Saturday, July 19, 2014

Apollo Lifeguard Module

From the first time I saw the lifeguard stations at Huntington Beach the image of the Apollo Lunar Module popped into my head. I knew I had to build some sort of ‘Lifeguard Module’ based on that legendary spacecraft.
This project is far from traditionally prototypical, but in my mind the ideal streetcar system is one that services an area that is a strange amalgam of the regions serviced by the Toronto Transit Commission, the Pacific Electric, the Ottawa Electric Street Railway, and San Francisco’s Market Street Railway. 
I can pick and choose buildings, vehicles, settings, and whatnot  from the various eras that these lines operated in to suit my preferences, combine them with my interest in free-form, retro-builds and ‘retro-future’ stuff, and then have some fun figuring out how these puzzle pieces can be combined to make them work together. It’s a personal utopian vision of what was, what is, what could have been, and what could be. A streetcar line seems like an ideal way of framing all this since it operates to stitch together disparate elements into a coherent whole. That’s sort of prototypical :-)

The Pacific Electric did run along Huntington Beach for a ways.
"Pacific Electric trolley clatters on its way through Huntington Beach to Newport Beach. It was a ride directly on the sand, near the ocean waves. Sand drift onto the tracks was an ongoing problem." Photo and quote sourced from Historic Huntington Beach California, and that site states the photo is from the City of Huntington Beach archive.

And the Pacific Electric had a Huntington Beach station. It was the stopping off point for early 20th century fun seekers from the more urban and suburban centres in the Los Angeles area.
"The Pacific Electric Railway's Huntington Beach station, circa early 1900s, was located at the beach near the pier.  The attraction of miles of sandy beach and a pier boardwalk brought Angelenos to Orange County." Photo and quote sourced from Historic Huntington Beach California, and that site states the photo is from the City of Huntington Beach archive.

This sort of streetcar-serviced beach access setup doesn’t operate today, and probably couldn’t given the times we live in, but there’s nothing stopping it from existing in model form. In that small-scale retro-future world maybe rejects from a Lunar Module assembly line at a Grumman that had relocated from chilly New York to sunny California got re-used in various ways instead of winding up on a desert scrap-heap: lifeguard station was one of those ways.
This build’s starting point is Revell’s 1/100 scale Apollo Lunar Module.
I started by building the lower part of the LM. The thrust nozzle was left off and a piece of styrene was used to fill in the hole.
Here are the finished bases. They're built box-stock, except for the exclusion of the thrust nozzles as I mentioned above. I used styrene tube glue to put them together, but later I lightly brushed the joints with liquid glue. Once it dried I noticed that the rigidity of the structures had been considerably improved.
I then moved on to building the upper portions. The box-stock front half of the upper part is shown on the right. In HO scale, one would need to bend down to enter through this half-door, so I used a Dremel tool with a grinding bit to open up a full-size entry - as shown on the left.
On the left are all three front halves with the doors opened up. The box-stock back halves, shown on the right, are rather bland, but I left them that way. 
I then glued the halves together and added the antennae and mounting pieces for the various control thrusters, but left off the thrusters and their nozzles. In this photo I placed the top and bottom halves together to see how things looked, but didn't glue them together.
I then worked on figuring out the size for the porch. This was one of the early attempts. I thought it was a bit too big and eventually cut it back to the size that appears on the finished model. I used cardboard to work out the size and shape, and once it was determined, I used it to trace the shape onto some lined styrene sheet that I had left over from the sign of WSMoftheWBB model. 
In this view the porch had been sized, cut out of lined styrene, and glued into position. On the bottom of each porch I glued on some joists cut from thin strips of styrene to give some texture and strength to each piece.
After the porch floors were glued in place I spent awhile trying to figure out the stairs and railings, and what to use for them. I tried several types of mouldings I had in my stash, but unfortunately didn't take photos of the trial-and-error process I went through to find something that worked. Long story short, the end result is shown above. Again, I first glued them in place with tube glue and later lightly brushed the joints with liquid glue. And again, the liquid glue considerably stiffened these rather delicate railing structures. Also, on each upper portion back wall I glued on a plastic letter as an identification mark.
The landers were base coated with Krylon flat white, and when that was dry, lightly dusted with Krylon nickel-silver. The bottom portions were sprayed a little darker with the nickel-silver than the upper portions. Once everything was dry, the antennae were brush painted with flat aluminum.
The box below the leftmost antenna was painted blue. A US flag decal from a Moonscope kit was applied to each module.
The docking adaptor on the top of each upper module was ground out with my Dremel tool and a piece of clear plastic was glued in the opening to let more light into the interior.
And that was that.
If you’re interested in a far less fanciful view of the construction details of the actual Lunar Module, and the story of its development, I highly recommend Virtual LM by Scott Sullivan and Moon Lander by Thomas Kelly.
21 July 2014 marks the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s epoch-defining walk on the Moon. The Apollo program was one of humankind’s greatest achievements, and a high point in US civilization. To me, the Apollo system, and the Lunar Module in particular, was the greatest of all human carrying spacecraft.
JULY 1969, A. D.

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