A freight shed and learning to Cast Resin

Saturday this weekend I got together with my friends Ryan Mendell and Trevor Marshall at Ryan’s house. He was coming to my end of the City in the morning to go shopping at Sculpture Supply Canada, a store that specializes in casting and model making supplies. I suspect most of their business is costume makers and the like, but it’s a handy place for model railroaders too. Ryan has recently started his own business selling freight car kits and tools that he’s designed at National Scale Car, so he’s going through resin casting supplies making molds and producing parts for his kits. When he said he was going to be in my end of town, and he then offered a get together at his place with Trevor who wanted to work on some of his projects using Ryan’s fantastic workshop (I’ll send you to Trevor’s blog to here his tales), I jumped at the chance. I packed up a kit for the layout I hadn’t started, and off we went. After stops at Sculpture Supply and Wheels and Wings Hobbies, we made it to Ryan’s.

IMG_8114
The Kanamodel CNR Freight Shed kit in progress. I’m using it for a loading dock shed on Pardee Avenue, as its close enough and saves me building something from scratch. I’m building it about 3″ shorter than the kits normal size to fit the space it has.

The kit I brought is from a company called Kanamodel, which sadly went out of business around 2017 when the owner passed away. I’ve built a couple of their kits before, and was generally happy with them, but the resin parts in the kit that form the roof supports on the top of a wooden post were in a word, abject. Of the six in the kit, one was passably decent, three were usable, and two were garbage. Fortunately, I only need four, but Ryan suggested this would be a good project to make a mold of and cast some new ones as a way for me to dip a toe into resin casting. For the buildings of Liberty Village, in the long run it will be easier for me to 3D print the masters for the windows, and cast them from resin. They’ll be cheaper in the long run, and if I break a window, a new one is only a few minutes away, which avoids the problem I learned on my model of Bar Volo, if you 3D print, and you have no spares, you’re a bit screwed if you break any!!

 

Making my first mold box with the one decent roof truss in the kit.

I have always found the notion of casting parts to be daunting, I think some of that was you first have to build a good model to use as your master for making the mold. Now that’s easier for me with 3D printing, but having never seen any of it done, I didn’t really understand the process. This process applies to flat or 2D items, anything that is detailed all around is a different process making a multipart mold box. For what I was doing, glue the part down to a styrene base, then build the mold box walls to hold in the rubber around it. A quick spray with a mold release, and then the two part rubber can be poured in. Bang the mold on the table to get air bubbles to rise out, give it a couple of minutes, put on a piece of wax paper, and slide a block of glass/acrylic across to squeeze out any excess rubber and create a flat base. Put on some weights, and then let it sit for a bit (the length depends on the rubber being used). Once its cured, it pops right out. a little bit of cleaning, and then its on to making resin and casting.

 

The stages of making a rubber mold. The two part mix, the box ready for the rubber, the mold filled with rubber, smoothing out the mold (this side will be the bottom when casting, and needs to be flat so the part fills with resin), and weighting it down while the rubber cures.

Similar to the mold material, the resin is a 2 part product, you mix them together, and once that’s done, you have a “pot life” and a “cure time”. The pot life is how long it is liquid and can be poured to try and get it into the mold. For what Ryan was using, it was 3 minutes. Then you wait, the advertised cure time was 10 minutes, but his basement was a bit cool and it took closer to 20 minutes. But when done, out popped a replacement part, with all the imperfections of the original perfectly replicated.

 

The mold out of the box to make it, and the first casting of a new roof truss.

Because we were getting late in the day, and Trevor and I both had to leave, I wasn’t able to cast the four parts I needed, but we cleaned up our various messes in Ryan’s workshop, and Ryan said he’ll cast me a few more of the parts for the next time we see each other. It was a great learning experience, and I think I understand the basic process well enough now to pick up supplies, and try it on my own in the future.

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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.

Brunswick Balke Collender Power House

This weekend, in my process of constructing the Liberty Village Line, while I am still plugging away without laying track, I decided to start converting the large remnant piece of 0.060″ Styrene from the backdrop into the structures for the layout.

img_7205Not the most convenient work surface, but when I was dealing with an 8′ sheet of styrene, the floor is all I’ve got to get rough cuts done at least.

With the big chunk of leftover styrene, I have enough material to make a serious dent in the internal cores of a large number of structures on the layout. I decided to start with the only structure I’ve mocked up (I’ll mock-up the others once the track is laid and final alignment known). The first building to start taking true physical form is the power house for the Brunswick Balke Collender company, which made pool tables and bowling alleys and other entertainment/games. The buildings are both still there, the powerhouse (now modified to be a bank), and the factory building which houses offices and restaurants.

Wall cores cut from 0.060″ styrene sheet, cutting corner braces from 0.25″ square styrene, and gluing the first corners together.

With the space I have for the layout, my boilerhouse is about half the size of the real building. I’m compressing it by shortening the building, so that I can fit the main wall of the factory onto the layout as well. This is a pretty simple building for the main structure. Four walls, for my purposes, only three openings, two doors and a window on the south wall adjacent to the tracks.

This is a simple building, only the “front” wall adjacent to Liberty Street has any openings in my selectively compressed version to fit the layout space.

The Chimney will be a bit more complicated. I’m still working on how I’m going to creat it. I also don’t have nearly enough patterned brick sheet for building the larger buildings or the chimney. I’ve got a show coming up next weekend where I’m selling more stuff from the collection (I’ll post an update about that mid-week). The Chimney has a taper from bottom to top, and then a flare at the top. Fortunately, the Chimney is a down the road problem. First things first is to build the main part of the building.

Working on adding trim around the doors and window, the wall with a brick veneer added, and then with doors and window in place.

This is being built-in “traditional” ways. Sheet styrene, injection molded styrene doors and window from Grandt Line (now out of business, all their tooling has bought by a new company, the San Juan Model Co.). It was a nice simple structure for my weekend, four walls, a roof, a bit of detail around where the chimney will be. After working on and off between other household tasks, the walls are all together, with brick, the window and doors are in place, and the roof is rough cut in place. I held off on attaching it as I am debating best order of operations for attaching it, detailing it, etc along with the building walls so I don’t take a step that then makes painting the walls the buff beige/yellow colour that the brick actually is, as opposed to the red of the styrene sheet.

img_7235Replacing the cardboard structure with a taped on printout of an architectural drawing (of the modernized building) with some styrene and a cardboard chimney (everything in due course).

While I doubt that I will have been able to paint it before the Copetown and Toronto Railway Prototype Modeller meets at the end of February/Beginning of March, I suspect this will be one of the few things I actually bring with me to these get togethers, if only because I haven’t been building much else that’s portable in the past year with the house move and layout construction!

Saturday Nights all right for Layout Progress

Since my discovery last weekend that I had effectively blocked the CPR staging to the point that it wouldn’t function effectively with the existing closet shelf brackets, I’ve fixed that problem, and moved on with some actual layout building, working on the traversers, laying out elements, and my first mockup building.

Replacement shelf brackets in place, which give me the space to have a full set of tail tracks at both ends of the closet traverser. I have a piece of wood perfectly sized for the one end, I’ll need to get a piece cut for the other if I do want to add more tracks.

One big plus of the problem I discovered last week is that it means I get more staging and run around space in the closet. I don’t know if I will need it or not, but it won’t hurt to have it.  Two metal L brackets later, the storage shelf in the closet is supported, and the tracks are no longer fouled. I’ll need to carefully remove the foam from the one end in the closet to remove the wood and install the new piece, but I have an off-cut from the benchwork construction in August which is the perfect size for the staging in this area.

As I’d noted last weekend, I was using the new rotary cutter I bought to cut cork and foam. The traversers both now have their cork roadbed in place. It’s not glued down yet, no reason other than I hadn’t gotten around to it!

Two shots of the CNR Staging Traverser, now with cork roadbed in place. On the right you can see me mocking up the roads with EVA Foam, which will be the underlay to raise them almost to track height so I don’t have to use as much putty/plaster to create the roads.

I’m doing everything in nice slow stages. Build the benchwork, let it sit and settle a bit, put on the foam, let it sit and settle a bit. Lay the cork, let it sit and be sure before I glue it down. In a few weeks time once my friend is done building switches, then I’ll be motivated to start getting cork glued down so I can actually lay some track. Early 2019 is going to be fun with laying track and then figuring out wiring and DCC to run some trains! I want to have the track laid and wired and running flawlessly before I start any serious scenery work.

I debated back and forth about laying track directly onto the foam instead of using cork, but I decided I wanted to use the cork, as it will raise the track level, which means I can build “foundations” for the buildings that can be blended into the scenery. Liberty village was pretty flat, even between the tracks and the road, but between the cork/track and the EVA sheet raising the roads to basically rail level, it will give me the opportunity to fill the gaps with sculptamold/ground cover materials to create undulations and imperfections so that everything isn’t unrealistically washboard flat.

That said, while I’m not starting full on scenery, I am going to start working on mockups of the buildings for the layout to get a sense of size and scope of the work I have coming in building buildings, and to look for places where the buildings as I’ve envisioned them will block operations.

Brunswick Balke Collender takes shape, in cardboard mockup form. Depth makes such a difference, and quick mockups allow for making decisions before time is spent on finished buildings.

The Brunswick Balke Collender Co factory is going to be the first thing people see when they enter the room. I’ve had a printout of a drawing taped to the wall since the summer, but with starting to block out roads and such to see how/if things will work as planned, it seemed like a good time when I got a big piece of thin cardstock to make a mockup. Mockups are great, they are fast, make a layout look less empty, and let you look for things you’ll need to adjust in the finished model. For example, the main building will just be the south wall, set at an angle so that the east side has a bit of depth, and the west side will have non/minimal.  The boiler house, a separate building is going to need to be compressed to fit the space. It’s going to have its full width and height, but will be somewhere around 30% of its actual depth. My mockup is a bit too deep still, but its a lot cheaper and easier to find out my first estimate was too big in cardboard than styrene later.

As I move forward, I’m sure I’ll find lots more adjustments to buildings once the track is in place and I prepare the mockups, but that’s all part and parcel of the layout building experience.