Monday, April 30, 2012

Find your towel, the El Camino Municipal Pool is done!

I think that one thing that almost always goes without saying is that if you’re building a pool, you can’t wait for the day when you can fill it with water. Same thing with this project. The problem here is that the ‘water’ took around 2 or 3 weeks to fill it! I used Woodland Scenics ‘water’ and poured it into the bed in rather thin 1/8 or 1/16 inch increments – waiting a few days between each pour. In the end it turned out ok with just one small pesky bubble that was determined to hang around. 
Between pours I worked on building the staircase, ladder and roof support. These things were just items glued up from miscellaneous plastic pieces I had on hand and painted a flat aluminum colour. Debra keenly pointed out that after climbing the stairs to the pool the low roof presented a head banging hazard. True, but I’m not about to add to the list of entrance admonishments that crash helmets must be worn at all times

That’s it for this project. Now, where did I leave my flippers?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Working on the ground cover

Title tells all. Hopefully more details next week.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Track painting

[ Here's what it looked like before I got started - basic black track.]
In Dave Fray’s How to build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery (2nd ed) Mr. Fray spends a few paragraphs talking about ‘active’ areas of the layout. These are areas that are designed so that scenes can be easily changed. Nothing in these areas - buildings, trees, vehicles, figures and so on - are permanently placed. That’s what the rural area on this layout is meant to be. It’s a place that I can easily change. So, it’s going to remain flat with some rudimentary ground cover.
[Saturday was rainy, good for Debra's daffodils, and also good for inside work on the layout.]
Last fall when I was starting construction on this layout I thought I’d have all the basic scenery in place by Christmas. No such luck. Things took much longer than I thought. It’s only now that I’m getting around to scenicking the rural part. Well, better late than never!
[The mixing palette. The colour differences between the various wells isn't too clear in photos, but it's a good tool for mixing paint.]
First thing was to paint the track. I used Atlas code 100 track and a Peco code 100 curved switch in this area. It’s by no means fine-scale, super-detailed track, but it is robust and reliable. My goal was just to tone down the track’s black molding to make it a little more natural looking.
[After a bit of painting. No drastic changes, but the basic black colour is toned down.]
I mixed a thin slurry of Polyscale L & N Gray and Tamiya Flat Earth along with a generous amount of thinner on a palette. I used this as the base colour and supplemented it with thin washes of Tamiya Flat Black, Flat Brown, Neutral Gray, and Light Grey. These washes were painted on the track in a very sloppy manner until I got an uneven gray-brown tone on the ties that I was happy with. As I mentioned, the goal wasn’t complete coverage of the black, just a naturalistic toning down. Once the ground cover and ballast is installed the track colour will blend better into the scene and won’t draw as much attention to itself as the raw black would.

[The paint stuck the switches, so unfortunately the switch stands broke off as I got things unstuck. No big deal. They're easy to glue back into place now that the track is working again.]

After it dried I cleaned up the rails and made sure things ran fine again - some paint got on the rails, but it was easily removed with a Peco track eraser and some IPA. Next up, adding ground cover.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The 70's Files: A cottage in 1/4 inch scale

I built this back in 1990 over the Christmas holidays after not having built anything in years - I was ‘contracted’ by my sister to build it for her to use in her final year diorama project at horticulture school. It’s built from balsa, card, sandpaper, a sheet of plastic brick and some lime green curtains for that ‘70s feel :-)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Finished paving the hotel area

[The layout looks a lot different when the photo isn't carefully staged and the scenery is pulled back.]
I spent a few hours last weekend finishing laying down the styrene ‘concrete’ in the hotel area. It was sort of a tricky job getting the various curves and angles properly laid out on the styrene sheets, but in the end it turned out to be a fairly pleasant task. Three tools that came in rather handy were a profile gauge for transferring some odd track curves when the curve wasn’t too long, a drafting spline for transferring long curves, and a sliding bevel for transferring angles. 
Originally I started paving the various concreted track areas on the layout with Walthers’ Street Track Inserts product. It’s basically just a box of styrene pieces shaped to fit in various sizes of track: straights, curves and switches. After painting it looked passable and made the job rather easy – just trimming and gluing into place the various pieces; no messing with plaster. Well, after awhile I ran out of certain pieces and went looking for another box. No such luck. It’s out of production. So, to finish off, the concreted track areas are a mix of remaining pieces from the Walthers kit and others I’ve cut myself from styrene sheet. No big deal really. I’ve had to cut a number of styrene pieces anyway to build roads, sidewalks, squares and other pedestrian areas, but the convenience of the Walthers kit was hard to beat.
[Rubber cement was used to hold the paving to the layout board. Containers of screws acted as weights to hold things in place while the glue dried.]
One thing I should point out if you plan to pave streets and track with styrene. Make sure you keep the styrene pieces a bit below the top of the rail as well as leaving some clearance for the flanges. With my first attempt last year I was a bit careless on some installations and had some styrene pieces level with the top of rail, and in some cases, where the plastic butted against the outside of the rail, it was a little higher than the rail top. This was a painful lesson because some streetcars would ride up on the plastic, lose contact with the rail, and stall. Much grinding of plastic, restoration of clearances, and prying and replacing of plastic paving ensued – as well as periods of unrestrained cursing   -  to get things back to operational. I took this lesson to heart with last weekend’s work.
[Rocks also made for some handy weights.]
In the end the hotel area grounds were paved, a long sidewalk was built to connect the grounds to the shore, and a disguise was made for the program track power terminals. Just need to paint them all. The whole job took around 4 or 5 hours. I got slowed down a bit camouflaging the program track terminals. Basically, I just built a square cap for the terminals and will place an electrical box (a nostalgic relic from my ‘70s layout) on top. It’s removable if I need to get at the wiring. 

I pulled out my old Red Garland records to play while I worked. Paving and piano seemed to be a good combination.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Routine Pleasures

A few years ago I was doing a Google search on something or other and came up with hits on a movie called Routine Pleasures by Jean-Pierre Gorin. The descriptions I found sounded interesting, so I looked for a DVD. Couldn’t find a copy then, couldn’t find one whenever I remembered to have another look. Never any luck. Turns out this year, Eclipse, an imprint of Criterion Collection, released it along with Mr. Gorin’s Poto and Cabengo and My Crasy Life; together, the three are know as Mr. Gorin’s California Trilogy.

It’s a little hard for me to say what kind of a movie Routine Pleasures is. If pressed, I’d say it’s a documentary about two interrelated things: the first, and biggest, looks at the world of the Pacific Beach and Western model railroad club; the second, and you’ll need to watch the movie to see the interrelatedness with the first part, is about the artist Manny Farber and two of his better known paintings, Birthplace: Douglas, Ariz. and Chew on Me. As you’ve no doubt guessed, on the art film to mainstream movie continuum, Routine Pleasures skews towards art film. Don’t let that scare you off, it’s more on the fun, witty, insightful, respectful side, and not the obscure, cynical, condescending, or incomprehensible side if that’s what comes to mind if there’s a whiff of the arty in the air.

Routine Pleasures was released in 1986, but it looks like it was shot around 1982. The movie is partially an attempt by Mr. Gorin to figure out what makes the members of the club tick, and learn why they are fascinated by model railroading. Along the way there are interviews, but mainly there is just lots of just following the club members around as they hang out at the club and run the railroad. Interviews and observation and interaction. And there is Mr. Gorin’s excellent footage of the model railroad itself.

There were two particular things that kind of jumped out at me in the narrative. One was Mr. Gorin’s use of the term ‘trainmen’ to describe the club members. Not ‘model railroaders’, but ‘trainmen’. I thought that was insightful because it did seem that the interest of the club members was indeed trains, and model railroading was their expression of that interest.

The other was that Mr. Gorin referred to the layout as ‘The Machine’; the caps are mine, but to me it sure sounded like ‘The Machine’ and not ‘the machine’. The complexity of the layout, both in terms of track, trains and scenery, as well as the flip-side of wiring, structure, clocks, controls and so on, combined with the fact that the club members not only surrounded it, but also entered it, when operating suggested that it was almost something akin to a crude Earthbound spacecraft; hence, ‘The Machine’. I hadn’t thought of a layout on these terms, but it does make some sense - watch the movies, the visuals of operating and maintenance sessions make this quite clear.

Thirty years have gone by since this movie was shot and I was curious to see if the Pacific Beach and Western model railroad still existed. I did a little more Google searching with just the knowledge that The Machine was located in an old hanger at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego, and that construction started in 1958, so by 1982 or so, it was fairly mature. I couldn’t find anything, which isn’t a good sign. No doubt the fate of many a model railroad has also befallen the Pacific Beach and Western.

One thing I did find were references to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum at Balboa Park. The museum posted this interesting 2012 dated youTube video about the history of model railroading in the Balboa Park area. Interesting, but unfortunately no mention of the PB&W.

So, Routine Pleasures is out there after being more-or-less lost from general circulation and I’m glad to see it back. Take a look. There’s much more than I’ve discussed here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The view from Mr. Buschel's porch

I'm continuing to move things around looking for the 'ultimate' arrangement of buildings and track. This picture is from the Barrel & Marble Works via one possible configuration.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Continuing on with siting, paving and repairs

I’ve been spending some time thinking about where some of the new buildings I’m working on will reside on the layout { unfortunately, that's what lead to the Oceanview Hotel accident, so some of that thinking has been on hold for a while :-) }. I kind of like the idea shown in the opening photo. A sidewalk will lead from the Oceanview Hotel, past Moe Lass’ Barbecue, down to the shore. Just behind the hotel is the Cedar Heights streetcar stop. I think this arrangement will help begin to join the older development in the industrial area to the newer development in central park and beyond in some sort of quasi-logical manner, and also form a tangible boundary between the two areas. I might add a small streetcar stop at the shore-end of the sidewalk.

I've also gotten back into finishing the track paving in the urban area. I found out recently that Walthers is no longer selling their street track inserts, so to finish off I'll need to make my own with sheet styrene. The area shown above is located just behind the Oceanview Hotel.

I guess the key piece in this scene is the Oceanview Hotel. Over the last few days I've been repairing its parts and putting the structure back together. The photo above shows the base before gluing on the ground floor. A hole was drilled for inserting optical fibres. It's covered by the elevator shaft, which will act as a passageway for the fibres up to the various floors. The ground floor, first floor and elevator shaft were glued in place with epoxy once they were repaired. The other floors were were just stacked up, unglued, until the interior details are added.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Moe Lass': Lighting

These days I've been mainly working on getting the workshop reorganized, but, at the same time, Moe's was nearly finished, so I thought I'd spent some time on that too.

A few weeks ago I bought some side glowing optical fibres to play around with. One thing I wanted to try was using one for a 'retro-futuristic' light fixture for Moe's. The fibre I finally chose was 3 mm in diameter, held in place with styrene tubes. Under each tube is a hole in the floor for inserting an LED. It turns out you only need 1 LED inserted at either end to light up the fibre.

The fibre is flexible to a certain extent, but it can't be bent to a 90 degree angle. The shape the fibre assumed under the windows is the most I could bend it and still feel comfortable that it wasn't going to break.

I also tried using a grain-of-wheat bulb to light the fibre, but it didn't work. Only an LED did. Also, one of the other nice things about using an LED is that you can try different colours for different lighting effects. As experiments go, this one didn't turn out too badly, but I need to add some detailing to the light fixture to give it a little more 'realistic' credibility.

As well as lighting, I got a start on the interior. It's pretty sparse so far, but I thought I'd at least get the basics in place, and one of those basics was refrigerators - got to have some where to store the meat!

Debra indulges my need for odd plastic pieces, and these little end-caps she had been saving for me came in quite handy as the basis for refrigerators.

The first thing to do was superglue some styrene sheet to the opening for doors, and scribe a line down the centre of the sheet for where the doors come together when closed. There's a lot of grinding and sanding to get the styrene to match the opening of the plastic cap.

The door handles were made from staples. A pin-vise was used to drill holes near the top of the doors for inserting the untrimmed staple pong. The trimmed prong is simply superglued to the surface of the door. This avoids the need to drill precise upper and lower holes for mounting the handles.

To help the refrigerator stand up straight, a scrap of styrene was glued to the bottom. The finished fridge is painted an aluminum colour. Some flat black was then used to paint on the gasket between the door and the fridge body.

The interior still needs a few things like tables, chairs, cooking stuff, and maybe a piano, but that is for another time.

And here's one of the big problems with a barbecue that has no doors, it can attract the wrong kind of clientele!