Wednesday Workbench Organization

After work today while half watching playoff baseball and half chatting with friends about impending Provincial Legislation that will yet again toss my day job world for a loop, I broke out our labelmaker and finally labelled and organized the drawers of my small parts cabinet. I like organizing, and while it wasn’t in bad shape, the lack of labels meant that finding doors and windows and detail parts for my ongoing structure building relied on my memory of what I had, and where it was, not a tenable situation!

Drawers all labelled, and our labelmaker.

The labels peel off easily enough from the plastic drawers, and while I probably could organize things better, they are going to work for now, and hopefully as I wind down on buildings to construct for the layout, I can pack up windows and doors a bit as I won’t need them until the next time the itch to work on a diorama or some other side project structure comes along!

A couple of quick Saturday morning workbench projects

Saturday morning of a long weekend, seemed like a good time to do a couple of quick workbench projects, both related to lighting in different ways.

First up, reclaiming my GorillaPod Tripod that has been holding my ring light over where I now work so I have light when I am in online meetings and sitting at my work computer. This peripherally relates to the layout, as the way the GorillaPod was mounted blocked the staging slider for the CN end of my layout from working properly. I could move the ring light, but it wasn’t easy. I also, more importantly, was finally sick and tired of not having my mini-tripod available to me when I go out taking pictures.

The replacement, is a ball head from a cheap little desk tripod, that I think actually came with the ring light, mounted to a block of wood which is attached to the benchwork framing. This little ballhead makes it a bit easier to move the ring light out of the way, and gives me back my tripod, a win win!

Showing the previous mounting blocking the staging traverser, the simple wood block and ball head, and the new mounting. A nice quick upgrade to both office, and the layout for operations.

The second little light project was more layout/workbench related. I have never been happy with the lighting on my workbench, far too often I can’t get light where I want it. In full disclosure, I am 100% taking this idea from an article I saw in the September 2022 issue of Model Railroader magazine, using LED strip lighting to create a ground level light bar for your workbench. I did my own thing in terms of how I built it, but the idea is absolutely not mine!

I used some of my go to cheap project pine that I have around for all kinds of projects, and a metal bracket I had laying around. I may rebuild this if I like it, but as a generation 1, I now have a removable barrier for the edge of my workbench that will hopefully cast more light. The issue isn’t so much in the daytime, but the room gets dark at night, and I find working in the evenings during the winter can sometimes be a challenge. If this doesn’t work, it has cost me about an hour of my life to build. If it works, I can revisit it and build a better version, and probably use new LED’s rather than ones I recovered from another project that were laying around.

My new workbench front edge light bar. Hopefully this gets some light into my projects where I have been struggling to get enough light.

With these little side workbench projects done, time to get back to working on some actual models!

Upgrading my Radio for out chasing trains

I have been getting out a lot in the past year railfanning, more than in the past, and I am finally getting better at monitoring Railway Radio Operations when I am out. In doing so, I have heard some great conversations between crews and dispatch, and some weird moments when things go wrong. I’ve been looking for a bit for a digital recorder. I finally settled on a kind of mid-range one, not the cheapest, and not one of the fancier ones. I chose a Sony PX370 mono recorder. Its small and will easily fit into my camera bag for travelling with me.

My new Sony PC-370 Digital Audio Recorder for recording radio, and a Bluetooth dongle for transmitting to a speaker while I am out.

Once it arrived, I started to play around with it, I decided that I want to be able to listen through a speaker still when I was out and about, I don’t like wearing headphones when I am out taking pictures. To achieve this, I bought a small Bluetooth transmitter that plugs into the 3.5mm audio jack, and I can then connect it to one of my bluetooth speakers. So far so good, I can now listen and record. What I needed was a way to easily carry everything around. To do that, I decided to apply my 3D modelling skills, and make what amounts to a backpack for my radio, mounted into the screw holes for the belt clip to carry the recorder on the back of the radio. I got that print today, and once all the support material was cleared away, the recorder slid in, and after some adjusting of fit on the screws, the carrier was screwed in, and the radio attached. It looks like I am all set now to get out on Easter Monday and chase some trains.

A 3D printed backpack for the Sony Digital Audio Recorder I have bought, mounted to the belt clip mount on my Uniden Bearcat BC125AT

I haven’t recorded much yet, and I don’t think I will regularly be posting audio, but a clip from last week to let you hear the recording quality at least is attached of CPR Dispatch talking to a train on the North Toronto Subdivision heading for the Mactier Subdivision and points west is attached below.

Some chatter on the Canadian Pacific Railway North Toronto/Mactier Subdivision frequency on April 10, 2022 when I was playing with my new recorder.

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!

Cameras Cameras Cameras

A non-modelling, but definitely train related post, call it a bonus Tuesday Train about the tools I’ve used over the years to capture those pictures of trains. Having seen the post from Steve Boyko on his Traingeek.ca blog the other day about his history of cameras and railfanning, it inspired me to go through my own camera history. I have had plenty, and am kind of in the market for a new one (which I will get to eventually).

The first camera I used regularly was a Pentax SuperProgram 35mm SLR Camera. This was my dad’s camera, and I used it in high school and university for a bit, before I bought my first autofocus camera. My sister took it for a while, then, at some point in a bit of cleverness, I got it back from my parents and have hung onto it. It is now still my travelling companion when the mood to shoot black and white film takes me (usually when in the UK chasing steam if I’m honest).

Pentax SuperProgram and a shot taken with it at Carrog on the Llangollen Railway.

The first camera I bought myself was another Pentax, so I could in theory use the couple of lenses my dad owned and that I had from the SuperProgram. I bought this in the summer of 2000, when I was working in my first job in my field, a University of Waterloo Co-op position with the Town of Richmond Hill Parks department. I haven’t used this camera in years, but it was well used when I was using it. It is still somewhere in a tub in the closet of the layout room

A Pentax MZ-30 autofocus 35mm SLR and a shot of a de-powered CPR cab unit at Campbellville taken with it.

I bought my first digital camera in late 2002, a point and shoot Panasonic Lumix LC-20. This was a great little camera, ran on two rechargeable double A batteries, so as long as you could find AA’s you were never out of juice when out and about. I used it for a while. Didn’t do a lot of railfanning with it, but did some. This may even still be in a tub in the closet too!

Panasonic Lumix LC20 and at the time, Rail America 1400, now one of Ontario Southland’s famous FP9’s.

I upgraded in the summer of 2004, to a Panasonic Lumix FZ10 super zoom all in one. This was a gift to myself in advance of the first vacation I took as a working stiff in 2004, two whole weeks off work chasing and riding trains in the UK. My first visits to places I love to visit like the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the Severn Valley Railway. This was a great camera for a lot of things I like, railfanning and sports. The 12x optical zoom made it a great “little” camera for travelling with. I say little, but it wasn’t that small!

Panasonic FZ10 and a shot of LNER/British Railways A4 Union of South Africa on the Severn Valley Railway.

Two years later, I upgraded to the newer version of the same camera, the FZ20. Better image sensor and stabilization than the FZ10 had. I used this camera for a couple of years until the desire to have a digital SLR finally overcame me.

Panasonic Lumix FZ20 and a CN freight at Bayview Junction (with BNSF Pumpkin and Santa Fe blue units)

As a Christmas present to myself in 2006, I bought my first DSLR, a Pentax K10D. I also splurged and didn’t buy the kit with the kinda crappy lens in it, but got the more expensive 16-45 f4.0 lens. This is still a lens I use all the time, and was my primary lens from 2006 to 2020 when I bought a 55-300 Pentax Telephoto with a built in focus motor to replace a 100-300 Sigma cheap lens I bought in 2002.

My first Digital SLR, a Pentax K10D and one of the first railway shots I took with it of the Goderich & Exeter in Kitchener.

My next camera, wasn’t even one I bought. My office was moving in 2007, and as we cleaned out years of debris, we found a Sony Mavica MVC-FD73, a 0.3megapixel digital camera that writes to 1.44″ floppy disks. My boss was going to throw it out, so I asked if I could take it. he said yes. I’ve used it a couple of times for laughs, but never seriously used it. I do however still have it, and the batteries will still hold a charge, so who knows what crazy mood may strike me.

My office was just going to throw this out in 2007 when we were moving offices. It was the offices first digital camera..unlimited storage on floppy disks.

The next camera in my collection was a small pocket camera, that I could take with me when I went out to parties, and to take to the roundhouse to take pictures of ongoing restoration work at the Toronto Railway Museum. This little camera served me well for several years as a pocket camera, and even got a little bit of railfanning use either while travelling to Montreal on the train, or from the museum at Union Station.

Fuji FinepixJ12, just an interim point and shoot I used mostly for shots at the Toronto Railway Museum doing restoration work. A shot during a lunch break of GO and VIA at Union Station.

By the end of 2008, I had put a ton of abuse on the K10D in only a couple of years, and I was noticing that the shutter and electronics were already going flakey, so I upgraded to the next generation K20D. Another Christmas present to myself, I got a lot more life out of this one, lasting until mid-2016!

My second DSLR, a Pentax K20D, a direct replacement for the K10D after I work out it’s shutter!

In late 2010, in advance of a trip to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, I was in the market for a replacement pocket camera. With the trip and knowing we would be using it in the pool and while snorkelling in the Pacific, I sought out a weather sealed and drop proof camera. The Pentax W90 fit the bill. This was a great little camera, and after the trip it gave years of use at the museum, and as a good camera for use when the SLR wasn’t appropriate to drag around.

Another interim point and shoot, weatherproof/waterproof, bought for snorkelling on the pacific coast of Mexico, and then used at the museum where dirt and crud couldn’t get in it.

By 2016, the K20D was showing some age, and I felt it was time for another upgrade. Cameras had advanced a lot, and it was time for another upgrade to my current SLR, a Pentax K-3II. I still use this camera for all my photography, It is rugged, fully weather sealed so rain and snow don’t effect the electronics as they can’t get in.

My current camera since 2016, a Pentax K-3II and a recent shot of CN racing downhill on the Halton Subdivision taken with it.

The last of my regular cameras is another point and shoot. I started using this camera to take pictures at concerts, as its small enough and point and shots are still allowed. I’ve been using the camera for going to football matches on trips to England as well, which is where most of the railfanning pictures taken with this camera happened, in London Underground and rail stations getting to stadiums.

Canon SX220IS. Nice little camera. It was my wife’s, started using it for Concerts, its now my Video Camera when I’m out chasing trains. Takes fine videos, but really needs replacing with a dedicated video camera as the batteries lose their ability to hold a charge.

I have for the past year or so as I’ve started taking more videos of the trains I am out watching, been looking for an actual dedicated video camera. I have been struggling with the dual debate of how much do I actually want this, vs. how much am I willing to spend. I haven’t come up with answers to either of these questions. I am certainly not by any means an excellent videographer, my videos are more record captures of what I see, but adding video to my activity has helped me with new motivation and focus on my setup when I am out, and looking for new angles on the action.

The last cameras on my list are my Cell Phones. Over the years I have had a variety of Nokia and later Apple iPhones with cameras in them. They certainly aren’t my regular use tools, but on transit to and from work, or as a quick capture if I’m out without my camera and see something, they are a an invaluable tool for a quick snap of something that would otherwise be missed. Frankly, most of the pictures on this blog of work in progress are taken with the iPhone these days, its always with me and has a great camera, quick snaps of work in progress as I go are a lot easier than having out a big bulky SLR while I’m working on the layout.

A TTC Streetcar from a Nokia 5310, freezing to grab a snap of a Loram Grinder in -too much outside Weyburn Saskatchewan during 2013 Grey Cup Week on an iPhone 5, and just a few weeks ago, a trackmobile being delivered in North Toronto on my current iPhone12.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramble through my camera gear. Before I am in the market for another camera body, I suspect I will be looking to upgrade lenses again. My much loved 16-45 f4.0 is showing some age, and my 50mm fixed has been abused within an inch of its admittedly cheap (its a super affordable Pentax lens the old 50mm I have). I have also at times considered a macro lens, though I am not sure I am willing to subject my models to the cruel eye of a macro! Since I am not sure what I want to upgrade first in my lens department, it is kind of just in limbo right now where every now and then I look at prices and decide to think about it some more!

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.