Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Portage Ave., Winnipeg, 1944

Portage Avenue at Hargrave, Winnipeg, September 1944; Caption and photo by William Henry Wood.
There's a streetcar in the distance. I zoomed in on the scanned photo, but since the original section was rather small, the result was also rather small, grainy, and didn't reveal anything.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Apollo Lifeguard Module

From the first time I saw the lifeguard stations at Huntington Beach the image of the Apollo Lunar Module popped into my head. I knew I had to build some sort of ‘Lifeguard Module’ based on that legendary spacecraft.
This project is far from traditionally prototypical, but in my mind the ideal streetcar system is one that services an area that is a strange amalgam of the regions serviced by the Toronto Transit Commission, the Pacific Electric, the Ottawa Electric Street Railway, and San Francisco’s Market Street Railway. 
I can pick and choose buildings, vehicles, settings, and whatnot  from the various eras that these lines operated in to suit my preferences, combine them with my interest in free-form, retro-builds and ‘retro-future’ stuff, and then have some fun figuring out how these puzzle pieces can be combined to make them work together. It’s a personal utopian vision of what was, what is, what could have been, and what could be. A streetcar line seems like an ideal way of framing all this since it operates to stitch together disparate elements into a coherent whole. That’s sort of prototypical :-)

The Pacific Electric did run along Huntington Beach for a ways.
"Pacific Electric trolley clatters on its way through Huntington Beach to Newport Beach. It was a ride directly on the sand, near the ocean waves. Sand drift onto the tracks was an ongoing problem." Photo and quote sourced from Historic Huntington Beach California, and that site states the photo is from the City of Huntington Beach archive.

And the Pacific Electric had a Huntington Beach station. It was the stopping off point for early 20th century fun seekers from the more urban and suburban centres in the Los Angeles area.
"The Pacific Electric Railway's Huntington Beach station, circa early 1900s, was located at the beach near the pier.  The attraction of miles of sandy beach and a pier boardwalk brought Angelenos to Orange County." Photo and quote sourced from Historic Huntington Beach California, and that site states the photo is from the City of Huntington Beach archive.

This sort of streetcar-serviced beach access setup doesn’t operate today, and probably couldn’t given the times we live in, but there’s nothing stopping it from existing in model form. In that small-scale retro-future world maybe rejects from a Lunar Module assembly line at a Grumman that had relocated from chilly New York to sunny California got re-used in various ways instead of winding up on a desert scrap-heap: lifeguard station was one of those ways.
This build’s starting point is Revell’s 1/100 scale Apollo Lunar Module.
I started by building the lower part of the LM. The thrust nozzle was left off and a piece of styrene was used to fill in the hole.
Here are the finished bases. They're built box-stock, except for the exclusion of the thrust nozzles as I mentioned above. I used styrene tube glue to put them together, but later I lightly brushed the joints with liquid glue. Once it dried I noticed that the rigidity of the structures had been considerably improved.
I then moved on to building the upper portions. The box-stock front half of the upper part is shown on the right. In HO scale, one would need to bend down to enter through this half-door, so I used a Dremel tool with a grinding bit to open up a full-size entry - as shown on the left.
On the left are all three front halves with the doors opened up. The box-stock back halves, shown on the right, are rather bland, but I left them that way. 
I then glued the halves together and added the antennae and mounting pieces for the various control thrusters, but left off the thrusters and their nozzles. In this photo I placed the top and bottom halves together to see how things looked, but didn't glue them together.
I then worked on figuring out the size for the porch. This was one of the early attempts. I thought it was a bit too big and eventually cut it back to the size that appears on the finished model. I used cardboard to work out the size and shape, and once it was determined, I used it to trace the shape onto some lined styrene sheet that I had left over from the sign of WSMoftheWBB model. 
In this view the porch had been sized, cut out of lined styrene, and glued into position. On the bottom of each porch I glued on some joists cut from thin strips of styrene to give some texture and strength to each piece.
After the porch floors were glued in place I spent awhile trying to figure out the stairs and railings, and what to use for them. I tried several types of mouldings I had in my stash, but unfortunately didn't take photos of the trial-and-error process I went through to find something that worked. Long story short, the end result is shown above. Again, I first glued them in place with tube glue and later lightly brushed the joints with liquid glue. And again, the liquid glue considerably stiffened these rather delicate railing structures. Also, on each upper portion back wall I glued on a plastic letter as an identification mark.
The landers were base coated with Krylon flat white, and when that was dry, lightly dusted with Krylon nickel-silver. The bottom portions were sprayed a little darker with the nickel-silver than the upper portions. Once everything was dry, the antennae were brush painted with flat aluminum.
The box below the leftmost antenna was painted blue. A US flag decal from a Moonscope kit was applied to each module.
The docking adaptor on the top of each upper module was ground out with my Dremel tool and a piece of clear plastic was glued in the opening to let more light into the interior.
And that was that.
If you’re interested in a far less fanciful view of the construction details of the actual Lunar Module, and the story of its development, I highly recommend Virtual LM by Scott Sullivan and Moon Lander by Thomas Kelly.
21 July 2014 marks the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s epoch-defining walk on the Moon. The Apollo program was one of humankind’s greatest achievements, and a high point in US civilization. To me, the Apollo system, and the Lunar Module in particular, was the greatest of all human carrying spacecraft.
HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
JULY 1969, A. D.
WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bachmann PCC + Kato Unitram = N-scale TTC?

I bought a few sections of Kato's Unitram track to see if Bachmann's N-scale TTC PPC streetcar would run on it. The answer is yes. It runs quite well on both the inner and outer tracks. The Unitram track would need to be painted for it to look closer to the streets of Toronto, or many other North American cities where streetcars run or ran. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More arches

The arches on the old Yorkville streetcar barn reminded me of a building I saw in New York a few weeks ago. 
It was dusk and the lit arched windows over loading dock doorways were quite evocative. 
I believe this building is New York City Center located at 131 W 55th St. The views in these photos are of the far less iconic loading dock side that backs onto 56th St. 
With this view as raw material, it's not too hard to imagine a scale model of a fictional company the receives parts by boxcar, ships out large finished stage or movie props by flatcar, and maybe has its staff arrive by streetcar - sounds like a E. L. Moore type project in the making. Or, this could be used as the prototype for the back wall for a model of the Yorkville streetcar barn.  Or, maybe one could just build the whole thing as is to maximize the adventure.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Yorkville streetcar barn from 1912

Vince sent me a link to this handsome streetcar barn located in Yorkville circa 1912. It was sourced from The Chariotter at photobucket (although the link now appears to be broken and the photo gone). Today, Yorkville is a neighbourhood in Toronto's downtown core, and it's probably safe to say that this building is long gone. Vince mentioned that I "may need to build this". I agree, but I've promised Debra to build her Wallace and Gromit kit and have yet to deliver. Looks like there's some anti-pesto in my future :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bachmann's N-scale TTC PCC streetcar

In the foreground is Bachmann's TTC PCC N-scale streetcar, and that is Bowser's HO-scale TTC PCC streetcar in the background. The Bachmann is DC and the Bowser is DCC. I don't think the Bachmann body sits properly on its chassis. The rear trucks appear to extend under the back doors, and the body doesn't seem to sit low enough on the chassis. I hope I can adjust it to fit better. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21th Century: The Age of Plastic, III

Other than these three, I haven’t built any Model Power brand kits since I returned to the hobby. In part, I think I was turned off by the box art. Compared to say a Walther’s box, or something like the Mels box art from Moebius, Model Power box art is – or I guess, was, since the company is now out of business – rather substandard.
The box art for Billy’s Auto Body is particularly bad. It looks like a photo of a slapped together pre-production model. The Billy’s sign appears to be a glued up paper cut-out, the pop-machine fronts are glued onto the wall of the building as if the builder didn’t know what they were for, the accessories are all unpainted, and once one looks at the kit it becomes clear that the chimney over the garage portion doesn’t actually connect to anything inside the garage. Billy’s seems to be one of the worst examples of box art seen amongst their kit offerings. Box art is the equivalent  of the opening glamour photo that accompanies a typical magazine construction article. And in the case of any E. L. Moore article, that photo is always a very carefully staged scene comprising a well constructed building and a thought out scenario. The Model Power box art doesn’t come close to matching the style of what Mr. Moore published.

It’s a shame the production team didn’t spend more effort on their boxes, because the kit parts – well, those associated with the basic structure – aren’t all that bad. Unfortunately, given that the shelf price of these things isn’t any cheaper than those of their better marketed competitors, I suspect not many people opened those boxes to find that out.
{A heavily kitbashed version of Ma's Place that appeared as part of the setting in Mr. Cody Grivno's How to model a grade crossing in the July 2014 issue of Model Railroader}

Although some people do get to that stage. I was surprised to see what is clearly a kit-bashed variant of Ma’s Place, unmentioned and silently performing prop duties, in How to model  grade crossing by Cody Grivno that appeared in the July 2014 issue of Model Railroader.

If some company does buy the tooling for these kits my two-cents would be to sell them in clear bags with a visible card insert showing a photo of a well constructed version of the kit in a charming setting, redone instructions that read more like a magazine construction article, and get rid of extraneous accessories to reduce the cost of parts. Would these re-imagined versions of the kit sell? I have no idea.
Speaking of parts, the bases included with these buildings need considerable improvement. Basically, it’s a plastic moulding of dirt, with some added concrete block pillars and rather odd steps. 
The bases were discarded and some new concrete block pillars were cut from a strip of 4.8mm by 9.5mm styrene.
Here are the foundation blocks glued to the bottom of the building. I've also added a block to the base of the chimney. Once the glue had dried, the sharp edges were smoothed a bit with a sanding stick.
Here are all the parts out on the back deck ready for painting. Cedar shims were used as bases to hold the parts while they were being sprayed. No, I didn't spray them on the deck! I went out to the back of the yard for that.
Here are the buildings after they've been base coated with white primer.
After the white primer coat had dried for a few days, the buildings are sprayed with colour. I wanted to use up some partial cans I had on hand, so I chose some from the shelf that might be appropriate for a small beachfront community served by a streetcar.
Window 'glass' was cut from small sheets of clear plastic that were included with the kits. Micro Kristal Klear was used to glue them into the frames.
The insides were painted with flat black to help prevent light leaks once bulbs are installed. Also, by making the walls a little less translucent, it helps them appear more 'solid' even when interior lights are off. Cardboard pieces were inserted in the buildings to prevent viewers from seeing right through the windows. The open showroom at Speedy Andrew's has been painted white to help reflect light as I want viewers to have a peek inside. The floor is a mixture of various browns and grays. Once painted, it was time for roofs.
The Billy's / Speedy Andrew's version of Ma's Place has a chimney going into the open auto repair area (which is the surfboard showroom in my version). Since that chimney doesn't connect to a furnace or any such thing, I decided to cut open the chimney area of the roof to make a skylight and further improve interior viewing by letting in more light.
I used a grinding tool in my Dremel to cut out the area. Files and sanding boards were used to clean up the opening once most of the material was removed.
The surfboards for Speedy Andrew's showroom are cut from 0.010 in. styrene. I used an ellipse template to draw the board's shape. They aren't very prototypical, but they're just meant to give an impression of surfboards since viewers won't be able to see them in their entirety. There's around 30 surfboards in the showroom.
Here are some finished boards. Sharpie pens were used to draw on the lines. I also downloaded and printed some images from the internet that might make for some good showroom posters. 
To provide support for the surfboards, I cut some HO-scale ladder stock to resemble a comb and glued it to the inside of the showroom walls. The back of the boards are glued to the combs and the showroom floor.
Jumping ahead a little, here's the finished surf shop. The kit-supplied sign was scanned, modified, and then printed out to fit the new surfboard business. 
Along with the foundation, the kit supplied stairs - which are rather strange structures moulded into the dirt base - were most in need of modification. I used stair mouldings I bought a few years ago - I think they are from a company called Caboose Hobbies . To make the wider stairs on the porches, I glued several of the basic stair mouldings together, side-by-side.
Once the stairs were trimmed to size, painted, weathered a bit with thin washes of brown and gray, and glued into place, I was rather happy with the results.
The beachfront, streetcar serviced, community I have in mind will feature Ma's Place and Ma's Place 2 where vacationers can get a room or a meal. 
I tried to enhance the brick work on the chimneys a bit by base coating them with white, and then dry brushing on some brick coloured paint.
This is a photo of an actual brick fireplace resting on a concrete foundation. The concrete is much whiter than my version. Next time I'll try a different paint mixture instead of relying on a pre-mixed bottle labeled as 'aged concrete'.
The only place where I used a single width stair piece is at the back door.
That gravity defying stove pipe is going to need a wire or two to stay it! A mistake, or just Moorian character? I like to think it's the later, but it's no doubt the former.
The shingles were base coated with a mixture of gray paints and then washed with some thinned black and brown paint. The porch roofs were painted with Tamyia aluminum paint and then washed with thin rust mixture: a loosely mixed, thin wash of a reddish brown and green.
And to wrap-up, this is the side the viewer doesn't usually see. 

I'll be sad to see these kits disappear from the model railroading scene if some company doesn't buy the tooling from Model Power. But, at least you'll know that E. L. Moore was the designer of these things, and that they can be built up into something not too bad even if the impression from the box isn't too positive.

This is the 14th instalment in an ongoing series. An index of all posts in there series can be found here.
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