Saturday, September 28, 2019

From Pimisi to the IPMS show at the Canadian War Museum

Pimisi Station as seen from the roof of the Canadian War Museum
I think one of the measures of success for a light rail system is whether it can change people's behaviours about how they choose to get around in a city. Commuters are usually the main target, and maybe the easiest, as they often don't have a choice. Discretionary travel is another story. Several friends have told me they won't ever use the OTrain to get downtown, or anywhere else. They'll use their car no matter what. I think I'm in some sort of middle ground. I don't like navigating snarled-up city traffic, or looking for a parking spot. If I can take the train somewhere, I will, but if there's something unusual about the trip, like I have a lot of stuff to schlep, or people to transport, I'd use my car. If it's just me going somewhere, I'll take the train if it's going my way. I think part of it is nostalgia, not to mention laziness about not dealing with the hassle of a car just to move me around. The nostalgia bit is from all those years I lived in Toronto. The TTC was how I got around, especially on the subway. So, maybe early exposure as a boy, along with good memories of freedom, have predisposed me to using the train.  

Half of Pimisi station
I found out the local IPMS chapter was holding their 2019 contest and show, CapCon 2019, at the Canadian War Museum, and with the Pimisi station on the Confederation Line just a 5 or 6 minute walk away, I decided to take the train to see the show, museum and station. I hadn't been to one of these shows in well over ten years, so I was curious to see what, if anything, was new.

From the other posts in this series you may think Ottawa is perpetually sunny; let me disabuse you of that perception :-) It was mild this morning, but there was a steady rain, so these pictures are going to look a little wet and grey. 

Ignoring the bike lane
If you read yesterday's post about bicycle access to the stations, you may be interested to learn there is a dedicated bike lane at Pimisi too. But, unfortunately, if you look closely at the photo, that bicyclist has decided not to use it and take his chances in traffic. 

Setting up the model show
The Canadian War Museum is a difficult building to photograph, but it's a fascinating structure, and no doubt there are great photos to be found online that will give you a general sense of the place. Scale models are also difficult to photograph - well, difficult for me - so I'm not posting any. The show was set up, surrounded by the museum's tank collection, on standard issue conference tables draped with white sheets. I understand why such tables are used, but I don't think they show the models, and all the skillful work that has gone into them, to best advantage. 

The Taking of Vimy Ridge, Easter Monday 1917 by Richard Jack

The corridor leading to the show has a sobering display of several large war paintings. They alone were worth the price of admission.

M3A1 Stuart Tank
I had a look at the tanks before leaving the show. I know nothing about tanks, although I did recognize the little Stuart tank from DC's Haunted Tank series. I was surprised at how small it is.

Peace Tower from the roof of the Canadian War Museum
I was surprised to learn the war museum has a partial grass roof. The building incorporates a ramp up to the roof, and you're free to go up and have a look at the views. Unlike yesterday where I had to thrash my way through tall wild plants, here was a pleasant stroll to a grassy overlook. The dead centre gothic spire with the flag on top is the Peace Tower at the Parliament buildings.

Ok, just to wrap up I'll contradict myself - it won't be the first time :-) - and end with a partial photo of the museum. No doubt I'll make another trip out there to view the museum's displays in more detail.

Friday, September 27, 2019

By bicycle to Hurdman, Tremblay, and Lees stations

Ottawa has an extensive network of bike paths. I had read somewhere that a number of the paths - maybe all of them - connect up with OTrain stations. Seeing how it was a beautiful day in the neighbourhood today I decided to get out my bike and ride over to a few stations via the bike path.

Today was one of those rare September days: temperatures in the high teens, sunny, very little wind. A great day for riding.

On my way to Hurdman I left the bike path and bushwhacked to some higher ground so I could get this overall view of the station. Ground level is where the buses converge. 

Up in the wild grass there were lots of Monarch butterflies. I'm hearing they're getting ready for their annual migration back to Mexico for the winter.

This is Hurdman station as seen from just off the bike path. 

One unusual feature of this station is that angle structure - it looks like an upside-down L - over on the far right end.

That upside-down L is an open air cover for the staircase that goes from the bus level to the train platform. I wonder how much protection that is going to provide in the winter. 

I did a little more bushwhacking to get this photo of a train on its way from Hurdman to Tremblay.

A little more waiting in the tall grass and I snapped this train coming into Hurdman from Tremblay. Apparently I'm a train-spotter now :-)

From Hurdman I continued along the bike path to Tremblay station. That's the back end of the station, and that train is on its way to Hurdman.

Next station: Lees. As you can see, the bike path is very close to the tracks as you cross the bridge over the Rideau river to Lees station.

And there it is: Lees station, just across the road from the end of the bike path.

So, ok, bicycling to three of the stations is possible, easy, and can be quite pleasant on a beautiful day. You can park your bike at a station, or take it on the train with you. I'll have to try taking it with me to get to some more distant section of the bike path.

In Conversation with Bob Hegge, Bill Clouser, Walter Benjamin, and E. L. Moore on Kits and the Mechanical Reproduction of Plastic Models*

Hegge: I note that many builders are not too fond of plastic products. What have you to say to this statement?

Clouser: The rejection of the hobbyists, unfortunately, is not really plastic. It is the sterile conditions of the dies and the manner in which many of the kits or models, of plastic are developed. You understand the dies for running (for instance) styrene models are sunk in a negative manner (cavity) into a block of steel. The diemaking is done by a person who knows little about a railroad car. He is concerned only with his own mechanical ability to make the necessary cavity. 

MooreI'm not in the habit of buying kits -- fact is I hate like hell to put a kit together. Friend Crosby sent me four -- I finally put the Haunted House together for him but sent him back the others -- to hell with them -- too much like work to suit me.

Benjamin: One might subsume that the eliminated element in the term "aura" and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of a work of art.

Clouser: On the other hand, an epoxy cast car has the advantage of the original master's being a piece made by a railroad-oriented modelbuilder. This would be comparable, if not exactly, to anything he would build for his own collection.

Benjamin: Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in ownership.

MooreBut does you good in that you try to make your own directions more logical and plain.

*Needless to say, this conversation never occurred, but was constructed from text appearing in Bob Hegge Interviews Bill Clouser that appeared in Model Railroader, March 1971; Walter Benjamin's essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction; and a letter E. L. Moore wrote to Hal Carstens dated 3 July 1967.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Louis H. Hertz: Hobby Chronicler

Louis H. Hertz from back cover of Advanced Model Railroading
Louis H. Hertz, author of, among other things, the 'Complete' series,* has recently been a frequent topic of discussion. So much so that at a conference call with the 30 Squares media empire, it was suggested to drop all work on the Ocean Park Loop and focus on writing about the greats of the hobby, like Mr. Hertz. The suggestion was duly minuted and filed.

But, it did spur me to look up my copy of Mr. Hertz's Advanced Model Railroading since it has on its back cover the only photo I've seen of him. The book was published in 1955, and was panned in a review published in Model Railroader's May 1955 issue. There are phrases like: gives one the impression the author is not sufficiently familiar with the technical aspects of the hobby, nor with the objectives of the advanced, present-day scale model railroader to have undertaken such a book. Harsh words and hard to say where MR was coming from, but there's lots of interesting stuff in there, even if it is of more historical interest today. Well, he does have a chapter on radio control, which seems almost prescient.

*The Complete Book of Model Railroading (1951), The Complete Book of Model Raceways and Roadways (1964), The Complete Book of Model Aircraft Spacecraft and Rockets (1967), and The Complete Book of Building and Collecting Model Automobiles (1970).

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Pleasant Park to Hurdman to Parliament

I'm running up the stairs at Hurdman to catch the train
Ottawa has had an extensive bus transitway for many years. Basically, it's a roadway network dedicated to OCTranspo buses. We started our trip downtown today from the Pleasant Park transitway station with the plan to take the bus over to the Hurdman station on the Confederation Line, and then catch the train downtown to the Parliament station.

The trip was fine, although I sustained a little ego bruising at the start. While entering the bus the driver kindly mentioned to me that I need not have swiped my Presto card to get on because seniors ride free on Wednesdays. Senior? Moi? I'm well below their minimum qualification age of 65, but I do have a full head of grey hair. So, I guess the equation is: lots of grey hair = senior. Or maybe I just look crotchety :-) Or maybe I need a dye-job. Or maybe I should buy some cool clothes. Or maybe I should just see how many free rides I can finagle with my senior locks :-)

The train at Parliament station
While engrossed in my hair issues I totally ignored the pleasant and quiet ride downtown.

Parliament is another of those underground downtown stations. Very utilitarian and efficient. Although at the mezzanine level there were some interesting coloured ceiling panels installed that gave the station some needed visual relief. But the staircases and passageways were all panelled in a uniformly bleak, flat grey tile.

I recall reading somewhere that OCTranspo expects the Parliament station to be the busiest as it services both government offices and many businesses at this stop.

As you might expect, when you pop out of Parliament station you're more or less right at Parliament Hill. That's the Confederation Building, which is just west of the Parliament Buildings. That triangle structure, sticking up in the middle ground, is the entrance to the Bank of Canada Museum.

Each train on the Confederation Line was named via a contest. The train we took back to the Hurdman station was called the Eh-Train. Ok, well, yes it is Canada and all that, so on that note I think I should bring this to a close with the Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington classic.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Hanging out with the EVRR

The N-scale Elizabeth Valley RR is hanging on the wall behind my desk boring accusatory holes in the back of my head as to when I'll finish it. I try explaining that I think I bit off more than I can chew when I started it, but there's no appeasing it. I'm thinking that if I could dedicate 2 solid weeks to it, I could at least have this monster scenicked and running, but there'd be next to no buildings, and that awesome bridge that cuts across the centre would still need to be done. Finding 2 weeks, there's the trick.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Comments, Outtakes & Feedback on Opening Day

It's been a little over a week since the opening of the Confederation Line. As I've chatted with people about the kick-off and the inaugural ride I've gotten a few comments. Here're are few.

Why did the tv crews use such large, shoulder held video cameras in this day-and-age when there are much smaller ones of likely comparable video quality out there? Surprisingly, this question was raised by a few people. I have no idea why those big things are still in use.

Was the train noisy? On the inaugural ride I couldn't say because there were so many people packed in my section. Last week when I took it out to Rideau, and there were far fewer passengers, I'd say it was no better or worse than a TTC subway train.

OCTranspo doesn't seem to care about providing enough parking for people who want to drive their car to a station and then take the train into the city. The GO and TTC seem to do this, but not OCTranspo. I'd say the commenters are correct, but I can't say why OCTranspo has taken the approach they have. Maybe they don't have enough cash to buy the needed land ? Maybe they want to eliminate auto usage instead of reduce it ? Maybe they haven't thought about station location in terms of parking possibilities? I don't know their rationale, but I agree this reduces potential ridership, and a few have told me this is a show-stopper for them. I need to look into if they're doing anything on this issue in the next phase.

It's too bad that there aren't any kiosks or small shops in the stations.True, from the stations I've seen so far they're aren't any. They're utilitarian to the max, and provide no amenities other than some rudimentary shelter from the weather. Or maybe it's the times we live in. Newspapers, magazines, cigarettes, candy, gum, and other such small items travellers might want aren't so much a part of life as they were in earlier eras of station building.

Why wasn't the first day, or first week, of operation free to all riders? Again, I have no idea why this common practice wasn't implemented to entice riders and act as a goodwill gesture to commuters who have endured a lot of inconveniences during construction. When we emailed a city rep to ask about this I got a rather bureaucratic answer, but all it did was remind me that although Ottawa is a world capital, it's still driven by a lot of small mindedness. I've heard on the news that the city is considering a free day maybe in the fall. We'll see what happens.

The big, red O's that are used to mark OTrain stations are quite effective even though they remind me of a giant cherry Life Saver on a stick :-) The one over there marks the location of the Rideau station. That's the Chateau Laurier in the background. I snapped this while chowing down on a burrito before heading back home - railway evaluation is hungry work :-)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

E. L. Moore: A 21st Century French Connection

Snipped from Voie Libre International #82, pg 44
Over the summer I bought a few back issues of Voie Libre International that were on super-sale. On the weekend I was re-reading #82 (April-May-June 2015), and came across a rather intriguing article called Egger-Bahn's Little Iron Horse by Fran├žois Robein. It tells the story of Egger-Bahn's release of an American-style wild west narrow gauge train in 1966. 

Two things jumped out at me. First, it mentions that Preiser released some Cowboy and Indian figures in their '67-'68 catalogue, apparently based on the success of the Egger-Bahn trains. Naturally, this sent me back to E. L. Moore's rejected story, Shades of Buffalo Bill, that he submitted to Model Railroader in July '68. In the manuscript Mr. Moore mentions he used Preiser figures in his diorama, so, an interesting connection*. And two, in a few scenes M. Robein staged for the article, he used the hardware store version of E. L. Moore's W. E. Snatchem plastic kit that I built last year, and, as you can see in the photo I snipped from a larger one, we both used the same colours. The lineage of the model goes un-noted, but that's what I'm here for :-) Voie Libre International continues to surprise and delight.

*If you take a look at the Preiser tepees in M. Robein's article you can see they are quite similar to those in Mr. Moore's diorama - they're in the bottom right corner of the photo. In fact, in Mr. Moore's manuscript he explains how to make your own tepees that look like Preiser's. I wonder if E. L. Moore got the idea for his wild west show from studying that Preiser catalogue?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Test run on the park turnaround

I decided to do a test run of the park streetcar turnaround before jumping in and scenicking this end of the layout. I cleaned up the track and removed some loose inserts that were causing problems before giving it a go.It doesn't run too badly, so I'll move onto some detailing. I want to get a sense that this end of the layout is going to look 'right' to me.

I'm also constantly placing buildings here-and-there on the layout and thinking about their positioning. I like to test out different arrangements. The Natural History Museum doesn't look too bad on the edge of the turnaround. 

I realized it needs a rather large open space out front as I can image people mulling around near the main entrance for various reasons, and they'd need space to wait. Maybe there needs to be some sort of sculpture or fountain and benches out there too.

I think spacing is a somewhat neglected aspect of layout and scene development. Detail and weathering seems to get most of the attention, but I think the spacing of things is more important than is commonly realized.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Tremblay to Rideau along the Confederation Line

Today we took the OTrain from Tremblay station downtown to Rideau.

Tremblay, shown over on the left, is located on the grounds of Ottawa's VIA Rail station, so it's easy to take the train from say Montreal or Toronto to Ottawa, and then walk over to the OTrain station and get downtown in maybe 10 minutes or so. The station's layout is quite functional and utilitarian. Style-wise, it's dramatic, but also very similar to other pieces of public architecture we've seen over the last few years. You may recall in the McGregor Park Library post I noted that the new McGregor Park Library has that same upthrusting roof design, as do the onroute rest stops along the 401. Now, the OCTranspo's Tremblay station can be added to that club.

This view is from the Tremblay station's entrance looking back to the VIA station - it's that horizontal, black truss roof thing on the horizon. 

Ottawa is a serious winter city. Last winter hung around for 6 months and we had a total of around 3m of snow. Note that there is no protected walkway from the VIA station to the OTrain station. You've got to schlep you and your bags outside to get from one station to the other. Some sort of above or below ground covered walkway would have been better, but I can only imagine the added cost, and there would have had to have been cooperation between all the organizations associated with VIA and OCTranspo. 

Rideau station is underground, and there isn't much to see outside as the station entrance is just a facade with some doors up at street level. It's clearly marked, so you can't miss it. 

Rideau station connects directly with the Rideau Centre shopping mall. No need to go outside to brave the elements to do some shopping - definitely a benefit in the winter months.

Monday was the first day of revenue service on the Confederation Line. There was an 8 minute delay that day, and on Tuesday the St Laurent, Cyrville, and Blair stations were closed for about an hour in the afternoon. So, there have been some teething pains, but our trip this morning was flawless. We were travelling after the morning rush, so not a lot of riders, but I'd say the seats were close to 1/3 full. 

My verdict for this trip is that I won't be driving downtown again if I need to go to the market, Rideau Centre, or there abouts.

Paul B. MacCready Jr. in Aviation Adventures & Model Building?

I'm always on the look out for magazines that combine model building, comics, stories, and non-fiction. Aviation Adventures & Model Building certainly fits the bill. I recently stumbled across a couple of issues over at Comic Book+.

In this genre it's fascinating stuff, and I recommend you take a look.

In the December 1946 issue, on page 10, they had this photo, and the caption read: Paul B. MacReady, Jr., youngest entrant on the Soaring Meet at Elmira, N. Y., this year, is a former model builder. Paul held many national model plane records for his unusual helicopter, ornithopter models. (Press Assoc.). I'm thinking Paul B. MacReady, Jr., was actually a misspelling of Paul B. MacCready Jr. of Gossamer Albatross fame.

The Gossamer Albatross, and Morton Grosser's book Gossamer Odyssey: The Triumph of Human-Powered Flight, played a key role in developing my thinking - right up there with E. L. Moore's works - so I was pleasantly surprised to see Paul MacCready's name pop up quite out-of-the-blue. Hopefully there are more pleasant surprises awaiting me on the this comics-modelling journey.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A&A Box

I decided to go ahead and build up the A&A building.

Note: There's nothing prototypical about the side and back walls. What follows is pure fantasy.

The sides are cut from 0.060" styrene and faced with styrene brick paneling.

The back is also cut from 0.060" styrene, but it's faced with a too large O-scale block styrene panel that I had in my supplies box.

That door unit is from Walthers' Bralick building kit that I had left over from Mr. Scott's.

That big, open expanse of blocks is going to be covered with a black and white ghost image of the A&A sign circa 1975 or so. That's a paper print that I've made to check for size, but I'll use it to make a decal.

I'm not sure what I'll do next, maybe finish the entry area on the front facade. Maybe I'll do nothing because the weather here has taken a turn for the great, and this might be the last bit of summer :-)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Thoughts on an 'Ocean Park Loop'

I've been thinking about what's causing my mental blocks to creating the Alta Vista TC layout. I've realized: the residential panel didn't seem right with its small island of buildings surrounded by a road; I wanted an ocean / water / beach feature as I had on the LOL; the straight centre panel isn't long enough; the weird orientation of the end panels didn't play out as I had hoped; and I didn't like the name :-)

I removed the residential panel, and it's going to be rebuilt into an end-of-line loop near oceanfront. But, more importantly, I'm going to focus on getting the Neville Park loop scenicked and running to see if it can be saved, or if it should also be changed, which would basically mean scrapping the layout if I can't get it looking and running to my satisfaction. Other issues I'll put on the back burner until I sort out the Neville Park loop.

Ok, I have tentatively sorted out a new layout name: The Ocean Park Loop, since the track forms a loop that has a park at one end (Neville Park and its turnaround) and an ocean at the other (TBD on the name at this end).

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Light rail? Subway? Streetcar?

This is admittedly a nerdy topic, but indulge me for a few minutes.

The O-Train Confederation Line is referred to as a light rail system, and I guess it is within the common use of the term. But I've been wondering if it's actually a 'light rail' / subway / streetcar hybrid - even wikipedia notes that it's difficult to pin down an exact definition of what constitutes a light rail system. That is certainly true of the Confederation Line.

On the 'light rail' side of things, The Confederation Line has many segments as per the tight definition in Wikipedia: light rail operates primarily along exclusive rights-of-way and uses either individual tramcars or multiple units coupled to form a train that is lower capacity and lower speed than a long heavy-rail passenger train or metro system. But, there's a subway side too: there's 2.5 km of underground track downtown servicing the equally underground Lyon, Parliament, and Rideau stations. 
The last line refers to the Confederation trains as streetcars: snapped 19 Sept '19

And you may recall from an earlier post that the trains themselves, the Alstom Citadis Spirits, are basically very large streetcars, even though they aren't running on the streets of Ottawa. Interestingly, even Alstom's own site refers to the cars used on the Confederation Line as streetcars.

Does any of this make any difference to day-to-day operations? Likely not. Definitions don't matter much when it comes to designing and building a railway. It's the requirements and costs and such things that need to be paid attention to.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Opening Day of OCTranspo's Confederation Line

Mayor Jim Watson, Provincial Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney, and one of the winners of the train naming contest get ready to turn the power on to the Confederation Line at the opening ceremonies.
Today was the first day of operation of OCTranspo's Confederation Line, and this morning's inaugural ceremonies and ride were pulled off without a hitch. The event was fun and flawless, and it appeared a good time was had by all.

Watson & Mulroney unveil the commemorative plaque
A little background. Ottawa hasn't had a electric railway to provide its citizens with urban transportation since it closed down its streetcar system in May 1959. Up until then it had an urban street railway - first  horse powered and then electric - that had been in continuous operation since the summer of 1870. In 2001 a diesel powered light rail system, the Trillium Line, was introduced by OCTranspo, and today it forms the north-south branch of the O-Train system, with the fully electric Confederation Line providing east-west transportation. The Trillium and Confederation Lines come together at the Bayview station. Neither of these lines run in the street, but on their own dedicated track. 

Getting ready to board for the inaugural ride
The event got started around 10:15 with speeches, recognition, and congratulations to all governmental organizations, aboriginal peoples, contractors, builders, construction workers, and city staff who made the Confederation Line a reality. This is a project that broke ground in 2013 and finished all up system testing just a few weeks ago. It's been the largest project undertaken so far in the city's history, and it's had its share of problems, one of which was being well over a year late.

After the ceremonies it was on to the main event: the inaugural ride from Tunney's Pasture station, where this event was taking place, out to Blair station at the east end, and back again. It was standing room only in the train, and there was maybe around 300 people packing the vehicle - likely a good simulation of rush hour traffic :-)

As I mentioned earlier, the ride down the 12.5 km line and back again was flawless. The train stopped at each station, but didn't open its doors, and after a brief stop was on its way again. By chance I was jammed in a car not too far from Mayor Jim Watson. For a while John Manconi, the general manager of city transportation services, who is basically the head cheese project manager on this project, was standing near the mayor and looking a bit tense. I assume it was because last week he had to explain why a train on the Confederation Line got stuck in a tunnel for several hours one night which, among other things, involved an odd semantic discussion on whether the train was actually stopped as opposed to stuck. However, he didn't need to worry today. The only thing that seemed a little odd to me in an otherwise perfect trip was the train seemed to have a little trouble climbing an uphill grade. I was standing sandwiched between suits and a French language camera crew, so I have no data to substantiate my feeling other than the sense of a little hesitation in the train.

John Manconi, on far left, is all similes at the end of trip media scrum
If you're a regular reader of 30 Squares you know the main topic here is model building. And a version of model building that leans towards aesthetics and story telling - the romance of the rails. However, the purpose of the O-Train isn't that, but the more pragmatic goal of providing safe, reliable, and useful service to everyone in Ottawa. It's an engineered system that has to perform over the days, months, and years ahead. 

The Confederation Line opened to all riders at 2pm today, is open for regular Sunday hours tomorrow, and sees its first day of busy commuters and rush hour service on Monday. It's what's ahead that will tell the Confederation Line's story, but today was a great beginning. 

Postscript: Dave told me I had to make sure I got whatever swag was being given out at this event. Dave, that's it over there :-) Down in the lower left is my certificate that I rode the inaugural ride in case any proof is needed in the future :-)