Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Glyn Golfa, Llanfair Railway, Welshpool

One might think that a guy who lives in a place where a cold winter’s night can drop to -30C should have no complaints when summer days roll around that reach +34C like it did today, but I’m here to say that isn’t the case :-) I decided to hide out this evening with the air-conditioning and post a few more postcards.

The Rhallt, Welshpool

These are images of Welshpool in Wales. Dates are unknown.

Llanerchydol Hall, Welshpool

Wikipedia informs me that “The town is also the starting point of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, a narrow-gauge heritage railway popular with tourists, with its terminus station at Raven Square. The light railway once ran through the town to the Cambrian Line railway station, but today Raven Square, located on the western edge of the town, is the eastern terminus of the line.”

Red Bank, Welshpool

‘They’ tell me that today’s +34C felt like +41C once the humidity was factored in.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer doldrums

Not much happening model building wise this summer. Although, I decided to lift out the buildings from the urban area on the layout in preparation for a renewal in the fall. I've had Mels on my shelf for a long time and thought I'd revamp this area with it as the centrepiece. Nothing's final, but this step has helped kickstart my thinking. One of the buildings removed was the Deoralow, so I used this as a chance to take a photo of it outside in bright sunlight.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Electric tram on Coldharbour Lane?

Another item from the postcards in the family archive. Although the annotation is slightly torn, I think it says Coldharbour Lane. And that tram looks electrified.

Monday, July 20, 2015

E. L. Moore's reading list for Ye Olde Corner Drugstore

The drugstore of fifty years ago was largely what the name implied: a store dispensing drugs, with a sideline of sundries.
And so E. L. Moore begins his article, Ye Olde Corner Drugstore, that appeared in the January 1965 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

Corner Druggist is the account of an average man’s life in America during the past sixty years, and of the profession he loved: the doctor’s right hand, the father confessor of the neighborhood, the guardian of the public health - the physician’s cook.
And so Robert B. Nixon, Jr. introduces his book, Corner Druggist, published by Blue Ribbon Books in 1943, about his father’s life as a druggist.

The soda fountain was still in its infancy, and only a few of the 32 flavors (or is it 64?) had yet been dreamed up - chocolate and vanilla were the prime favorites of the day.

The soda fountain, as a matter of fact, revolutionized the drugstore. It was to the corner druggist what the Indians and minstrels were to the medicine man. It transformed a dark store, smelling of drugs, where people went only to cure their ills, to a place of cheerfulness, where people gathered to talk and enjoy themselves. When some imaginative fellow put a scoop of ice cream into the mixture of soda and syrup he had been selling, thus inventing the first ice cream soda, a new and perennially favorite American drink was discovered which was to prove a boon to the ill paid druggist.
Nixon, pg. 161-162.

The druggist and his family lived up over the store and therefore he was likely on call twenty-four hours a day;....

When a druggist lives over his store, he automatically goes on twenty-four hour duty, summoned at any time by the ringing of the night bell. There is no hesitancy on the ringing of the average person at waking up the druggist. That’s what he’s there for. That’s why he is in business. He shouldn’t kick
Nixon, pg.163.

... he filled prescriptions, applied first aid when needed and suggested remedies for various ills.

The prescription counter becomes, often enough, a confessional, and one of Father’s characteristic poses was leaning forward to hear someone’s troubles, peering over his glasses and saying cheerfully: “I have something for that.” And as a rule he had something, whether it was medicine or advice that was needed.
Nixon,pg. 156

The neighborhood drugstore, open long hours, was a central gathering spot.

The corner drugstore was an accommodation center much like a modern filling station. People come there to use the telephones or the rest rooms, to get free maps and free information, and occasionally to buy. So it was with the drugstore. Father said that loafers bought cigars in other places and came there to smoke them; that they bought drugs somewhere else and came there to be entertained. People dropped in for the weather report, to look at the thermometer, to buy two-cent stamps, to have specks taken out of their eyes.
Nixon, pg. 160

Also, the drugstore was likely one of the few places in which one could find a telephone.

In Father’s earlier days, before telephones were so universally used, the drugstore telephone booth was an additional attraction. Neighborhood people used the place as a headquarters, or I was sent running to their homes to carry the messages which came for them. One newspaper man hung out there for months, sending news to his city desk over the telephone.
Nixon, pg. 160

I chose Nixon as a name because of its brevity and also because it was the name of the author of “Corner Druggist”, a nostalgic account of his father’s life as a druggist.

Father put down the paper. “Human stupidity is bad enough,” he said wearily, “but human cruelty is the most hideous thing on earth. I wish to God I could feel that in some small way I had helped to fight it.”
And if a lifetime of tireless service in protecting the public health, an unceasing effort to add to the sum total of human welfare, and a rich and abiding love for his fellow man may be allowed to count, I think he did help.
Nixon, pg. 291.

Suspended in one window may be seen two “show globes” simulating the red and green filled globes which, in one form or other, may still be seen in many drugstores today. The origin of these symbols seems to be clouded, but Richard Armour in his charming and humorous book describing his youthful drugstore days, guesses they may now contain strawberry and mint flavors.

In the window on the side of the entrance was a large globe full of reddish fluid, and in the opposite window was a similar globe full of something greenish. Why those two objects, called show globes, are the symbols of a drug store has never been satisfactorily explained to me. Possibly their origin can be traced to medieval apothecaries, who needed something colorful and eye-catching to compete with barber poles. The red may originally have suggested blood or inflammation or the plague. The green might have meant the renewal of life, as in springtime green, but more likely it was intended to warn against biliousness. Today, with the modern pharmacist backed into a corner to the rear of the soda fountain, the red is probably strawberry and the green is mint.
Richard Armour explains what those globes mean on page 2 of his book Drug Store Days, published by the McGraw-Hill Book Company in 1959. (A tip of the blogging hat to Paul Zimmerman to alerting me to Mr. Armour's excellent book and the E. L. Moore connection.)
My neighbour a few doors down has small red and green globes hanging from the second floor balcony, but I think those are leftover Christmas decorations :-)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

600 reasons to go with the flow

This is the 600th post here at 30 Squares, and I know that isn't many posts compared to lots of other blogs, but to me it seems like a huge number. 

Before I started 30 Squares, I dipped my toe in the blogging waters with a blog called Separated Flow. It was supposed to be about scale modelling, aerodynamics, blimps, model railroading, science and the intersection of those subjects. The genesis idea was a project a friend and I built back in the early '90s: a small, flow-visualization windtunnel. The project embodied all the ideas the blog might touch on and seemed a good place to start. 

I posted about that project along with some others, but 10 or so posts in, the tone seemed too ironic and cynical. I didn't like where my head was at, so I deleted Separated Flow. After a year or so, I started 30 Squares of Ontario - today's 30 Squares - for model railroad posts, and retroDynamics for non-model railroad modelling, science, aerodynamics and other things that Separated Flow might have discussed.

Early in retroDynamics' life I reposted the windtunnel project from the remains of Separated Flow as it again seemed integral to its heart and soul. A few years later, 30 Squares was becoming my main blog, so I closed down retroDynamics and figured I'd broaden the scope of 30 Squares a little. 

So, now that I'm 400 posts away from a thousand, it seemed like as good a time as any to again re-post the genesis project that got me started in this blogging thing :-)

A Tale of Two 'Vettes: How to Build a Small Flow Visualization Windtunnel
from 18 Dec 2009 in retroDynamics and sometime in 2008 in Separated Flow

I recall watching an episode of Mythbusters where Adam and Jamie were building and flying concrete gliders. In one scene they were attempting to measure the lift of their airplanes with a makeshift windtunnel and scale. Well, it wasn't so much a windtunnel as a large fan with a flow-straightener made of drinking straws placed in front of the breeze. The rig was ingenious, but it got me reminiscing about a small-scale windtunnel that a friend of mine, David A., and I built in 1988. At that time we had some hopes that we might be able to build a business around flow-visualization photography with small windtunnels and digital analysis of the pictures. Nothing came of that wacky business idea, but we did build an interesting little windtunnel.

One thing I should note: all the pictures in this post are scans of old Kodachrome and Ektachrome 35mm slides made with a Canon CanoScan 4400F scanner.

[The windtunnel without the blower and the flow viz gear.]

These are politically correct times, so here is my disclaimer before you read on: fire and smoke was involved in this project, so don't try this at home. And especially don't try it in suburban Toronto garages containing firewood and gasoline as we did. No accidents occurred during this project, but we probably just benefited from dumb luck.

A good place to start this story is at the end. In this case, with some pictures taken in the windtunnel of the air flow around a scale model Corvette and Chevette.

[Flow over a mid-1980s Corvette]

There are a couple more flow viz photos at the end of this story, but we’ll get to them soon enough.

[Flow over a late 1970’s to early 1980’s Chevette]

The windtunnel was sized to be able to take pictures of the flow around 1/24 scale model cars. At that time I was interested in the air flow around automobiles and had a stash of around two dozen plastic model kits my cousin had bestowed on me. It turns out there was a Corvette and Chevette in the pile. Dave wanted to own a Corvette, but an ancient Chevette was his actual ride, so the choice of subjects to start with was pretty clear.

[The difference in hatch slope is quite pronounced.]

There was also some aerodynamic reason to the choice. It turns out that just because a car has a sloped rear window or hatchback doesn't mean that the air flow will stay attached all the way along the surface. There's a range of angles and length where separated flow is possible, and it looked like the Chevette's hatchback had such a configuration - which turned out to be more-or-less true if the photos are to be believed. In contrast, a gradual slope that terminates in a sharp 90-degree down turn at the end of the car - like that on the Corvette - can actually result in the flow being attached all the way along the slope. We thought we'd see if we could demonstrate this with the windtunnel and hoped that it would make for some interesting pictures.

[Unpainted windtunnel at a secret backwoods testing facility :-) ]

I like to use the cheapest and most readily available materials I can get away with for any project. It usually takes a few iterations to get things right, so not blowing all my money on the first prototype is very important. In this case, bristol board that you can buy at just about any craft store or art supply was used to build the tunnel.

The dimensions were scoped out using Rae & Pope's standard text: Low-Speed Wind Tunnel Testing. I don't seem to have my design notes from the time, so I can't properly comment on the thinking that went into the tunnel, but numerous compromises were made to keep it small. One requirement was to be transportable in the trunk of my car.

[It fit pretty well with the backseat turned down.]

But, I think all this emphasis on smallness resulted iin making the cross-section of the test-section where the model car sits too small. I suspect the walls of the test section are close enough to the model to have an effect on the overall flow. However, the ratio of the height to width of the test section is built in accordance with guidelines given in Rae & Pope so that standard correction factors could be applied to measurements. All things considered though, if I built this again I'd make it bigger - but, not so big that I'd need a Hummer to transport it.

[Looking into the test-section at the Chevette]

In the above photo you’ll notice that the long edge of the test section is horizontal and the short edge is vertical. When it came time to actually use the tunnel, as you’ll see in the photos that follow, we flipped it 90-degrees.

[Initial build (no, they weren’t our sponsors - we were just fans with high hopes)]

The problem with using the cheapest materials possible is that they often have poor performance, which was the case with the initial build. Relatively thin bristol board allowed for easy layout and shaping of the main components with simple tools, but there were stiffness problems.

[The walls got sucked in as soon as the blower was switched-on]

Originally the tunnel didn't have any external bracing, and thin clear plastic was used for the test section windows. The motor and blower setup had more power than was originally thought, and the resulting flow sucked in the tunnel's sidewalls as soon as the blower was switched on. I can't find my notes on the pressure differential inside and outside the tunnel, but it was obviously appreciable. We did make a simple manometer to measure the inside and outside pressure differential, but that data has been lost.

[New and improved windtunnel with braces and glass test section]

This lead to folded bristol board external frames to be added to the test section and the transition piece. As well, the test section windows were replaced with glass panes liberated from a couple of picture frames. Those enhancements did the trick and kept the walls from buckling.

[Flow straightening grid attached to the tunnel inlet]

The blower could indeed pull a lot of air through the tunnel, but it had some serious angular velocity components. To straighten out the flow in the test section a couple more enhancements were added. First, a grid panel with 1 inch by 1 inch openings was built - again from bristol board stock - and to one side a sheet of metal screen door mesh was attached. This assembly was then attached to the front of the tunnel. As well, inside the tunnel, at the end of the test section just before the transition piece, another grid frame was inserted - this one was a plastic parts divider from a storage box. I don't recall if a metal mesh was attached to this insert, but it could have been.

[Smoke jet in the test section]

The combined effect of both of those grids was to straighten the flow out fairly well as can be seen from the photos of the smoke jet.

A simple wooden stand was built to support the tunnel while in use. This structure is pretty simple: some adjustable shelf brackets were mounted to a freestanding wooden frame in order to allow for height adjustment. I don’t know why I painted it blue. I think I had some old blue paint around that needed to be used up. And the pin striping? Who knows why, but I it does look faster :-)

[The motor and blower assemblies]

The blower and motor assembly was Dave's handiwork and this part functioned very well right from the get-go.I don't have any specs on the set up, but I believe the motor was a 1/4 hp unit. No special power supplies were required, it was configured so it could be plugged into a standard wall outlet. As you can see in the photo, the blower exhaust went straight down so we had to put in an angled board to defect the stream. When we operated the tunnel in the garages we made sure that both the main door and the side-doors were opened so that you'd get flow through the whole space and didn't recirculate the air. Typically we'd set things up so that the exhaust from the blower was near the side-door.This made sure that smoky air exiting from the tunnel got vented directly to the outside. No doubt that today this would earn us a visit from the local police or fire department.

[An early test of the smoke generator with a bunsen burner as a heat source]

The smoke generator was admittedly a Rube Goldberg affair. And it took a bit of trial-and-error to get a rig that generated enough smoke. That picture above is one of the earliest attempts. We filled a simple Badger airbrush with mineral oil and shot it into a heated brass tube. In the earlier prototypes we just used a high school bunsen burner to heat the input end of the tube and you can see that it generated only a little puff of smoke.

[Heating the entire length of the tube generates the most smoke]

From those early attempts we moved on to some more heavy duty smoke production as you can see in the above photo. To be honest I can’t quite remember what we used as a heat source on this prototype - no doubt I inhaled when I shouldn’t have! - but I think it was some sort of electrical set up, but I also seem to recall that it got too hot. As you can see it generated lots of smoke which is what we needed. The key idea was that the entire tube needed to be heated so that all the mineral oil was burned and converted to smoke. In the end we settled on a rig where the tube was heated by a couple of propane torches with flame spreaders attached. You can sort of see the end result in the photo below. As I mentioned previously, at one end of the rig, mineral oil was blown into the heated tube with an airbrush and emerged from the other end as smoke. The cooler output end of the heated tube was connected to a plastic tube, which in turn was connected to a long, small diameter aluminum tube - which was supported by a tripod - whose output end was snaked through the flow straightening grid into the test section. This was quite a rig when it was all up and running. Once again, these day's I'd think of some other, safer way to do this.

[Full setup in action.]

The photo above shows all the components set up and ready to do a test run. To the far left - and unfortunately in heavy darkness - is the workmate with the smoke generator clamped to its top. To the right is a set of four photo lamps aimed more-or-less straight down the tunnel inlet, below and to the right of the lamps is the smoke wand inserted into the flow straightening grid and into the test section and finally to the right of that is the windtunnel itself. A photo lamp is also clamped to the windtunnel support stand and aimed down into the upper viewing port on the test section. A black blanket was taped on the garage wall opposite the windtunnel window in order to minimize extraneous reflections from appearing in flow visualization photos.

To finish-up, here are a couple more photos of the Corvette and Chevette. In these pictures the smoke wand is placed a little higher relative to the roof on each car. The result is a somewhat better defined smoke stream along the entire length of the body.

In the end the project was more fun than scientific. There are still numerous unresolved technical issues surrounding the use of crudely detailed models, the small size of the tunnel, and so on and so on. But, maybe the world would be a better place if every suburban house had its own windtunnel room - with appropriate smoke filtering of course :-)


It won't be an anniversary post without ending with a list of the top 5 most popular of the 600 posts. From 1st to 5th, they are,

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: The Elizabeth Valley Railroad

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

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: Balsa, cost, a handcar shed and organic veggies

Amtronic Ranch

HO-scale logging airships?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Georgia Welcome Station

In amongst the old Morecambe postcards was this one of a beautiful, modernist visitor welcome centre in Georgia. The printing on the back reads,

Welcome to Georgia
The State of Georgia maintains information and Welcome Centers at principal entrances on key highways entering the state. This picture shows the Center on Hwy. 301 just south of the Savannah River.
Color by C. H. Ruth

It's postmarked 6 March 1973, from Ocala, Florida. Apparently it was still there in 2012. It was built in 1962 and was Georgia's first welcome centre.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Morecambe Central Promenade

[Promenade and Clocktower, Morecambe]

A couple more postcards of Morecambe, England where horse drawn trams are clearly visible along the promenade. To me, it's not the presence of those trams that's striking, it's the complete absence of automobiles. With those horses and the sea, the smell might have been something, and combined with the lack of noise and exhaust from gas-powered vehicles, the sensory environment was probably just as different as the modes of transportation.

[Central Promenade, (Looking East) Morecambe]

Drew Leshko's Philadelphia

[A collage of pieces from Drew Leshko's show in Wilmington, Delaware; sourced from Instagram.]

There was some commentary in the recent Branch Line Station post about whether maturing hipsters might embrace a Moorian approach to model railroading and model building. It’s an interesting question, but questions of hipster identification aside, I came across the work of Drew Leshko at Flavorwire a little while ago and was impressed by his approach to representing the buildings of a disappearing Philadelphia. Based on a superficial viewing, one might be tempted to cast the effort into another instance of today’s hipsterdom; however, I prefer not to, and instead look at the work itself. It’s good. An excellent blending of detail and feeling. I particularly like how he’s focused on the façade in many of his pieces, and has presented them as one would present paintings: hangable on a wall. This, along with their large scale, makes them accessible and purchasable for many people. It’s a great idea. It’s true that there’s no model railroading here, but his work did remind me of Jim Shiff's N-scale NYC, auto-operating subway layout/diorama that appeared in an article called City on a Shelf in the February '73 issue of Railroad Modeler. It was a 3 level - El on top of a road on top of a subway - 48 inch wide by 6 inch deep fully operating layout inspired by the movie The French Connection. It's quite interesting, and if you can find the issue, I'd recommend reading the article.

[The centre portion of Mr. Shiff's layout from the Feb. '73 issue of Railroad Modeler]