Happy New Years (2022)

Happy New Years Friends! I hope you are well and that for all of us, that 2022 is a better year than the one before, and that it brings us all a much needed return to some normalcy where we can share our hobby and the wonderful social aspects of it together with less worry. I’m celebrating the new year by watching football and eventually getting back upstairs to work on building freight car kits. The three kits above are all Yarmouth Model Works, Kit YMW-113 West India Fruit Company ACF 40′ 50 Ton, YMW-104 Wabash 88200-88699 12 Panel Boxcar, and YMW-121-2 Norfolk & Western B-5 40′ with Interior Carline Roof. As you can see, the WIF car is painted and ready for weathering, the other two in the last week of the old year reached the point of being fully assembled. Painting and Decalling will mean these two cars will eventually be my first finished projects of 2022 (and I’ve already fixed the damaged door rail on the N&W car you can see in the picture that I bent in my panavise while building the car). The kits produced by Pierre Oliver who runs Yarmouth Model Works are fantastic, I have these three, one more partially built, and three more to build in 2022. All things being equal, I will be buying more of the kits he’s currently offering, and hopefully others in the future as he adds to his product line.

Here’s to a better 2022!

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!

I’m Batman…. (That’s No Train Part 9)

I am of an age, where one of the first big event movies in what has become a golden age of Superhero movies on the big screen was 1989’s Batman, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton as Batman, Kim Basinger as Vicky Vale, and Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier….ok…The Joker :). This was one of the first movies I remember being super excited for (I was 10), and having toys come out with it. I loved the Batmobile, it was just awesome beyond all conception to me. Both our wedding anniversary and my birthday were in the past few weeks, and my wonderful wife knew I’d been going back and forth on buying myself a massive LEGO set for months, and given we can’t go out for dinner or get away for a weekend as we normally do for our Birthday/Anniversaries that all fall within a couple of weeks of each other, she offered to buy me said giant LEGO set. So with that, yes, this is another “That’s No Train” project, past ones can be read about here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8!

You know you are loved when someone gives you 3308 peices of LEGO for your wedding anniversary/birthday present.

This is LEGO, not rocket science, but it filled my birthday that conveniently fell on a Sunday nicely. I find building LEGO to be incredibly soothing. There is something satisfying about finding the pieces in the bags and clicking them together. There is also something incredibly easing know that LEGO’s production and packaging has virtually eliminated the possibility that you are missing a piece. There are ample books and TV shows out there on LEGO’s philosophy and manufacturing process, but it is immensely impressive to me that as part of their growth, they also focused on the little thing, like making it such that no kid who gets their product (big kid like me or actual kid) can’t finish building their toy because it is missing parts. As you can see in the pictures that follow, there were 24 numbered bags for each stage through the very thick book with 614 steps, and two more bags of oddball parts plus the tires loose in the box!

The first 3/4 of the build, from unboxing to my dinner and cake break.

Again, one of the nice things about LEGO is that it goes together and comes apart. I did make some mistakes through the build, but when you find them, it is easy enough to disassemble a part of the set to fix your error. I started around noon, and stopped around 6 for dinner. I don’t know that I would say I am the fastest LEGO builder, but I am certainly not slow. I find it very zen working through the pieces, and once I start I just kinda get in a groove and keep going.

What’s a Birthday without some cake? In this case, home made S’mores Cake from my wife. It was awesome.

After a couple of hours break for dinner and desert, and some porch visits with friends, it was back at it and finishing the massive build in a day. I have to give Lego a lot of credit, they really do put a lot of effort into making these large sets look like what they are, and have play value if you were so inclined. On the Batmobile, the steering wheel in the car turns the front wheels, the canopy slides and opens, if you turn the jet exhaust at the back, it makes the twin guns pop out the top like in the movie. It also came with three minifigs of the Joker, Batman and Vicky Vale, along with a little stand for them as if they were at the top of the Gotham Cathedral at the end of the movie.

Gallery of the finished LEGO Batmobile. yes, its big. Its approximately 8″ wide by 23″ long. And every bit is awesome!

This is one of those things that it was absolutely the right thing at the right time. Something that was both fun and soothing to fill some hours, of course we watched the 1989 Batman movie while I was building it, and at least in my mind it still stands up for what it is. Some of the effects maybe haven’t aged great, but so much of it was practical in an era before CGI, it actually still looks good as it doesn’t show the age that early CGI does as technology has rapidly advanced.

A present so good it needed a whole new shelf! LEGO 1989 Batmobile with my 1989 Batman and Joker Funko POP Vinyl figures.

So with that, I actually have no projects in the house that are not trains! Everything is either the Liberty Village Layout, the Canyon Road Diorama, or other miscellaneous models I’ve never finished or want to upgrade. I am going to try and keep it this way for a while, partly so I make some serious progress on the trains, but also because I don’t really have space for anything else, or to add more shelves, so the next “That’s No Train” really needs to be something I want to do. No doubt in time when I need a distraction from Trains, something will inevitably present itself.

May the 4th Be With You (That’s No Train Part 8)

Happy Star Wars Day! As they say, May the Force Be With you! This is a good one (at least as far as I’m concerned!). I am, at my core, a geek/nerd whatever term you choose, I don’t care. I like nerdy things. All my life I have loved Star Wars. I remember having Star Wars toys in the toy chest in my Kindergarten classroom (boy those early Kenner toys we beat the crap out of at playtime would be worth something nowadays to collectors!), I remember family trips to Tennessee in the 1980’s and first seeing Star Wars movies in bits and pieces on motel TV’s. Yes, this is another That’s No Train project, past ones can be read about here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7!

This project is a little diorama/oversized book nook with the Bandai 1/12th scale Darth Vader figure. It is a model of the best scene in the best movie since the original trilogy, Rogue One, the hallway scene where Darth Vader appears and unleashes his fury on the rebel crew trying to get the stolen Death Star plans away to the rebellion. This was one of the legendary “re-shoots” of this movie, where after the first cut was done, they realized it wasn’t working and they went back to add scenes to fix it. Its hard for me to imagine what this movie was like without this scene, though its also hard to remember that in 1977, the world was told Darth Vader was this bad assed villain, but you never really got to see him in action in the original Star Wars. Here, in this prequel to A New Hope, you get a glimpse of Vader unleashed, and its awesome!

I am a tease, the finished Vader hallway ridiculously lights up my entire home office from its new home on top of a bookcase. The best part is, this will be floating above my head behind me in work zoom calls now!

I have built several of the 1/12th Scale Bandai Star Wars droids, and I wrote about them in That’s No Train Part 5, the Bandai kits are made for the Japanese market, where there is markedly less tolerance for poorly designed and engineered kits. Over the years, the handful of kits from the big Japanese manufacturers Hasegawa, Tamiya and Bandai have far outstripped those from American manufacturers in terms of the quality of design and ease of building. The Vader is the first non-droid kit I have done, and I had my doubts about the more human kits and how they would look compared to a droid that can be a bit mechanical and chunky at the joints without looking wrong. In the interests of full disclosure, my motivation for my take on this project came from two YouTube videos of builds of the Vader from Boylei Hobby Time, one where he first lit the light sabre, and one where he did a diorama that I used as the inspiration for mine. See them here and here. I am, quite pleased with how the Vader looks. I basically built it as per the instructions aside from the light sabre and painting all the little details rather than using the stickers or decals provided (it comes with both, which is a nice tough for those less familiar with water slide decals but who want a nice looking build).

A collection of work in progress shots of designing and building the hallway box diorama. As with all the Bandai kits I’ve built, the build is straightforward and no mussing about.

For this to work, the light sabre needs to light up, doing so, was a challenge, until I saw the videos above, and of course, through the wonders of the internet, you can buy LED filaments without them being in a bulb, that work off 3V batteries. Lights using 3V coin cells or 9V batteries are what I have become familiar with wiring for, so knowing I could buy these from AliExpress meant I was working with something I knew. The harder part, especially with bars closed was finding red cocktail straws! I eventually found some on Amazon…Incidentally, if anyone needs 998 red plastic cocktail straws, I have some I can send you!

The LED Filament Bulb, testing getting it to stay straight with the cocktail straw, and with Vader holding it, the difference when the room lights are on vs. off is tremendous in terms of the glow.

In deciding to do the diorama, I needed to make some arches for the spaceship corridor Vader appears in at the end of Rogue One. In looking at how big the figure is, that made even a small hallway, 8″ square. These arches were going to be big. When I drew it in CAD, I drew four arches as you can see in the photos, as I looked at the model, that was clearly too many. I was however, struggling with how to create three identical (or close enough) arches that would look good. In discussing with an engineer friend, he noted he had a home PLA 3D printer and that the arches just fit on the build plate, he could 3D print them for me. Initially I thought about having him print one and casting them, but that would have been a massive mold and a ton of resin, vs the cheap cost of the 3D prints. He was able to run three off, then bring them to me. Figuring out the best settings meant that one of the three was just an outline, but I was able to add styrene walls to enclose it, and the difference is all hidden by paint. In fact, the imperfect surface of the extruded 3D print is perfect for the beaten up spaceship look that the hallway kind of has in the movie. As with everything of late it seems, the arches and box was stretching the size of things I can fit into my spray booth the airbrush. I got it done, but not without plenty of finagling and a bit of swearing at myself!

The arch design on my computer, building the box without arches, the 3D printed arches arriving and then painting and assembly up to a basically complete shot but with the lights on so you don’t get any real effect from the light sabre.

So, with this done, I have no “non train” model kits on my workbench (other than a 3000+ piece Lego Set that was my Birthdayversary present for our wedding anniversary last week and my birthday next….). Maybe I’ll write about that too. So without further ado, having drawn this out impossibly longer than any sane person would, I give you, The Dark Lord of the Sith, Lord Vader from Rogue One…

POP! Goes the Selfie (That’s No Train Part 7)

So, sometime before Covid, I decided I was going to do a Funko POP! Vinyl Selfie of myself. I did one years ago for my better half, and thought I should do one for myself. Yes, this is another That’s No Train project, past ones can be read about here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6!

After some time trying to figure out how I wanted to immortalize myself, I settled on something I don’t do anymore, for many years from my mid-teens to late 20’s I Umpired Baseball. I like to think I was quite good, I was a Baseball Ontario Level 3, which was the highest level I could achieve without having to go through lengthy assessment processes and even more involved training. I enjoyed it, but eventually, my knees and back told me that it was time to stop doing it if I wanted to be able to walk in the future.

Pictures of my Umpiring Baseball around 2006ish. I have precious few photographs of me actually doing this.

Making the custom POP starts with a “Blank DIY” pop that Funko sells. They sell male and female versions, they can be hard to find, I got mine from Amazon to be perfectly honest. In terms of how to create, I use Air Dry Clay for it, you can make shapes, its got a decent working time, and will stick on its own if you want, but that can also he helped with a thin coat of Weldbond Glue once you have the clay formed to shape if it doesn’t want to stay stuck on its own.

Various work in progress photographs. Applying clay and working out the mask and glasses.

Making the Umpire POP Selfie, I wanted my right fist up making an out sign (my favourite thing to do was ring people up when they were out), and holding my face mask. The arm move was easy, carefully cut off the arm with a jewellers saw, drill in either side for a pin, and re-position/glue. The clothes from clay would hide the worst of the cut. The mask, was tougher. My first try in the pictures was done with rolling out clay. It, frankly looked kludgey and didn’t stay together. With a spark of inspiration, I realized that aluminum armature wire used for making figures would be perfect, it is easily shaped, keeps its shape, and can be glued. I actually wound up using my favourite “non-glue” Bondic, a UV cured adhesive. I also out of the blue recently got an email from a fellow modeller Ric De Candido who I haven’t talked with in a while about a product he had been introduced to from Tamiya, a metal primer. I had picked some up for train projects, but painting the mask was the first time I put it to use. A couple of coats with the built in brush in the cap and it took a coat of spray glossy black from the airbrush perfectly. Sometimes, things just work out where you get a helpful tip from a friend you haven’t talked to just when you need it!

The Air Dry Clay Mask, it was not a success. I sadly seem to have not taken any pictures of the work in progress armature wire mask.

Painting on this was pretty straightforward. Base coated it in the pinky flesh tone similar to what POP uses, then brush paint the rest of the colours and details. I realize looking at the pictures above, I painted the ball bags on my hips for storing baseballs navy instead of grey. In the haze of recollection, I think at some point I was using two, one navy and one grey. I also used Microscale Kristal Klear to make the glass lenses. If I was doing it again, one area where I “cheeped” on this was making the glasses myself instead of buying a set from one of the numerous POP customizers on Etsy who 3D print glasses. Frankly, that may be an area I revisit in the future

It’s me, in POP! Vinyl form!

So with that, other than some touchups, another project off the workbench! The last time I wrote about a non-train project, I said I was gathering pieces for another project. This one isn’t that, so there is another That’s No Train on my workbench for another day.