Oh Come on….cat hair everywhere

Seriously? I know cats & their hair and scale models are drawn to each other, but Gandalf doesn’t spend much time in the layout room, and can’t get up to the layout itself, but this is crazy. I haven’t even had this pair of Rapido Canadian Pacific USRA Clone Box cars long enough to start weathering them!! I recently wrote about de-catting locomotive drive-trains, well the same thing applies to freight cars! All I have done is swap out the wheels and couplers for my preferred ones, and set them on the layout. I want to fade these cars out as by my era in the 1950’s, they should be old and well used looking. Still figuring out exactly what my first step in doing this is going to be, if I’m smart, I’ll do one car, and see how it goes before I do the other!

A giant clump of Gandalf “Floof” stuck to the side of a brand new boxcar.

Vacuuming cat hair that floats about is a normal part of cleaning with regular dust, but walking into the layout room the other day to find this giant clump of hair was definitely annoying. At least a quick pinch and it was gone!

Layout Maintenance, a never-ending task

So, after probably a month or so where I haven’t done a lot of layout work, or ran any trains, I decided on Tuesday evening this week to fire up the layout and actually use it to move the fleet of boxcars parked on it to staging to clear the layout. It ran, but I found multiple problems that required remedial work.

The first, is one I’ve been aware of, but haven’t really dealt with, cat hair. Gandalf is a majestic floof…but he is a floof. Cat hair is a never-ending cleaning chore in our house, and on my layout. While he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the layout room/office (he’s a mommas boy, he hangs out with my better half!), he does come in, and the floof travels! When equipment moves, you can see it picking up and dragging cat hair with it. It is particularly noticeable on the two Rapido locomotives I have, that seem to be floof magnets the way their trucks are designed. Both my SW1200RS and GMD1 had copious amounts of cat fur wrapped into the axles and stuck in with the lubrication that escapes from the gearboxes onto the axles.

One colossal floof, and the results of his floofing wrapping onto axles, and before/after of the SW1200RS and GMD1 trucks as I worked to remove the floof from them. Got a lot out, not all of it. Will have to tackle again!

Removing the floof, was a combination of vacuuming and picking it out with a fine pair of tweezers, followed by more vacuuming. I don’t think I got all of it (in fact I am virtually certain I did not get all of it), but I got enough that hopefully I am starting the fight to make sure it doesn’t get too deep into the mechanism, and to fight it being tracked across the layout. As my layout is still under construction, I haven’t settled into a routine of cleaning and operating it, so dust/hair/debris seems to build up. As I would like to be able to welcome friends in again to see the layout and run trains, I am going to need to actually work on this and come up with a routine for regular cleaning and running equipment. I also need to run equipment to find out where I either have track issues that need resolving, or where there are cars that need wheels/trucks adjusted to run reliably.

The second Tuesday Repair, is something I am still getting used to, broken switches where the rails have popped off. This one, I think is because I left the switch in the thrown position, which the way the Bullfrog Turnout controls are installed, puts a little bit of pressure on the rails, and seemingly over time, found any weak solder joint from the turnouts construction. This is the 3rd time I think I have had to fix a switch, and I am getting more comfortable and confident doing it, which is a good thing.

Repaired turnout on the left. the back rail had come off the throw bar.

While I’m glad I can fix things, I’d rather be spending my time building things and actually advancing the layout. I think figuring out a routine for regular cleaning and running trains will help, even without a plan. I am also starting to feel some motivation generally to actually build coming on, which is nice as honestly, through the summer I have not had a lot of motivation to work, but the later sunrise and earlier sunsets that seem to be catching up on us are bringing on the motivation to model as going out chasing trains in the real world becomes harder and harder as the hours of light after work become shorter and shorter!

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.