Four Years of Construction Progress on Liberty Village

Wow, four years since a group of friends helped launch the construction of Liberty Village. I had no idea when I started construction, how it would go. It turns out, its been a varied four years since I started work, two years where I had help from friends that got me to the point that the benchwork was done, and track laid, then two years on my own where I’ve plugged away at scenery and buildings. I can’t wait to have my friends back to see the layout again and run trains, but for now, this is just a thanks to show how far I have come, how far I still have to go, and appreciate the process. Still plenty of building to go, but certainly lots been done in the past 4 years. Here’s to four more years of progress getting me to a point where its largely complete!

Before benchwork, at the end of the day August 11, 2018, and today, August 11, 2022. Progress clearly visible!
Looking into the closet, again before Benchwork, after it was just built, and today.

Little Plastic Trains

Well over a year ago now, I backed a project on Kickstarter for new plastic trains to replaces the ones in one of our favourite board games, Ticket To Ride, which, if you don’t know it, is a game about building a railway empire (why on earth would I love this game??). Anyways, with Kickstarter, projects that get to their goals, then go into production, and sometimes it takes a while for them to be produced and delivered. Thanks as with everything to the world of 2020+ and the supply chain, my little trains arrived a couple of weeks ago from the Little Plastic Train Company. These are now available for anyone who didn’t back the Kickstarter, and it sounds like they are looking at making more add ons, such as matching coaches to make real looking trains, and more colours of trains. The trains all come in little metal boxes that fit into the tray for the game, so they are easily stored too! Now we just need to have a board game night!!

Little Plastic Trains and their tins for Ticket to Ride

Obsessive Organizing

I am, an organizer. Its probably why I chose the career I have as an Urban Planner. This, this below is not me in any way shape or form…

Definitely not me…Chaos and me are not friends.

I am, constantly fighting the organization battle in my layout room/workshop/home office. I will deal with things for a while, then I just grind to a stop if I am unhappy with the plan. There is a web comic I love called Heart & Brain by Nick Seluk, it hits me right in the sweet spot, but I am most definitely Brain…others in my household are most definitely Heart. Read some of the comics and you’ll get it if that isn’t immediately obvious. I have certainly in my time on this blog more than once written about me perchance for over thinking myself into a corner or inertia.

Yeah, definitely not this…I do not do good with Miscellaneous… (Courtesy theAwkwardYeti.com)

Recently, the drawer I have been using to store styrene sheets and remnant off cuts in (i am loathed to throw our scratch building materials) had reached a point of non function. This then sent me down the rabbit hole of looking for solutions to a “problem” that I had created in my mind at least. Fortunately, I found an answer after some time looking at all sorts of drawer and organizer units. A really nice, though not cheap set of 10 shallow drawers from Durable, a company seemingly based in Europe, but good old Amazon had their products.

Blessed organization, ten shallow drawers of stryrene, sorted by thickness or type as appropriate…ahhhh bliss

I wound up going with the 10 drawer unit. The shallow drawers are perfect for storing off cuts and sheets of Styrene. The 10 drawers also allowed me to have a drawer for each thickness of sheet, and some drawers for brick or patterned sheet, clear, and even a dreaded “Miscellaneous” drawer of things that didn’t fit anywhere else. It also has freed up a large, but somewhat awkward drawer that hides beneath my keyboard extension shelf/workbench extension I built for working at home. I am not sure what I am going to put in this drawer yet, but having an open drawer is always nice as it lets me consider other parts of my organization of things to see if there are things in drawers that would make more sense put away here. Its an ongoing process.

With that, I leave you with some Radiohead, as it sums up where I like to be in terms of my workshop organization!

New books for the Library

As with most modellers, I have a library of books on a variety of topics related to things I’ve modelled, things I’m interested in, or that have pictures of the general era I am modelling. I have two new (well, one I got last August that I never got around to write about, and one that I picked up yesterday) additions to my library, and I really need to actually get to reading them!

New Books! ‘OS Don’ by fellow Toronto Railway Museum Volunteer John Mellow on his career operating at the Don Station, and ‘Streetcars and the Shifting Geographies of Toronto’ by a Ryerson University Geography & University of Waterloo Urban Planning professor team. Oddly, their cover photos show two very different views of the same location of Queen Street East and the Don River!

First up is OS Don, which came out in mid 2021. I have known John Mellow for a bit over a decade now since I started volunteering at the Toronto Railway Museum, where John was already a long time volunteer given his history with Don Station at the museum as a former operator there before it was closed (and made its two moves over the years to Todmorden Mills and Roundhouse Park). John became involved in the museum to help restore the station given his intimate knowledge of it when it was in use. I won’t go deep into a summary of the book, but it is a trove of information on railroading in the 1960’s and 70’s when John worked for the railroads, and has a wonderful collection of pictures from the era. My friend Trevor Marshall blogged about it and wrote a detailed book review in the September 2021 Railroad Model Craftsman. The book is published by the Bytown Railway Society and is available as I write from them and at least at both the Toronto Railway Museum (where you can visit Don Station) or Credit Valley Model Railway Company.

Hopefully John will forgive me, pictures of him working at Don Station in 1965 (Courtesy John Mellow via the Toronto Railway Museum) and my picture of him back at the desk during the restoration of the station in 2010.

The Second book, ‘Streetcars and the Shifting Geographies of Toronto’ is also one that is very close to home, as a long time rider, photographer and even an occasional modeller of the TTC’s Streetcars, as an Urban Planner who has spent their entire professional career largely working in Toronto, and a resident of the City since 2005, this is the kind of book that hits my sweet spot for interests. I have only read the introduction, and taken a cursory flip through the photographs, but this is definitely on my need to read right away pile as soon as the book I’m currently reading is done. I love the kind of repeat era photography done here, showing how much (and how little sometimes) things have changed as the City has grown and evolved over time. The good and bad of this is an open topic of debate in many forums including my professional life and in Toronto Urbanist Twitter, but maybe the less said about that the better. I am really looking forward to digging into their thesis and analysis on change in relation to the streetcar system of Toronto as it has changed over the years. It is published by the University of Toronto Press, and is available at Credit Valley Model Railway (I blame the authors for the large order of modelling supplies I made when my pre-order of their book came in!) as well. I don’t know where else you might be able to find it at museums or bookstores.

The tweet linked below from one of the authors shows some pictures of the inside and the repeating photography from different eras.

If you have interest in railroading and transit in Toronto, I would recommend looking into these books. They are great additions to my collection and home library.

Cutting Vinyl with the Cricut

Well, two weeks into being a Cricut owner, and it seemed like time to try and use it for things list most normal people who own them do, as opposed to being me and leaping in immediately to cut styrene for model buildings! So, with that in mind, I ordered a bunch of sheets of Vinyl and the transfer paper to apply them, and have gotten to messing around with art for various logos I may want to apply in different places.

Two years ago now, we all got our lives tossed asunder thanks to the Pandemic. Among my modelling friends, for a while we used Zoom to get together from afar and have a drink and talk trains. It lasted a few months, but “Train Night in Canada” served its purpose in the darkest times to keep us together and help us figure out how we were all going to cope. Me, being a hopeless nerd made up two logos using the old school CBC Hockey Night in Canada logo as a base, one with a steam locomotive outline, and one with a diesel.

Creating a Train Night In Canada cut vinyl logo for the end of my workbench hutch as you enter my layout room/workshop/home office. I did the diesel as the steam one did not want to work nicely with the Cricut software to be cuttable.

Why start simple when you can leap in head over feet? Why make my first vinyl a single layer/single colour, no, I needed to do a three layer/three colour transfer. It worked, maybe not as well as I’d like it to, there are a couple of air bubbles and some misalignment, but its pretty damn good in my opinion, and the end of my bench no longer looks quite so barren!

The second vinyl attempt was positively pedestrian, a single colour cutout to add a label to my Bar Volo diorama. I still had the artwork for the door sign of the original location the owners had kindly provided me when I was working on the model, so I was able to import it into the Cricut software and make a vinyl decal for the wood frame that holds the model.

The HO Scale Model of Bar Volo now has a sign.

Now that we are maybe hopefully emerging, and Bar Volo has reopened at a new location, I really need to keep the promise I made to the owners well before the pandemic to actually bring the model down to the bar some time.

There is definitely a knack to applying the vinyl, but I see a lot of opportunities for it in decorating the layout room, and on the layout itself. I love my laser cut wood wayfinding signs, but I am afraid to paint them to make them more visible. I am thinking now that a vinyl streetsign will be a much better option on the finished valance. I have one sign ready to go and will maybe cut it this weekend to apply and do a comparison with the wood ones.

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!