Monday, October 29, 2012

Upper floors at Stella’s completed

I finally finished the second and third floors at Stella’s.  This seemingly easy project has taken me a long time to complete, and I had to ‘cheat’ to continue to make progress.

I had based the look of the upper floors on a building I drive by everyday on my way to work. The problem was I wasn’t liking the way the model was turning out, and I developed a mental block that kept me from progressing – I was stuck on this one idea about how the model should look. Also, I had sprayed the outer panels the same colour as the Oceanview Hotel, and when I placed Stella’s on the layout, it didn’t look right with the hotel nearby – they matched too much.

'Eventually I remembered to go back to the book space: Japanese Design Solutions for Compact Living by Michael Freeman. It’s one my favourite books to browse through, and the picture of corner angle by Yoshiaki Yamashita (pg 114) was also an early inspiration for Stella’s – it gave me the idea of putting a new ‘top’ on an ‘old’, or pre-existing, base. Originally I thought Stella’s would be something of a hybrid between this Japanese building and the Canadian one I see every day. I guess in the end, it tilted more to the Japanese prototype.  I changed Stella’s paint scheme to black, and added a lot of aluminum-painted styrene framing to outline the windows and edges. This got me back on track.

[Facade of corner angle in space, pg. 114]

The roof panel, and the ground floor ceiling – which also forms the floor for the second level – are removable, and the upper floor unit isn’t glued to the ground floor, but is simply press fit into place so that I can later add interior detail and lighting. For now, the second and third floors were outfitted with black cardboard view blockers.

The box that forms the upper floors is very structurally strong, and I attribute this to using Ambroid ProWeld on the joints. I learned about if from this excellent youTube video on building with styrene.



I’m going to set Stella’s aside while I think of signs to add.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Breaking in Bowser's TCC PCC streetcar

I've been working on getting my fleet into running condition. One task has been installing a DCC decoder into the Bowser TTC PCC streetcar I bought back in March. Following the instructions enclosed with the model are just about all that is needed to detach the body from the running gear and get it ready for decoder installation.  One thing the instructions don't show is a lead that runs from a light in the roof to the top of the car's circuit board. So, remember not to pull the body away from the frame once it comes free after careful prying in order not to damage that lead. Just carefully let the body droop to the side and disconnect the light lead's plug. 

Once the decoder was installed, I oiled the moving parts as per the instructions and let body-less streetcar run for an hour on the layout. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Light ray blues, part 8


I ran up the stairs beside the escalator to bypass the exiting crowd. I was puffing by the top and stopped for a second or two. She was already outside. I pushed through a stream of people heading down to the trains like a salmon going upstream. By the time I was outside on the sidewalk she was across the street. She went into a coffee shop. 

I followed and stood outside at what I thought was a discreet distance and tried to act nonchalant. I probably stuck out like a sore thumb. I sneaked a glance in the window to see where she was. I couldn’t see her anywhere. 

Hold on. 

She walked back into the coffee shop from an interior door wearing the chain’s blue uniform and stepped behind the counter. Killer by night, barista by day.

There was a payphone between two curbside charging stations. I needed to call Adams. I fished in my pocket for the card he gave me, dropped in a dollar and punched the number.

His secretary answered. I explained what was happening. She went to find him. I held.

The traffic cops were finishing up their daily ticketing sweep of cars whose hapless owners had left them charging on the street at the beginning of rush hour. That free charge was going to cost three hundred bucks and maybe a tow if they didn’t get out here before the hauler did.

Finally Adams came on the line. I explained. I thought he’d be skeptical, but all he said was to stay put and he’d send a constable.

I had to call Jess. I dropped in another dollar and punched in our number. It rang. Rang again. And rang and rang and rang and rang and rang. She didn’t answer. The answering machine didn’t answer, Maybe I’d punched in the wrong number. I tried again. Same thing. The hamster was getting back on his wheel.

I needed to get home.

I needed to wait for the constable. 

I needed a coffee.

And I needed to see what a ruthless killer looked like, so I went inside the coffee shop.

When it was my turn I asked her for my usual, “Americano please. Medium. Black.”

“Single or double shot?”

“Single,” I was trying to be arch. She didn’t bite. She went about her business with the machines. She didn’t seem to recognize me. Why should she? Last night when I wasn’t cowering in the back seats and peeking over the front seats of a car with tinted windows, I was on its plush floor mats barfing my guts out.

It was hard to believe this woman, who with short brown hair, home-spun, girl-next-door looks - with light freckles even - could charcoal-broil a stranger in cold blood. For some stupid reason I thought she’d have nauseating body piercings, tattoos, purple hair, b.o., black lipstick, trashy clothes and maybe a studded dog collar around her neck to complete the ensemble, not be someone who’d pass for a stereotypical volunteer in an old folks home. I was stupid.

She deftly squirted a shot of espresso into a paper cup and then swung it under the hot water spigot. I was half expecting her to heat it up with a blast from her ray-gun. I was extra stupid.

“That’s $2.37. The sugar and cream is over there,” she pointed to a corner.

I paid, left, and waited for the constable on the sidewalk a tad out of view of the coffee shop.

The illegally parked charging cars were all gone now, but there were still lots of people on the sidewalks determinedly trying to get home. That’s what I should be doing. I sipped some coffee, 

“Mr. Bryce?” 

I turned around, “Yes.”

“I’m Constable Catherine Logan and this is Constable Brian McFarland,” She motioned to the gray, middle-aged man standing beside her. Two constables. Adams must be worried. “Where is she,” Constable Logan asked?

“She’s behind the counter in the coffee shop. Short brown hair” I glanced towards the shop.

They looked. “I see. We’ll take it from here.”

“Ok.” I hesitated.

“We can handle it from here,” she prodded.

There was a break in traffic. I ran across back to the subway entrance. I had to get home.

Part 9 can be found here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Signs

 [Looks like some volcanic ash fell on this car.]

Once I’d painted the pavement in the urban area, I went ahead and added some traffic signs and other miscellaneous street stuff. For the signs, I used a sheet of Ontario traffic signs from Penitentiary Products. I cut those out, lightly scuffed them with fine sandpaper to de-gloss them a bit, and glued each one to a painted styrene post. They were installed on the layout by drilling holes into the styrene pavement and set in place with a little glue.  So far I’ve installed 10 signs, but more are on the way.

Strictly speaking, delicate details like these should really be added much later in the build process to minimize the chance of them being damaged in subsequent work. But, I usually add things like this when the mood strikes me because when I see them in place, it often triggers other ideas about other items that could be added, moved, or removed. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Light ray blues, part 7


My escort took me down to the subway station and made sure I got on the first train that arrived. Hopefully I’d get a better reception when I returned for my orientation appointment.

The subway wall finally told me exactly where I was: Davisville. I always wondered what the giant inscrutable building above this station was all about. Last night we got off the train about six blocks away and snuck up on the place, again creeping through dimly lit alleys and side streets. I don’t know why. It’s not like the bad guys don’t know where the fed’s secret headquarters is. But we did, and things look very different when you’re in the dark fixated on who’s going to sneak up on you and blast you with a ray-gun. 

The good news was I was only about a half-hour subway ride and a short walk from home.

But after the happy homecoming there was going to be lots of explaining about why I didn’t come home last night, and why I wasn’t behind my desk at work today. It was going to be a tough night.

The evening commuter rush was just starting. The big subway car that pulled in was only maybe half-full and I had my choice of seats. I took one facing a cluster of ads with lots of words. I didn’t have anything to read on me, so the ads would have to do to help try to distract me and put a lid on my racing thoughts. That would fill about two minutes. 

There’s a lot more ads inside the subway cars than in the streetcars. As well as the ones strung above the windows, there’s several on the walls beside the doors. And since they’re closer to the passengers, they’re closer to the graffiti artists. 

The graffiti is often more entertaining and gives off a better vibe than the ad it’s scrawled over. 

An ad one seating unit down was giving me a very strong vibe.

A bad vibe.

No. My mistake. It wasn’t the ad. It was the person sitting under the ad.

It was the bicyclist. 

It was completely illogical. I had no proof. The hang of the clothes. The shape. The shadows on the face. The body stance. It added up to a feeling of total recognition. I couldn’t shake it. It made no logical sense. 

I didn’t see his or her face last night. Or even clearly identify if it was either a him or a her. That person under the ad was definitely a her.

I needed to calm down. Maybe I’m having a stress reaction. Some sort of post-traumatic ray-gun thing.

We pulled into Ellesmere station. The brakes squealed. The doors whooshed open. She got up. I watched her face. She got out. I watched her face through the door. She got queued among the people heading for the escalator. I watched her face in the crowd. I think I could identify her again. Bicyclist or not. 

She gets off just one stop from the fed’s world domination headquarters back at Davisville. That’s interesting. 

I hope I’m wrong about her. I sat back.

The conductor blew his whistle.

O hell. I ran for the door and squeezed through just before it closed on my foot.

Here's the link to part 8.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The ‘B3’ becomes ‘Thé Noir’


Since peeling off the old letters from the B3 I’ve been looking for suitable sign material. I was brewing some of Stash’s Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea, and the words ‘black tea’ on the French side of box seemed like an ideal sign.  I cut them out of the box, attached the card to a thin styrene backing, and - voila ! - a new sign. It seems to go much better with this building than did the painted foam letters. Now I need to drink up all this tea so I can buy some more and get another box for a sign for the other side :-)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Interurban derailment?

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I was going through the family archives and came across these three photographs. They weren't all in the same albums, but the first and third may have been taken at the same event. I don't know if the second one is part of the group, but the body language of the men in the photo suggests something important might be happening.
All I know about these photos is purely speculative. My best guess is that they were taken somewhere in upstate New York, possibly near Rochester, sometime in the 1920s.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A review of Model Railroader's 75-year collection, part 1


For my birthday, Debra gave me a copy of Kalmbach’s Model Railroader magazine 75-year collection DVD set. It contains a copy of every page, of every issue of Model Railroader magazine since its first one was published in January 1934 up to December 2009, the end of its 75th anniversary year.  For a long-time Model Railroader reader, and a guy that loves pre-1994 model building magazines, this was a great gift: all of the old-school stories and information, and none of the musty, space-hogging magazines that upset domestic bliss :-)

This is a big collection and a major product, so I didn’t think I could do a good review based on my initial contact with it, so I’m going to spread this out over a couple of posts. Here’s my rating so far: A for the content; B for the user-interface, and C for the installation procedure. I’ve had an initial look at its search engine, but I need to investigate it some more before I comment.

Installation procedure: I should emphasize that if you follow the instructions in the leaflet enclosed with the DVDs to the letter, everything will install just fine. I gave this part a C because without those instructions, the onscreen feedbacks are misleading, and make it hard to understand precisely what is happening – as is mentioned in the leaflet. It’s a personal thing with me that the on-screen prompts and feedback should be clear, accurate and provide the user with all they need to know about how to proceed without extra instructions.

In my case, I installed the disks on my 2010 Mac laptop running MacOS 10.6. I chose the option of installing all the content on my hard-drive so I didn’t have to swap DVDs in and out while surfing the collection. During installation, my DVD drive refused to read disk #2 for some unknown reason, and the installation process got all out of sequence. Just as mysteriously, after a few attempts, my drive eventually did recognize the disk and I was able to get everything loaded. The installation software had the nice feature that it could figure out what had been previously loaded and, when I had the disk issue worked out, only then loaded in files that were missing from my hard-drive.

User interface: A proprietary user interface is installed on your machine for reading the magazine files, which are indicated as being pdfs. I assume the publisher created this special reader so that they could lock down their intellectual property - the magazine files – in order to try their best to prevent it from being copied or transferred to others who hadn’t paid for it. I can respect that, but I’d say the reader is not as full featured or as polished as a regular Adobe reader. It’s ok, and I’ve gotten used to it, so I ranked it a B.

This product is made for PC and Mac computers; not for tablets or smart phones. I’d encourage the publisher to release at least a tablet version – iPad comes to mind – as those devices seem to me like the ideal vehicle for reading this material.  As well, those devices are certainly on track to be the dominant devices, and supplant desktops and laptops, in the near future. I would guess that the lack of tablet support has something again to do with securing intellectual property.

I also have a concern about whether I’ll be able to use this collection when I inevitably have to upgrade my computer. I’ll let you know what happens if I’m still blogging when that happens.

Content: I give this an A. But, then again, I like this old stuff. They’ve done a good job of scanning the old magazines, and the resulting images are clear and readable. I like the fact that the user can print pages they’re interested in. Although this may seem like a small thing, to me it transforms the product from being just a digital copy of relics from the past to something that can be usable. Back in the ‘70s, I’d often build projects that were published in its pages and use the printed plans to take measurements and layout parts. I’m glad this aspect has been preserved in this 21th century version. Now, although I like this, I haven’t tried its printing capabilities with my printer, so I’ll report back once I’ve done so!

Factoid: One thing I found while surfing was that the first article to appear in Model Railroader on how to scratch-build some sort of complete lineside building or structure was called Building Wayside Structures: Plans and Construction Description of Station and Coal Trestle as Built on the Southern Model Railway System, by Albert F. Waymeyer, and appeared in the October 1934 issue.

2 March 2013 update: Part 2 can be found here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Light ray blues, part 6


I hadn’t watched afternoon tv in years. Not since university. I didn’t realize there were so many skinheads, pregnant high-school cheerleaders, distraught soccer moms. jilted lovers, scorned wives, two-timing husbands, other women, con-men, scam artists and other assorted characters that seem to be sitcom staples all trying to out curse each other amid the wanton throwing of folding chairs. I spent a couple of hours watching the spectacle while I thought about my predicament. 

The only thing I knew for certain was that somebody invented a ray-gun and I accidentally saw it in action when I wasn’t supposed to. I was probably being held in some government building, but by who, I had no idea. 

A knock on my door broke my reverie. “Come in.”

Adams sat down in the chair across from the bed. I tuned off the tv.

“I know you want to leave, so let’s get right to business. We have done a preliminary investigation into your background, and given what we have found, and have observed over the last day, we think the most effective way to resolve our mutual problem is to offer you a full-time job.”

That’s not what I was expecting. “I’m not getting where this is going. I may be just a loose end to you, but I’ve a lot of questions of my own.”

“Of course”

“I saw an innocent man murdered last night. I was the only witness and I didn’t call the police, and even worse, we ran away and left his body in the street like an animal.” I was starting to shake.

“I assure you that Constable McMillan has been duly and respectfully handled by the police. We have arranged things so the police know nothing of your presence,” was the cool reply.

I was getting edgy. “What do you do here? What is this place, some sort of government spy agency? Do you build those ray-guns here?” I could feel a torrent of questions about to spew from me. I had to slow down. The hamster wheel in my brain was spinning furiously.

“We are a branch of the federal government. Not a spy agency, but we do perform investigations into various sorts of problems.  One case involves missing ‘ray-guns’, which we prefer to call handheld directed energy weapons. When you return for your orientation sessions next week we will give you more details.”

Adams reached into his jacket pocket and handed me a card with only a phone number and terminal address on it. “This is my contact information. Please come back Thursday at 9 am.”

“I haven’t accepted yet” I was getting impatient with the assumption that I’d drop everything and join. “What if I don’t? What will happen? You’re not going to kill me are you?” I can’t believe that blurted out. I’ve been watching too much tv.

Adams looked at me like an exasperated parent who has to explain a simple fact of life to a dim witted teen for the umpteenth time, “Contrary to our portrayal in the popular media, we do not make it a habit of randomly killing citizens whenever we feel like it. We do indeed get those feelings mind you, but we use other very effective means to persuade people to cooperate and remain silent. We would apply them to your case. Your everyday life would become very difficult if you felt to estrange yourself from us and act on your own impulses to go public. It would be hard to travel, hard to hold a job, hard to get a loan, hard to be taken seriously by the media if you courted them, hard to get your children into good schools, hard to do just about anything. If you persisted in not cooperating, we would be forced to take our encouragements to another level.”

I hate these guys.

“But, I do not think it will come to that. You do not show any signs of resisting what is on offer. I think you rather like what could be ahead and the opportunities it may present. You are in a struggle with yourself, not with us.”

The hamster started to get winded. “I didn’t know ray-guns actually existed. Does everybody have them?”

“Directed energy weapons are still in their infancy as far as we know. The one you saw was one of a small set of early prototypes that were stolen from one of our labs six months ago. 

Work on the compact fusion generator that they are based on was started fifteen years ago. Other countries had embarked on similar research programs, but most did not succeed. Our lab was lucky and their approach was the basis of a workable design. The devil is in the details and they needed a lot of money to work them out. Only the military could make that kind of funding available, and to get future work the scientists had to adjust their goal and focus on developing the generator to be the basis for a new breed of handheld weapons. 

The work has been slow and difficult and only recently have fairly stable models been constructed. The earliest prototypes, like you saw last night, will explode half the time they are fired.”

“So, I was just lucky that the bicyclist’s gun didn’t explode and kill all three of us?”

“The lethal range of the blast is relatively small. Since you were well away, and inside a car, you probably would not have been killed,” Adams explained. “Those early prototypes are far from being reliable operational devices. They should only be experimented with in a controlled lab environment and should not be wasted on mission oriented tasks.”

“Why do you think they used one instead of a regular gun?”

“We are not completely certain, but I think they were sending us a message. Or rather, they were sending me a personal message in a very theatrical manner. I think they had meant to kill me, not Constable McMillan. Did you notice that the Constable and I were about the same build, same height, same hair colour? We both had on standard issue uniforms. It was dark. And the car was the one I usually drive.  Given the way they staged the attack, they did not have time to confirm identities. “

The hamster finally flopped over. “Who are ‘they’?”

“Again, we are not quite sure. They are likely a young and relatively inexperienced group considering that their tactics appear to be pulled from comic books. But, we take them very seriously whoever they are. Look what they did last night.”

“What were those shots I heard earlier?”

“They were both sidearm discharges. We were investigating what we thought was a credible lead that would help us recover the stolen prototypes. Our information was not correct and the operation did not go as planned. I was looking for someone who fled the scene when I came across you running down the sidewalk.”

Adams paused.

“I have told you more than I should, but I am confident that you will make the right choice.” Adams looked at his watch. “What’s your decision?”

“I’ll join.”

“Good. Those gentlemen sitting outside your door will escort you down to the subway and help you on your way.”

“What should I tell my wife, or my boss?”

“As for your employer, we will help smooth your exit. For your wife, you need to make up something. She will find out the details later. There will be a spousal briefing session as part of your training.”

They seemed to have thought of everything. I got up to put my shoes on.

Darth had some parting advice, “Please remember that should your commitment wander and you feel compelled to set the record straight in a public manner before we have mutually terminated our relationship, we will take appropriate steps to contain the situation.” 

Yeap, they had thought of everything.

Part 7 can be found here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Finished painting the new pavement

I spent about a week of spare time painting the pavement in the urban area. Looking back on the photos, this whole operation would probably be better described using a time-lapse video, but that’s beyond my capabilities, so I’ll just show a few photos of some of the steps along the way.
 [First, I removed the buildings.]
 [I then put on a rough base coat of a neutral gray - looking back, I could have probably skipped this step.]
 [This was followed by some coats of PolyScale Aged Concrete.]
 [Then alternating coats of loosely mixed aged concrete, several light grays, white, and flat black. I kept working the colours until things started to 'look right'.]
 [Roads were painted in.]
[As I got closer to finishing I glued on sewers and grates from Blair Line, and then used some light washes to blend them into the roadwork.]

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Light ray blues, part 5


When Darth said I was staying at his office I figured that was some sort of euphemism, or at best he’d lock me in a drab meeting room and I’d be stuck trying to sleep on the floor. Turns out they put me in what looked like your standard issue economy-grade business traveler’s hotel room. Nice enough, but I was locked in. And there was no phone or terminal or any other way to communicate with the outside world. But there was a tv, a bathroom, some clean clothes and breakfast. By 11 am I was showered, dressed, feed and eager to see what was next.

I didn’t have to wait long. Someone came to get me. Darth wanted to see me.

Darth had a big office. Big desk. Big chair. Conference table. Seating for ten. Couch. Bar. Credenza, Every executive thing. All from an earlier era. Worn, but clean. After I had taken in the ambiance for a few minutes from a chair in front of his desk he entered from a side door, sat in his big chair and faced me.

“How are you today Mr. Bryce?”

“Better. How’d you know my name?”

“We searched your belongings.”

Yes, of course. I need to get my brain in gear. “I don’t know your name.”

“I’m Adams.”

Darth Adams. Didn’t quite sound right.

“Can I leave? Am I under arrest?”

“No, you are not under arrest. You can leave at any time.”

“That’s great.” I started to stand up. I didn’t care why I was here. Or where I was. I just wanted to get away. I’d sort things out later.

Adams switched on Barry White, “To be fair I should tell you that should you decide to leave, I will call the police and tell them we apprehended you loitering in our parking lot in a suspicious manner and recommend that they should come and pick you up. I’ll then ask my director to ask the deputy-minister to write a federal security certificate requiring the police to detain you in secrecy for at least fourteen days while we investigate the incident and determine its security implications. You will spend that time in solitary confinement in the city jail. I have been told it is not as nice as our rooms here.”

I sat back down. “I want to call my lawyer.”

Adams continued undeterred,”On the other hand, should you decide to stay with us, we could probably wrap this up within a day or so, if not sooner. If your wife reported you as missing to the police, they will not take any action for forty-eight hours. By then we will have worked out a solution to our mutual problem and you will be free and on your way home.”

Some choice. “Why should I believe you?”

“You are free to go if you wish.”

I guess I was a wimp. Or maybe I was curious to find out what was going on. After all, somebody seemed to have invented a ray-gun. “I’ll stay. What now?”

“We have not decided. You are an unfortunate loose-end of an operation that did not go as we expected.”

“A ‘loose-end’?” I squirmed in my seat.

“You will be escorted back to your room and we will speak at length later today. I needed to know if you would be staying with us for awhile.”

And that was that. I was walked back to my room. They didn’t lock it this time, but did leave two NFL linebacker types outside my door ‘in case I had any questions’. I turned on the tv, flopped on the bed, and tried to figure out what was going on.

Part 6 is here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Let the B and 3 chips fall where they may


I finally decided I really didn’t like the lettering on the B3 and carefully pulled it off with a pair of tweezers. Luckily they didn’t leave a trace, and the walls are back to their pristine condition. Now, I just need to find a suitable replacement.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Allan Fleming and the CN logo

Mr. Allan Fleming with a CN box car sporting his logo design in the background (Sourced from Wikipedia)

Last week I found this striking photo of Mr. Allan Fleming - looks as if it was a shot from Man Men - with one of his most famous designs, along with a Wikipedia article, which among other things, discuses how he came to design Canadian National Railways new logo in 1959. Mr. Fleming was one of the most brilliant and influential designers of the mid-20th century, and was responsible for much of Canada’s – and especially Ontario’s - look in that period.