Friday, May 31, 2019

Gil Mellé found by The Vinyl Detective

Recently I was in need of some light escapism and stumbled across The Vinyl Detective at just the right time. And much to my surprise found in its pages not one but two discussions of Gil Mellé recordings in this wholly satisfying tale of lost-and-found, vinyl LPs, beautiful women, Los Angeles, London, plumbing, eccentrics, cats, coffee, jazz legends real and imaginary, bus passes, serious analog turntable setups, and a very fine Barracuda. No streetcars, but hey. Nothing too mentally strenuous, just a few hours of good fun.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

From the Time Machine's Glove Box: The Library Fleet

A few things came together that got me thinking about this post from 2011 in retroDynamics: I stumbled across a story called Woman Shares 28 Things She's Learned About the General Public While Working at the Library and People Love Her Insights; and there was this story called The Books of College Libraries are Turning Into Wallpaper; I've been thinking a lot about stories and model making, and the one in this post I scavenged in 2014 to be part of the Light Ray Blues novella; back in 2012 there was a build of the McGregor Park Library; not to mention that book selling establishments like E. L. Moore's Uncle Charley's Bookery, the Art Deco Chapters, and the World's Smallest Model of the World's Biggest Bookstore mega build were all projects discussed here at one time or another. Well, that stuff got me thinking. Here it is, The Library Fleet from 2011.

From 17 August 2011: The Library Fleet

Normally I refrain from writing about problems in the world. Most of them I can’t do anything substantial about, and blogged ranting doesn’t do anything either. retroDynamics is meant to be simply a lightweight, positive distraction. However, one relatively minor thing – well, minor in the grand scheme of things - that has a retroDynamics aspect has caught my attention recently: the potential closing of many libraries in Toronto in order to ostensibly save money and reduce taxes. On the one hand, some reassessment of how library services are deployed might indeed be called for because as time goes on demographics and needs change, but on the other hand, the way in which it is being pursued suggests that the cost savings rationale is a cloak for an ideologically based attack on libraries and general access to them. For many reasons, I think public libraries are one hallmark of a decent society, and seeing them under attack is troubling.
The public libraries in Scarborough played a big role in my life when I was growing up. We visited Bendale library, and later Cedarbrae library, about once every one or two weeks, and usually checked out several books on each trip. We also attended short films and puppet shows. One summer Cedarbrae held Saturday evening movie screenings. After dark they’d project an old black-and-white Hollywood movie – usually some sort of B movie from the ‘30s or ‘40s - outside on their back wall. It was free for anyone who wanted to sit on the grass and watch. It wasn’t until much later in life that I appreciated how all that vastly developed my literacy and appreciation of reading, writing, movies and culture in general. And all of it was free of charge. I’m not so sure we’re so strapped for cash these days that we can’t still pop for this sort of thing – maybe we just prioritize things differently today. Given the internet and massive pervasiveness of digital culture, the role of the library in society is no doubt different than it was back then, but I don’t think the need for unfettered access to the diverse cultural works of our society has gone away.
A few years ago when I was getting back into model building I decided I wanted to try and build some large scratch-built spaceships from plastic odds-and-ends – sort of in the tradition of props built for movies and tv in the pre-CGI era. I eventually latched onto the idea of honouring the Scarborough Public Libraries of my youth – which are today part of the Toronto Public Library system – with some good humoured plastic spaceship awesomeness. The results were mixed, but I feel like I want to pursue this idea again, and with some experience under my belt, hopefully the next round will be better. Bendale
My first build was the small s.p.l. Bendale (for Scarborough Public Library Bendale). I submitted it to the Reader’s Gallery on Starship Modeller and was happy that it got accepted. And much to my surprise I received some pleasant – and ego swelling :-) - email in response.

There seems to be a tradition that goes along with spaceship scratchbuilding: writing the vehicle’s back story. I couldn’t pass that up and gave it a go:
By 2081, settlement of the far reaches of the solar system definitely had one adverse affect on Earth civilization: the holdings of the royal and ancient - but unfortunately long disbanded - Scarboro public library were scattered all the way from Mercury to Pluto. Colonists could just not part with their beloved tomes and carried them jealously wherever the whims of fortune took them. So, to right this wrong and reclaim the legacy for a new generation, many long retired library board members, along with sympathetic supporters from the underground rebel book alliance, convened to consider their options. They needed a ship - a fleet of ships actually - to go to those distant places and collect those treasures. And collect them with punishing over-due fees. Professor Emeritus Vincenzo Air reported on a long forgotten chapter in propulsion technology: the curvilinear j-Fforde drive; an interplanetary drive named in honor of the author Jasper Fforde, discoverer of Book World earlier in the century. The basic principle behind the drive was a targeted seeking of the 'spine' in local space that, once found and accessed, allowed a spacecraft to jump to any location in space via 'pages' in a matter of seconds. After an immodest allocation of funds, and a number of years of development, the first prototype book retrieval spacecraft outfitted with a curvlinear j-Fforde drive - the s.p.l. Bendale - was ready for testing. Many hardcore due-date ignorers were on Mars, so the shakedown voyage was to Cydonia for a face-to-face showdown. Prof. Air insisted on being the test pilot, but he was a little too fast on the draw and gunned it so hard that he kinked the main drive unit. When later asked by reporters how fast it would go, he replied, "It's a real page turner". Among the stacks back on Earth, his title of Professor Emeritus, was quickly replaced by Lead-foot - well, at least outside the range of his hearing aid. And what about those fee dodgers? Some tricks of illumination allowed them to avoid facing-the-music on this sortie - but there is always next time!

Ok. Well, I’m not going to give up my day job to become a novelist. Here are a few pictures taken during construction.

The Bendale before painting.

After this one, I wanted to build something much bigger, and inspired by 2001’s Discovery. That one was the s.p.l. Cedarbrae. Starship Modeller wasn’t interested in this build, but I did submit it later to one of their online contests under a different name: Age of Discovery in honour of its movie roots – classic movies and the library seemed to go together in my mind for reasons mentioned earlier. It wasn’t a winner, but it taught me a lot about building a big spaceship. Cedarbrae

I modified a car wheel stand to support the Cedarbrae
The Cedarbrae continued the back story tradition:
Soon after the first successful trans-planetary trial of the s.p.l Bendale the library board decided they needed to continue to develop spaceships for all their present and future needs. To make this happen they created the New Academy for Spaceship Assembly in order to build their fleet and train future generations in the subtle, and not-so-subtle, arts, sciences and technologies of spaceship creation.

The academy was founded on the principles laid down by Calculus, Shelby and Gromit in their ground-breaking book "Principals of Practical Spaceship Assembly". Their key idea was that through the continual practice of actual spaceship building flowed the well-spring of insight required to refine and advance spaceships in all their forms.

Of the few old school training methods still employed at the academy was the construction of display models of the academy's major design projects by apprentices. The time-and-space tempered model of the soon to be built s.p.l Cedarbrae was one of the biggest built to date.

The central section is built around a spine made of 1-1/4 inch ABS pipe. The plastic vitamin and supplement bottles that make up the core modules are drilled at either end with a 1-1/4 inch door drill and then slid over the pipe. Removing the labels from the bottles is a little tricky. The old technique of using a hand-held hair-dryer to gently heat the label and peel it off was applied many times. Any residue from the label's glue can be removed by lightly scrubbing with a critic cleaner and then cleaning up with warm water. The main engine outlet on the back end was an inlet cover from a broken hair-dryer. The forward module that contains the shuttle bay is a plastic protein jar, and the fairing between it and the other modules on the spine is a foot from a discarded computer floor-stand. The semi-spherical flight-deck extension is from a Christmas ornament kit. The airlocks on the lower portion of the flight-deck extension are snap-caps from vitamin bottles.

The two outer j-Fforde Drive propulsion cylinders are the cores from paper rolls used in a large computer plotter. The output ends are fitted with nested PVC pipe joiners.

The library book retrieval craft in the shuttle bay is a Bandai Thunderbird 2. The kit's box says the T-bird's scale is 1/450. At this scale, the s.p.l. Cedarbrae would be 2,175 feet long (about 2/5 of a mile), or roughly 3x the length of 2001's Discovery which was the inspiration for the s.p.l. Cedarbrae.

The shuttle bay, along with its sliding doors, is made from sheet styrene and given some detail from plastic spares sourced from 1/25 scale car and HO-scale building left overs.

The dish antennae on the shuttle bay module are from AMT/Ertl's Moonscope kit. The larger antenna located about halfway down the spine is a two-part affair: the support is from a Braun electric toothbrush, and the dish is the only surviving part from a long gone MPC Pilgrim Explorer.

When it came time to paint, the entire ship was primed with Krylon flat black and then base coated with Krylon silver. A wide range of spray can colors were used to paint the ship in an afternoon long painting spree. After drying for a couple of weeks, watercolors were generously applied for further surface effects. Squares and squiggles were applied to some modules with waterproof black pens of various size. The whole thing was sealed with Testor's Dullcoat.

Lead model reviewer Vincenzo Air wasn't too thrilled with the scruffy outer grime that would soon coat this new giant capable of reaching the outermost boundaries of the orbits of the outer planets; however, that was a small price to pay to retrieve those precious barbecue recipes accidently stuffed in a book of verse and shipped to the highly eccentric Pluto: Planetesimal of Poets and Superannuated Accountants. But that's a whole other story....

The bridge

The shuttle bay

Looking towards the back

Looking towards the bridge

Engine exhausts

One of the modeling goals was to incorporate some sort of shuttle landing bay; hence, the Thunderbird 2. Here are few photos showing the Cedarbrae’s construction phase.

Lots of paints were used on this thing!

Before painting

Painting is half done
The last one I worked on was the s.p.l. Birchmount - well, I actually built the basic structure at the same time as the Cedarbrae, but detailed and painted it well after the Cedarbrae was finished. This one came about after playing around with some plastic junk I had in my scrap pile. Unfortunately, once I had the basic shape all glued together I lost interest in superdetailing it and after some rudimentary detailing, simply spray painted it and called it quits. Birchmount

No back story for this one, but here are few construction photos.

Yeap, those external fuel tanks are shampoo bottles.

The spaceship parts supply prior to a directive from she-who-must-be-obeyed to consolidate

Although I hardly added any detail to this one, I still rather like the shape of the thing. But, by this point I’d lost interest in building spaceships, and no other libraries were suitably ‘honoured’. Although, I have some ideas for future builds, they won’t save the Toronto Library system, only dogged lobbying and a grass roots effort might.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

From the Time Machine's Glove Box: Scaled Comics

With the various comics posts I've been making recently I thought I'd pull out 3 I made back in 2010 over at Retrodynamics where I played around with some ideas for using comics type story-telling - using pictures and 2 parallel narratives - for setting the scene of a model building project. It was hoped to be a blend of fiction and fact. In the end though, the Porsche is still on the shelf awaiting restoration. But, the parallel narratives idea got eventually got used in 2014 in the story about the build up of AHM's plastic kit of E. L. Moore's Molasses Mine.

Scaled Comics #1: The Lost Porsche


What’s that?

I don’t see anything. No, look over there. Looks like an old Porsche.

This Revell Porsche 911 model was one of the first models I ever built. It’s been stashed away in a trunk for a long time and has been sitting on my workshop shelf for the last few years. Unfortunately, many parts are missing.


Isn’t that the one that went missing at the Texatario Retro Rally in ‘07.

How the hell did it get down here?

Don’t know.

I bought this kit at the Painted Post Smoke Shop in Toronto in the early 70’s. I recall they seemed to sell just about everything there as well as smokes. Looking back, the plastic model hobby seemed to be at a peak then, so I guess they sold model kits since there was a strong market for them.


Doesn’t look too bad considering.
I thought for sure we’d find their bodies in there.

I’m just as glad we didn’t.
Well, now we know they’re not here. Who knows where they went.

Yeah, and with all that money.

I think I’ve got enough pieces to try and restore this model. It’ll be a winter project. And like the Six million dollar man, I’ll try to make it better than it was.


Next issue: The Big Lift

I took this photo from various angles, but wasn’t all that satisfied with the result. The cord wasn’t pulled taut enough to give the illusion of a heavy car hanging from the end. In this view the kinks in the cord are the least noticeable.

This kit seemed to pop-up frequently in Revell’s promotional material from that time.

Although it was given just ordinary placement in their catalogue, the kit was also used to demonstrate good building techniques both in the catalogue and in one of their how-to pamphlets.

Looking back on some of these instructions, I think I’d try some other techniques because some of the recommendations might be difficult for new or younger builders to get a good result.

Back then I was also interested in the Gran Turismo and Champion Spark Bug kits, but either couldn’t find them, or couldn’t afford them. A couple of years ago I found a Gran Turismo kit at a hobby store in Montreal. It looks like a fairly simple build and maybe it’ll be another project for the winter. It might also become a donor for the Porsche rebuild.

Scaled Comics #2: Still Waiting

It isn't going to restore itself you know.

I know.

If we started now we could still be ready for the summer.

Yeah, but I don't have a buyer.

We could do it on spec.

I'll think about it.

Ok, but don't think too long.

Scaled Comics #3: Restoration Begins


Here it is. I towed it into the sub-basement to get it out of the snow.

It doesn’t look too bad, but there’s lots of parts missing.


Yeah, and that old Revell kit is long gone, so I decided to use this Fujimi kit as a donor.

The Carrera 2 isn’t the same vintage.

True. This restoration isn’t going to be completely true to the original Revell. It’ll be a hybrid.


I’ve started cleaning up the body.

How about the decals?

They’re staying. I realized I was delaying the restoration because I didn’t want to completely strip down and recondition the old body and eliminate all the signs of the original builder. I’m going to work around them and clean things up as best I can. It won’t be pristine. It’s more of a refurb than a restore.

Can’t wait to see more progress.

Me neither.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Windows are too long!

I've been doing some test fitting of the window frames and clear 'glass' inserts. Much to my surprise the main 'glass' pieces are too long for their openings, although the frames fit just fine. I suspect these windows were made for another kit, and were assumed to fit this one too.

It's no big deal, just a little annoying. I'll cut that bottom portion off each and they should then fit quite well. I'll also probably need to add a thin styrene panel in the bottom section of each window to make the interior look clean and logically constructed. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Brick paper installed at the Museum

It turned out that gluing the brick paper to the inside surfaces of the museum's walls wasn't as tough a job as I thought it would be.

I'd say for inside surfaces that will likely only be glanced at through the windows, or when the roof is off, they don't look too bad, but I don't think I'd use this material for exterior surfaces.

Bill suggested I use a roller for spreading the glue, so I went out and bought one so I could give it try.

It did improve glue application, but I think I need more practice as I fumbled around a bit with it before I got the hang of things.

This is a snap taken midway through the action. It was a pleasant little activity. I only worked on it for 10 or 15 minutes at a time over several days.

If you decide to do something like this, my only tip is to make sure you are always using a new, sharp blade to keep your cuts clean.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Bill McClanahan, Legendary Model Railroader & Legendary Cartoonist

Bill McClanahan demonstrating his layout's remote control: snipped from Model Trains, Spring '59
Vince has recently been promoted to CCO, Chief Cartoons Officer, here at the 30Squares media empire. One of his first actions was to alert me that Bill McClanahan was a legendary cartoonist as well as a legendary model railroader. His speciality was sports cartoons, and he won a number of awards. 

I recall Mr. McClanahan best for his book Scenery for Model Railroads, and I still have my copy - the 7th printing of the 2nd edition ! - that I bought back in the '70s. Flipping through it again I see there are a few single panel cartoons attributed to him even though the wash drawing work is credited to Gil Reid. 

In the Feb '57 issue of Model Trains, Mr. McClanahan published a story called Camouflage those pipes with scenery, and it included those 4 drawings over on the right. They're uncredited, and may have been created by a Model Trains staffer, but if you compare their style to some of his sports cartoons, you might agree with me that they were likely drawn by Mr. McClanahan.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Alstom Citadis Spirit as Streetcar

Yeah, yeah, it's a corporate computer graphics publicity video, but two things caught my eye: first it illustrates the vehicle that OC Transpo is using in a light rail configuration in a streetcar configuration, and two, the video does have a stylized model streetcar layout vibe to it. That video down there is Alstom's spin on the vehicle for us potential OC Transpo commuters here in Ottawa. Same sort of vibe, but I had to laugh at their depiction of winter. In the video it looks like someone sprinkled some fine icing sugar on the city, but in reality, last winter we had about 312 cm of snow! And if you're wondering, yes it's all melted now :-)

Friday, May 24, 2019

A streetcar in disguise?

TTC Flexity Outlook on King St.
Often on my way to work in the morning I'll see a new OC Transpo Alstom Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle out on a test run. Although they're billed in the media as light rail vehicles, they look very streetcar like to me, and I've been wondering how many passengers they can carry in comparison to the TTC's Flexity Outlook streetcar. 

According to Wikipedia the 48.4m long version of the Alstom bought by OC Transpo will handle 300 passengers, and the 30.2m TTC Flexity clocks in at 251*. Interestingly, Wikipedia also notes that 

The [Alstom] Citadis Spirit is designed for both city-centre and suburban operation. Its 100% low-floor design has no interior steps or ramps. The vehicle can be used for both street-running allowing boarding from street or curb, and high-speed travel up to 105 km/h (65 mph). 

So since it's a modular design, some shorter configuration would allow it to run as a streetcar - a streetcar in disguise? :-)

*For PCC fans, if 2 of the TTC's old PCCs were strung together, the train would have an approximate length of 30 metres, and the 'crush load' would be around 268 passengers. The operative word here being 'crush' :-)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

And on the inside it's brick

The museum's inside wall surfaces are going to be covered with Superquick brick paper. I bought a package at a train show a few years ago and it has been just laying around in the parts box waiting for a project. Wait no more!

But before the gluing got underway, the plastic walls had embossed numbers and ejector dimples that had to the sanded off to smooth their surfaces. 
White glue was used and spread on the wall as uniformly as I could. A piece of brick paper was then applied. After drying, the arch was sliced out with a brand new knife blade. The brick paper is quite thin, which makes application and cutting openings easy.

There's a lot of walls and cutting ahead, so it could be awhile before this job is done.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Painting with Cap

Found in Action Comics #335 (Mar '66)  & Detective Comics #349 (Mar '66)
Vince is a fount of knowledge; no question about that. He asked me if I remembered the series Cap's Hobby Hints that ran in DC comics in the '60s and sent me a link to some examples. Much to my shame I hadn't see this before, but my shame was short lived :-) The wonders of the internet let me fill in those nasty gaps in my education. 

Found in Adventure Comics #342 (Mar '66)  & Metamorpho #5 (Mar - Apr '66)

Anyway, I latched onto these two as they show how to use a wire coat hanger as a paint stand that we were talking about a few days ago. That technique probably wasn't something unique to Revell, it just seemed so when pre-teen me stumbled across it back in the '70s.