From a Wall Hanging to My Layout, The Bat’leth of Switches

Track, you can’t run trains without it, and I’ve been semi-stalled on doing much with my layout waiting on it. That all ended last night. My friend Dan kindly offered to build my switches for the layout using the Fast Tracks system to hand lay them. This is a great thing, as I love being able to involve my friends in my layout, and he has much more experience building switches than I do (which is zero). For the layout, because of the tight curves and complicated track work, hand laid switches offer more flexibility in adjusting them and making things fit than commercial turnouts would.

IMG_7809
Track as an art piece. The Bat’leth switches hanging on Dan’s office wall. The Fast Tracks Templates used to build it from are taped on the piece of plywood below.

Dan built all the complicated trackage for one corner of the layout as one piece. There are five switches and two crossovers which he built as one combined unit to keep everything in alignment so it would hopefully work. It was built over the printed Fast Tracks templates from their website that I positioned and taped together to make sure the trackage would work. Until this big corner piece of track was in place, I have been holding off on doing any track work as everything else on the layout will be aligned from the Bat’leth (Star Trek Klingon sword, the piece of track looked kinda like on Dan’s office wall). Dan took pictures as he was building the switches, he’s hopefully going to write about it either for here, or for a Model Railroad publication. Either way, if it gets written up here or in print, I’ll post about it sometime.

IMG_7810The big block of track in its future home, the corner of Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue on the layout. Now on to aligning track, and sorting out any issues before getting electrical leads (other than for the frogs which Dan wired) and affixed into position.

I was super excited last night when I got home from a super tasty BBQ feast near his office, that I had to start messing about. First up was to clear up all my temporary bits of flex trackage so I could position equipment and get a feel for things, so I could get the Bat’leth off its board and onto the layout temporarily at least. It’s a big piece of track, but just one of 8 pieces Dan built between it, individual switches, and a couple of combined switches. The rest of my track will be Micro Engineering Code 70 rail Flex Track and Shinohara Code 70 rail crossovers.

Now that I have the piece of track that dictates everything else on the layout, I can seriously start confirming placement of buildings and roads, and pin down the last thing that needed work, the placement of the peninsula. My intention all along has been for the peninsula to be hinged so I can swing it out of the middle of the layout room, when you see the pictures of the penninsula, you can see why, it kind of hovers over where I sit at my workbench, making it a hazard for me constantly knocking it if it’s in place when the layout isn’t being operated. That said, one of the many back and forth thoughts I’ve been having tonight is on trying to find ways to live with that. My intention is to get the trackage down on the around the wall benchwork, then build and install the peninsula, as there isn’t a lot of track on it, and its easier to work when it isn’t there (another reason for making it swing or removable totally).

IMG_7816Mockup peninsula back out, you can see how it crowds the room. I’m of two minds on whether to keep with the plan to hinge it so it can swing to the right in the image in front of book cases, or permanently affix to benchwork.

With my mockup peninsula back in place, I can start making the real world tweaks from the track plan on the computer to make everything fit. I have a plot of the survey of the building that goes on the peninsula, which means I am able to lay the plan out, and check that track can reach where it should around it. I am seeing some spots where I may not be able to achieve everything I want to. One consideration is I have a large blank spot along the wall where the Women’s prison was located. There would only have been a wall there. Instead of further compressing some buildings, I may just make some adjustments given the large chunk of area in the middle of the layout that has no active industries. First things first though, need to sort out the position of the trackage from the plan to the benchwork and see how everything fits.

 

Working on peninsula track geometry. Good news is the peninsula is shifting right which widens the walkway in the “U” on the left for operators, bad news is this squeezes parts of the layout to the right.

Part of the reason I write this blog is to keep a record of what I’m doing and have done, and to help keep myself grounded and motivated.  Contemplating the peninsula, and playing around with the various switches (and discovering naturally a few places here and there where some adjustments will be needed to track gauge or guard rails so equipment will reliably track through them), I started getting what for lack of a better description was an anxiety attack about the whole layout building process. Too many things piling up in one short period of thoughts, need to fix this, and do that, and I haven’t done this, or I don’t know how to do that, or I need to change that…and just letting myself get away from myself and run ahead of myself at the same time. Its a recipe for a mistake, and I could feel myself careening towards something bad like dropping a locomotive or breaking something.

Feeling that way, I walked out of the layout room about 3 hours ago now feeling daunted and frustrated and more than a little apprehensive that even this simple layout is biting off more than I can handle. I am still nervous, the but feelings of angst from puttering for an hour when I got home from work tonight, as super excited as I was to see track and start making progress, told me it was time to down tools. Dinner and a movie on the sofa with my wife and ignoring trains has helped enough to at least let me write this post, and writing this post is giving me comfort as I know I can keep going slow and steady, and that I have friends in the hobby I can reach out to help me work through the “problems” and keep building. I’m sure tomorrow or in a couple of days, whenever I next put in some time in the office working on the layout, that a clear head will help me move forward again!

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A Water Tower for Hinde & Dauch Paper

As I am working on my layout, I’m actively looking for opportunities to ease the amount of building I have to do so I can focus my attention on the parts of buildings that really make them distinctive the shapes and little details. With that in mind, I recently ordered a kit from JL Innovative through my usual hobby shop (as much stuff as I buy online, if its available from the distributor through a Brick and Mortar shop, I try to buy from them to keep them alive, but that’s a whole other post/discussion for another day). In this case, the kit is the “Red Rock Water Tower“, a generic early 20th century water tower. It’s about the right size and shape for the water tower on the Hinde & Dauch Paper Factory, and using a kit is a much faster proposition than unnecessarily scratch building a water tower. It’s the same principal I am using for the industrial chimneys in the area. I can find ones that are close for the most part, and as long as I don’t use the same chimney on every building, the effect will be the same as the real Liberty Village.

The instructions and the kit were pretty straight forward. I’ll have a few comments at the end and thoughts for anyone who finds this post and is considering building the kit, but overall, it went together fairly well by doing what the instructions said. As such, this is mostly a photo heavy post from here out for a bit.

IMG_7685The tank wrapper is laser cut card. The rivets were added using a Pounce Wheel as shown in the images below from the inside before the wrapper is laminated to a piece of cardboard shipping tube.
The tank roof is also a piece of laser cut card stock. drawing out lines on the underside, the Pounce wheel carefully rolled along the lines creates dents on the outside that look like rivets.
The safety railing on the platform is a laser cut piece that easily held in place with a bit of weight, in this case, a pair of helping hands that were a gift from a fellow modeller. The finished tank is pretty good-looking.
Assembling the legs, easily the hardest and most frustrating part of the kit.As you can see, they went together, and I wound up notching a piece of styrene sheet to hold the legs in place as everything set up. They were wobbly, trying to hold two sets of half the legs in place while installing the support between them was an exercise in agony. Once they went together, it did stand on its own nicely, but it was aggravating.
Set in place against the mockup of Hinde and Dauch. Looks the part and I can make some adjustments once the actual building is built from styrene.

So, another piece is kinda done. It will get painted in due course once I have a paint booth set up in the house. I’m sure I’ve said that before about many projects, but I’m actually close to finally actually setting up my paint booth. I’ll post about it once it’s up and running.

So, the couple of warnings or notes about the kit. As noted above, the legs take a lot of care and patience to get together. Same for the wire cross supports. There aren’t any pictures of that work in progress, as I came perilously close to tossing the kit at a wall trying to get them to adhere and stay in place. I don’t know if it’s the kit design or if i was having a bad/impatient night, but be warned. The final, was the bottom of the tank. It’s a cast plaster piece. I don’t think it’s hydrocal or something like that, but actual plaster of paris. I say that as it crumbled adjacent to where I was filing to make the required notches for the legs. It wasn’t so bad that they couldn’t be filled later with putty to fix the shape, but its a broken part waiting to happen if you aren’t paying attention.

All in all, for a few nights work, it achieves my goals and should look great once it’s painted and weathered and attached to the roof of an actual building model vs. sitting on a temporary riser behind a matte board outline.

 

Saturday at the Toronto Archives and a walk in Liberty Village

Spring is finally arrived, so how did I plan to spend my Saturday? Inside at the Toronto Archives poring over plans and pictures looking for reference material for building’s I’m going to be modelling in Liberty Village.

The Toronto Archives on Spadina Road. A view of the exterior and a couple of shots of the vault from the reading Room windows.

Sadly, I didn’t have much luck at the Archives. Because there are not staff working in the storage stacks on Saturdays in the winter when the Archives are open, you have to pre-order boxes during the week, and you can only order a maximum of five. On top of that, I forgot that when you order certain Blueprint/Building plans that are stored flat, they do not bring out the box, but literally just the drawings you asked for. That mean instead of three boxes of images/documents and two of plans, I literally had two plans and three boxes. The two plans weren’t even of the part of the building I was really looking for, so they didn’t do anything for me.  For the images, there were lots of interesting images of Liberty Village that I hadn’t seen before because they weren’t scanned, but they yet again failed me in my near epic quest to find pictures of literally the only critical building on my layout which has been demolished.

The Gillett Mill and Elevator circled on an image from the Toronto Archives (Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 75), and a company postcard image of their plant.

The building now known as “The Castle“, was originally built by the Gillett Company, makers of Magic Baking Powder, a product you can still buy, now made by Kraft I think. most of the complex still exists, including the former Power House on what is now Pardee Avenue on the east side of the building. What doesn’t exist, and which of course in an example of Murphy’s Law, the only building on my entire layout which is getting built complete and at full-scale is the part of this building on Pardee Avenue that has been demolished.

4683081283_b2d2267f4d_o.jpgLook, the 3 and 4 storey parts of the Mill and Elevator Buildings in 1983!!! Literally all it tells me is the 4 storey part is the same height as the remaining part of the complex! (Image Courtesy Patrick Cummings via Flickr)

Someone has to have images of this building that are better than what I’ve found, it’s just finding the right people to connect with. As far as I can tell, the building lasted until around 2004, which means I even worked but didn’t live in Toronto yet. If I’d wanted to model Liberty Village 15 years ago, I might even have been able to get pictures before it was demolished!

IMGP1629RawConvCan anyone help me fill in this hole with pictures of the Mill and Elevator Buildings? I’d love if you reached out to me via the comments if you have pictures of Pardee Avenue and these buildings before they were demolished!

After the disappointment at the Archives, I went and did a couple of other odds and ends, then went for a walk to take more reference photos of the buildings of Liberty Village. The nice thing is, the rest of the buildings are now at little risk of being demolished as the way we look at old industrial buildings and their reuse and future has changed. They may be modified or expanded, but rarely are they completely demolished anymore. While I was walking around I also focused on getting some pictures of the limited reminders that there were once railways throughout the area cris-crossing streets and serving the industrial buildings. Rails and track show up in odd places throughout Liberty Village where they never got removed as businesses stopped using them and the railways stopped serving the area.

L-R: Tracks crossing the south end of Mowat Avenue, once the point where CNR trains entered from the yard where Exhibition GO now stands; the spur between buildings at the Carpet Factory, partly still rail, partly replaced by interlocking brick; and, the rail stops at the north end of Mowat Avenue at King Street, the old end of the line.

The final thing I noticed in my walk about was the street signs. The City of Toronto partners with the Business Improvement Associations to co-brand street signs where there are BIA’s. I know they aren’t new, but I’d never really looked closely at them before. I really like the Liberty Village co branding, the graphics that use the skyline of the old industrial buildings and smokestacks are part of the visual environment that lead me to choose this area to model.

IMGP1627RawConvLiberty Village BIA branded streetsigns in Liberty Village.

Mocking Up Liberty Village

Buildings buildings buildings. No small part of my layout are the early 20th century industrial buildings that frame the streets of Liberty Village. While I’m a long way from building them all, a few hours over the past few days has at least seen them appear in mockup form while I get ready to lay track and finalize the buildings orientation and siting.

Mowat Avenue and Liberty Street – The spur at Carbide Chemicals, Canadian GE, Barrymore Cloth and the Toronto Carpet Factory.

My mockups are cheap and cheerful, generally close to scale where I’ve found drawings or taken measurements, and are intended at this point to give me a sense of what the layout will look like and help with making adjustments once my switches are done and I can start laying track. They are all cut from a single sheet of framing matte board, for less than $10 I’ve populated the layout and have a sense of scale for the buildings in relation to the trains.

60 Atlantic, Brunswick Balke Collendar and Hinde and Dauch rise on the east end of Liberty Street.

Even with my cheap and cheerful mockups, I’ve noticed a few things that when track goes in where my track plans could use some adjusting to more accurately reflect the real alignments of buildings. I’m also working with selective compression. All buildings have their full heights, but some are being compressed to fit the layout space. Obvious examples are 60 Atlantic which is about 1/2 length, and Hinde and Dauch. I’ve been struggling with Hinde and Dauch. I have enough room to do a faithful full scale representation of the eastern 2/3 of the building. The mockup however, is a compressed version to get the variations in building height that the plant had. It’s a 45%/35%/65% compression of the three segments moving from west to east. The eastern part is the most “important” to me as that is where the large painted signs on the 4th and 2nd floor brick courses were painted, and I want to be able to include these on the building. While I could do that full scale, I think the building loses something important without all three segments to give it some variation in design and appearance, and the mockup in card lets me see what that looks like, and make adjustments before I start to build a real model in styrene and bricksheet which costs a lot more!

Mowat Ave looking north. Getting there.

With at least a first pass of the buildings that are on the backdrop side of the mainline done, I have a little bit of a sense of what they layout will look like, and if I do say so myself, I’m really pleased. It’s exactly the feel I want, big early 20th century industrial buildings that will dwarf the trains that service them. There’s lots of work in building buildings once the track is down and trains can run. I suspect most if not all of these Version 1.0 Mockups will go in the garbage and be replaced by better mockups once the track is in place and I can adjust them to be better templates for permanent layout buildings, but for now, it’s really nice to walk into the layout room and see something that vaguely resembles Liberty Village!!

IMG_7469The full layout. The big gap is where the Mercer Reformatory for Women (the jail!) was located. It won’t have a building there, but it also works as when the peninsula gets built, that area wouldn’t be reachable by operators to switch cars anyways.

Taking Project Inspiration from a Friend

My friend Trevor Marshall is a very accomplished model railroader.  You can read about his S-Scale Port Rowan layout on his blog. If you dig around on his site, it has sub-blogs on all kinds of fascinating things like Achievable Layouts and his ongoing dalliance with changing prototypes to the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway Interurban owned by CN.

This post however, is a bit of self motivation. Once my layout prototype and era became crystalized, Trevor went out and bought and has completely repowered, added DCC and painted a Van Hobbies Brass CNR 0-18a switcher. These small 0-6-0’s were the backbone of switching in Toronto, and would have been seen in Liberty Village.

IMG_7350Trevor’s O-18a #7456 at a get together a few weeks ago at a friends HO Scale layout.

Trevor wrote about his project to prepare his 7456, so I won’t get into the details, I’m mostly writing this for two reasons, to say how great a job he did, and to inspire me to do as good a job with mine, so that some day we can have competing O-18a’s switching in Liberty Village!

IMG_7353Looking like it belongs on a layout set in 1970’s Niagara Frontier, well, at least the trackwork is suitably industrial looking!

Wiping out Safety Stripes

With my layout being set in the 1950’s, I’m working on collecting or modifying models to be accurate representations of what would have been seen in Liberty Village. Back in the fall of 2018, I picked up an Atlas S-2, it was already in CPR paint, but paint for an era that was just a bit too late for my still not quite pinned down 1955-1958 ish layout era. The shell for the locomotive has been sitting on my workbench for months waiting on me getting a paint booth set up at the house so I can airbrush. Haven’t gotten there yet, but the 1950’s being the way they were, there was one more aspect of the Atlas S-2 that I realized had to go, the bright yellow safety stripes on the pilots at either end.

IMG_7305Safety Stripes on the pilot, recommended for a switcher to help it be seen, but not there in the 1950’s in the paint scheme i’m applying.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered that paint on Atlas locomotives is easily removed using 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. Which is great as it’s readily available at the drug store, and compared to a lot of other chemical paint strippers sold in hobby stores, or things like brake fluid that some people swear by, its paint removal qualities on models its relatively benign. Relatively benign doesn’t mean don’t take any precautions. Well ventilated spaces, gloves, masks and the like are all still important when working with any chemical for any length of time.

In this case, a little bit of alcohol poured into a paint mixing cup, and some Q-tips and toothpicks are the tools needed. Applying the alcohol with the q-tip and gently rubbing will start to loosen the paint from the cast metal pilot, and as you rub, you can eventually see places where the paint is holding tighter in corners and around details. This is where the tooth pick comes in to gently rub at more stuck on paint, then go back at it with the q-tip moistened in alcohol again.  It took me maybe 20 minutes total to do the two ends.

More or less finished project to remove the stripes. Because the locomotive will be fairly heavily weathered representing a hard-working locomotive at the end of this paint scheme, it doesn’t need to be perfect, just good enough. (right photo of 7020 by Dom McQueen, 1952. From the Bill Sanderson collection. Scan From Here.

This was another of those I need to do something projects where I was watching car racing this afternoon, and realized the only reason I hadn’t gotten rid of the safety stripes was because I was being lazy. Another check mark on this project. Now to finally get around to sorting out that paint booth!!