See Through Layout Edge Buildings

Looking through the foundry building to the layout after spraying the interior black. I can see some light leaks now that its painted on the interior.

My layout has five structures that will be located between the edge of the layout and the tracks. I have built one of them so far. There are a number of ways that this can be tackled by modellers to make them look good. You can put a false back on so the fascia board extends to close it in, you can build full, detailed interiors, or you can make them see through “shadow boxes”. I am going with the shadow box/theatre staging version of making them see-through. I don’t really know what the interiors looked like, and they are all slightly compressed and the widest is about 1 inch deep. That doesn’t make for great model space, and I think, as you can see, it creates a bit of a shadow box effect. I don’t have “glass” in the windows yet, as I still have to paint the window frames on the finished building side, so I can’t glaze them. I think the effect of looking through a shadowbox building will be really interesting and less distracting than made up interiors.

Painted & Decalled “Painted” Wall Signs

Continuing to make progress on the structures I have built for the layout, one is finally seriously nearing completion. With the windows painted on the Brunswick Balke Collender factory, the next step was the three large painted signs that adorned the southern facade of the factory. Once these are done, I can move on to weathering and getting the building with a good coat of mid 1950’s soot that adorned all of Toronto back then.

First stop, the paint booth with decals for the black part of the sign printed on our injet, and spraying the white blocks for the text onto the walls.

For the signs, there are many different ways to do them. My chosen way is to paint the white onto the walls, and make decals for the black portions. I have clear decal sheet for doing this kind of thing. I know you can get white decal paper, but my past experience with it is that you get white around the edges when you trim your decals to size and apply them. Using clear paper, means that if there is clear carrier at the edges, it can blend away.

To make the decals, I used good old Adobe Photoshop CS3 (I don’t have a computer capable of running anything more modern, nor the inclination to pay a monthly user fee forever and ever) to produce them at 1:1 size for my structure after measuring it. The top sign has been restored, the lower two were not when the building was recently renovated, but I fortunately have a single shot I took in 2005 where you can mostly make out what the two lower signs said. Between that, and some internet investigative work on Brunswick Balke and their old drawn images on corporate letterhead, I am confident that if anything is wrong, its not very wrong.

Decals going on. They are so long they need to be done in two parts. After the first half was down, I trimmed the second half to minimize overlap while leaving myself clear alignment points at a letter to match the halves.

For the decals, once they are printed, the need to be sealed to actually go in the water and slide on. I have an old rattle can of Testors Decal Bonder spray from my first efforts at making decals years ago. A little goes a long way. To be honest, I probably even in my couple of light coats applied too much, but given the size of my decals, a thicker coating so that would hopefully not tear (spoiler, they did not tear) seemed wiser than thin and having to fix issues.

2005 compared to my model. Now it just needs weathering. Somewhere between the pristine look the model currently has and the completely weather-beaten pre-restoration look of 2005.

The signs have worked out pretty much perfectly. The white paint shows the brick pattern clearly, and the black home made decals have mostly settled in to find the nooks and crannies to also look like they are paint and not a decal. They need a bit more work in a few sports with a pin and some microsol to get in underneath and finish the job, but walking into the layout room (or just down the hall toward it), this building is very prominent as you enter the room, and every bit of movement forward re-affirms my decision to build this first and work on advancing this area of the layout as seeing it continue to move from vision to reality keeps me motivated on the numerous other projects, even if I haven’t been getting as much done of late on the layout as I might want to with my focus being spent on my “distraction diorama” that I needed just to do something different for a bit to feel refreshed and re-find motivation for layout projects. After all, the 80+ windows of Hinde and Dauch are still waiting for me to cut the openings and cast the windows before I can do the next set of painted wall signs there, which are much bigger than these ones are!

An April Sunday Night Omnibus Update

I realized I haven’t written about anything I’ve done or been working on for over two weeks, and while that’s not really all that long, its been a weird, though productive couple of weeks, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like that to me. So with that in mind, here is a kind of “month end” omnibus edition post on most everything I’ve been working on (there is one thing with a post upcoming I’ve spent a lot of time on that is not for this post), as I’m not feeling motivated to write a lot of words on one thing, but some pictures and a few words on a bunch of things feels good and again drives home that sometimes, you are making progress even when you don’t always see it! A lot of my writing is not just to share the joy model making gives me, or to share techniques, but to keep me motivated by looking at what I am doing and seeing concrete progress by putting it in words and pictures.

First up, a project that came so close to being “finished” in March, but dragged into April for decals and dull-coating. A pair of Canadian Pacific 10′-6″ interior height NSC AAR box cars. Similar to the two CNR ones I finished other than weathering in January, these are Intermountain undecorated kits built with National Scale Car mini-kits to get the correct doors and ends for Canadian built cars. These are all done other than weathering and any adjustments to make them good runners on the layout. Of course, no sooner do I finish two kits than two more from Yarmouth Model Works arrive to go in the queue. I see a pattern here!!

A pair of CPR Box Cars in final decaling and then dullcoated and on the layout.

Next up, another quick project that has happened on a whim in April! Way back in 2004, I took my first vacation from work, I’d been working for about a year and half after finishing university, and took two weeks to go to England and just do railway stuff. On that trip, I bought a 1/4 scale replica nameplate at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway of LNER/BR B17 61648 Arsenal. This class of locomotive was known as “Footballers” because they were named after English football teams. Early in April, I saw a crazy sale on a Hornby B17, but with the wrong name/number. That is a situation easily fixed. On a Sunday I ordered a locomotive and then replacement etched nameplates and number decals from Fox Transfers, and a couple of weeks later they both arrived across the ocean. A couple of hours of work with isopropyl alcohol and a toothpick to remove the wrong numbers, prying off the factory nameplates, and some carefully gluing, and a quick project I’ve wanted for years, a model of Arsenal to go with my nameplate was done. Didn’t advance the layout one iota (though as you can see, the layout doesn’t do too badly for photographing British Models!)

Voila, from 61665 “Leicester City” to 61648 “Arsenal” in a couple of hours. The replica nameplate can be seen in the background.

Another non-layout project is what started as a”Blank Canvas“, aka an Ikea shelf! I have been busy on this too, working on other scenery skills I don’t necessarily need for the layout, but which are good and where I felt I needed something different to work on to break up working on the layout scenery which is very much samey across the layout. Since I last posted, I have been working on learning to use a Hot Wire Foam Cutter to cut and trim the foam base for the terrain on either side of the tracks, along with laying and painting the track, and building the signals. I have gotten it to the point where the track and roadbed is down, the foam is carved to shape and glued in, and the signals are built and almost finished being painted and assembled. The Hot Wire Cutter probably deserves a post of its own, and I may take some pictures of me cutting a mock-up pieces to do that. Its definitely one of those things I’ve seen people write about over the years, and while I haven’t built much scenery, the difference between my rough carving the block of foam and the mess that made vs. using the Hot Wire is immense. Now I get it!

Going from a 3″ thick chunk of foam to formed terrain for along the tracks and to support the wooden bridge (currently in fancy cardboard mockup form). The GO Bi-Levels are the closest I have to AAR Plate C modern freight cars in size, so not quite tall enough, but they are a great help for making sure I have clearance. As always, any available heavy items including a “Heritage” Don Valley Brickworks brick are used to weight down track when its glued!

My layout has no signalling, but the diorama kind of needs them to make the scene I am building an homage to. Now, having built two signals that don’t even change aspect (I’ve built them with single colour aspects showing for photography), re-affirms that I don’t have the patience or wiring skills to do more than that! I ordered the kits from a company called Showcase Miniatures, and they are awesome, even if I’m no good at wiring. If you are looking for signals, I can highly recommend their kits based on my experiences thus far. What they have also illuminated, is how lucky we were pre-pandemic to just pop out to the hobby shop. I am constantly finding things I don’t have, that will then take weeks to get potentially, like the discovery that I don’t in fact have a sheet of black lettering for the signal ID boards, so I’m kinda ground to a halt, though luckily one of my local suppliers TMR Distributing had them and some other bits and pieces I need for various projects, so I may have what I need this week if the post office cooperates at all (not that I have much faith in Canada Post).

Images of signal building. Multiple aspects of this probably deserve their own post, and who knows, maybe I will get motivated to do that! Simple things, like tiny balls of blue sticky tack in the light openings while painting to protect the LED’s. Sometimes the simpliest things get the best results.

Back in December, I was briefly super excited by my progress in wiring a decoder and programming it into a second Alco S-2 for the CPR side of my loco fleet, then, I blew up the decoder with a wiring short. I managed to not throw the loco, and this weekend made some progress on painting and decalling. This locomotive is going to be in CP’s early maroon and grey “Block” lettering scheme. I have been offered by a friend to do the 2nd go round of the DCC install for me, and I am going to send the locomotive to them in a few weeks once the shell is finished, so that they can do the installation, and when it comes back to me, hopefully I won’t have to take the shell off anytime soon, and won’t risk shorting it out again!

Masking and painting the maroon parts of a CPR Also S-2 switcher. Needs a quick shot of clear coat for the decals, then I can apply lettering.

Just to prove that not everything I’ve been doing is not advancing the layout scenery itself, the last few things have been small, but important painting and learning on the buildings.

Continuing work on painting buildings. Masked and painted windows on Brunswick Balke, working on some “Natural” red sandstone details on 60 Atlantic, and testing Roberts Brick Mortar on the Brunswick power house. The super salmon pink colour on 60 Atlantic will be, toned down! The brick mortar looks better in pictures than I think it does in person. I haven’t quite got the application technique down yet for it to be subtle. Hopefully when I apply some pan pastel weathering it tones it down to the sweet spot in person and in pictures!

So, as its been said before, probably even by me, a little bit of time every day turns into big progress. I have lots of things on the go, things I am working on, things I could be working on, things I think about working on, things I should be working on instead of coming up with new distractions, but all put together, some of that scatterbrained projects all over the place is a part of my hobby as much as making progress is. I don’t know about others, but for me, hitting a point of “oh hey, that worked and looks really good” just seems to sneak up on me from periods of not feeling like I am actually doing anything.

Making a Start on Painting Buildings

I have been working on the buildings for the layout. I have four that are getting close to done, in the sense that they are basically built, and have been waiting on my getting a move on with painting them! Some buildings on my layout will be too big for my paint booth, this means that they can only be painted outdoors on our patio, which, in Toronto means a reliable window in the spring and fall, summer if its not humid, and definitely not the winter half of the year!

First up, windows for 60 Atlantic. Trying something different with this one, painting the windows separate from the building.

First up, for 60 Atlantic, I am trying something new to me, building the structure, but keeping the windows separate until everything is painted. Using a technique I picked up from Jason Shron on his Kingston Subdivision layout blog, I bought a roll of double sided woodworking tape, it is tacky (maybe too tacky for somethings I’m doing), but its not designed to make a permanent bond. This makes it perfect for painting, I can lightly hold parts like windows and doors in place while I paint, instead of them blowing away as you spray paint and air from an airbrush at them. I am painting the frames for 60 Atlantic an off-white colour. Once the building walls are done being painted, I can install these into the walls, and blend them in before installing window glass from behind.

Painting the Gilbert Foundry. Sadly, all of this brickwork is almost never going to be seen as it faces the track on the layout edge side!

For my buildings, I am using Vallejo Model Air as my base coats. I am mixing custom colours for most if not all buildings, and doing it as one offs when I paint a building. This will mean that each building, even with similar brick tones, either reds or buff yellows in Toronto won’t be exactly the same. That said, I did use the same red mix for the Gilbert Foundry and the front wall of 60 Atlantic. The foundry brick will sadly be almost invisible as 80% of it faces into the layout, and by the time I have added mortar colour and grime from a time when Toronto was a city of coal smoke and dirty brick, they won’t look the same.

Painting 60 Atlantic. It has two tone brick, buff around the sides, and red on the front. I painted the red first, masked the teeth on the corner, then the buff.

60 Atlantic has buff brick around most of the building, but the main entrance wall was done with red brick, no doubt to make it more impressive. For this building, I painted the red first, and let it cure overnight. I then masked the tooth pattern along the south wall corner, where the red brick wraps around onto the side and mixes with the buff. I then sprayed the buff. For this building, I used the straight Vallejo Buff colour. I then mixed the Buff with some Sand Brown to make a darker buff for the adjacent buildings at Brunswick Balke Collender. The main building and power plant will be dirty, but also have three wall width painted signs on the upper brick courses of the factory. I need to get going on drawing these up to make painting templates/decals for the signs. I still haven’t figured out exactly how I am going to do them. I have had good luck in the past making “painted” signs by painting the underlayer white, and then making decals for the black part to go over the top. That was give or take 15 years ago the last time I did that, things have advanced a lot. I may look at seeing if one of my friends with a Cricut vinyl cutter or similar can make me templates to mask the white lettering and then spray the black paint too. This may be one where I need to do some experimentation, but of course, first I have to get the buildings ready for that, and draw the signs.

Back on the layout, with a base coat of paint on a couple of buildings. Onward to the next steps of painting these buildings.

I can already say even just base colour on the buildings makes another big difference on the layout. Still a long way to go on both these and the rest of the buildings, but progress is always a nice feeling.

Just plugging away on Projects

February has been a bit of a blah month. I haven’t had a lot of motivation. I’ve been working on things as evidenced by finishing my POP Selfie, but I don’t feel like, and in fact I know I haven’t made much progress on the layout, and that’s OK. 12 months ago I was just starting to think about scenery having just gotten my DCC system up and running and finding the worst of the electrical gremlins that were shorting it out when I first powered it up.

February 2021 Things, two decaled and dullcoated CN AAR 10′-6″ with NSC3 End boxcars ready for weathering, using one of them as a guide for two CPR versions of the cars, and an octagonal chimney arrived via Ebay for Canadian General Electric.

“Finishing” the first two of many box car kit projects I have on the go felt really good earlier this month. I use quotations, as they need to be weathered, not heavily, but to look used. Both cars are 3-4 years old, and I model an era before rampant grafitti and rustbucket cars. They don’t need to be beaten to death, just used looking, some dirt and grime. I am also using them as guides for a pair of CPR box cars brake and underbody detail. This isn’t my favourite part of freight cars, and if I’m honest, close enough is good enough. My layout is close to eye level, so you do see the underbody a bit more, but its still largely hidden. I also, received something I’ve been trying to buy for at least two years, a Cibolo Crossing cast hydrocal octagonal chimney. The Canadian General Electric factory has a distinctive octagonal chimney, and building one from scratch was daunting me, but I knew there was this one out there from a now defunct company, I just had to be patient, and then win an auction. In the end, I got it, for a price I was happy to pay, and which was less than the cost of shipping to Canada! I now have all four large chimneys, and each is a different shape/height, look, as they should be as I move my buildings forward.

Gremlin hunting of a different kind. I discovered that one of my hydro poles was too close to the spur across Liberty Street. Easily moved and the scenery in progress touched up to hide the old hole.

As I’ve been puttering around, I also discovered I managed to mount a hydro pole in a position where it cleared the mainline, but not the siding. This would mean all my equipment would be rubbing up against it, not a great situation. Fortunately, one that was easily remedied by drilling a new hole about an inch to the left, and moving the pole. It took half an hour to do including re-scenerying the area I’d messed up. It felt good to find and fix a problem.

I am still making good progress on the layout, and I’m very happy with how it looks, when I wasn’t in the mood on the weekend, and when I’m mopey of late, I just put on the layout lights and turn off the other lights and look at how things are looking. It makes me happy.

This makes me happy, unfinished as so many things are, it is looking like I envisioned it when I started down this path of building the layout.

A week off work full of small projects

I’m a busy body. I’m not good at sitting around and doing nothing, and last week, I took a week off, which normally means I would have gone somewhere or done something. In 2020, that isn’t a thing, so I stayed home. I sat on the patio with some late fall warm days listening to music, I watched Remembrance Day Ceremonies and documentaries, and I worked on a variety of layout tasks.

Painting and scraping, making small steps on many projects.

First up was some time in the paint booth, putting primer on the first of several National Scale Car mini-kit conversions of Intermountain 10′-6″ AAR boxcars into accurate Canadian models, along with starting to turn the styrene tube into wooden telephone poles. I need them to be hollow so I can wire streetlights, so using actual wood was out. Instead, using styrene tube, and a razor saw blade, I can create the appearance of wooden poles. They don’t look like anything yet, but once I get some paint on them, they will. This will be an ongoing project and sooner or later I will write a more fulsome blog post about them.

The other thing being painted, as you can see are 3D printed Fire Hydrants. I went out in the summer and measured actual Toronto Hydrants, these are accurate including the “Toronto Water” TW cast into them, though it’s virtually invisible on the prints. I am super happy with how my hyrdrants turned out, and once they are done being painted and installed, I’ll probably write more about them too.

Finishing the first pass of ballasting the layout. All track now has some ballast, touchups and additions may be needed here and there as I go.

Next up was some actual layout work, ballasting track. The image above shows the last stretch that wasn’t ballasted after ballast and glue were applied. It is a nice feeling as it is a “milestone”, all of my track is now ballasted, it may need to have some more added, but it is now ready for me moving on with finishing the base scenery between the track, roads and building foundations. The last bits of pink foam that you can see will soon disappear!

And another building appears, this time a compressed version of 60 Atlantic.

The next building to move from card/foam mockup to styrene is 60 Atlantic Avenue. A building that spanned the block between Atlantic Avenue and Jefferson Avenue on the north side of the tracks. I have the full block, but it is about half the actual width to fit on my layout, so I am trying to capture the feel of the building through selective compression. I am happy with it, I know what Building it is immediately, and I think others who know Liberty Village will as well when they see it. It’s now ready for paint, trying something different, trying to paint the walls and windows separately, to save a lot of masking and pain that I will have with some other buildings where the windows are already installed. We shall see in time which approach works better for me.

Undoing work I’ve done to correct mistakes

The final task was undoing something I have done. I’ve been laying gravel driveways around buildings, and I made one critical error. Railways would never have allowed gravel to be laid between the rails, even on a private crossing in an industrial area. It moves, and gets pushed up against the inside of rails and causes derailments. The same thing happens in model scale, putting ballast between the rails high enough to be a driveway creates spots where derailments happen. So, using some warm water to soften the glue, I soaked the gravel between the rails and scrapped it away back to level with the rail ties. Now I will be able to go back and add wood board crossings, a much more realistic crossing.

All in all, it was a good week. I had thought I would get more done on the layout, but, at the end of the day, I let how I was feeling drive me. When I got up in the morning, I relaxed, listened to music and started to work on the layout when I felt like it late morning or early afternoon. This is a long term project, and I was never going to finish it in a single week off work, but it was nice to clear the mind and get away from things, knowing that the layout was there waiting for me when I went to my layout room, instead of my work computer and job waiting for me. I’m back to that now, but hopefully the good feelings of relaxation last a few weeks and we can make it to my next break at Christmas.