Long Weekend Workings – Building a Bar instead of drinking at one

This weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, which meant that even with a day on Sunday spent up and down the road to spend time with family, I still had a chunk of my Saturday and all of my Monday to putter on projects.  I ticked off a bunch of little tasks, including my first time spraying paint with my new compressor as an air source.  Didn’t go entirely to plan, but also wasn’t a complete failure.  It was more humid Saturday morning on the balcony than it felt based on how the paint sprayed, but it was nothing that can’t be overcome.

My real project for the weekend was getting back at my model of 587 Yonge Street. I have been slowly working away at the exterior walls, and painting them to create the brick pattern with pan pastels, I have reached a point where I am reasonably happy with the base colour, but before I add weathering and staining, I needed to paint the stone window lintels, and the roof capping and doors before blending everything.

IMGP3891RawConv.jpgBased coated and window details painted.  Ready for some blacks and greys to weather and create the effect of water stains on the roof.

In the picture above, I’ve also got the first two “windows” in place temporarily.  The windows were opaque on the building, and have signage to go on them, so they are being made out of a shiny plastic sheet I got at a model railroad flea market for a $1.  Sadly, half this wall will eventually be hidden behind ivy (which will also hide the nasty gaps on the lower windows!).

I wasn’t in the mood for weathering, and noticed a few small touchups before I can, so I moved back to working on the interior of the structure.  The ground floor bar will be fully detailed, and have lighting so you can see the interior.

IMGP3889RawConvA view into the bar.  The grey area on the left was the kitchen and wasn’t visible from outside.  Inside you had a seating area on the lower level, and a raised bar.  At the bottom right are the stairs up to the 2nd and 3rd floor tenants of the building.

The interior is being created by a bit of everything I can find or manufacture.  There is styrene sheet and shapes; stripwood, 3D prints parts; and commercial white metal or injection molded parts.  The interior will be lit, as the big windows on two sides of the ground floor offer an opportunity for a view in.  I am also looking at making a portion of the interior wall removeable so I can take inside looking out shots as well.  No point detailing everything if no one can ever see it, even in a photograph.

IMGP3888RawConvThis angle gives a better sense on some of the details, unfortunately, I couldn’t turn it on my workbench to get a through the windows test view.

It was all in all a productive weekend.  I’d been looking at the interior for a while, and the lack of any progress at even a first attempt was really bothering me.  Making a full day’s progress on it, even with several hours of TV catch up in the day, makes me feel like it was a productive weekend and that I almost want to go to work on Tuesday morning (almost!!).


Lighting Structures in HO Scale with Tiny LEDs

I have written about the “Railway Village” diorama of the Toronto Railway Museum that I have built on several occasions, but a conversation with a friend at the Brampton Model Railroad Show last weekend made me realize that I have never talked about, or even taken any pictures of the lighting in the structures.  During a chat at the show I was showing off the lighting, but have never actually written about it.  This post is mostly just showing it off.  I’ll need to take some more pictures of the actual lighting to show how it is installed and set up for a future post.

Day and Night in the Railway Village.  The three structures with windows all have LED lights in them.  For the night shots, I also posed Cape Race which has interior lighting, lit markers, and a lit drumhead sign.

The growth in the LED market in terms of available lights for different colours and in countless different sizes.  For the structures, I am using “Pico” LEDs, which are far smaller than a grain of rice!  For Canadians, GLX Scale Models sells them, in the states, Evans Design is the biggest distributor I’ve seen.  I use both, shopping from Evans directly for items GLX doesn’t stock.  No doubt other suppliers are available, but I like to acknowledge those I have used and who have given me good service.

“Chip” LED sizes, next to a penny for a size comparison (Image from GLX Scale Models Website).

The availability of these tiny LEDs really opens up possibilities.  A number of lights can be run for ages off a small coin 3V watch battery.  I could have wired all the buildings up to a common feed, but for ease of removal for travelling, each building has its own independent battery and switch so that i can remove them and pack them away for taking them to shows.

Don Station by day and night, when it’s dark you can actually see some of the interior detail through the windows with the LEDs lighting the interior.
You have to look closely, but if you look at the train order board on the station roof, you will note that it has changed from a red to a green aspect when the order board arm is moved on the roof.  With tiny LEDs, it is possible to get a lamp into a very small space like the order board.

One thing I noticed is that the LEDs show every gap where things aren’t connected.  The most agregious are the roof on Cape Race, which is something i’ve known has been a problem since i built it.  My replacement roof has never fit right, and when the lights are on, the gaps are huge (I digitally covered the worst of the light leaks in the picture).  Yet another project to put on the to-do list, getting the roof to fit better and seal the gaps.

IMGP3879RawConvCabin D by night.  I really need to get a figure pulling levers or working at the desk to make it look like something is happening in there when the lights are on.  Don Station has a mini operator sitting at the desk looking like they are preparing train orders for a passing train.

For my model of 587 Yonge Street, I am going to have full interior lighting to illuminate the ground floor bar interior, along with exterior lighting on the building and streetlights.  In the near future I should be getting close to starting to install these, as I am nearly to the point where I will have the walls painted and assembled for that project.

IMGP3878RawConvOverview of the lighting.  I have 3D printed light covers in a translucent material over the LEDs, which I find softens and spreads the light to create a really nice effect.

I rarely have the model uncovered in the apartment, as the only place it can easily sit in the apartment at the moment is a shelf where it can be easily attacked by our apartments furry overlord.  This is a shame, as the office feels more open without the cat shield, and seeing the models out motivates me to keep working on other projects.  Unfortunately, thanks to our lovable hairball, at the end of the night, the box goes back on and my work gets covered away out of sight until I’m next working on it or photographing it.

cropped-fergie-e1447778132418.jpgFergie’s favourite perch in the office, on the box, otherwise, she’d be on the model leaving a thick layer of fur.

Update on the Hawker Siddeley Cars and the Brampton Show

Well, this weekend’s show was an interesting experience in a lot of ways, positive, neutral and negative.

First, the positive, the Hawker Siddeley Commuter Cars in HO Scale are the first 3D printed model railroad item I have designed that I can honestly say anyone else has expressed any level of interest in.  I had a lot of people asking when it would be available this past weekend at the Brampton Model Railway Show.  I’m very happy that people are excited by the prospect that the car could become a reality for them and their layout, and that I could potentially help with that.  That certainly gives me a lot of motivation to keep working and push them forward to a point where others can buy them.

The Toronto Railway Museum Display at the Brampton Model Railway Show, you can see the GO car on the right in the Railway Village diorama

The neutral, is the news that it likely will be at least a year (and possibly more, I couldn’t even begin to commit to a date) before I am in any position to consider selling them, either via Shapeways or some other means (i.e. using the 3D print as a master for a Resin Kit).  There are plenty of issues and hurdles for me to overcome before I would want to sell this to anyone, as it is not a beginners level build (nothing I design is, there are lots of things in my Shapeways account that aren’t for sale as I wanted them, and decided that the likelihood of failure for purchasers assembling them who didn’t understand what I’ve done was far too high.  And, I just don’t have the time to write/prepare detailed instructions for every kit/model I design or offer ongoing customer support).  My willingness to spend money on parts or bits and pieces for a project I really want is likely a lot higher than someone who wants single level GO cars to run on their layout and to obtain them relatively easily.

At a high level, the following issues need to be tackled to get anywhere with making this car available in the GO Transit/AMT versions (never mind those asking for the modified Ontario Northland versions):

  • Availability of Decals – Need to look at working with a produced (likely Highball who already does GO decals) to produce a custom set for the cars)
  • Availability of Wheels – The cars have 30″ Diameter wheels.  The first source I have tried are from Cal-Scale, but their website says they are being discontinued when sold out.  The sets I got are also not great rollers, they aren’t particularly true and they don’t have bearings to help them roll.  I may have to make a compromise and design for 33″ wheelsets which are a bit more readily available.
  • Availability of detail parts.  If people are going to want to buy these, I need to make sure a reliable source of castings for the bell and horns are out there for them to buy.
  • My ability to design inside bearing trucks that will function as something other than sleds (i.e. accept the axles and roll), and be easy for end users.  My first attempt would win the gold medal for lousy HO Scale inside bearing trucks from the Athearn BiLevels and Rapido LRC Coaches that currently are the owners of that dubious honour.
  • Corrections to the design for things that didn’t work as planned, or where I made errors in the CAD work creating the 3D model (more on this in a bit).
  • Further design on the CAD for lighting.  The first cab car shell has LED sized openings in the headlights, and means to light the numberboards, but I haven’t put a lot of thought beyond that into designing to hide wiring, or provide for electrical pickup.
  • Windows, right now, when I do glaze the car, the glass won’t be close to flush with the body side.  The ability to notch inside the body is limited by the requirements for minimum thickness for Shapeways to print.  The glass should look about flush with the aluminum sides with the gasket slightly raised, right now, the window will look offset into the car using styrene sheet to create the glazing.

So as you can see, there is a fair bit of work and consideration to do, all of this potentially adds cost to a project that is already in my mind, too expensive to ever sell.  I don’t see people lining up to spend $300+US on an unfinished 3D printed kit designed by an amateur.

And now, the negative.  Feedback is a good thing.  Getting it is something I appreciate from my friends and fellow modellers on projects, but, there is a way to provide feedback.  And it isn’t how people appear to think its appropriate to provide feedback on a model.  The worst part is, I’m literally talking about one single interaction on Saturday that just left me going do I even want to keep designing my own parts and models and sharing them with anyone? Do I care if any of my work can help the community of model railroaders I am proud to be a part of? It took me nearly 20 years to be willing to take any model I built anywhere and show it to others whose work I’ve seen and hold to high esteem for fear of rejection or unkind criticism.  I never thought anything I built was worthy of anyone else’s attention.  It took me a long time to get over that.  On Saturday, even as he said how much he wanted to have single level GO cars, his comments abruptly changed to but you’re model isn’t right and you’ve got the windows all wrong on the side of the car and I know that just from a quick look at your model.  As the conversation was happening Saturday, my emotions went on a roller coaster ride…

  • Defiance – No the windows aren’t too square, I measured and had pictures and blueprints….
  • Consideration – ok, maybe he’s right, let me look at the pictures on the museum slideshow when he’s gone and compare to the model, don’t blow your top at him, listen then think about it
  • Frustration – OK, the windows aren’t round enough, not a big deal, that won’t take me more than an hour or two in the 3D model to fix, but man was he ever making me feel tiny they way the feedback was delivered.
  • Anger – I am really PO’d about this.  Is this really how we treat manufacturers of things we want?  No one has ever tried as far as I am aware to do this car and the response is to belittle it on something identified as a prototype?  It’s not like I’m advertising the car with the windows wrong for sale, it was literally a first prototype to show it is possibly coming.
  • Calming – whatever, you know what, i’m upset, but my model is going to be better for him catching the error on the windows.  I’ll get it fixed and keep plugging away!

As my emotions returned to a more balanced level, all I could think of was I had just received the real world equivalent of this…

Image result for nelson muntz haha

Over the years, I have made some very good friends in this hobby, some of whom work for manufacturers.  I don’t know how they do it when they go to a show and announce a product and scores of people froth at them with varying degrees of politeness.  I was put off by a single interaction.  I’m sure they come to develop thick skins and get used to it, but it was a frustratingly new experience for me.

The good news is, as I suspected, it only took me a couple of hours over my lunches on Monday and Tuesday to revise the windows.  I’ve gone through the 3D models for the four versions of the car (As Built Cab & Coach, AMT Modified Cab & Coach) and corrected the side windows on them all.

GOWindowComparisonThe actual preserved Coach; A render of the first version sent to print; the first print; and, the revised with more rounded windows.  The difference is noticeable on the top and bottom, but it’s subtle, almost imperceptible, but the modelled radius was closer to 3″ when it should be 9″ from measuring on the actual car (and even having done this revision from my notes, I intend to go down and re-measure again to be triple sure).

So, with that, I’ve learned my first lesson about being a pseudo-wannabe model railroad manufacturer and in dealing with the public.  Be polite (which I think I was), and try not to take feedback delivered in a negative way to heart.  The feedback was important and has improved the model in the long run, even if how it was received left me feeling disheartened and angry at the time (and clearly still 3 days later as I’m finishing this).  The experience is certainly going to ensure that if I ever had feedback to deliver to a manufacturer, that I am going to do my damndest to make sure it’s delivered in a positive way in relation to their hard work.

Hawker Siddeley GO Transit Cars (aka the Mystery Rail Car Project)

This is it, the big project that has been causing me to stress with Shapeways and Airbrush Compressors and all kinds of things.  My current project for a low volume model to be available through my Shapeways Shop is the Hawker Siddeley Single Level Commuter Coaches in HO Scale.  These were the original coaches constructed in Thunder Bay Ontario for the launch of GO Transit, the Toronto area commuter railway service in 1967.   Most regular readers of my Blog could probably have guessed what this was from my hints and the knowledge that a lot of my models are of vehicles preserved at the Toronto Railway Museum.

IMGP8489RawConvThe prototype.  GO Transit Cab Car 104, purchased and restored by Metrolinx and donated to the Toronto Railway Museum for GO’s 50th Anniversary in 2017.

They came in three varieties, but I am only designing two. I am designing models of the Cab Car Coach and the Regular Coach.  I am not modelling the self propelled cab cars which were a part of the initial order for 1967.  In total, GO Transit owned 123 of these cars, 9 self propelled (later converted to just cab cars), 8 cab cars, and 106 coaches.

Following their replacement by the now ubiquitous Bi-Level Cars on GO Transit, the cars found new work with MBTA in Boston, MARC in Maryland, the Ontario Northland Railway and AMT in Montreal.  The cars were in service with AMT until 2010, and several remain in service with the Ontario Northland Railway.

3D printed Body Shell for the Cab Car (with a coat of primer so details are more visible).

Through a combination of drawings of various quality found on the internet, and the ability to literally walk up to the existing car to take measurements, this was the kind of project that makes sense for me as a non-manufacturer doing 3D models in my spare time.  One that I can literally walk 15 minutes from my office after work and get a missing dimension or a picture of something to make sure I’ve got a shape right or a detail in place.

The first attempt at 3D printed Trucks (not very successful), the underbody/frame piece, and the car interior.

The cars are a little ways away from being available for sale.  There are some technical issues to be overcome, including a reliable source of wheels to direct people to.  I know there is a market for these, though they won’t be cheap, and certainly won’t be for the faint of heart when it comes to assembling and running, but I’m hopeful in the coming months that I can work out these issues.  In the short term at least, I will be looking to prepare a short train of coaches for display at the Toronto Railway Museum as part of the ongoing GO 50th Anniversary Display (though it will likely be several months before they are available for sale to others, as I find time to work through issues and test things before offering them up for sale).


Tuesday Train #74


With all due apologies to The Proclaimers… I would not walk 500 miles to see the CPR… I was in the Cleveland Ohio area last weekend railfanning, for the Steam in the Valley event at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway, and another private tour of a railway collection which is not open to the public that I will write about in the future.  After the private tour Saturday morning, we returned to the Cayuga Valley to railfan Nickel Plate Road 765 hauling the steam tours.  We then went to Berea Ohio. a location where the Norfolk Southern and CSX lines meet (both are former New York Central lines).  In a three-hour period, we got 13 freight trains, almost a days haul anywhere you railfan around Toronto (excluding GO and VIA).  Included amongst that traffic was my bane, the Canadian Pacific Railway, or those who remain afraid of the sun near home.  CP 143,  a container train to Chicago from Montreal takes the CSX from when it crosses the border from Canada to the USA.  Interesting motive power for the locals we were hanging out with, but not what I travelled 500 miles to see.

And with that, I leave you with a ditty from the album Sunshine on Leith