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.