground cover dirt and weeds once I start doing scenery, it will look the part and provide a destination for a a couple of freight cars.

Imagine That Laser Art loading dock kit. Final assembly and weighting down while the glue sets on the workbench, then in place on the layout.

I bought one of these the Imagine That Laser Art loading dock kits to see if I liked it for the “Castle” building in Liberty Village (a reminder I need to get back into writing my posts on the “Buildings of Liberty Village” so I have something to link to!). the kit has a nice laser cut and weathered deck, and went together in less than ten minutes with no fuss. It needed far longer with the weights sitting on it while the glue cured than it took to get everything together to be weighted down. While much of my buildings will be scratch built to accurately reflect the real buildings, sometimes for details like a loading dock, in my opinion you are just making work for yourself if you don’t use a commercially available product if it works. In this case, it looks like it should work fine, I just need to buy three more so I have a big enough dock for the large building, but it was cheaper to buy one and see how it looks vs. buying four and finding out I hated it!

A good day of small project work, getting done the things I can do where I don’t need either more hands, or advice on what I am doing to not make mistakes feels good, and means whenever I do have a bigger work session, we can focus on the big tasks rather than the small ones.

A working Visit to Jason Shron’s “Kingston Subdivision” Layout


Over the past few years I have to count myself very lucky in our hobby. Thanks to becoming involved in the Toronto Railway Historical Association/Toronto Railway Museum and connecting with other Toronto area model railroaders on the internet, I’ve made some great friends and acquaintances.  One of those is Jason Shron, the founder and President of Rapido Trains, a model train manufacturer based in Markham Ontario. He was involved with the TRHA long before I was, and through my involvement with the museum I’ve gotten to know him. He is perhaps most famous as being the guy who built a passenger car in his basement….

Recently, Jason was kind (nee brave, or possibly foolish) enough to invite me over to work on construction of his layout based on the CN/VIA Rail Kingston Subdivision from Spadina Yard to Brockville, set in the fall of 1980. While I am building a small layout, Jason is building a very large multiple deck layout, a much more daunting project! He does however have a good regular group of friends who work on the layout with him. He’s made a lot of progress in a fairly short amount of time. As you can see, there is a long way to go, but he’s laying track on the middle deck, working his way down to the lowest deck before he can start running test trains around the whole layout and starting to build the scenery.

Two views of Jason’s layout and layout room. The left shot shows future Spadina Yard on the left and Union Station on the right in the lower deck, the right shot shows the massive Helix connecting the decks.

This was my first opportunity to work on someone else’s layout, and it was daunting. Its one thing if I screw up my own layout, but I don’t want to make a major mistake on someone else’s. I was joined by another mutual friend Thomas who I know through the museum for a 3 person work day. Jason set us about with tasks that we felt comfortable doing. Thomas was soldering switches and preparing yard ladders for Oshawa Yard. Jason was achieving as much as the two of us as he knew what he wanted to do and where he could get things done quickly as he didn’t need to explain the task to himself! I started sanding the roadbed smooth for where they would go, and working on a grade transition down into the yard. Once that was done I started to prepare track for a mainline crossover at Pickering Station and soldering the track together into a single large piece for later installation. Both were tasks that I felt I could achieve, and do so without needing to rush and make a mistake. Big point in working on someone else’s layout for me, stop when you have any doubt and talk your host. It’s their layout, and they are the one who will know what they expect things to look like and the quality of work that should be done. I saw Jason present recently at the Greater Toronto Train Show on his layouts construction, and one of his lessons/takeaways from the first couple of years was just that. He’s already experienced someone whose work wasn’t quite what it needed to be, and I certainly didn’t want to create more work that he needed to redo as a guest!

IMG_0496.jpgThomas on the left and Jason on the right working on the layout. The fact that Jason’s benchwork is so strong you can stand on it is helpful for building the upper levels.

Jason’s layout will be a passenger train first layout. That’s what his primary interest is. He grew up watching VIA Rail trains in the east end of Toronto, and riding them to see family in Montreal, so he is modelling the busiest part of VIA Rail’s network from Spadina Yard where the trains were serviced at the time, to Brockville, where trains to/from Montreal and Ottawa met and were split/joined coming to and from Toronto in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s. I won’t go into a total history of what Jason is modelling, he does that far better on his website. It makes perfect sense for him, and he has a space big enough to do it. In some ways, my choice to model the 1950’s makes me clearly an outlier, as most model railroaders model what they grew up with. Clearly, I wasn’t alive in the 1950’s!!

So far, he has the main benchwork all in place, and track laying has commenced working down from the top level towards the lowest level. I’d say he’s getting close to half his mainline track down in the area that will have scenery. He has a lot of track to go in the helix between levels, and then the massive trackwork of Union Station and Spadina Yard on the bottom level. I can see what he is trying to create start to appear, and I know that feeling from seeing my own layout start to actually look like a thing. Its a good feeling, and it was nice to be a part of it for a few hours in moving his layout forward.

Scenes from my day working on the layout, sanding roadbed, soldering track for a crossover, preparing the roadbed for the crossover to be installed. Thanks to Jason for taking the pictures of me actually working!

At the end of the afternoon, we retired to the coach in the other half of the basement to relax and chat about the hobby. It was a very pleasant way to end the afternoon. I can see why he wanted to build the coach, if I had the space I might want to build a part of a coach in my house too to sit back and relax in!! I don’t somehow think though that our Condo Board would be impressed at the modifications needed to make that work in our townhouse though!!

IMG_0516.jpgCivilized working conditions, a cuppa tea at the workbench, and a mug that I really need to find for myself at my office!!

My takeaways from the day were numerous, it was a lot of fun, I learned a few things about layout construction and design from seeing how someone else is doing their layout in progress, and got some ideas about things I can implement in the construction of my layout. Hopefully I will get more chances to help Jason build in the future, and someday sooner than later take part in an operating session on his layout. I also look forward to inviting Jason to visit my layout to reciprocate the opportunity to visit his. I’ve been needing to schedule some work sessions with my circle of friends and layout helpers. Maybe the biggest takeaway from getting away from my layout and seeing someone else so excited by working on theirs is the contagious joy of making progress. I left his place eager to get going on my layout where I’ve maybe been a bit stalled of late, and that’s no bad thing!

Painting a fleet full of wheelsets

A couple of weeks ago I commented on trying to figure out how many freight cars I need for my layout. A commentator noted that as I swap out the wheelsets I should be painting them. They were absolutely correct. While most of my rolling stock isn’t weathered yet, the perfect time to paint wheelsets en mass was as I am going through replacing them all with fine scale ones so that everything that is on the layout for testing when trackwork is done has reliable wheels.

With that in mind, I ordered a couple of painting holders for wheels. I bought two laser cut styrene holders from Modelers Choice. They come in two sizes, for 33″ and 36″ wheels. Each holds eight wheelsets, or enough to do two cars at a time. With two, I can paint enough wheels for four freight cars in a couple of minutes. The parts are thick laser cut styrene and just slot together. They are tight and it takes a bit of fiddling to get the wheels in, but once in, they stay in place. I found that they need an elastic band wrapped around the middle after the first couple of batches to minimize the amount of paint getting onto the wheel tread that needed to then be cleaned off.

Painting a batch of wheels, in the holder, paint the backs and axles rusty, then paint the wheel faces grimy black to represent oil from the axle journal boxes (modern wheels on cars with roller bearings tend to rust, where older cars got greasy wheels from the journal oil).

Its a fairly quick process, and I was doing a batch every time I was doing some airbrushing on other projects. Once painted, the parts of the holder slide apart and let the wheels out. Its much easier getting them out than it is getting them into the holder.

I found that for the most part, the mask holder does its job and keeps paint off the tread of the wheel. Once done, a quick clean of the axle end points, and of the treads and the wheels are ready to go.

Over the course of the past couple of weeks I’ve managed to paint enough wheels for every car that’s currently on my layout, with a couple of spare sets for the pile of kits to be built in the drawer.

IMG_0581Finished batch of painted wheels.