A three hour structure build – Exide Batteries of Canada

So, this is an odd one, I thought my just under two day build of the Gilbert Foundry building was fast. I way outdid that tonight. Even accounting for maybe 20 minutes Sunday night cutting the styrene core walls to height, and visualizing what I wanted to do, the majority of this building was done in 3 hours, with a two hour post work session from 5pm-7pm where the majority of the work was done, and with half an hour of adjusting during my Train Night in Canada Zoom which has moved from Saturdays to Mondays for the summer.

Google Streetview images of the former Exide Batteries of Canada plant at the south end of Mowat Avenue in 2009, shortly before it was demolished.

This building is at the opposite end of the layout from where I have been working, it is immediately adjacent to the Canadian National Staging yard. The building actually is screening two tail tracks from staging for equipment to be able to run around or to park extra cars not used often in. With that in mind, the fact that this building didn’t really have windows meant that it would be easy to build. A couple of loading doors, and one small set of high windows, and otherwise, it was all brick.

The matteboard mockup in place while I was working on the building with the MDF foundation.

This was a pretty easy build, three walls, three openings, a small loading dock and a roof. I didn’t actually intend to finish it in a couple of hours, but sometimes you hit the groove and you just need to keep going. For this building, I used a thinner 0.030″ styrene core, and some Plastruct brick sheet. It’s not quite as fine detailed as the N-Scale Architect I’ve been using for other buildings, but using different brands does also give subtle differences to how buildings look, and I don’t want them to all look like exactly the same brick was used.

Checking the fit before adding the roof. As you can see, the building nicely screens two tracks that are 9″ long, big enough for the largest piece of equipment on my layout to be positioned on.

This was also an easy build as it is another building that is all off-the shelf windows and doors, from my stock of Grandt Line (now San Juan Details). While I’m sooner or later going to run out of buildings I can build with windows and doors that are off the shelf, this is the 4th of 16 buildings on the layout that I’ve started (though the really big ones haven’t been started!).

The mostly finished building in place, I left the roof short so you can still reach in and uncouple cars.

I also used some roof capping that I had bought for another building, and thought it was too big to clean up the roof line for part of the building, and then some styrene strip to try and mirror the appearance of the building from the streetview images at the top.

I am really going to need to find some motivation to get sorted and do some primering of these buildings, though as I’ve said before, they are too big for my paint booth, and it’s too humid to paint outside, so for now, I’ve at least got a collection of unpainted structures replacing the matteboard and foamcore board mockups. Even unpainted the look so much better and motivate me to keep building!

Finishing the Mock-up Buildings

Some time ago after the benchwork was up and the trackwork done, I made mock-ups of most of the buildings on the layout. This really helped to get a sense of what the layout was going to look like, to check clearances for rolling stock, and to help finalize the drawings for actually building the buildings.

Layout Panorama View on January 28, 2020. This was the last one I had posted here.

First up, is adjusting the mock-ups I have done. As I am starting to get motivated to draw and work on buildings, the next step for most will be to draw the buildings and work out how I am going to compress them to fit the layout, and when doing so if I can use commercially available windows, or if I need to draw my own and 3D print/resin cast them. Obviously both have their advantages and disadvantages. The draw and print route is the only way to go for some buildings to get window shapes and patterns right, but for others, off the shelf windows with the compression already being done are a good way to get the look and feel of buildings

80 Atlantic taking shape. The model on my layout is about 36% of the real size, its 200′ on the long side in real life, and scale 72′. Its about getting the “feel” right for me.

Today I decided I finally wanted, no needed to get a sense of how big the buildings on the Pardee Avenue peninsula are going to be. There are two main buildings here, the E.W. Gillett Company factory and mill/elevator/powerhouse complex. Most of these survive, sadly, for me at least, the Mill and Elevator couldn’t be repurposed, and I am still searching for good images of what they looked like to model, though they have turned up in the strangest places.

The building known as “The Castle” in Liberty Village today, formerly the E.W. Gillett Company, makers of Magic Baking Powder.

The Castle is being modelled at full scale on the north-south axis along Pardee Ave, and compressed along Liberty Street. I wanted to include the distinctive tower at Liberty Street and Fraser Avenue as it is a place setter for the building, and will be a fun challenge to model.

The second building on the peninsula, is one I’ve been lamenting for some time, as I have virtually no pictures of it, but strangely enough, the survey for the property is old enough that it shows where the footprints of the mill and elevator were before they were demolished, so with that, and knowing roughly how tall they were, I can at least have mock-ups for a rough sense of scale. The mill/elevator/powerhouse combo is the only building on my layout being built at full scale along every wall, and hopefully it and the castle behind it will be a centrepiece when they are done, as they are literally the centre of the room!

The mill/elevator/powerhouse combo added. Creates a tight space between the buildings for operating. My intention is to make the Castle removable so operators can get at cars to uncouple them.

It really changes the room having these two big buildings in the middle of it. There is now distinct operating areas along Mowat Avenue in the west (left) and along Liberty Street in the east (right) as seen in the Panorama. I could actually see two crews (one Canadian National and one Canadian Pacific) working at the same time now as they are distinct areas, and only rarely would they have crossed each others paths in the centre of Liberty Village.

The final mock-up on the peninsula is a small portion of a building which was part of a cooperage at the end of the spur serving the Gillett factory. I still haven’t decided if I am actually going to include this or not, but seeing the mock-up I can now think on it and make an informed decision, as it does nicely close in the corner of the peninsula.

Layout Panorama on July 8, 2020, a big difference from the end of January all around with actual building models, all the mock-ups and scenery starting.

I actually realized after writing all this, that there are two more buildings I haven’t mocked-up. Both of these are edge buildings along the layout front, and sadly most of the detail won’t be seen except in pictures when a camera is held into the layout. That said, they are both important to me to make the space. I actually started on one which fills the south side of Liberty Street between Jefferson Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. I’ll need to write about it, as the compression is causing me consternation in deciding how to compress while capturing what I think is important and attractive about modelling the buildings on that block.

A 42 Hour Foundry

I took a couple of days off last week after the Canada Day holiday on July 1 to rest and recharge after 3.5 months of the “new normal” of working from home and dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. About 5pm on July 2nd, motivation struck me to start on another building on the layout. Looking at the end of the layout I am working on, and a building that I can get away with using commercial windows for, I settled on the Gilbert Foundry Building which is located between Pardee Avenue and Jefferson Avenue on the south side of Liberty Street.

Toronto Archives Photograph of the Gilbert Foundry Building (Series 1465, File 37, Item 24).

Given the compression of most buildings on my layout, my building is going to be about 1/3 the size of the real one, and it is located against the front edge of the layout, so it is only a couple of inches deep. To start, I drew up the building in my 3D modelling software to get the basic wall shapes and heights, then started looking through my tub of plastic windows from Grandt Line (now San Juan) and Tichy.

First rough printouts of the building, looking at what windows need to be modified or combined to make the size needed, and starting to lay out on the styrene building core.

I had windows that were the right width and general appearance for most, but not the right height, so I had to combine multiple castings together. A few quick snips and some Tamiya styrene cement later, I had prepared the windows in the right sizes for the building.

Work in progress on marking out with the printouts and cutting out the windows.

This is another job where the right tool makes all the difference. For window openings in the 0.040″ styrene inner core of the building, a nibbler, or a tool designed to slowly cut away styrene from inside the opening is the right tool for me doing the job. Yes, you can do it with straight edges and knives, but I find I always get the opening wrong. Using the nibbler and then filing/sanding to size until the windows just squeeze in works for me, and generally it means I don’t have oversized openings I then need to fight to get the windows to fit and fill with putty later.

Checking how it looks on the layout and whether it feels right.

For this building, I am using a slightly thinner core of 0.040″ styrene instead of 0.060″ styrene. Its not a big difference, little thinner so its easier for cleaning openings and cutting. On top, for the brick I am using N Scale Architect/Model Builder Supply brick sheets. They come in large 11″x14″ sheets, and are probably the nicest styrene patterned brick I have ever used for detail and cutting. They also have sheets of window arches and details. In this case, one of their brick columns on the detail sheet was already the perfect width for the raised details between the windows on the foundry, all I had to do was cut them to the right length and glue them on.

And building basically complete about 42 hours from first thinking about starting to build it.

So now I have three buildings ready to go to painting. Sooner or later whenever the heinous Toronto summer humidity breaks, I will need to set up outside and put some primer on, they are a bit too big to paint inside. I suspect a lot of the “painting” of the brick will be done with pan pastels, but I need a coat of primer to give me a good base. I can probably fiddle the buildings around to spray the windows in the paint booth, but trying to get primer on them will be a bit much. Stay tuned, it will no doubt be an adventure!

Rebuilding the Water Tower for Hinde and Dauch

Last year I built a kit for the water tower on the Hinde and Dauch factory. The longer I’ve looked at it, and especially now that I’ve started to get the building and its compression/scaling sorted out, some of the things I did per the kit are both not going to work physically and were bothering me visually.

The JL Innovative Red Rock Water Tower built as per the kit in place at H&D and on the ground for sense of scale. It is sitting high in position behind the mockup as I couldn’t find a shorter box.

The kit, while nice, was designed to sit on the ground, the legs splay out and get wider at the bottom than the top. When I look at my pictures and those of the building before the tank was removed for storeys to be added when it was turned into a residential condominium, the legs are clearly straight on this tower. For it to fit on the top of the building in the space available, I needed to disassemble the legs, and get them straight, and either take a couple of inches off, or modify it so it sits hidden inside the tower at the corner of the plant.

With the leg bracing from the kit ripped out, and a new base to hold the feed square, starting to get a much better look.

As much as it pained me to start pulling apart the legs, which were a real pain to get together and get braced the first time, within minutes of getting all the bracing out, and gently prising the tops of the legs loose from the tank, with legs being vertical up and down without any angle to them instantly looked better, and fit better on the building

The water tower in 2005 (with giant sign added) and with the legs straightened and getting more to right height on the layout mockup of the plant.

I’ve since ordered from styrene truss material to re-do the support frames to better match the real world pictures, and once that arrives, I can finalize the height of the tower and start the re-assembly process, and then re-paint to have it back to layout ready. I’ve also ordered some new styrene handrail material, the more I’ve looked at it, the less I like the laser cut wood handrail around the platform from the kit. Such is the way of the modeller trying to recreate accurate representations of real buildings, sometimes, even when you start with a kit, you wind up replacing half of it (or more) to get you to the finish line you were seeking. I’ll post again about this in a few weeks time whenever parts have come in and I’ve made some progress.

Windows for the Hinde and Dauch Box Factory

As I am starting to make real visible progress on scenery on the layout, my mind has started to turn back to the buildings and next steps on them. The Brunswick Balke Collender factory buildings are basically built and waiting on me starting to paint them, so I needed to decide where to go next. I settled on its next door neighbour, the Hinde and Dauch box factory. This way, if I build this building next, I will be able to have an area that extends from the CPR staging in the closet, about 5′ out of the closet into the actual layout room, where I can have scenery moving towards finished, which will be nice for photography and appearances when people come to visit.

The first step for me, is drawings and working out how I am selectively compressing the building. The factory is a big building, and in its entirety it wouldn’t fit. Fortunately, I have over the years obtained surveys and drawings that helped me figure out how to compress this building. For the western 4 storey portion and the central 2ish storey portion, they are about 40% of the actual building. The eastern part is about 60% of the actual size. To my eye, and hopefully visitors when you compare it to pictures of the actual factory, this feels right. It also gets around the same number of loading docks in the same locations functional with 40′ boxcars in HO scale.

Going from a matteboard mockup to a digitial mockup.

I am using my old reliable modelling software Form Z 6.5 (which is ancient dating from 2006, I recommend a more modern package for your 3D Cad work if you’re getting into this. I’m used to my software’s limitations, and quirks, and just keep plugging on despite them.

Moving forward with the western block of H&D, working on the western wall, then looking at that section basically done in digital form.

Because I am compressing most of the buildings in some way, rather than just drawing the window parts, for at least some buildings, I’ve decided to draw the whole buildings in 3D, this lets me see what they look like virtually, and print out renderings to cut out and attach to the matteboard mockups to see how they look. That way, I can go and adjust the spacing or make changes if they don’t look right to the eye for the cost of a few pieces of paper, rather than find out after hours of work building the structures and when they reach the layout, having them look wrong!

The whole extent of the factory that will appear on my layout, growing virtually, an in software render, and then the windows pulled out for all the different patterns/shapes that will be 3D printed to be masters for resin casting for the model.

Being able to see how the compressed building will look with the windows virtually before cutting the first bit of styrene or printing the first windows to make resin castings from has saved me a lot of problems. I’ve seen some spots where things didn’t work and look right, or where a few little moves would fix spacing or appearance issues.

Brunwick Balke Collender power house and factory in the foreground, and Hinde and Dauch in the rear with printouts of the 3D model taped onto the building to see how it looks before building anything.

I’m now ready to get going with final tweaks on the 3D window file to get them printed so I can use them to make molds and cast the windows in resin. While I could theoretically 3D print all the windows, long run I think it will be cheaper to cast them, that said, you never know, I may find a way to print them for substantially less than through a commercial operation like Shapeways and be able to afford to do a test run of all 3D printed windows. Whether its H&D or a future building, we shall see as there is no shortage of buildings to go on my layout that need individual windows to be properly modelled!

Modelling Fences, from Chain Link to Board to Corrugated Steel

I wrote some time back about my learning to and making my own HO Scale Chain Link Fence. I finally got around to finishing and installing the first two segments of it, and I am really pleased with how it is looking as the layout scenery starts to progress.

The first segments of my scratch built chain link fence in position on the layout.

The next two places I need fences are not however locations for chain link, so I get to build something different. The first is the south side of Liberty Street across from the Brunswick Balke Collender billiard table factory. This site from the information I have and the aerials was the lumber yard for the factory across the road. That makes sense, as its close, and the factory filled most of the block, and I suspect in its prime it went through a lot of lumber making billiard tables and bowling alleys and such.

The small triangle that is the north edge of the lumber yard serving the Brunswick plant across the street on my layout.

My first thought on this was to re-use some fence I had salvaged when I tore down my layout in my parents house in Georgetown when they moved out. Its a perfectly nice laser cut wood fence, maybe not super well painted by me when I made it a decade ago, but re-usable. The problem was, the longer I looked at it, the more it was clear it was not the right fence for the job. An industrial site would have had a taller fence (the one I had was 5′ in scale), and it would have been a heavy board privacy fence to keep people out. So after looking at it for what seemed like days, the old fence is on its way back to the recovered scenery tub, and I built a new fence on Friday night. An 8′ high heavy board wood fence, something that feels much more right for the space when I look at it on the layout now, even unpainted just getting it into position.

Recovered fence vs. scratch built. Even unpainted the scratch built stripwood looks better and tells a stronger story about the area than the other fence would.

The second place that I need to build a fence is for the Mercer Reformatory, the women’s prison that was in the centre of Liberty Village (and along with the men’s prison to the east, part of why Liberty Street got its name, not because of war production as many think, but because its where prisoners were released to, getting their “liberty” back). I am not modelling the prison building, it is too far to the north, all that appears on my layout is the south end of the yard, and the perimeter fence.

The Mercer Reformatory area on the left, and looking at how a 10′ tall corrugated metal (or styrene) fence will look. These are also the only two trees on my layout in the corner of the prison yard!

I haven’t built the prison fence yet, it’s in my weekend work program along with getting the ground cover down (its the largest grassy area on the layout, and most of it will be out of view behind the fence!!). I’m going to get the ground cover down this afternoon, and work on building the fence on the workbench. I’m happy with the appearance, and in going back and forth with a fellow modeller of the 1950’s, the heavy metal fence tells a story about the prison being somewhere people really don’t go vs a wood fence. I don’t know what the actual fence was, any pictures I’ve found are either too far away, the wrong end of the site, or aerials where all you can tell is that its a sold fence. Therefore, modellers license, I can build the style of fence I want, and should I discover I’m really wrong in the future, its easy to take it out and redo.