Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Oceanview Hotel is not earthquake proof

Last night I was rolling the layout to a position in the workshop where a section I wanted to work on would be directly underneath the lights. While moving the layout, making sure it wasn't going to crash into a wall, I pulled a little too hard, rolled over some unevenness on the floor, and the Oceanview Hotel (which, ironically, was temporarily being stored on the layout board to keep it safe while I worked on something else at the workbench) toppled over and crashed to the floor! Luckily I was able to find all the pieces except one window pane, and although most of the windows popped out on impact, all the individual units were intact, although some were a little scraped. I'm going to take a little break from building over the next few days to bring some order to a workshop that has none since I've got a number of projects on the go, and I don't want any further destructive testing done on any of them :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

July 1922, back garden, Arbordale Ave, Rochester, NY

I admit upfront that this post has nothing to do with model railroading, but I found this picture quite interesting. I came across it at the same time as I found the Rochester streetcar photo from 1923. This isn't one of those poncy designer gardens we see these days on 'reality' home reno tv shows, it's quite clearly a working garden - almost a small farm - in what I think then was almost considered to be the suburbs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saturday, 28 April 1923, Highland Park, Rochester, NY

I recently came across these photos in our family archive. The first is a view apparently taken along South Avenue in Rochester, New York, opposite Highland Park. I don't know the company that operated the streetcar. The bottom photo is looking into the park. Although I know I shouldn't be, I'm always amazed at the difference between the early 20th century and its final years.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bowser's Postwar TCC PCC Streetcar

I was in Toronto this weekend and was lucky to find a Bowser postwar PCC streetcar in TTC colours at George's Trains. All it needs is a DCC decoder and it'll be ready for service on the Lost Ocean Line.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moe Lass': Trial fitting the roof

I painted the roof pieces last night and then tried them out on the building. I used loose washes of PolyScale L&N grey, rust and green acrylic paint. Doesn’t look too bad. It’s starting to look something like the building in Mr. Moore’s article. I’d say major construction is done, and I’m moving on to detailing, especially outfitting the interior.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Moe Lass': Clerestory & roof

The clerestory and roof were rather satisfying pieces to build. The dimensions of these items are as specified in Mr. Moore’s article; however, I made some substitutions of materials. I didn’t have any thin balsa around for the clerestory framing, so I substituted with some 0.012 inch styrene. Same for the roof panels; I didn’t have enough scrap balsa on hand, so I used styrene instead. Also, since the roof can be removed, the styrene holds up a bit better to handling.

Mr. Moore modeled a tar paper surface on the roofs. For the era he set the building in, that was fine. I substituted in corrugated metal roofing. I figure that the roof of such a building would have been replaced a few times in its lifetime in order to survive into the 21th century, and if it were my building, I would have used a metal roofing material. Not to mention I had lots of leftover Campbell corrugated metal from the Buschell’s Barrel & Marble Works build that I wanted to use up The metal panels were attached to the styrene substructure with super-glue.

Building these pieces isn’t complicated, but there are a number of rather simple and repetitive tasks involved. Strangely enough, I found them rather mentally relaxing to undertake. Maybe they should be promoted as a meditation technique

[All ready for painting and weathering.]

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blue lights above

I ordered some optical fibres and illuminators awhile ago. They showed up in the mail late last week. That's a 3mm diameter side-glow fibre lit up with a blue LED illuminator. I'm trying out some ideas with the fibres, and one was to have an illuminated overhead system for the streetcar fleet. It's certainly not prototypical, but I thought - given the 'retro-future' setting of the layout - it might add some interest to the city scene. So far, several problems: the fibre will need longitudinal support since it isn't rigid as an overhead wire would be; instead of 3 mm, I'll need to try it again with the 2mm fibre to get better tracking of the trolley poles; in general, trolley pole tracking could be tricky problem because the different streetcars have different systems with different properties. I'll have to give this some more thought.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Oceanview Hotel: Painting

As well as being able to paint the El Camino pool during a warm snap awhile back, I was also able to do the base coating of the Oceanview Hotel. At first I thought I could brush paint the hotel, so I went ahead and made a trial on one of the floor units. Bad idea. The result was too gloppy even for me - all the nice window detailing was obliterated by the paint. I immediately dropped it in a bath of SuperClean to scour the mess and get back to the original plastic before spraying.
All the units that make up the hotel were sprayed with Krylon light blue. After the paint was dry I then went to work on painting the vertical elements with Tamiya flat aluminum, the floor edges with Poly Scale aged concrete, the inside walls with Tamiya grey-green, and the ceilings with flat white.

[That's what's left of the original gloppy paint job after soaking in SuperClean and scrubbing with a nail brush.]
To tone down the exterior colours a bit, some very thin washes of black were applied. It also helped to pop the window frame detail a little.
Although the unit exteriors were spray painted, the interiors were still painted by hand. First, I tried using a fine brush for that work, but it was very tedious, and I kept getting paint on the exterior surfaces. I eventually decided to use Microbrush swab applicators instead of a brush, and that made the job easier, faster, and far more accurate. The trick to using these things is to first dip the applicator head in the paint, making sure the handle doesn’t get paint on it, then, lightly dabbing the paint-filled applicator head on a paper towel or tissue until you see the applicator’s pointy bristles sticking out through the paint. This indicates that the excess paint has been removed and you’re ready to apply paint to plastic. Lightly wipe the applicator head on the surfaces, painting the widest window frames first, and the narrow horizontal pieces last when the applicator is almost dry to minimize the chance of getting paint on the exterior surfaces. Using a magnifying glass for this task makes things even easier. Now, if I had been smart, I would have pre-sprayed all the components before assembling, and that would have made painting quite easy; however, I really didn’t have a master plan when I started this project and just built-up the components as I got ideas about how to proceed – which in the end meant that interior painting became something of a chore.

Lightly coloured construction paper was used to carpet each of the units. This gave the floors some subtle texture that simply painting them wouldn’t, and also allowed the joints of the plastic pieces used to build the floors to be disguised. The combination of a white ceiling and very light gray flooring brightens up the interiors of the units. The floor of the ground unit was painted black, decorated with some curvy white lines, and then coated with Future to give it some shine.
The elevator doors are simply a picture I found searching the internet, re-scaled to HO, and printed. I lucked out because the wall colour around the elevator matched the colour I used to paint the elevator shaft – a happy accident. The edges of the door pictures were touched up with a little wall colour paint to make them blend a bit better.

The windows are cut from clear plastic and glued inside each window frame with some Micro Kyrstal Klear and a little superglue. This was a fairly big job since there are 26 panes that had to be cut and installed.
The roof-top satellite dish is an item from a broken toy that was repainted and weathered a little. It’s a bit on the thick and out-of-scale side, but it doesn’t look too bad, and this building is more of a caricature than a replica.

Standing back and looking at the tower, it’s not too bad even if it is just a caricature, but I think it needs some additional exterior paint or decoration to make it pop and give it some character. Also, the optical fibre I ordered awhile back finally got delivered last week, so I’m also giving some thought about how to use it in this building..
I haven’t glued the units into a tower yet. My plan is to permanently glue the base to the lobby unit, and then the first floor onto it. The sixth floor will be permanently glued to the roof unit. However, all the other floors will only be rubber cemented together so they could be easily pried apart for interior access. The elevator shaft will be epoxied to the base.

[Title page from E. L. Moore's Clarabel Hotel in the February '74 issue of Railroad Modeler.]
There’s going to be some interesting interior detailing work ahead. When I started on this project it reminded me of E.L. Moore’s Clarabel Hotel that appeared in the Feb ’74 issue of Railroad Modeler.

I made a start on that project when I was a kid, but it was far too difficult for me – and I had this weird idea of facing it with some ultra cheap, ugly, vastly out-of-scale brick paper I had bought at a deep-discount sale at a local hobby store which didn’t help things – so I abandoned it. Mr. Moore did a lot of interior detailing on the Clarabel Hotel, and the Oceanview Hotel will no doubt present its own unique challenges.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

United Transit Lines trolley

I bought this AHM trolley back in the late '70s. Surprisingly, it still runs today - the best runner of the few locos I have left from that time. The detail is not up to today's standards, but it does have crisp lines and a purposeful look, as well as a certain charm when it's running down the track. Problem is it's DC and I have no intention of trying to convert it to DCC. But, when I was installing the track on the Lost Ocean Line, I put in some extra terminals for running the layout on DC. Basically, the idea was I would have some sort of master switch where I could switch the layout between either pure DCC or pure DC so I could run my old DC equipment. I just need to get the wiring in place.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vintage Birney

I took a lot of photos of the layout when it was upstairs for the Christmas holidays. Some of them I've posted here, others, like this one, were merely tests of ideas - some had no backgrounds, others didn't work out as planned. I've been fiddling with those photos from time-to-time. This is one that didn't work out too well, but when I applied the 'vintage' colouring feature to it in iPhoto, I rather liked the result even though it doesn't have a proper background. I'm looking forward to the summer when I can move the layout outside for a few days to take photos in natural sunlight. Until then I make do with trying to stage what I can in the low winter sun that comes through the windows.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bachmann Birney Blues

Early last December I bought one of Bachmann’s Birney trolleys, and it got its first run at the 2011 Christmas Rusty Spike party. It was a bit of a disappointment because it didn’t run well, and considering what it cost, I was expecting at least the basic function of running around the track without constantly stopping to work just fine. I had cleaned the track, and my other locos were running ok, so the signs pointed to the Birney.

[These are the wheels after I had done an initial stripping in December and run the Birney for many loops on the layout. I was a little too enthusiastic with the gear oil, so they got a bit gloppy and picked up gunk during the course of operating. So, this is what the wheels looked like prior to another round of cleaning last weekend.]

Yeap, the store where I bought it did run it up and down its test track, but I should have paid more attention that it had to be given a little nudge to get it going.

Long story short, it was only picking up power from one pair of wheels, and it looked like all the wheels had been completely coated with paint in the factory: fronts, which is ok; backs, where the pickups touch the wheels to draw power; and treads, the wheel surfaces that contact the rails. Basically, not much power was getting to the motor because paint was insulating the flow. After the Rusty Spike event I lightly sanded the wheel backs and treads, and oiled the gears a bit. This fixed things somewhat. I also found that the instructions recommended - on a back page - running the model for several loops at moderate speed to break it in, which I did. Frankly, although it was much better, it still seemed to run rather erratically compared to my other locos.

[The Birney also had a couple of minor aesthetic issues. One was the cords to the overhead pickups. You can see there is untrimmed thread which looks a little unsightly. Also, the opening picture shows the thread to be so stiff that it twists in such away to not obey the laws of gravity. Actually I should replace both the stock threads with something that droops properly - that's for next time, this go round I just trimmed off the excess at each end.]

Erratically enough that I didn’t feel it warranted - even after what I feel was unusual maintenance work on a brand-new loco - lifting my C grade on it. You know, I’ve had lots of good experiences with Bachmann locos. The two CN diesels, that I still own, that were given to me as presents 40 years ago, still run fairly well, and my current 70 ton and 45 ton HO Bachmann diesels run very well (I rank those two as solid Bs, not because they have any problems, but simply because they are solid performers and have an average level of detail, no flaws per se, simply that they don’t have something special to push them to an A grade). I was rather disappointed. For comparison, the Con-Car PCC TTC streetcar I bought last spring is an A. Clean and precise detail, combined with excellent operational performance. Debra listened a lot to my whining about its cost, but at least it’s an excellent product.

[As well, those slat panels running along the lower half of the windows were warped on both ends, and they wouldn't snap into the corresponding window holes. I carefully used small dabs of glue to flatten them out and hold them in place.]

I finally decided to remove the Birney’s wheels again, soak them in SuperClean over night to try and strip more paint from them, and sand them a little more, because I was still bothered that it didn’t run properly. I also fiddled with the power pickups a little to make sure they all contacted the wheel backs. All this seemed to have done the trick. After re-assembling the power truck, and applying a dab of oil to the gears, the Birney ran smoothly and picked up power from both wheel sets. Now I’d give it a B.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stella’s Used Record Store & Starlight Yoga Studio: Demolition and Renovation

[I temporarily tilted up the ‘glass’ walls for this shot to see how things looked. One wall was a little too tall and had to be cut down to size.]

I started assembling the Design Preservation corner building kit several years ago, but lost interest midway during construction and went on to other projects. It’s sat in a forlorn, semi-finished state in various locations in the workshop ever since. I eventually realized the problem I had was with the second story. I didn’t like it. It seemed too old, but the ground floor was quite interesting. I’ve been thinking for a long time about cutting the second floor off, and adding a more modern glass-and-steel upper level as a replacement to create a hybrid old and slightly newer building. I finally decided to give it a try. These days I’ve got a lot of ideas for various projects kicking around in my mind – good thing they’re not wearing cowboy boots! – and I figured that if I took my usual plodding approach to building one project after another in serial fashion, I’d barely see any of them realized. So, I thought I’d just make a start on any project that was interesting whenever the mood struck me, and I’d work on any project on the bench that seemed fun to do. This might be wasteful because something(s) is (are) likely never to get finished, but maybe that’s better than never starting them at all and wondering how they might have turned out. Anyway, I thought I’d collect up some pictures of progress I’ve made on this one over the last few weeks.

[After: The second story was cut off using both a disk cutter in my dremel and a razor saw. After it was free, I leveled the top of the first floor walls with the dremel drum sander and sanding sticks.]

[The upper story walls cut from 1/16 inch clear acrylic sheet. This is tough stuff to cut. Basically, you need to score it with a special knife made for the job, and then snap it along the score. Easy to write, harder to do well and safely. I usually break or mangle the piece I’m trying to cut, but I vowed not to do that this time. The mistake I made in the past was to try and hold the piece steady with one hand and use the other to score it. Bad idea on both the accuracy and safety fronts. This time I clamped the piece onto my WorkMate with an aluminum straight edge running along the line to be scored. This makes scoring a deep, uniform line easy, and you can keep your other hand free and clear without running the risk of getting a nasty gash in the process.]

[Once the piece is scored, you can snap it by laying the scored section over a piece of ABS pipe and then smartly pushing down on either side of the line. Presto! A clean break! After I got the hang of the whole process, I was able to easily separate the pieces and get a clean edge at the break simply by snapping the piece with my hands.]

I think one great thing about a streetcar layout is that it allows for many sorts of buildings and locales since the route should service all kinds of places people might go to: homes, libraries, businesses, restaurants, factories, schools, stores, hotels, clubs, parks, ski hills, beaches and so on and so on. For the model builder I think it offers lots of opportunity to try building all sorts of stuff; both replicas and new things. With Stella’s, the first floor will be the used record store, and there will be 2 glass and steel floors above that one: one for the yoga studio, the other’s use is still to be determined.

[The inside surface of the first floor walls have many small indentations – I guess they are from the molding process. I filled them in so I’d get a clean surface to work with.]

[This is where Stella's might finally reside.]

That’s it for now. Here’s a little of the Bill Evans’ Trio to finish off the evening: