Sunday, December 31, 2017

EVRR as wall art

The EVRR's home will eventually be a wall since there isn't any permanent horizontal space around here for it. That shelf sticks out about 10" from the wall. It provides space for the control box, power pack, rolling stock and loose scenery like unattached buildings, and it helps create a modest barrier to help protect the terrain from being bumped. 
[The nebulous void latter brought into focus by the gravitational pull of a passing EVRR.]

It's held up by two screws and wall anchors. The layout's frame rests on those and the package states they should support around 60lbs. Later I'll add Ikea-style wall plates to the frame to prevent accidental falls - there have been earthquakes here that have shook things from shelves, so better safe than sorry.
At this point it's not beautiful enough to be hung in any prominent place, but once scenery dominates, and the pink and white foamy roughness of this stage is gone, it'll start to look quite acceptable.
After many tests I've started to think of the layout as having two parts: a classic dog-bone folded over on itself (marked with a solid black line in the above picture), and a valley section suitable for simple switching operations if you're so inclined. It could be wired to run with two power packs for 2-train operation. Maybe it was. Mine won't.

Friday, December 29, 2017

EVRR upper loop test run

[Four cars is the limit for pulling up that grade. With five, the train gets about halfway up and then just sits there spinning its wheels. I've also got to sort out the couplers on the rolling stock. There's a ragtag collection of coupler types and some work better than others. Right now it's finicky to get things properly linked into a train.]

Yesterday it was around -23C during the day and they say with the wind chill it felt like -30C. Normally it's around -5C, but a 'Polar Vortex' is sweeping down from the arctic and has put us in the deep freeze for a couple weeks. I had no desire to venture out, so I hunkered down in the basement and worked on testing the EVRR's grade and upper loop.
A couple weeks ago I started soldering the power leads to the valley track. I bought a new plug-in-the-wall soldering iron because my battery powered one - that's it in the upper left - didn't provide uniform heat. It's good for soldering in tight quarters on the HO layout when it has fresh batteries, but that's about it.
Over on the workbench the EVRR coaches are being re-decaled and now need a spray of dullcote, but with the frigid weather I don't know when that'll be. Maybe now's the time to look into setting up a spray booth. The 4-wheel caboose is an ancient Bachmann item I found at George's. It's quite toy-like, but with some painting it should look acceptable.
Once soldering in the valley was wrapped up, I started on building the grade to the upper loop through the mountains.
Pink insulation foam was used for the upper loop base. Those blocks where the bridge crosses the valley are temporary.
In case there is a scholar in the 22nd century who wants to ponder the meaning of my workshop in the same way I've pondered E. L. Moore's, there you go.
And there's the loop in all its foamy glory! The track is all Peco flex and it's held in place with transfer tape and glued pins inserted through the centre of a number of ties. All the switches are also Peco.
Underneath it's still a jumble of power leads. The next job is to put together the control box so I can run trains over the whole layout. So far testing has been piecemeal with jumpers here and jumpers there to test out the blocks. For the test over the mountain loop I jumpered the grade track to the mountain loop so I could get a long run, but since I don't have any reversing toggles installed yet, I couldn't run the train back down the grade - it had to be backed down.
I was looking over the layout and comparing it to some of E. L. Moore's EVRR pictures to see if I had things in more-or-less the right place when I came across that one up there. Turns out I hadn't posted it, but more importantly, I saw the lake has that little point sticking into the water. 
[This is the back of that photo. 20 November 1956 is the date. And you can see he was still living at his old Pine St. apartment and hadn't yet moved to Oakland Ave.]

Take a look at his plan and you'll see the point isn't there. So, since I want this layout to be close to his as-built layout, I added that point back in by gluing down an appropriately shaped piece of cork.
If you look closely at the lake scene, you'll see a peeper hiding behind the fallen tree on the point watching those bathing beauties. And, I didn't realize that is a stone wall along the shore and there's clearly a road on the other side.

They say the weather won't ease up to a balmy -14C until Tuesday, so until then I'll drop you off in 1949 and leave you with Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalbán, Betty Garrett, Keenan Wynn, Xavier Cugat and Mel Blanc. 

Stubby PCC

While browsing through the December 1954 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman I stubbled across this shorty PCC, made by Herman Eschador of Pennsylvania Scale Models, in the Dispatcher's Report . The accompanying text says that is was made by cutting out the center section of a regular casting. Although, I must admit, when stubbies are mentioned, it isn't PCCs that come to mind,

Thursday, December 28, 2017

But what about this one?

With the office closed between Christmas and New Years, and temperatures in the -20C to -30C range, leisure and cold have combined to reek havoc on my mind. To tweak Vince a little I suggested in the coming year I'd build the greatest streetcar layout known to men, women, children or beasts of the wild. What ensued was an exchange of YouTube streetcar layout videos as the discussion on great streetcar layouts went on into the frigid depths of cyberspace.

All this got started with my mentioning that the streetcar layout I admire most these days is Glennofootscray's Victoria_Street, whose blog is here and Youtube channel here.

But YouTube is chock full of fascinating model streetcar* layouts. We exchanged videos. It's up to you to figure out who picked which.

Wandering through YouTube's streetcar layouts is humbling. My tweaking boast was ill founded. There are many more excellent layouts than can be noted here. No doubt many are going to inspire me as I work on my layout over the coming months and years. Although I can't seem to find any that use some part of Toronto as their starting point. No doubt some such layout exists somewhere in TO's vastness and I just need to look harder.
*Being an ex-patriate Torontonian I think of these vehicles as streetcars, not trams or trollies

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Delsbo Electric 2017 - Battery Powered Rail Vehicle Challenge

From Sweden, the Delsbo Electric 2017 - Battery Powered Rail Vehicle Challenge. Ed Bryce needs one of these.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dropping off 2017 and picking up 2018

It's hard to believe 2017 is just about over. Seems like only yesterday I was writing about how hard it was to believe 2016 was ending. I don't have any sage insights or resolutions. I'm terrible at predicting the future and never keep resolutions, so I'll just rummage through 2017's closets and see what I can find.

. . .

Thanks to a generous reader, the most exciting discovery of 2017,

. . .

Not to mention some interesting discoveries about a couple of once famous and now neglected model railroaders,

Gil Mellé: Jazz Legend, Model Railroader Extraordinaire

. . .

Again, thanks to a generous reader, we got to see what E. L. Moore looked like,

. . . 

. . . 

I came close to retiring from blogging,

This year-ender will be the 958th blog post here at 30 Squares, and 2018 will be my 10th year as a blogger. I know, I know, 30 Squares has only been around since 2009; however, in 2008 I had a blog called Streamlines that I ended up deleting before that year was out. It was too cynical and arch for my tastes, and didn't reflect what I wanted to write about - it was too now and not me. I got back into model making and model railroading in 2003, so 2018 is year 15 as a revived hobbyist. 

Although I only 'retired' for just 2 weeks this year, hanging up blogging is always on my mind these days. I sometimes think I may have written all that I set out to write. But, I'm not going to do anything drastic. I'll go out on a limb and predict I'll do much less posting in 2018. Then again, I sometimes think I still have some things to write about. If I keep going I hope to cross the 1,000 post mark sometime next year. 

. . . 

Speaking of 1,000, my letter about the Aug '73 issue of Model Railroader appeared in Model Railroader's 1,000th issue,

. . . 

Debra and I took a road trip to pick up a collection of Railroad Model Craftsmans and Railroad Modelers,

Once I got those issues home I spent a lot of time reading them. Their presence in the house was an attractive force I couldn't resist and I 'wasted' days and weeks going through their pages. 

It turns out the collection isn't complete and has significant gaps, but it's a great starting point and I'm glad I was able to obtain it. I spent time organizing, cataloging and boxing the RMCs from the 1950s and 1960s as well as all the RMs. It turns out the RM collection is complete, but the RMCs from those two decades have considerable gaps. I filled many with purchases from Railpubs, but these ones are still missing (eBay is my next port-of-call),

1957: July, Aug, Sept
1954: July
1952: June, Aug, Oct
1964: Dec

I have yet to begin on the 1990s to present, and Vince has the '70s and '80s. I see much pleasant archiving work on the horizon for 2018.

. . .

. . . 

Is model railroading fun? For me, not really. It's pleasurable and satisfying. I often experience the flow state while working on projects. Fun? No. It's more than that.

. . . 

In 2017 I thought I'd try to write a series of  essays on walking, streetcars, bookstores, science and writing as these things have long been tangled together in my mind. I started with A Field Guide to Pedestrians, but put it and the rest of the series aside well before it was finished. Here's the rough draft of the field guide's beginning. Maybe in 2018 I can pick it up again, along with The Kitbashed X, and see what it has in store.

A Field Guide to Pedestrians

In that old Tuxedo Junction series by George Allen and Ernie Hubener, I’d often read about them taking field trips to look for and photograph buildings or railroad related stuff they liked for inclusion on their layout. I rather like this sort of field work, but given that my two favourite streetcar lines are in the urban areas of Toronto and Ottawa, and Ottawa’s is a ghost line at that, means walking around cities with my camera taking pictures of stuff. Sometimes I’ve done it Moore-style from the window of a car, but the images are a lot less thoughtful and taking them has its risks if I’m driving - which I don’t do if you’re wondering.

In downtown Toronto the pedestrians have been pretty mellow about me stopping on the sidewalk to snap a picture of a building or taking one from a café window. For the most part they pay no attention and go about doing whatever it is they’re doing. Although, I’ve had people stop walking so as not to obscure a view as I snapped – well, maybe they just didn’t want to appear in the picture - and then gave me a pleasant wave as they passed once I was done. Of course I thanked them.

It’s not like that everywhere. In one not-so-small town on Vancouver Island, I took some photos of a resale shop that Debra liked and I though had an interesting look. When I went inside to see if Debra was still there, I was greeted by a customer who pointed at me and frantically shouted across the store to a woman at the cash desk, “It’s him, it’s him! That's the one who was taking the pictures.”  I explained who Debra was to the woman at the counter, and she, who apparently was the owner, said they had chatted. I said I was taking some pictures so we’d remember the place. The owner liked that and gave the customer a sharp look. Should I ask permission to take photos of the façade of a store that faces the public thoroughfare? I don’t think Google Streetviews does, but on the other hand, they have at times been met with open hostility. It doesn't always sit well with people.

When I’m outside and taking photos is on my mind I use my little Canon Digital Elph. It has a strap I can cinch-up to my wrist to prevent dropping it, and the camera body fits comfortably in the palm of my hand so it’s out of sight when not in use. In the winter, that means I can keep it warm in  a mitt. I have a DSLR, but it’s big and obvious and not so easy to switch on in an instant and take a quick photo without attracting attention. Although I should probably use the DSLR more because it might change the social perception, if I was being observed with suspicion, from one of snooper to photographer. I find my phone’s camera to be useless. It takes ok pictures, but the phone’s slab shape isn’t conducive to taking quick photos while walking. With the Canon, I can take it out, switch it on, snap some photos and put it away without breaking my stride and calling undue attention to myself or getting distracted from what’s going on. When crossing a busy intersection in Toronto, snapping streetcar photos while I go, this is an important feature. Although in less dynamic environments I’ll often stop for a properly framed picture.

Walking is my main way of seeing. I don’t wear headphones or earbuds or talk on the phone. Usually my phone isn’t even on. I just carry it in case of emergency. Which doesn’t make much sense, but when it’s on it seems like an unfriendly presence. 

Sometimes I’m walking because I’m going somewhere or on an errand. Sometimes it’s to take photos of something. Sometimes is just to get out of the house and stretch my legs. I have this sense that if I can walk, I'm doing ok and things aren't so bad.

Over the years it seems like the other pedestrians I see on these walks fall into classifiable groups. Now, I've gotta be a little careful here. Yes, there are recognizable groups, but they differ from place to place. I do most of my recreational walking through the blocks of the residential neighbourhood where we live. The groups are quite different from those I see when I walk from my home into the city. There's some sort of boundary that gets crossed and the groupings I see around my home neighbourhood dissolve into others that inhabit the city. It's a kind of space travel.

So, these are the home groups, not the city groups - those are for another time. And these are summer observations. Winter's another story.

There’re the exercisers. They’re running. They’re jogging. They're power-walking. They’re running and walking. They’re using the outside world as a gym. Within this group are two sub-groups: those who are dressed in all the latest running fashions and equipment, and those who just threw something on. The first group is usually young or youngish and fit and plugged into some sort of electronic entertainment device. Mostly women, but men aren’t uncommon. The walkers often have ski-pole style walking sticks. The second group are older, and I think are hesitant about the whole running thing. They don’t seem happy; they often seem to be struggling.

There’re the dog walkers. Usually, couples or single women. Rarely men. Always equipped with poop bags. I’m glad of that, but I wouldn’t want the majority of my walking to be done while holding a bag of fresh dog poop. Just sayin’.

There're the commuters and students walking back and forth from their homes to transit stops at rush hours. They’re purposeful and the variety is large.

There're the family groups. Usually a young couple with pre-school kids and a stroller. There might be a dog or two on a leash. They're strolling. Sometimes these family groups will be riding their bikes on the street. Stroller replaced by mom or dad pulling a trailer. Everybody is wearing a helmet except dad. 
And sometimes there're cats. One summer it seemed that every evening around dusk there were lots of stray cats wandering the streets. Each evening I'd see at least two or three slumming around. There was an imperial one who regularly sat Sphinx-like on the soft-top of a parked Jeep. He surveyed the street from his rooftop perch and gave me the evil-eye when I stared at him.

There're many pedestrians who don't fall into those groups. The trace elements doing whatever it is they're doing. Not everyone can be stereotyped. And the stereotypes wouldn't be stereotypes if I knew them and wasn't just noting their passing.

. . . 

Some interesting books read in 2017,

Against Everything by Mark Greif
Chinaman's Chance by Ross Thomas
The Spectacle of Skill: Selected Writings of Robert Hughes
Nothing if Not Critical by Robert Hughes
Mister X: The Archives by Dean Motter + Co.
good bones by Margaret Atwood
The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History by J. William Hood
Cardboard Engineering with Scissors & Paste by G. H. Deason
Lost Ottawa by David McGee
Ottawa's Farm: A history of the Central Experimental Farm by Helen Smith & Mary Bramley

. . .

It's traditional here to time travel at least once a year,

. . . 

I made a start on a new HO-scale streetcar layout I'm calling the Alta Vista Transit Commission, or Alta Vista TC for short. Here's the first spin over the newly installed track,

But first the old layout, the Lost Ocean Line, had to go,

. . .

Thanks for dropping by! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Making the grade on the EVRR

I had some spare time in the evenings recently and felt like doing some work on the EVRR layout. I soldered leads to all the blocks in the valley - they're not noticeable in the photo, but although my soldering was a little blobby, I didn't melt any ties into puddles of plastic :-)

I then moved on to building the grade to the upper level - that's it in the bottom of the photo. It's about a 4% to 5% grade. A bit steep, but not too bad as trains are going to be short anyway. Hopefully after Christmas I'll get the remainder of the track installed. I'm looking forward to building some bridges for this thing. I've never made any before, so it should be fun. And, yes, they will be built from balsa :-)

This is it for posts for awhile. I'll be back after Christmas with more exciting adventures! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! And much thanks for taking time from your days to drop by!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Animated Scale Models Handbook

Vince and I were chatting a little bit about books on scale modelling. It sent me on a pleasant trek through the little library I've built up on the subject over the last few years. One of my favourites is Adolph F. Frank's Animated Scale Models Handbook published in 1981 by Arco Publishing. I take the time to read any introductory material in these old volumes. They often contain fascinating bits of background information, and Mr. Frank's is a great one with his discussion on the roots of scene modelling - and to some extent model railroading - and where his interest came from. Here's what he has to say in the Foreword,

When I was a small boy, it was customary for families to have a "Putz" or Nativity scene as part of their Christmas decorations, which were usually found under the Christmas tree. Many of these families were descendants of old European craftsmen who made ornate and elaborate displays. I'm speaking of a time in our industrial history when a large portion of the labor force was extremely skilled with their hands. They were artistic types - machinists, pattern makers, finish carpenters and other artisans - who being fine craftsmen, seemed to delight in outdoing one another in making these displays. As a result, the Nativity scene slowly became just one part of a much larger display, commonly called the Christmas tree yard. In this yard was found anything from a model of the family home to a model of the entire village in which they lived.

As I grew older, in the late '20s and early '30s, the electric train came into prominence and was added to the display or yard. Automobile dealers took their entire display rooms and built large villages with waterfalls, as well as working trains and automobiles. I was immensely intrigued by these elaborate displays.

As the years passed and I became more interested, my father and I started to add animation to our display. It was very disillusioning, however as all we could buy at that time were an electric train and an assortment of vehicles, animals, and buildings, none of which were to any specific scale. As a result, we had to build the structures and everything else that was needed to assemble a display. The word "scale" or "scale modelling" was just coming into usage, so there wasn't much scale modeling being done.

Another frustrating aspect of this era was our inability to miniaturize anything due to the unavailability of small motors or parts. Quite often even the electric motors had to be built. The miniature electric motors we know today didn't come into being until after World War II. Until this time, most motors were salvaged from discarded appliances, such as fans.

The hobby business also began to come into its own during the post-war period. Many small factories turned from wartime production to the model-and-hobby business. At first, only cardboard and wood products were available. Some of these were and still are high-quality merchandise. Soon many plastic and metal scale models were available. Model railroaders capitalized on this when HO scale came into its own during this period. It seemed no time at all until there was a model built in HO scale to suit any situation. To the avid builder this was Utopia. We started by building structures and trying to animate them with gears, cams, levers, etc. By trial and error and some mechanical sense (since there were no drawings available) we built everything from a waterfall to an automobile assembly plant. It was a real challenge to design something and then see it through to its completion.

My family and friends who have been close to me over the years urged me to publish my notes, since there seems to be very little written on this subject. I have consented to collect my notes and compile them in this book. I hope you will have as much pleasure using these notes as I have had researching them.

I bought my copy of this book new back in 1981 from an actual store in the underground shopping concourse near the Bloor and Yonge subway station in Toronto. The store sold science and engineering related toys, games, equipment, gifts and a decent selection of books. I was still in university at the time and it was one of the haunts on my bookstore trail through Toronto's downtown core. Like just about every bookstore I frequented back then - and there were many - it's long gone. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Recently updated

E. L. Moore wikipedia article published here. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't get deleted.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

HOJ-POJ Mfg. Co. ala Bart Crosby

This image was snipped from a larger photo in the Boomer Trail section of  the May 1969 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. All it says is that Bart Crosby built it "from plans in the April 1968 RMC". April '68? Hmmm. It sure looks a lot like the HOJ POJ Mfg.Co. that E. L. Moore published in that issue. And since Mr. Crosby and Mr. Moore were good friends, well...And look at that over on the left, he even built that rascally water tower! Crosby's Yarns: Unbelievably Preposterous! 'Nuff Said.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Dipping my toe into Wikipedia

Here's the beginning of the E. L. Moore Wikipedia article [19 Nov 2017 update: link removed]. There's not much there yet, but now that I've studied the getting started material and setup an account, hopefully things will move along a little faster. One thing I've learned in the process is that it's important to make sure there are suitable references for the statements I'm making so that the article passes review and doesn't get rejected. Well, there's a big winter storm on the way today, so I've got go and do some things before it arrives.
[19 Nov 2017 update: Looks like the article is going to be removed from wikipedia because I stupidly posted the initial drafts here, so now I'm violating my own copyright. It might be resolvable; however, it looks like I'd need a legal degree to make sense of things. There's a steep learning curve to Wikipedia, and I think I'm going to stop at this level - the summit isn't worth it.]
[21 Nov 2017 update: Still no word from anyone at wikipedia about how to resolve this. I'll need to slog through their legal material and see if I can figure it out. After a little web search it appears my woes aren't unique to me; for example, according to this Time article, "The problem, most researchers and Wikipedia stewards seem to agree, is that the core community of Wikipedians are too hostile to newcomers, scaring them off with intractable guidelines and a general defensiveness." I now have a better understanding why articles like those on John Allen and Frank Ellison are so basic and lacking in references even though there are plenty of reputable ones out there - more so than for E. L. Moore. Ok, rant, off :-) Back to normal programming.]
[21 Nov 2017 update #2: I sent wikipedia the email they requested so I can continue. I haven't heard back from a person yet - seems unlikely that I will - but I'll see what they do with the permission email.]
[22 Nov 2017 update: I'll have to retract my grumblings! I was contacted by someone from wikipedia who was quite cordial and gave me some advice about what to do. I did it and now we'll see if the draft-in-progress gets reinstated. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.]
[23 Nov 2017 update: As of dawn, I'm still locked out of the draft. We'll see if anything changes today.]
[23 Nov 2017 update #2: Around mid-afternoon the draft wikipedia article was unlocked and I can get back to putting it together - hopefully I'll be able to resume this weekend! I wish to thank the wikipedia staff for resolving this - and on US Thanksgiving too! - and readers who encouraged me to press on. I hope this is just a minor speed-bump and it's clear sailing for here on.]
[25 Nov 2017 update: I've been doing some updates to the draft article. It's still go aways to go before it's done. I have an immodest goal of trying to raise the bar on articles related to model railroading that appear in wikipedia. Not that the ones there are bad, just that compared to ones for say many tv shows, they could be improved.]

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Streetcars rule! . . . well, they do on King St.

Since Sunday, for all intents and purposes, cars are virtually eliminated from Toronto's King Street for a year and streetcars rule the roost. Congrats to Toronto! It wasn't that way back in '74 :-)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

E. L. Moore's workbench

This is a high rez slice of E. L. Moore's workbench from his March 1971 portrait which will be used at his wikipedia bio. I've done a little bit of processing on it to lighten-up the shadowed areas on the shelves.
There aren't a lot of labels to read, but there is a box labeled KADEE roughly in the middle of the shelf. No doubt a box of Kadee brand couplers. As well there's what looks like an engine house casually stashed on the second shelf from the top, over on the right. There's a water tower on the bench across from his elbow. Is he working on it, or is was that just a convenient place to drop it? His bench looks like that of many modellers, lots of stuff and tools placed here, there and everywhere, and not too much space left for the model being built. He was also known to work from tv trays and an easy chair, so maybe the bench wasn't used for actual work, but as storage and staging area?

Take a look at the window in relation to the bench, and go back and take a look at the window corner in the window corner post. The spacing of the wall and window elements is very similar to those in this photo, if not identical, which suggests the photos were taken in the same location, in the same apartment. I can't prove this, but there you go. More food for thought in the ongoing investigation :-)

E. L. Moore's writing corner

To me it's fascinating the things one can see when photos are high rez scanned and enhanced a little. That's the picture hanging in E. L. Moore's writing corner. When I saw it, it reminded me of his Water Wheel Mill photo
This is the full photo from which I sliced the portrait used over there on the left to head up the E. L. Moore in the 21st Century Series column. It was also a possible candidate for the wikipedia bio. I have no idea when this was shot. I'm guessing it was sometime in the 1940s, but it's just a guess. It turns out one can find online interior photos of his 525 Oakland apartment  (I think he moved in there sometime in the late 50's or early '60s, and left in the mid to late '70s) because it's still a rental unit. Assuming the floor plan hasn't changed even though the finishes have been updated, I can't find a corner that matches that one. Maybe this was his Pine St. apartment where he lived prior to Oakland Ave.? But again, this is all guess work.
And an outtake :-) Regardless of dates and addresses, look at all the stuff in these two photos! I'm high rez scanning them to see if any of the wording on any of the objects can be read. 
In the bookshelf, I can only make out 3 titles so far. From the above subset of books,

1. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
2. Life of Johnson by James Boswell
3. The Still Hunter by Theodore Van Dyke

Nothing railroad related.
And for the calendar, that's the best I've been able to do so far. Can't read anything other than it came from The Bank of Commerce.

Those two photos of him at the desk are fascinating and raise lots of questions. Was he a writer at the time? Wanted to be one and was getting the equipment together? Maybe it was just the space he used for his photo business office work? The desk is a fine piece of furniture; look at the way the typewriter is stored in it when not in use. That's a nice desk lamp too. There's nothing junky or disorderly there. All I can say is that it's good to have more questions.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bank on Bank

I was looking for a fairly easy and relaxing project I could work on for 10 or 20 minutes at a time, and soldering track work wasn't going to do it, so I thought I'd take a crack at a small HO scale building I'd been thinking about for awhile.
One night last year I was driving home from a movie and snapped that. I shouldn't have. I was driving. Well, I was stopped at the light if it makes you feel better.
It's an old bank at the corner of Glen and Bank street. A bank on Bank. Built in 1955. It was a Toronto-Dominion Bank I think. I've always admired this little building. Well, ok, it's not so little. Look at that long side facade.
Hate that white sign board someone stuck on top.
Today it's a furniture store and whoever owns it now took down that thing. 

It has a sense of solidity about it. It's not showy, but has a handsome simplicity. And it's basically just a decorated box, so I thought it would be easy to model. That's what I decided to do: build it. I want to build more brick and stone buildings and develop some ease in doing so, so this seemed like a good project to give it a try.
That upper photo of the facade is my estimate of being nearly HO scale, maybe a little bigger. From that, I figured out some dimensions. The facade is modelled without selective compression, but the side wall is considerably shortened, otherwise it would take up a lot of space on the layout. In the end the basic shape is very shoebox-like - a lot of buildings are.
I wanted thick walls, and each is made by gluing 2 pieces of 3/32" balsa together with their grains perpendicular to each other.
Each wall was left to dry overnight under a stack of books. I could have used foam board or styrene, but I had some balsa left over from a project I never got around to starting, and I have a well known E. L. Moore fixation :-) so the choice was obvious. 
These are the wall's inner surfaces. The end walls are notched on the sides so the side walls will fit snuggly.
The windows and doors are trimmed with what looks like concrete pieces. And there's that nice yellow brick. I was planning on using Micro-Mark's HO scale yellow brick like I used on The Bookery. I didn't have enough on hand and contacted Micro-Mark about ordering more and they broke the bad news: they no longer make it! And hadn't done so for a few years. So, all I had on hand was some red plastic brick sheets and decided to go with that and paint the whole thing once major construction was done.
For the concrete trim I had an empty box of instant oatmeal, so it was pressed into service.
I cut the trim pieces to 6" wide, which is probably a little wider than the prototype, but doesn't look too bad.
I waffled back-and-forth about whether I should decorate each wall before assembling them into a box, or glue up the box and then decorate. In the end I added a few pieces to the unassembled walls, then glued them into a box, and finished attaching the trim and brick sheets. Peeking inside you can see the styrene floor - I think it's 0.020 inch - that was glued in after the walls were assembled. I chose styrene only because it was the thinnest sheet material I had on hand.
After installing the floor, some additional balsa strips were glued into the corners for extra bracing. In retrospect, I think this is a bit of overkill.
The floor fits ok, although its got a little flex.
You can see that the side wall is much shorter than the prototype, but maintains its style. One thing that strikes me about this model is that if I didn't know the prototype, I'd say the model was in O scale given those large door and window openings. This would likely make a good O scale model of some sort, although it wouldn't have the impressiveness of the large windows in relation to the smaller people that HO does.
At this point I wanted to see how it would look on the layout. The sidewalks are yet to be installed, so things are looking a little bare. Also, I've got this whole thing I'm working out in my mind about making sure streets turn in the correct sequence to get to the various buildings from the sidewalks - it's a little convoluted and I think I'll do a post on what I'm considering is an important planning principle to me for streetcar layouts. Anyway, it doesn't look too bad on that corner.
From this point it was more-or-less just cutting and gluing pieces into location. A pleasant and relaxing task when done on a now-and-then basis.
One thing though. I need to do a little work on improving the corners where the brick sheets come together. The digital photos highlight a few problems.
The wall that butts up against the neighbouring building has a section where there appears to be no brick, just exposed concrete block.
To hint at that, I pieced in a section on the blank side wall with a piece of plastic HO block sheet. Well, that's phase 1, refinement, painting, detailing, lighting and all that good stuff is next.