Friday, May 31, 2013

Philly Friday’s got your back

The O’Jays might arguably be Philadelphia International Records best known and most successful group. Their first Philly INT’L album, released in August 1972, was Back Stabbers. The title track topped out at #3 on Billboard’s US Hot 100 chart in ‘72 and went on to become The O’Jays’ first single to sell more than one million copies.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Seeing red, printing orange

Well, more precisely, printing an orange / red / brown / magenta / tomato mix. 
I’ve been working on creating waterslide decals to model the words that appear on the street-facing facade of the WBB. The plan was to take a photo of a brick section of the front wall on the model, overlay the photo with appropriate white lettering, and then print out the images on white decal paper. Since white cannot be directly printed, any white that appears in decals must be superimposed on some background colour – in this case an intensely red brick.

Long story short, neither our Lexmark nor Canon printers can print what I’d say is a match for the Krylon red used to paint the WSMoftheWBB. After much tweaking and adjusting and cleaning and other associated foofarah, I don’t think the blue / yellow / magenta ‘colour’ cartridges these machines use as their standard equipment are capable of printing the eye-searing fire engine red that is Krylon red.

When I looked again at the red sign I had printed with the Lexmark printer for the Art Deco Chapters build, it is not what I’d call ‘true red’ either when compared to its red window frames – which is pretty close to Krylon red. I did have a printer many years ago that we used with an ancient iMac that seemed to print a pretty good red, and I used it for printing decals for this spaceship model, so printing a true red is possible.
Well, in a bit of frustration, I did try and apply one of the off-red decals to the building with an eye towards manually tuning up the colour once it was dried and secure. With the help of decal setting solutions the decal did conform to the bricks quite well, but it was clear the colour was so far off that no post-application brush work was going to make it look right.  I peeled it off and I continue my mission to print a true red :-)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Building in a bag

Back in the winter I bought this bag of building parts at a swap meet. The seller assured me all the parts were included. For some reason I believed him and plopped down $4. It turns out he wasn’t lying and all the pieces were present, which is good because I wanted to believe him since it looked like from the parts on view, it might be a rather nice kit of a mid 20th century style building. As it turns out, it is. It’s a Plastiville HO scale, ‘50s or ‘60s style car dealership. Overall, it’s rather toy-like, but it has a nice front fa├žade and signage. I think with a little work it could be turned into a passable model; maybe a restaurant or diner. Located nearby a convenient streetcar stop of course :-)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The school for physicists

Leslie was gone and now I had to face the music. After searching high and low on the ‘lev, and throughout the station, she was nowhere to be found. Obviously, she squirrelled herself away somewhere on the ‘lev after she got out of her suite and made her escape as soon as we pulled into the station. By the time we had opened her room she was long gone. 

So, here I was in Adams’ office empty-handed. His phone had been ringing almost continuously since his secretary ushered me in. He wasn’t here, but someone on the other end of that phone sure wished he was. 

The phone stopped ringing and Adams finally entered the office from a private door behind his desk.  He gave me a little scowl and then turned his attention to the top paper on the mountain of papers covering his desk. 

The phone started to ring again.

Adams reached over the mountain and punched the speaker phone button, “Yes.”

“Mr. Adams, there’s a woman here at reception who says she’s a physicist with the Richard Feynman School of Lock-Picking and that she has an appointment to see you this morning.”

Adams looked at me. I looked at Adams.

“Send her up.”

The next instalment can be found here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Philly Friday

A few weeks back I bought this DVD at the Ottawa Train Show – the first rail oriented DVD I’ve ever bought so I guess I’m an official rail fan now :-) It’s produced by GPS Video of Toronto. Although the titling and narration shots are a little dated, the footage of PCCs running in Toronto in various eras is excellent.

A lot of the scenes appear to have been shot in the ‘60s or ‘70s, but many have some generic music meant to be evocative of the ‘30s or ‘40s playing in the background. I suspect this was done to help convey a sense of place when the PCCs were new and in their heyday –also, that particular music was probably also easily licensable. To me though, in my mind I hear the music that came from that equally great North American streetcar city: Philadelphia. Specifically, The Philadelphia Sound.

I didn’t know it, but according to Wikipedia there was also a Toronto Sound whose prime years were from around 1959 to 1969. This predates the glory years of The Philadelphia Sound that I’d say extended from sometime in the late ‘60s to maybe the early ‘80s. Philadelphia International Records was certainly a foundational company when it came to producing The Philadelphia Sound, and their first hit to top the Billboard singles chart, for three weeks in December 1972, was Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs. Jones.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Finished renovations at the Post Office

I haven’t tried to restore a broken down kit before, so this was an interesting project for me. I wasn’t able to do as much repair as I had originally intended because some pieces had so much glue blobbed on them by the original builder they couldn’t be disassembled without breaking. So, I had to live with some wonky, unrestored sections. In the end, the restoration won’t win any prizes, but it didn’t turn out too bad, and fits in well in the city section of the LOL.
[Front facade before renovations - looks like the police kicked in the door :-) ]
I didn’t want to change the overall look of the building because that’s what attracted me to it in the first place. So, the intent of this project was just to clean it up and fix problems.
The first task was to carefully pry apart what I could, and wash all the pieces in some warm water with mild dish soap. Afterward drying, all the pieces were sanded and filed and smoothed to remove any rough edges, molding marks, or flash. The large front window, main entry doors, and about half the window glazing were beyond repair and had to be scrapped. 
[The back wall before renovations.]
Once all the pieces were cleaned up, it then became a matter of doing a little touch-up painting where possible, gluing them back together in a squarer configuration, and rebuilding some missing or broken pieces. The finished building is still a bit out of kilter and the roof doesn’t sit quite right because not all the pieces could be disassembled.
[Here's the 'burned-out' back staircase]
Rebuilding the back staircase and its window wall was the biggest reconstruction job. In its model life this building must have been a crack-house where the owners engaged in a fierce firefight with local police :-) although in its real life the reasons for its burned out back stairwell were probably less dramatic: I suspect kids tried to blow it up with firecrackers. The stairwell itself was unrepairable, so I simply painted it flat black. One of the stairwell sidewalls was missing so I built a new one from styrene pieces using the remaining one as a template. The stairwell’s exterior facing wall was cut from some clear plastic that had an embossed block pattern. I tried to paint a few blocks free-hand to add to the sixties feel of the place, but I thought too highly of my skills, and the result is rather shaky :-(
[This is the new staircase wall before painting.]
The front wall needed new main doors and an overhead window. The doors are cut from 0.010 inch styrene and bonded to a piece of clear plastic that forms both the door glass and the overhead window. The door handles are thin slivers of 0.010 inch styrene bent to shape. The finished door unit isn’t too bad, but doesn’t have a lot of relief. One day I’ll get the hang of making these types of doors. I suspect one of those 3-D printers might be rather good at making these things.
[Here's the new wall installed.]
The base was more or less completely cut away so that only the foundation was left. On the front wall I then added a large lower step to the exterior entry staircase. It’s cut from 0.060 inch styrene. On the back wall I built some planters up against the facade and added a few steps up to the office door.
The building was finished up by painting the roof, replacing some missing window glazing, and then gluing on the roof. 
[The old front door and the new one before sanding and painting.]
Bingo: a somewhat worn, sixties-esque building that’s still providing work-a-day service of the streets of the LOL. It won’t be a post office in its new incarnation; maybe an acupuncturist’s clinic.  That reminds me,

An acupuncturist and a porcupine walk into a bar. They sit down together, and after a couple of drinks the acupuncturist leans over to the porcupine and says, “Buddy, you know the needles are supposed to go into the patient?”

Ok. Well, as Debra has often told me, I shouldn’t give up my day job for the comedy club circuit anytime soon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

City of Possibilities

I saw this rather charming commercial on tv a few days ago. While digging up City of Possibilities on YouTube I noticed in the sidebar videos that Norfolk Southern also had a commercial that riffed on Conjunction Junction.
Although Norfolk Southern, What's Your Function? is a decent commercial, it can't beat the original; especially its driving groove.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

SweepSticks from Fast Tracks

I bought these SweepSticks from the Fast Tracks booth at the Ottawa Train show a few weeks ago. These ones are for laying out 9-inch radius curves with HO scale flex-track. Basically, one inserts these pieces between the rails to hold the radius while you tack down the track. I'm planning to use them for building Edward St. layout.

Beware the quiet physicist

The non-stop overnight mag-lev from Victoria pulled into Toronto’s Confederation Station right on time: 6:00 am. Leslie was surreptitiously locked into a deluxe suite in the forward sleeper car, and the crew had orders not to release her. This wasn’t quite kosher legal-wise, but she didn’t know the difference given all my blather about assault charges for non-cooperation.  I was berthed in the suite across from hers. 

I gathered up my bag, left my suite, entered the hallway and knocked on her door.

No answer. 

“Leslie, are you awake?”
Still nothing.  Probably a heavy sleeper. It was still only 3 am on the west coast after all. I had barely slept myself. Stress and adrenaline and not enough whisky.

Two constables and a conductor came down the corridor. The conductor had the key to Leslie’s suite.

“Leslie, we’re going to open your door.”

Nothing. I was getting worried she wasn’t alright.

I motioned to the conductor to open her door. He did. 

I looked around her suite. I needn’t have worried. She wasn’t there.

The next instalment can be found here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A layout that won't be seen in the model RR press

[A snippet of a scene from Baltimore Babylon]
I came across this article in Make about a husband and wife built layout called Baltimore Babylon. Although there aren't really any overview photos or plans of the layout, and by the standards of today's model railroading press it sounds like a rather simple layout, but I rather admire their vision statement (and the scenes shown in the photos), 

We’re geographically and emotionally tethered to Baltimore, specifically gritty/tragic Baltimore. Gritty/tragic Baltimore-ness enchants and dismays us in equal measure. So naturally, when faced with deciding on our perfect model train layout, we realized that we wanted to capture Baltimore in all its postindustrial, grimy, glorious, gentrified, sagging, soot-streaked, architecturally-insane glory. ... a distillation of our perceptions about our specific place. 

More powerful than a speeding mag-lev

I’m not ashamed to contradict myself: in retrospect it was a good thing I remembered to bring my health card on this trip because I spent the rest of the day in hospital. So did Leslie. She to check for concussion, and me to see if fatherhood was still a possibility. Both of us passed. Once discharged, she was escorted to a local police office and I followed. As I promised her, we just discussed the missing federal materials warrant. She didn’t tell me anything, so I decided to call Adams and give him an update. 

“All she said was she had no knowledge of what happened to the fusors. All very calm and matter of fact. And, she’s asked to leave.”

“We can't arrest her with the current warrant, but she remains a person of interest until we officially declare we're satisfied with her information. I'd like to talk to her here. I don't think she's telling us everything.” I could hear Adams thinking.

I filled in some time while his mental wheels ground, “I'll get her to go to Toronto by reminding her that today's events might be interpreted as assault.”

His gears clicked into place, “Get two tickets for the overnight express back here. Make sure hers is a deluxe suite.”

“Tonight’s train?” I whined. That was the end of my grand weekend plans with Melissa.

“Yes. The theatrics of bringing her here for a conversation with 'Mr. Big and his cronies' might unsettle her a little. We can continue the interview as soon as you arrive. Afterwards, we can either release her with a deluxe ticket back and our apologizes, or proceed. Go and do it before she realizes she can get a lawyer and make the process difficult for us.”

“Ok. Just make sure you send some constables to meet us. And make sure they’re big ones. Who knows what'll happen when we arrive. I know what she can do.” I winced at the memory.


There was a click and that was the end of the call. Typical Adams.

I hung up and went straight back to the interview room. Luckily Leslie was still there.

“Well, now that I’ve answered your questions, I’ll be on my way,” was her greeting as soon as I entered the room.

I didn’t sit down, just walked in and stood behind my chair. “Leslie, we’d like you to come to the Toronto office for a little further discussion with the brass. We’ll provide travel and accommodation there and back. It’ll help with our investigation.”

“No, that’s it for me,” and with that she got up from her chair and started for the door.

Now to apply some of my training, “You can leave, but you won’t get out of the building before we’ve handed you an assault charge. Surely you remember what happened earlier today?”

Luckily she didn't reply with a “Don’t call me Shirley” as she slammed the door on her way out to get a lawyer. Nope. She just stopped in mid-stride, looked like she was doing a little thinking of her own, gave me a grin and a sweet, “Ok I'll go”.

The next instalment can be found here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

WSMoftheWBB* gets a roof

With the rain we're getting, the roof installation happened none too soon:-) 
The roof lights that overhang the sidewalk are made from Model Power HO scale street lights. They aren't particularly realistic, so I guess they aren't too well thought of, which probably accounts for why I have been able to buy a couple dozen or so at various swap meets and resale bins over the past few months.

The only modification I made to the lights was to cut off the bases.
Around the upper wall perimeter I glued in some styrene Z-channel to hold the roof slab in place. Jumping ahead a bit, some double-sided tape was applied to the channel to hold the roof in place. It isn't a permanent bond and allows for the roof to be carefully pried off to turn the lights on and off.
The building had a rather pronounced warp in it causing the front wall to bow out a bit. To fix it, I cut a strip of 0.020 inch styrene and used to connect the front and back walls together where the bow was worst. The strip is in tension and straightens out the walls.
The above picture is the roof slab after the holes were drilled for lights. The slab itself is made from two pieces of 0.060 inch styrene glued together to create a 30 inch long piece that snuggly fits into ledge created by the Z-channel styrene. That broken piece of styrene inside the building near the tension strip is my first attempt at taking out the wall warp - it didn't work and I had to cut the piece and try again with a new idea.
Here are the 6 roof lights glued into their positioning holes. Each is supported by a small triangular piece of styrene that wedges into the base of the light and is glued to the roof slab and light pole. These triangular pieces aren't very realistic, but were needed to give the light stands some strength. Once painted, they are fairly unobtrusive.
I wanted the building to be battery powered so it wasn't dependant on an external power source, so the lights use two 9-volt batteries for juice. Battery holders are glued onto the back corners of the roof and 3 lights are connected to each battery. This produces a warm, gentle glow that doesn't compete with the sign. The lights are connected in parallel to the batteries, and a small slide switch is soldered into each circuit.

When I went shopping for battery holders and little switches I discovered that an era had recently come to an end. A few years back the Radio Shack chain here became 'The Source', and became even more focused on consumer electronics. Some electronic hobbyist parts were still available, so even though the price was a little high, if I really needed something immediately, I could pop down to the mall and get it. Not so now. It turns out that just a few weeks ago, the chain got rid of the last remnants of the hobbyist gear and is now more-or-less all consumer goods. Definitely the end of an era. Luckily, there is still a family run electronics parts store not too far away and they came to the rescue.
I didn't texture the roof, just painted it with some very loose washes of flat black, oily black, gray, and mud colours. The air conditioner is a Walther's item.

That's it for major construction on this project. There are just a number of detail items that I need to wrap up.
*World's Smallest Model of the World's Biggest Bookstore

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bonding styrene to masonite

Hold a piece of styrene against some masonite. Sweep some Ambroid ProWeld along the joint. Let dry. The resulting bond is surprisingly solid. 

Between a rock and a hard place

“Put that down!”

“Get out!”

“Mr. Bryce, what’s going on?”

“Jackie, run and call the police!”

“Are you hurt?”

“Just get the police please.”

“I said get out!”

“Fer chrissakes, I can barely move in here,” I complained as I tried to prop myself to a kneeling position so I could back out. “Put that damn thing down!”

She didn’t waver.
I struggled to my knees, took a risk and played the light over to the dark corner of the cave where the hooded gun-totter was cornered. I only caught a glimpse, but that was enough.

“Stop that!” she yelled.

I heard a metallic click.

“For God’s sake Leslie, put that down!” I screamed.

The stony silence was all the confirmation I needed.

Another click. She lowered her aim.

“How do you know my name?” came the reply from the dark.

“I’ve been searching for you for months. Can we get out of here?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Ed Bryce. I’m with Federal Scientific Investigations. “

She raised the gun again.

“Put that away. I only want to talk to you. Right now you’re only wanted for questioning on misappropriation of federal materials, but using a gun will change all that. Put it away.”

She lowered it again. 

“Let’s get out of here so we can talk. And leave that in here. If the cops see it, they’ll do everything to part you from it and you’ll get arrested. Ok?”

“Ok,” came the wary reply with some rustling sounds hopefully meaning the gun was being put away.

I backed out by reversing the contortions that got me in there. As I stood up I saw Leslie follow.  I backed away from the cave entrance so she could get out, and then briefly took my eyes off her to reach for my jacket.

Big mistake.

In the instant it took to grab my jacket, and stupidly check to make sure I still had Melissa’s note, Leslie had silently snuck up on me and was nearly right in my face. 

She gave me hard punch to the solar plexus, and then a harder kick to the family jewels. 

I dropped to the ground and gasped for breath while white hot electric pain seared through my nether regions.

I’m not too sure what happened next. I’m told Jackie did find a park ranger, but he could only stop the fleeing Leslie with a lucky blast from his bean-bag rifle that accidently went off when he dropped it while dodging a flying kick to the stomach.

The next instalment can be found here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Corrugated plastic roof panels as a layout board?

Since Edward St. might be a flat, lightweight layout, I’m toying with the idea of building it so it could be hung on a wall like a picture when it wasn’t in use - of course, the buildings and other scenic elements would need to be stored on a shelf. To pull this off I’d need a very light weight, stiff, and thin substrate for the track and streets. With that in mind, John gave me these cast offs from a gazebo roof he was replacing as something to toy with. They’re ¼ inch thick corrugated plastic sheets: very rigid along the corrugations, but needing some cross-wise stiffening – maybe simply gluing two pieces one on top of the other with the corrugations at 90 degrees will do the trick. I’m not going to be so cavalier in tossing out these pieces before I’ve given them a good test as I was with that pump house floor I discarded a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The layout from behind the shed

Back in January 2012, I hauled the old layout board out of the basement and stored it behind the garden shed to make space for the Lost Ocean Line. I had thought I’d take it apart last summer, but that never happened. Well, to make a long story short, to secure my construction permits in order to continue building the LOL, and possibly Edward St., the original 30 Squares layout board had to be disassembled :-)
[This layout wasn't close to being omnivagant]
A FuBar, pick axe, drill driver, 2 hours and several rest breaks later, it was ready for re-cycling. None too soon either, since from the smell, I think some local cat was thinking of taking up model railroading and was marking it as his personal layout.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Honey, look what I bought at the train show"

N-scale. Oxford. Diecast. "Birmingham Tram". Unpowered. Odd shaped flanges.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Early planning on Edward St.

I've started to fiddle around with some ideas using the blue track templates for a very simple layout I'm tentatively thinking of as Edward St. The only thing I've more-or-less settled on at this point are three locations: The Central Experimental Farm at one end, an urban setting in the middle centred around the WSMoftheWBB, and Bluffer's Park at the other end. The Central Experimental Farm will be loosely based on the Ottawa's Experimental Farm, and Bluffer's Park will be even more loosely based on the Scarborough Bluffs - that is, no bluffs, just park and water :-) Addressing the transitions between these three areas to make them seem natural is going to be an interesting challenge.
My blue template experiment was a little hard to keep the pieces aligned while trying out ideas, so I went a little less old school and drew up some simple plans with an old version of MacDraw. In the above picture, a section of the experimental farm would appear in the streetcar turn-around loop on the left and the WSMoftheWBB would sit in that centre dip with some other buildings. Towards the right the scene would transition to a couple of townhouses and Bluffer's Park.
I'm playing around a bit with the templates just to see want might be built. In the above picture, Bluffer's Park is on the right and made to extend down into another secondary loop. Maybe there would be a pond and a picnic area in and around the lower loop.
There's the MacDraw-ized version. This of course lead to some 'loopy' variations.

Just tacked on a siding to that one.
And I got silly with this one. These are nowhere near finished plans; they're just a little exploring with the tools a this stage. These plans are too 'loopy', but after thinking about that last picture it struck me that with some tweaking it might make for an interesting little N-scale setup running Kato RDCs in a rural setting. Anyway, there is still a lot of refining to go.

This week the blog exceeded 20k views. I'd like to thank everyone who stops by for a few minutes every now and then for a read.