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.

587 Yonge St/Bar Volo – Model Completed

For how small the model is (12″x12″ square), this has been a long slow burn of a project.  The idea of it was hatched in October 2016 when the original location of Bar Volo closed for the building to be demolished.  This will be a photo heavy post, but I will include links at the end as this is a project wrap-up post to earlier ones on the process of building the model.

This project had a bit of every aspect of model making and design, 3D printed components, designing signs for printing from the computer, working with styrene, using pan pastels, scenery techniques for the ivy.  The building and interior are all done. There are no loose ends.  I do want to make a sign for when it is out on display, and I am still messing about with which cars are going to be on the diorama, and where they go, but those are cosmetic things that can be changed as I desire.  There are no more “construction” tasks to do, the model is done!! (how nice it is to say that!)

My timing couldn’t be better, with the news this week that Bar Volo has finally found a new home, and that a liquor license application has been filed for a location only a block away from their old home, this time to the northwest of Yonge and Wellesley.  I look forward to seeing many good friends at Volo again in the future, and to bringing the model down to the bar for others to see.

With all that said,  I can now sit back and admire my model, and hopefully you enjoy it too!

IMGP7205RawConvCome on in to Bar Volo, the lights are on, the beer is flowing, and good company awaits.

The Dundonald Street (south) side of the building with the patio.

The Yonge Street view of Bar Volo.

The Interior View, showing the switches for lights, and the opening back wall so you can look into the bar and see the interior of the model.

The east side of the building, mostly hidden behind other buildings not modeled (the black card material)
IMGP7215RawConvAerial View of the diorama, the whole square foot of it!!!

View of the patio from street level, complete down to the blackboards with the beer lists on it.

Slightly higher view of the patio. As you can see, when the interior lights are on, its very visible.
IMG_5154A shot of the model to give a better sense of scale. For those not familiar, I model in what is known as HO Scale, a model railroad scale of 1″ of the model is equal to 87″ in the real world, often seen referred to as 1/87th.

Previous Blog Posts on Model:

Day Job and Hobby Time Collide: Researching Information on Structures on the City Website

The Internet is a wonderful thing, sometimes.  One place that is has become a wonderful thing is that as the requirements for better and more open data and making information regarding land use planning applications have been increased, in major cities in Ontario at least, a huge font of once hard to find information is now regularly posted on the internet for all to access.  I wrote about this previously many months ago in relation to my model of 587 Yonge Street, and finding survey plans for the site, as it was in the process of being Rezoning and obtaining Site Plan Approval to construct a condo.  Strangely enough, this is also work and hobby colliding.  As a Professional Urban Planner in a consulting company, this knowledge is something I am using every day in my day job, but it nicely collides with my hobby and my desire to collect information on Buildings I might model someday, such as the industrial buildings of Liberty Village, where conveniently, there are plenty of applications to collect material from.

When most planning applications are submitted you are required to post a notice sign to invite public comment (Site Plan Approval is slightly different, as it is not a public comment process, but Toronto still posts site plans to the AIC, so you can see the info, but the City isn’t obligated to engage the public as it’s a technical approval dealing with the development, as opposed to say a Zoning Amendment or Minor Variance where the application is to change the rules applicable to what you can build there).  For Official Plan or Zoning Amendments, a big sign (see below) has to be posted, for Minor Variance or Consent applications, a small 11″x17″ neon green or orange sign is required.  Different City’s have different signage requirements, but if you are driving around and see big signs, there might be plans that are public record available for you.

TorontoDevelopmentSign.jpgA Toronto Development Application Notice Sign. A Sign to modellers that there are plans and drawings out there waiting for you if you want to model the site.

I’m going to use the City of Toronto as an example, but I’ll include some links at the end to other City’s in Ontario’s similar sites.  In Toronto, the site is known as the “Application Information Centre”, and is accessed at  From the site, you can search by address, city planning district, or City Ward.  I personally find the City Ward is most useful to get down to an area and see whats going on.  The City has required electronic submission requirements for years, and staff have finally gotten good at making sure everything gets tagged and added to the application.  For a long time after the AIC launched, this wasn’t the case, and you can still find applications in the system that do not have drawings and reports attached to them unfortunately.

The City of Toronto “Application Information Centre”, an amazing tool for any modeller in Toronto, watch for properties being re-developed or where any application is proposed, and you’ll find plans!

Once you have located an application on a property you are interested in, click the pin, and it will open up a page with information on what is being proposed, what applications have been filed, and a list of supporting materials, i.e. everything the applicant has had to submit with the application.  This is the treasure for modellers.  There are two things you are most likely going to want, anything called a “Survey”, and anything listed as “Architectural Plans”.  Sometimes the survey drawings are included with the Architectural Plans as part of a set, sometimes not.

The screen that greets you when you open an application, and expanded to show the list of materials.

Survey plans are exactly what they sound like, a plan, prepared by a Land Surveyor that identifies the boundaries of the property, and the details of the existing structures, buildings, trees, railway tracks, whatever on the property.  These are a great tool for modellers as they show you exactly the size and shape of buildings.  The Architectural Plans can vary in their usefulness depending on what is going on.  If you want to model the building that’s been there for 50 years, but its being torn down, the plans probably only show the new building.  If it’s a change of use, addition, or even a new building, sometimes they then have plans that cover the existing building as well as the new.  personally, more often than not the survey is the most useful just to understand the size and layout of a site, any elevations or building drawings are a bonus.

BrunswickBalkeElevationsElevation drawings for the Brunswick-Balke-Collender building, included in the plans for a new office building adjacent on the site to allow City Heritage Staff to ensure the heritage building is protected (WZMH Architects Drawing).

In this case, one of the major buildings that I am planning on modelling is here in both survey to get the siting and dimensions, but in elevations for both the main building, and the powerhouse/chimney.  This is absolutely fantastic for me, and will make this an early project when layout construction begins.  I now have scale drawings that I can print in HO Scale to use to get the building shape and size right.

Because there is so much development happening in Liberty Village, I now have surveys for 5 or 6 blocks in the area, and at least partial plans for a couple of buildings.  Unfortunately, one of my key buildings, the Hinde and Dauch Paper Company that is now the Toy Factory Lofts when through the development process long before online posting.  If anyone at Quadrangle Architects or Lanterra Developments reads my blog and wants to share the topo survey of the building before construction, and the elevations for the original building, I’d love to hear from them!!

People often like to kick their government, and there are certainly plenty of things you can kick the City of Toronto for, but the Planning Department’s Application Information Centre and availability of public record documents certainly isn’t one of them.  As the requirements in the Planning Act that governs development in Ontario have evolved, more, not less Municipalities are going to wind up with sites like this making information available to modellers looking for it. Its a nice double whammy, makes my day job and my fun time more productive and easier!! Not often you can say that!

Other Major City Application Information Pages:

Lights and Ivy for 587 Yonge Street

After a week that started with me being worried that our storage locker had been robbed (here), it’s nice to have a weekend where I have no plans. Nothing to do, nowhere to be, nothing I need to be doing more important than working on model trains.  For the second straight weekend, there is also endurance racing on.  This week, it’s those wacky Australians and the Bathurst 12 Hour, where they start racing in the dark at 5:45am and race into the sunrise!! It starts at a perfectly timed 1:45pm eastern, so after watching a triple header of English Premier League games and doing odd jobs around the apartment, I’ve settled into an afternoon/evening of working on trains!  It’s a tough life, I know!

Last weekend before the locker discovery, I was working on the wiring of the LED lighting for the model of 587 Yonge Street/Bar Volo.  The ground floor has a full interior, and to see it, it needs to be lit.  There are interior lights, and there are both exterior building lights and streetlights on the model.  Finally, I’ve set it up so I can display my Rapido TTC New Look bus on the diorama if I want.  Because the bus lights are 12volt (though I am running them off a 9v battery), and the building lights are 3volt lights, there are two separate power systems, though because it is removable, the busses is just a wiring harness for a 9v battery with an inline on-off switch.

Night and Day. Testing the lighting looks like I want it to, and with the first couple of passes of leaf scatter to create the ivy on the walls.

The wiring is noting fancy.  I’m not much of a solderer or wiring expert, so mostly keeping it simple. Red to Positive, Black to Negative, two switches (one for the interior lights, one for the exterior).  They are not fully hooked up yet, but can be touched to a battery to check the solder joints are good, and that I haven’t wired anything backwards (as LED’s don’t work if you get positive and negative crossed up, and I’ve made that mistake plenty of times).

IMGP6646RawConvNot the best shot, but the only one I’ve taken with all the lights on and working, showing the effect aiming to be achieved when the model is done.

With the wiring of the lights inside the building done, before I can attach the building to the diorama base, and finish the wiring beneath to make them work, I need to finish the building.  There are numerous little details, from exterior signage, to the very visible ivy on the lower walls.  To replicate the ivy, I am using a combination of two materials that I used for making trees.  A polyfibre material that can be stretched and teased out to create the lower hanging bits of the ivy, and a static leaf materials called “Super Leaf” for the wall clinging portions.  For the lower ivy, once I had worked up some pieces I was happy with, I glued them into position.  Then, to apply the scatter material above this, I used a combination of white glue and white glue thinned with water.  The first coat was put on with straight white glue to get a good hold, then a thined wash was applied into the first coat of ivy and more of the static leaf material applied.  This was done in stages around the building over a plastic tub, so anything that didn’t glue on could be shaken off into the tub and recovered for future use.

Creating Ivy. Using some foliage clumping material for the lower portions where its hanging down, then applying a white glue base, scattering on the “Super Leaf” material.

Once the building details are done, and its fastened to the base, I’ll finish the wiring and hopefully have a finish line in sight.  For the areas where the adjacent buildings would be, at present I am just going to create view block mockups using black mounting board as if it was a theatre set, so the things that don’t exist just blend away.  Someday in the future this may find a home in a bigger module or layout, And I don’t really have any desire to create accurate bits of the adjacent buildings as I don’t think they would add to the model.

Getting perilously close to being done. Though every time I take several steps forward, I take one back. After taking these photos I knocked the air conditioner off the roof as it wasn’t as well glued on as I thought.

At this point, things are looking positive for the model to be done by early March.  This would be great as I would very much like to take it as a finished model to the Toronto Prototype Modellers meet on St Patrick’s Day at Humber College. As well, sometime after it’s complete, I’ll be setting up a night with the Morana family who own Bar Volo at their current establishment, Birreria Volo on College Street for them to see the model and display it for the beer drinking crowd that miss Bar Volo.

Continued Progress on 587 Yonge Model/Diorama

Wow, it’s been over 3 months since my last post on any actual model making that I’m doing (Oct 20, 2017 if you’re keeping track).  Since that post on the model of 587 Yonge Street, a lot has happened in my life, we lost our beloved cat Fergie, we went on vacation for ten days to the UK at Christmas, and yesterday we picked up a new little fuzzball to join our family, Gandalf.

Gandalf.JPGHi, I’m Gandalf, I’m teeny right now, but once I get bigger and am allowed to explore the whole apartment, I can’t wait to meet your trains…

But, this post isn’t a post about cats (though it totally could be!!).  While I’ve certainly written plenty about the planning of my layout to come in the intervening three months, layout planning hasn’t been happening entirely at the expense of working on models.  As I try not to work to schedules to avoid making stupid mistakes, I’ve just slowly been puttering along doing a bit of work here and there, but this is bringing me close to “milestones” in the projects completion.  The interior area of the ground floor is now basically done, as is the ceiling and the lighting.  The next steps after this are to permanently install the ceiling to the interior, and then the upper parts of the walls to the ground floor so that I can start connecting the wiring for the lights.

Progress in November and December, assembling the upper walls and test fitting them over the interior.

None of the tasks have been particularly fascinating.  The most interesting thing I’ve done is with the roof.  In trying to mimic the texture of a gravel/asphalt roof, I spent a lot of time looking for a suitable material.  I found it in decorative crafting sand from Deserres Art Stores in Canada (Sandtastic Sand).  It comes in 1lb bags for $3.49, and in 13 different colours, more than enough for the small roof I had.  I chose a light grey colour for the roof attempt.  To apply it, I spread a layer of thinned white glue on the styrene roof, and placed that in a plastic tray, and dumped sand over it.  This let me tip off any sand that didn’t catch in the glue into the tray, and recover it for future use.  Once it was set, I used a cheap rattle can of primer to paint the roof surface for two purposes, to finish holding on any loose sand, and to give some variation of colour across the roof.

IMGP4310RawConvThe roof, covered with sand and then a rough coat of primer to leave some of the sand colour and sparkle, an attempt at mimicking a gravel/asphalt flat roof.  The air conditioning unit is shown, the piping to it hadn’t been completed yet.

The rooftop mechanical equipment is a combination of a laser cut wood rooftop air conditioner from Inter-Action Enterprises and vent piping made from styrene tube. As you can see from the above picture, most of the roof is visible and not covered by equipment, so it will be quite visible on the finished model.

For the interior, I have used a combination of plastic tables and chairs from Preiser and scratchbuilt furniture from bits of stripwood and styrene.  The brick wall behind the raised bar area is a slider, so I can move that out of the way to take pictures looking through the interior, and to let people see more of the interior detail that would otherwise be hidden.

The ceiling for the first floor, with five 3D printed “Transparent Acrylic” light fixtures from my Shapeways store (hanging & flat) along with two shots of the more or less finished interior before the ceiling gets attached.

At the moment, I have mostly given up on the signs for the tanning salon in the upper windows.  The decals I made myself are not dark enough to be visible on the black plastic I used for the windows.  The only one I got to work is the one pride flag that was hanging in a prominent window at the corner of the building.  These were mostly individual letters that said “Tanning”, but some where overall blanking panels with the letters cut out.  They aren’t the core of the model, and revisiting decals or transfers for this is something I can come back to down the road.

IMGP4944RawConvAnother test fitting of all the parts of the model.  Next up, installing the ceiling in the interior and the walls so I can connect all the wiring for the interior and exterior lights.

So, with that, I’m settled in for the first major 24 hour endurance race of the year on TV, the 24 Hours of Daytona, hopefully some puttering on the model in the night, and waiting on our new kitty becoming comfortable enough in his new home to come out and get to know us a bit.