Thursday, August 23, 2012


It’s hard for me to believe it’s a little more than a week away. In this region, once September hits, the weather often changes so quickly from summer to fall it’s as if switch was flipped. It’s unusual for summer weather to linger past Labour Day even though the season doesn’t actually end until the 22nd. Although, I do hope it does linger for awhile longer.

Throughout the fall I want to get the layout all tuned up for running trains again, get the trains themselves in good operating condition, finish off the basic scenery on the board, and have a scattering of detailed scenes on view. All in preparation for the Christmas season, especially for this year’s Silver Spike Ceremony.

I had plans to have some electrical prep work finished by summer’s end, but that didn’t pan out. Anyway, I thought I’d post a few photos of the layout just to document its present state. When it’s not on display it’s stored in the basement on a tall, wheeled frame. Right now it’s been rolled into the workshop so it’s easy to work on under the main shop lights. But, I think the first job I’ll need to tackle is cleaning up the workshop – it’s been neglected and abused all summer and now it needs some attention before I start on the layout.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Progress on the interior at the B3

I’ve been building up the interior over the last few days. I’m just going to do some rudimentary work and leave detailing for another time. However, I did do some upfront planning about lighting – hopefully I’ve learned my lesson from the McGregor Park Library problem :-)

The interior walls that make up the food prep area and counter sides are cut from 0.020 inch styrene.

The B3 is clearly a selectively compressed building, with the emphasis on compressed. In reality it would be far too small for any sort of everyday working café or bar. With this structure I just wanted to hit the highlights of what might be the main features of such a place, hint at the style I have in mind for this part of the city, and also have something that would fit the available space. It would be a place to buy a coffee or sandwich – probably to-go – and head out to a picnic table near the beach, or grab a streetcar and head home. If you’re looking for something more substantial, you can walk down the boardwalk to Moe’s barbecue place near the beach. There’s also a streetcar stop down there to take you home so you don’t need to walk back to the city when you’re done. However, if you’re looking for a band, a better view of the ocean, and something more upbeat, catch the streetcar at the Cedar Heights stop across from the Fortran building and go over to Grilles.

Inside the B3 there will be a few chairs and a couple of small tables in case the weather is bad. And there’ll be a Hammond B3 organ for a little dinner music. I don’t know how I’m going to build one in HO-scale, but I’m going to give it a try sometime! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Upstairs at Stella's takes shape

I've lined the inside window frames with a thin, black Sharpie pen, and the walls have been glued together to form the basic box shape of the 2nd and 3rd floors.I used Ambroid Proweld glue and it worked quite well. I taped together the acrylic walls, made sure everything was square, and then ran Proweld along the joints. After around 10 or 15 seconds the structure was very solid. I then cut a piece of 0.080 inch styrene for the third floor. The same gluing technique was applied to the floor: it was slipped into place and Proweld was run along the joints. Once dry this all makes for a very solid structure.

Those pieces below are the panels that will be glued over each side of the 'glass' box. Various other window and roof details will be built up on them.

Let’s get one thing straight ;-)

I’m an aficionado of old-school methods for scratchbuilding and kit-bashing HO-scale buildings. I like to work mainly in styrene, wood, and card. I haven’t written much on the basics per se other than showing in passing the techniques and tools I’ve used as I proceed with a particular project. But, since I’ve been working on several freelance buildings lately, I thought I’d mention one set of tools that are near and dear: rulers and scales.

Over the years I’ve collected a number of them. Unfortunately I’ve also broken, bent, slashed, lost, gouged and otherwise rendered useless another equally large number. These are the lucky survivors. That upside-down-Y sectioned aluminum ruler is the newest addition I bought at Staples a few evenings ago when Debra and I were picking up office supplies.

I don’t have many dogmatic rules, but I do try to live by this one: don’t use a plastic or wooden scale or ruler as a straight edge to score or cut lines with a knife. I’ve ruined plenty of rulers that way. As a boy, my mother was glad when I started to use that McDonald’s ruler because now I’d stop damaging her good sewing rulers! A few years later I bought a proper model railroader’s scale at George’s Trains. It cost me a couple of dollars or so – a small fortune to me at the time – and it became my standard measuring tool and cutting edge. I’m glad to still have it, and I work with it on just about all my projects. I’d highly recommend buying one.

I like the physical size of HO-scale items, but it seems to me that 1/87.1 is a weird scale for modeling things.  The ratio 1/87.1 means that 1 foot on a regular household ruler represents 87.1 HO sized feet. HO seems to make a little more sense when I think of it in metric terms: HO-scale means 3.5mm on a household ruler represents 1 real foot. There’s still the problem of mixing metric and imperial measure, so the weirdness is only tamed a little. Wikipedia has a good discussion of the historical story behind HO if you want to go into the whys and wherefores behind HO’s existence. The British OO scale – 1/76.2, or 4mm represents a foot – seems somewhat more sensible to me. The models are a little bigger than HO without taking up too much additional space, and the arithmetic involved with scaling things is a little easier to work with: 1 mm represents 3 inches; 0.5 mm represents 1.5 inches. Also, since OO is very close to 1/72 scale, which is a common model aircraft and military modeling scale, there are lots of cross-over possibilities.

I must admit I kind of took up with HO-scale more by accident than by plan. My first train set was HO, the first E.L. Moore building project I was entranced with was presented in HO, and there was lots of HO-scale stuff readily available. I dabbled a little with N-scale back in the ‘70s but nothing came of it. When I reentered the hobby a few years ago, I didn’t reconsider what would be the best scale to start over with, I just went with HO. As I’ve developed my knowledge and interests since then, and although I quite like the streetcars available in HO, I might have re-started with N instead of HO since there’s a lot going on in N that I quite admire – as well, there seems to be a very positive and forward looking vibe there. I have a few ideas I’d like to try in N-scale and hopefully I’ll be able to give them a go in the years ahead.

Well, the point of this ramble is: if you can only buy yourself one measuring tool, get yourself a metal scale engraved with measurements in whatever scale you’re working in as it’ll make measuring, ruling, scoring, and cutting a lot easier.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cool streetcar scooter

I stumbled across this photo of what might be a maintenance vehicle for chasing after broken down streetcars or trams via No Tech Magazine, which sourced the story from Motoblog
And speaking of odd 'train' stuff :-) All summer I've been listening to Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia. One of my favourites is this one (a shorter version is in the set),

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Spinnaker building gets painted

Title tells all I guess. The walls were sprayed with Krylon blue and roofs are Krylon aluminum. The wall colour was sprayed rather haphazardly to produce a non-uniform application. The centre was loosely brush painted with thinned washes of flat black and aluminum for highlighting. 

The idea behind this unusually thin building – and others I have in mind – is to help construct another layer of buildings in the business / resort area. I’d like to eventually have 2 or 3 layers of structures that the streetcars can pass through, and viewers need to look over or around, to give a better feeling of density to the area. Since my layout ‘theme’ is the retro-future, I’m mixing modern-esqe buildings with conventional structures to give an impression of a coexisting alternative past, present and future. These thin buildings are clearly from some sort of weird, parallel universe future :-) and the plan is that they will form a layer along the outer edge of the area, where there is only about an inch or two of space. Also, since there is no defined backdrop for this layout, and it can be viewed from all angles, both sides of the thin buildings are going to be built to support viewing from any side.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The B3 Café: Basic Pieces

I want a building to sit between the Oceanview hotel and the Fortran building. It seems the best choice is a café of some sort. The one I have in mind will open both to the street and ocean. Those big L-shaped windows that form most of the end facades are made up from Grandt Line O-scale window castings. The walls will be covered with brick paper. It’ll also have a removable roof so I can eventually add interior detail.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jake & Elwood

I bought these Design Preservation townhouse kits 8 or so years ago when I was building the original 30 Squares Line. That old layout was basically all mountains and valleys. I didn’t properly plan where the buildings would go, so I ran into a problem where I didn’t have enough space for the townhouses. Since I had a brand new razor saw handy and nothing to use it on, I decided to do some renovations and cut the townhouses down to a useable footprint. I wound up with two townhouses with more-or-less square floor plans. I think it was this rather reckless action that got me thinking more seriously about selective compression and the advantages it offers. These days I think it’s quite  a good thing and hope to write a post about it in the future.
These two buildings eventually wound-up on the shelf. I had thought they were ruined and I wouldn’t have much use for them on the new layout. Well, recently, as I’ve been playing around with building arrangements, I’ve started to think they would be an interesting addition. They need a little renovation painting-wise, and a  few more details here and there, but they could work out. In these pictures I’ve already removed the old windows and weird curtains and blinds I had installed so that the walls are ready for painting.

When they’re placed down there by the Fortran building they are pretty close to the streetcar tracks - so close, that you could probably open the front door and walk straight inside your morning streetcar if you timed things right :-) or get run over if you timed things wrong :-( This all reminded me of Elwood’s apartment in The Blues Brothers. Now, I just need to find an HO-scale Blues-mobile!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Temporary display base for the McGregor Park Library

The McGregor Park Library model has been a little tricky to store safely while I'm preparing its city site because of those lighting wires sticking out of the bottom. A brick solved this little problem quite well.
And speaking of libraries,

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Most viewed posts

I've been having a look at 30 Squares' stats and seeing if I could figure out anything from them. Since this a rather obscure blog with a small number of regular readers (thank you for taking the time to stop by and having a look!), and what looks like a regular group of  stats server spammers, there isn't a lot of information. But, for what it's worth, here is Blogger's list of the nine most viewed posts since I started this blog back in February 2009,
# 9, Now boarding at Scarboro Square Station
#8, Years ago at the beach,
#7, Rail cars,
#6, Barrel & Marble Works: An E. L. Moore style building in HO,
#5, E. L. Moore's VW truck,
#4, Scarboro Square Station - Basic structure,
#3, Mr. Jackson Stevens' Trams via British Pathe,
#2, HO-scale logging airships?,
and the all-time (so far) most viewed post,
#1, Amtronic ranch.

Building arrangements & title photos

I've been shooting some new photos for the blog's title photo as well as trying out some new building arrangements on the layout. Nothing definite yet. That's the old title photo below - I liked the composition, but the focus isn't good.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Construction resumes at Stella's

Well, I know it doesn't seem like much, but I've figured out how to proceed with the construction of the upper floors at Stella's, and the place to start was with drawing the side and end elevations. These will be transfered to the clear plastic walls, and styrene strips will be glued on to build up the window frames.

The Spinnaker Building

This is the first of a few thin, abstract buildings that I have in mind as background 'filler' structures. The above picture shows the Spinnaker before painting, which I hope to get started in the next day or two.