Tuesday, October 26, 2021

First round of filling

Yesterday I went out and bought a bag of CelluClay. That's it over in the upper righthand corner of the photo. All they had were 5 lb bags, so I've probably got a lifetime supply if it doesn't harden in the bag first.

I mixed some up as per the instructions and filled in all the cracks between foam pieces on the first level. I also did a little shaping to blend things in.

You mix the dry material with water that produces something with the consistency of lumpy porridge - assuming I've mixed it correctly. I applied it with my fingers, and sometimes used a small Tamiya paint mixing spatula for getting it into difficult crevices. 

The instructions say it needs 24 hours to dry and harden, so hopefully tomorrow it'll be ready for some sanding and shaping. I'll likely need to apply a second round. If this works out I think this will be the material for building the mountain on the Elizabeth Valley layout. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Level 2

The second level is now firmly in place, and is attached to the first level with strips of transfer tape. 

You see the blue line of the 'stone' retaining wall? It outlines what is more-or-less the inner edge of the track loop. Measurements suggest there should be plenty of clearance, and there shouldn't be retaining wall collisions - fingers crossed :-)

Next I plan to try out Celluclay for filling the various gaps and sculpting ground detail. Over at Boomer Dioramas Boomer is doing a series called Modeling Realistic Scenery that I highly recommend. He shows how to use Celluclay for this sort of thing, and I thought I'd give it a try. I'm finding his series quite inspiring.

Speaking of inspiring, I found this video a great introduction to the Common Loon: 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Roughing in the shoreline

The plan is to rough in the levels just below and above the track roadbed so that the nearby messy scenery work is more-or-less done before the track is installed. Today I roughed in the level below the track. All those edge pieces are held in place with transfer tape so that I didn't have to wait for glue to dry. 

That white paper sheet is the track plan - if a loop can be called a plan :-) The dashed line is the perimeter of the next level up. I need another piece of foam board for that one. 

Once the upper level is in place I plan to fill the gaps and do a little sculpting with Celluclay to pull both levels together. 

You might be asking, why's it called the Loonar Module? Last post I mentioned this layout was inspired by Falcon Rock, so I got to thinking about birds. The iconic bird of southern Ontario is the Common Loon. This is a module of sorts, so Loonar Module. I'll leave you with the equally iconic Hinterland Who's Who:

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Loonar Module: In the Pink

I'm starting to settle into winter projects, and one that I've had on my mind all summer is a new test layout for running N, HO-9, OO-9, and O-9 equipment, as well as providing a place to test scenery building methods that I've haven't done before. Since I've been cutting up foam sheets for E. L. Moore dioramas I thought I'd buy a few extras and start on the base for the new test loop.

The base is 24"x24", built up from 1" thick foam sheets. I 'glue' the layers together with transfer tape, as one thing I'm testing is the use of that tape to build up all my layout bases. It has worked well so far with the diorama bases and on some test articles. The construction of this little loop layout will use as much of the tape as I can get away with.

The 'layout' - it's basically just a loop of track - was inspired by Bob Telford's Falcon Rock that was featured in issue #100 of Voie Libre International. Instead of a castle, mine will be more-or-less all southern Ontario type scenery so I can practice scenery building.

I've got a lot of projects on the go, and I've given up trying to sequence them. I'm just going to concentrate on building, not scheduling - it's a hobby, not a job. No doubt one project will rise to the top and capture all my time. I'll be curious to see which one it is :-)

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ottawa's LRT continues to inspire songs

This one is for a more mature audience than the earlier one, but things are getting weirder by the day. The derailment that caused the shutdown of Ottawa's entire LRT system happened on 19 September. It's been down since that event. At first, the estimate was for a 3 week shutdown, and now the projection is until ‘early’ November, which at best will be 1 Nov. At that time the plan is to run limited service with 7 trains and 1 spare. The LRT has 17 trains, so slightly less than half the fleet may return to service 43 days after the shutdown began. The public has not yet been informed what the problem is. I'll leave you with the original:

Monday, October 18, 2021

More (Moore?) diorama bases

I swung by the building supply and bought some more 1" pink foam board for building more E. L. Moore diorama bases. They're nothing to look at now, but I find it's important to have a few around as I like to try different arrangements. It helps me to use actual bases instead of just trying different layouts on a sheet of paper. 

Over on the left is Spratt & Kean Meat Packers. Given what it is, it'll likely have it's own base - don't want to disturb the neighbours with the smell :-) The diorama on the right has Hoople & Sons Warehouse and the Village Grist Mill. I'm thinking the rightmost diorama will have the track along the back edge as the action in E. L. Moore's model happens near the wagon loading dock, but we'll see what future iterations hold.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Floor Games Redux

Reprint published by Monroe St. Press, 2016

I downloaded a copy of Floor Games in ebook form a few years ago. The text was complete, but it lacked the original's photographs. As I've been thinking a lot about layouts these days, I wanted to find a copy that had the photos as I was curious to see what Wells was talking about. I recently bought a 2016 reprint published by Monroe St. Press that contained both Floor Games and Little Wars, and included all photos for both. 


Overall it's an excellent edition with complete text and an interesting introduction by E. M. Spencer on where these books fit into play and wargaming history (you may recall such a thoughtful introduction was sadly missing from the reprint of Hobbs' Pictorial House Modelling). 


In the introduction Spencer reminds the reader that Floor Games was a key inspiration in the development of Margaret Lowenfeld's 1929 World Technique and Sandplay therapies in the field of child psychology, which are still in use today. There's even a Canadian association devoted to Sandplay. 


My only quibble with this reprint is that the photos in Floor Games seem a little coarse, and stair-stepping is visible in a few. Little Wars has better resolution photos.


Quibbling aside, I'm glad I bought this edition because the photos are an eye-opener. So much so that now when I give Floor Games a reading, to me it appears like a very early treatise on how to build rather interesting model railway layouts using lots of scratchbuilding and an eclectic mix of found objects. And it has a very expansive view of what constitutes operation, more expansive than what we're used to today. I recommend having a look at the photos in the book and comparing them with the photos of Aldo Cosomati's layout in the December 1933 edition of The Model Railway News. The enthusiasm, creativity, organization, and variety of Wells' and Cosomati's approaches are strikingly similar even though the implementation details are different. 


Scratchbuilding? In 1911? Wells states that the he didn't like the city building toys available in stores:


Of course, it goes without saying that we despise those foolish, expensive, made-up wooden and pasteboard castles that are sold in shops - playing with them is like playing with somebody else's dead game in a state of rigor mortis.


What he and his sons used instead were a vast collection of wooden blocks that measured 4 1/2" x 2 1/4" x 1 1/8" made by a carpenter, and handed down to them by some friends who had outgrown the toys. Wells and sons used them much like people use Lego today, to build all manner of things they could imagine. Lego didn't exist then, although various sorts of wooden building blocks did, and I imagine making your own blocks was a cost effective means of getting a lot of them.  And, honestly, take a look at the photos of the model cities on pages 10 to 12 of the reprint, and you can see for yourself the imagination and detail achieved with those blocks and planks. 


Speculating, I'd say that Wells would look down on using Pretty Village toy buildings, and was a guy who didn't truck with store bought stuff, but was a scratchbuilder at heart, and wanted to instil the pleasures of scratchbuilding in his sons :-)


Speaking of building blocks, I'm reading Brenda and Robert Vale's Architecture on the Carpet: The Curious Tale of Construction Toys and the Genesis of Modern Buildings published in 2013, and surprisingly it has a lot to say about building block toys of the 19th and 20th centuries. I didn't realize such a simple toy had such a long and interesting history. More later when I've finished the book.


One thing you'll also notice in the Floor Games photos is that there are soldiers all over the game's terrain as well as military related items even though war games aren't being played. I think that's because in 1911 there wasn't the vast choice of miniature figures and civilian accessories we have today, and Wells and sons made do with what they had as Wells explains in great detail. Wells expresses a desire for civilian figures, especially since they'd turn the game away from "swashbuckling soldiery" and open up game play to "much more fun":


Then we have "beefeaters," (Footnote: The warders in the Tower of London are called "beefeaters"; the origin of the term is obscure) Indians, Zulus, for whom there are special rules. We find we can buy lead dogs, cats, lions, tigers, horses, camels, cattle, and elephants of a reasonably corresponding size, and we have serval boxes of railway porters, and some soldiers we bought in Hesse-Darmstadt that we pass off on an unsuspecting home world as policemen. But we want civilians very badly. We found a box of German from an exaggerated curse of militarism, and even the grocer wears epaulettes. This might please Lord Roberts and Mr. Leo Maxse, but it certainly does not please us. I wish, indeed, that we could buy boxes of tradesmen: a blue butcher, a white baker with a loaf of standard bread, a merchant or so; boxes of servants, boxes of street traffic, smart sets, and so forth. We could do with a judge and lawyers, or a box of vestrymen. It is true that we can buy Salvation Army lasses and football players, but we are cold to both of these. We have, of course, boy scouts. With such boxes of civilians we could have much more fun than with the running, marching, swashbuckling soldiery that pervades us. They drive us to reviews; and it is only emperors, kings, and very silly small boys who can take an undying interest in uniforms and reviews.


Overall I'm glad I bought a copy of Floor Games with photos. I suspect there're things in the photos I'm not appreciating right now, so it might still have surprises in future readings. Also, those photos in Little Wars are intriguing and I need to give it a read too.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Motorizing Editions Atlas' Hong Kong Tram

Editions Atlas Hong Kong tram with Kato 11-104 truck

In Voie Libre #106 I read about an interesting HO-9 tramway layout called Plage Bel Air by Frederic Mottet. The first thing that caught my attention was it was a seaside scene with a kidney bean track plan much like the LOL, only considerably smaller. The second was the use of static trams by Editions Atlas, which Mottet motorized. 

I had a look online to see what Editions Atlas had to offer, and came across an HO scale double-decker Hong Kong tram. I've admired Bachmann's OO Hong Kong tram, but haven't been able to locate one for LOL Mk II. So, even though the Editions Atlas version is unmotorized, I thought I'd buy one and try my hand at motorization. I found one on Ebay from a German seller, and for a very reasonable $US 7 shipping charge it was in my hands in a mere 5 days!

Bumper pried off
There was nothing conceptually difficult about this project. In fact the hardest part was the most fundamental: figuring out how to get the body and chassis separated without damage.

First thing was to pry off the front and rear bumpers. This revealed 2 holes at each end of the metal frame where the bumpers attached. 

For some dumb reason I thought these might also be holes where screws were inserted to hold on the body. I drilled them out, but the body didn't release.

It turns out the trick was that I needed to drill out the front and rear lights. Behind the light is either a screw or rivet, and once drilled out, the chassis drops out of the body. I'll need to repair those lights during final assembly, but that's not a big deal.


The toy's truck is held on with 2 screws, as is the upper deck seating. Once those items are unscrewed, you're left with the metal chassis.

Now the fun begins.





I have 2 Kato 11-104 powered chassises that I bought a few years ago thinking I'd use them to build a quasi-freelanced O-9 model of Thaddeus Lowe's personal Mount Lowe trolley

After lots of thought and inspection, I figured I couldn't build what I was after with these Kato units, so they've been sitting on the shelf. 


Lucky for me the Kato unit fit the Hong Kong tram quite well. 

The only modification I made was to cut off the end platforms, buffers, couplers, and railings: basically, everything outbound of the screws that hold the motor in place was cut off. This reduction in size of the power truck meant a much smaller opening needed to be cut into the toy's metal chassis.


Cutting the opening for the power truck was a big job. It took me about 4 hours of on-and-off work with a drill, dremel with cutting disks and grinding stones, files, and sanding sticks to cut a suitable rectangular opening into the chassis. I probably should have made a video of the process, but I wasn't sure if my methods were best, or even if this was going to work out. 

One important thing to note. The metal beams that connect the front and rear platforms need to cut off for the power truck to fit. However, this weakens the chassis as all that is left to connect the end platforms are those horizontal metal strips you see in the picture. Once the beams are cut off you need to make sure you handle the chassis carefully or you might accidentally bend it during further cutting operations. 

Also, make sure you wear your eye protection and work gloves when doing this job.

Once the chassis is cleaned up it's just a matter of epoxying on the power unit. I've tacked it in place with some dots of epoxy, but I need to go back and see what edges and seams could use some extra epoxy to give the whole thing better strength.

And that's the end of what I think is the most important part of converting this static toy into a not too shabby HO-9 tram. Detailing and paint are next, but to check things out I temporarily slipped the body on the chassis for a quick run around the test track.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Elizabeth Valley RR in N-Scale Magazine

Paul informed me the article he wrote on his N-scale version of E. L. Moore's Elizabeth Valley RR is in the November / December 2021 issue of N-Scale. His layout is excellent, and I'm very glad to hear that N-Scale magazine published his article. I gotta pop out to the hobby shop and get myself a copy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Walt Disney, boxcar surfer

Vince tipped me off to this gem. Come for the three great railroads, stay for the boxcar surfing. Walt Disney gives a master class around the 8:20 mark.